Gather up the fragments that nothing remains

Whilst we were away down south, I took a very full car load of ‘stuff’ to the local ‘recycling centre’. It was very busy and there were categories for every manner of thing and no-one was allowed anywhere near the ‘general waste’ skip until all other options were exhausted.

Whilst we were away I was also reflecting on the Eucharist and what it means in a broader sense than just what happens at the altar whenever we celebrate as Jesus commanded.

“Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”

1 Corinthians 11:23-25

I was thinking about the way that we handle the communion elements and in particular what we do with the remaining elements if they are not to be reserved for those who aresick or otherwise unable to be in church. In the Communion service of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the minister is directed to “reverently eat and drink” what remains of the consecrated elements after the distribution of Communion.

This direction resonates with the passage from John’s Gospel where Jesus gave direction to the Disciples as to what to do with what remained after the Feeding of the Five Thousand: “Gather up the fragments that nothing remains” (John 6:12). 

You know, I think that this has more than a tangential bearing on the meaning of the Eucharist, and one that’s important in relation to how we ought to respond to one of the biggest environmental issues in the affluent West today – waste.  For instance it’s a singular abuse of stewardship to throw away nearly a third of all the food that’s produced.  This is often by the relatively affluent West and is at the expense of the global poor, and producing and distributing more than is required can only lead to depletion of resources and needlessdegradation of soils.

The war in Ukraine is having a huge impact on global food supply as Ukraine produces a significant amount of the wheat and sunflower seed (from which sunflower oil is extracted) that act as components of the staple diet of many around the world. For us in the West that means increased prices, but for many in poorer countries in for example Africa, it means starvation. Even in the West it is showing up the huge gap between rich and poor, with many in our country now struggling to put food on the table.

And so, it is in the light of these considerations that we should be able to see that how we, the worshipping community, handle and care for our spiritual food and drink, particularly in what remains and is left over from the Eucharistic Feast, is indicative of our attitude to the wider social and natural environment and supporting those in need both at home and abroad.


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