Hurstbourne Tarrant Parish
"From the Vicar" September 2017
The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it...
‘He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to
cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.’
Psalm 104, 14-15
It is harvest time. Harvest has surely been celebrated ever since human beings first planted seeds, cut the heads of grain and stored them to use through the times of scarcity. When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land and left off their nomadic existence in the wilderness, they adapted the agricultural festivals being kept in the Promised Land and these have come down to us today: Lammas, the time of the First Fruits, which we celebrate at the beginning of August, corresponds to the Feast of Weeks when the first sheaf of the barley harvest was offered. Our Harvest Festival corresponds to the Feast of Tabernacles which is described as “the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year” (Exodus 23:16). This was the last and greatest feast of the Jewish year and it was sometimes simply referred to as ‘the feast’. During this time, the men dwelt in green booths or ‘tabernacles’ made out of branches, in commemoration of their time in the wilderness when there were no harvests, and they depended on God for their daily food. So there is much precedent
in the Old Testament for a festival thanking God for food and farming. Land and faith in the Old Testament are inseparable, even as the cities of the exilic and post-exilic periods thrived and grew. People understood their dependence on a good harvest
blessed by God.
The weather this year has not been the best for bringing in the harvests, and it will have been a frustrating time for some farmers with yields and or quality have probably suffered. Living in this beautiful part of rural Hampshire, spare a thought for our farmers. One thing I have noticed since moving into these parishes is the lack of dairy farming. There are cattle, sheep and arable, but not much dairy.
We can support our farmers at this time with our prayers.
God of the heavens and the earth,
You call us to share in the care of your creation
and to bring food and fruitfulness from field and farm.
Hear our prayer for all who make their living on the land
and make us grateful for the work of their hands
and for the generosity of your provision.
We ask this in the name of Christ. Amen
Over the next few weeks we will be celebrating our harvest festivals and I look forward to them being a great celebration and seeing you there.
DID YOU KNOW - Why do we use wafers instead of bread at the Eucharist?
The practice at Anglican Services for many years has been to use Communion Bread in the form of small round wafers. This is not the case in all Anglican churches. Indeed there is wide variation in practice between the Christian churches, Eastern Orthodox Churches use leavened bread; Catholic Churches unleavened. Among Continental Protestants, Lutherans generally use unleavened bread, and Calvinists leavened.
In Cranmer's first Anglican Prayer Book of 1549, which changed as little from Roman Catholic use as possible, the use of unleavened bread was required. By the time of the second Prayer Book of 1552, Cranmer had come further under the influence of the more Protestant reformers, and stipulated that to 'prevent superstition' the bread 'should be such as is usual to be eaten; but the best and purest Wheat Bread as may conveniently be gotten’. This continued to be the general practice of the Church of England until the influence of the nineteenth-century Oxford movement led to a revival of interest in the Catholic heritage of Anglicanism.
The practice among the Eastern Orthodox churches is that the loaf used at the Eucharist is cut (not broken) by the Priest, before consecration, into pieces some of which are arranged in the form of a cross, while others signify the Virgin Mary and the disciples present at the Crucifixion. This is part of the Eastern view of the Eucharist as a re-enactment of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. In the West, the practice from about the ninth century was to use separate small round wafers of unleavened bread. The bread was unleavened to signify both the link with Jewish Passover bread, and also the sinlessness of Christ - leaven being traditionally (and, to some, surprisingly) viewed as a symbol of sin.
The divergence in practice between East and West was one of the irritants which led to the split between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The reason for the difference is not clear it has been suggested that it may depend on whether the Eucharist is taken to be a celebration or thanksgiving (Jewish Kiddash) - leavened bread, or as the Passover sacrifice (Seder) - unleavened.
Passover bread is unleavened in commemoration of the original Exodus from Egypt, when the bread had to be made and eaten in haste, without time for it to rise.
The marking on the wafers of a cross is very ancient - Greek Eucharistic loaves are also marked with a cross and originally this may have been to make large bread easier to break. Since the twelfth century in the West, the cross has often been in the form of a crucifix. The great practical advantage of the use of wafers is that they are easier to handle and less likely to make crumbs. Any unused consecrated bread and wine should be consumed immediately after the service by the celebrant, and this should include any pieces that have fallen on the floor.
In the Methodist Church, ordinary wheat bread is normally used. In this, Methodists are faithfully and correctly following the custom of the Church of England at the time of John Wesley. However, as mentioned above, in communicating large numbers of people, the use of 'ordinary' bread does have some practical disadvantages as I found out at a Lammas service a few years ago.
What is an Aumbry for?
An Aumbry is a small cupboard or safe built into a wall, particularly in a church, where it is
used for the safekeeping of consecrated items. We have one only in our churches in St Peter’s
Hurstbourne Tarrant, where there is one in the wall of the sanctuary. Aumbries normally contain
a small box (a pyx) of Communion bread and a flask of wine, both of which will have been
consecrated at a regular service of Holy Communion.
The practice of keeping consecrated bread and wine is called ‘the reservation of the Holy
Sacrament’. If any members of the congregation are unable to attend the Eucharist in church
through sickness or infirmity, an authorised minister (lay or clergy) may administer the sacrament
to them at their homes.
Reservation of the sacrament in English churches was suppressed at the Reformation as tending
towards ‘superstition’, but revived by the Oxford Movement in the late nineteenth century, when
it led to much controversy and even litigation in the Church Courts. Reservation was eventually
allowed, most usually for communion of the sick, though also in some parishes for veneration.
Apart from Aumbries, the sacrament may also be reserved in a tabernacle, i.e. an Aumbry set on
A light in a church, normally a candle, symbolically denotes the presence of Christ, the Light of the
World. In St Peter’s this is an electric candle. Some Christians believe God as Christ to be present
in a special way in the substance of the consecrated bread and wine (this is known as ‘the Real
Presence’. More on this in a later issue). The candle alerts those who follow that tradition to show
veneration to the Sacrament, usually by genuflecting, i.e. bending the knee as an expression of
the abasement of the self before God.
Visitors to churches normally look to see if a sanctuary candle is there to know if there is reserved
sacrament in the church. For many it is part of the reason for going into the church, to be near the
‘Real Presence’ of Christ in prayer.