He Took Their Body

From “Consecrated Bread,” The Essential Sermons, 82-83 (1991).

He took flesh, it was his body; it cried and smiled and sucked, it hungered and thirsted, it labored and grew weary, it suffered and rejoiced, it lived and died. But before it died, before he died as bodily man, he also took bread and said it was his body.

Well, in a manner of speaking, the bread he took was his body. A sculptor might show you round his shop, and pointing out pieces of wood grained suitably for several purposes, might say, “That is a Churchill, and that’s a Victory; that is a greyhound, and this is a leopard.” They are the raw materials of these things; and the food we will eat is the raw material of our body; let us call it our body if we like, by anticipation or exaggeration.

Yet the bread Jesus took was not his own loaf or roll, that he would eat. It was the bread of the grace, a loaf specially symbolical of the whole company’s food: a loaf over which grace was said for them all, and of which everyone present must taste a crumb. It did not stand for the bread or body of any one person there present, it stood for the common food of them all. As St. Paul says, writing of this very matter, because the loaf is one, we many are one body, because we all partake of the one loaf.

Since food becomes our body, eating from one loaf or from one dish becomes a sort of natural sacrament. As we build up our body from one stock, we feel ourselves tied together in one body corporate; we are members one of another. And to the Jew, this natural tie became a religious bond; the one loaf shared by all was consecrated through the thanksgiving, or grace-before-meat.

This, then, was the bread Jesus took, on the night before he suffered, the bread which he took was the body of them all; it was this he called his body. The body he took from Mary was no one’s but his. From the moment of birth, it ceased to be hers; and it was certainly no other man’s or woman’s. But the bread he took to be his body was the body of the company, of Peter, John, James, Matthew, and Thomas: so determined he was, that the effect of his incarnation should not be shut within the confines of his own skin. He took their body, but he took it to be made his own, to be consecrated, divinized, Christed; through the oblation of a voluntary death and the power of a glorious resurrection.

Austin Farrer (1904-1968) was an English Anglo-Catholic priest, philosopher, and theologian, who taught theology at Oxford for decades, serving for the last eight years of his life as warden of Keble College. He was a close friend and advisor to C. S. Lewis and his sermons were greatly admired in his lifetime and published after his death.


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