In love and charity with your neighbours

Reading Theophilus Dorrington's A Familiar Guide to the Right and Profitable Receiving of the Lord's Supper (1695), I was particularly struck by the advice he gives to communicants at the conclusion of the service, after the blessing:

Then rising from your Knees, kindly and courteously salute your fellow Communicants at the parting of the Congregation.

It reflects the coherence of the Prayer Book rite, with the reconciliation effected by our participation in the Lord's Body and Blood expressed in the post-Communion Lord's Prayer, the "good will towards men" of the Gloria, and the blessing's unchanging "The peace of God".  In a much more significant and meaningful manner than is evident in the placing of the Peace in contemporary Eucharistic rites, this speaks of the consequences of our sharing in the Eucharist, as Rowan Williams has described:

I've often preached - like other, I'm sure - on how, when we have come back to our places after taking Communion, we ought to look at our next-door neighbours with awe and amazement.  The person next to me - whom I may love deeply, many not know at all, may dislike, even fear - is God's special, honoured guest, praying Christ's prayer, living from Christ's life.

Dorrington's words, however, wonderfully capture how this recognition calls not for displays of enthusiasm, but for ordinary exchanges shaped by kindness and courtesy.  Grace does not destroy nature.  Just as the Apostle's exhortation "let the peace of God rule in your hearts" finds expression in the normal, ordinary duties and obligations of the Roman household (Colossians 3:15ff), so our sharing in the Holy Sacrament is to find expression in kind and courteous relationships in the parish.  

It is a reminder how those greetings at the church door after the liturgy, the quick chat in the church car park or conversation over coffee in the parish hall, encapsulate how it is in ordinary relationships and duties - not the weird, or the enthusiastic - that we live out the grace and forgiveness bestowed in the Supper of the Lord, "in love and charity with your neighbours".


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