Wednesday, November 19, 2003

It's been a while since I last blogged - combination of being busy and technical problems (my server keeps crashing!).

Communion Part One

At present I'm thinking a lot about communion, what it means to be in communion with others, and what it might mean not to be in communion with someone. So here are some first thoughts, which will ramble a bit.

At base communion is about eating together. Hospitality is key here, and there is a whole host of Biblical material about hospitality. Perhaps Abraham's entertainment of the three men in Genesis 18 is instructive here. Abraham is sitting in the doorway of his tent when they go past. He runs out and almost begs them to allow him to give them some refreshment and a break from their journey. They agree and allow Abraham to serve them (which he does in a far more lavish way than they agreed to). It transpires that they are the angels who go to bring judgement to Sodom and Gomorrah, (which reminds me of Hebrews 13.1-2 - 'some have entertained angels unaware'). However, there is more than a hint that this is more than just angelic anonymity, as the whole passage is set under the rubric that 'Abraham met the LORD' (Gen. 18.1).

Eastern iconography treats this story as a revelation of the Trinity. Rublev's icon is perhaps the most famous example of this. In terms of communion, it moves us on to saying that hospitality is a pointer to, perhaps even a sacrament of, the relationships that constitute the life of God. The communion of hospitality is at the heart of God. We see this not only in Rublev's icon, but also in creation and supremely in the incarnation.

Communion also relates to the eucharist. Here we are still in the realm of the incarnation, for it is in the eucharist that we are united to Christ. We are also still in the realm of the Trinity. Rublev's icon shows the three figures sitting around a chalice, and other icons of the hospitality of Abraham are more explicitly eucharistic. The eucharist is known as Holy Communion, and in it we are united to one another and to God.

I think these are the three primary meanings of communion: hospitality, Trinity and eucharist. From them, especially as they are focussed in the eucharist, we also get an understanding of the church as a communion. I'm a little hesitant to see the church as expressing the trinitarian life of God, but it is clear that we are caught up into this life. So the communion of the church is not that the church models itself on the life of God. Still less is it that the church is the expression of the communion of the Godhead. Rather the church is the way that we are, corporately and individually, taken into the life of God. Communion with God and with each other cannot be separated (the NT is full of passages which would reaffirm this, but 1 John is particularly important here).

From this (exceedingly rough) sketch, it can be seen that breaking communion must be a very significant issue. I'll write about this tomorrow (d.v.).

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