Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Eucharist - the feast of liberation

Dr B., who is obliged to follow Faith and Order from the cold and rain of Geneva, decided he wanted to become part of the trans formative conversation: I was very struck, he wrote, when reading Mary Tanner's address to the Faith and Order commission , of her reference to a paragraph in the Baptism Eucharist Ministry document about the Eucharist:

The eucharistic celebration demands reconciliation and sharing among all those regarded as brothers and sisters in the one family of God and is a constant challenge in the search for appropriate relationships in social, economic and political life…All kinds of injustice, racism, separation and lack of freedom are radically challenged when we share in the body and Blood of Christ …As participants in the eucharist, therefore, we prove inconsistent if we are not actively participating in this ongoing restoration of the world’s situation and the human condition.
I had a double take, because just one week ago I was giving an address in Utrecht to mark an ecumenical award to Heino Falcke, the East German theologian who was an inspiration to many of those involved in the peaceful revolution (Photo shows Heino Falcke with the award, and Laurens Hogerink, one of the organizers of the Utrecht event.). In 1972 - 10 years before BEM - Heino Falcke gave a key note address to the synod of the Federation of Protestant Churches in the GDR - "Church for Others" - in which he said the church was called "to be an example of an institution and fellowship in which responsible participation and open and free discussion between different opinions can take place"--a space for "critical debate, a place for free speech, an openness to radical questioning". This address provided the foundation for the the Conciliar Process for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation which played an important role in advance of the GDR's autumn revolution. I ended my address, by drawing attention to the conclusion of Falcke's 1972 address. I had noted how the Conciliar Process had brought together the Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Free Churches in the GDR in an Ecumenical Assembly that in early 1989 called for change in the GDR:

.. my comments on the Conciliar Process may give the idea that this was a political undertaking, and indeed it was, in many respects. But it was also a profoundly spiritual movement. Does it not say something of the “Kairos” of that moment, that it was the common search for answers in the context of the GDR to the global threats facing humanity which brought together a never before seen range of churches - Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Free Churches? Here I want to end where I began, with Heino Falcke’s speech in Dresden in 1972, with a passage at the very end that is not often quoted in contemporary historical documents but which in a sense also captures the essence of the Conciliar Process. Heino Falcke is referring to the Lord's Supper:

The Lord's Supper is the feast of liberation ... In the Lord's Supper the freedom that Christ distributes is realized in community. At this table, even the inadequate disciples are accepted. At this table everyone has come of age. They are called together by the love that transcends borders and unites that which has been divided. It is the meal of the suffering Lord who is in solidarity with the oppressed, and the meal of the one who has risen, who sends us to renewed action. It is the meal of the Lord who is to come, and a foretaste of the realm of freedom in the very midst of history.
Maybe this 1972 speech was also a foretaste not only of the peaceful revolution of 1989 but also what BEM had to say about the Eucharist.