by Jered Weber-Johnson
During the season of Advent, Saint John’s will shift our liturgical life on Sundays from the Spiritual Communion, which we’ve used since the beginning of the pandemic, to that mainstay of Anglican liturgical and spiritual life, the Daily Office. For the four Sundays in Advent, we will celebrate Morning Prayer with slight modification for use on the Lord’s Day.
Morning Prayer holds a special place in the liturgical life at Saint John’s. Up until this past decade, Morning Prayer was still a regular Sunday morning offering at our principal worship services, and presently it is still offered six days a week at 8am via our Facebook page.
Especially in this long pandemic and subsequent absence from the central sacrament of Eucharist, I wanted us to pause even the offering of “Spiritual Communion” during the four Sundays of Advent, thus creating a full and complete break from the idea of communion in our Liturgies. Obviously this will heighten and deepen our sense of longing for Eucharist. This, coupled with our Formation in Advent focusing on Eucharist, might give us real insight into this important and central part of our faith life. As one of our featured Advent/Eucharist speakers, the Reverend Dr. James Farwell, reminded the church at the beginning of this pandemic,
I take the Christian assembly to be a constitutive element of the sacramentality of Eucharist. Receiving it in body as one of, and alongside of, an assembly of bodies gathered at one shared altar as an (eschatological) new community that felicitously undermines our social adhesion with biological family and affinity groups is central to its meaning, not peripheral. Our gathering is not an addition to sacramental presence in bread and wine, nor the circumstantial occasion at which it is permissible for a priest to confect some presence with magic hands and magic words.
Which is to say, since we cannot gather, we cannot truly offer Eucharist. So, in the end, even if Spiritual Communion is a real possibility, we are actually left with the sustenance of the liturgy of the word and the daily office. It must suffice spiritually to be nourished by prayer, meditation, preaching, confession, and contemplating the story of God and God’s people in scripture.
So we turn now to Morning Prayer as a source of nourishment on Sundays. Let this long absence from the Eucharist increase in us a yearning for the presence of the Sacrament, for the ability to receive the Body of Christ physically, and to rub shoulders with the Body of Christ gathered. Jesus is still known to us in the ministry of word. We long for him to be revealed yet again in the flesh.