Austin Farrer on a picture of the Eucharist

A learned colleague who shall be nameless was giving me a description of the way in which some Eastern Christians worship God. ‘The best way to describe it,’ he said, ‘is to call it a sort of spiritual air-raid drill. The divine presence is the point of explosive danger: and the moment of sacramental consecration is the moment of detonation. The ordinary citizens are protected by a solid stone screen, or rather wall, fencing them off from the altar, and they keep their heads well down to be on the safe side. Then there are the special anti-bomb personnel, the ministers equipped with special protective uniform, and specially trained, who enter the terrible enclosure with fear and wariness and go to the very point of danger. When the incident has been successfully neutralized, the deacon comes out and gives the all-clear to the congregation who get up and move about.’ My friend’s description, I need hardly say, is a piece of satire, but satire is sometimes more effective than justice at seizing the point one wishes to make.

from The Brink of Mystery, (SPCK, 1976), 14.

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