Farther, we are to understand this, "that to whom much is given, of them will much be required;" and as St. Gregory wells saith, Cum crescunt dona, crescunt et rationes donorum, "As the gifts grow, so grow the accounts too;" therefore, that by this new dignity befallen us, Necessitas qu dam nobis imposita est, saith St. Augustine, "there is a certain necessity laid upon us" to become in some measure suitable unto it; in that we are one--one flesh and one blood, with the Son of God. Being thus "in honour," we ought to understand our estate, and not fall into the Psalmist's reproof, that we, "become like the beasts that perish." For if we do indeed think our nature is ennobled by this so high a conjunction, we shall henceforth hold ourselves more dear, and at a higher rate, than to prostitute ourselves to sin, for every base, trifling, and transitory pleasure. For tell me, men that are taken to this degree, shall any of them prove a devil, as Christ said of Judas? or ever, as these with us of late, have to do with any devilish or Judasly fact?
Shall any man, after this "assumption, be as "horse or mule that have no understanding,' and in a Christian profession like a brutish life? Nay then, St. Paul tells us further, that if we henceforth "walk like men," like but even carnal or natural men, it is a fault in us. Somewhat must appear in us more than in ordinary men, who are vouchsafed so extraordinary a favour. Somewhat more than common would come from us, if it but for this day's sake.
To conclude; not only thus to frame meditations and resolutions, but even some practice too, out of this act of "apprehension." It is very agreeable to reason, saith the Apostle, that we endeavour and make a proffer, if we may by any means, to "apprehend" Him in His, by Whom we are thus in our nature "apprehended," or, as He termeth it, "comphrended," even Christ Jesus; and be united to Him this day, as He was to us this day, by a mutual and reciprocal "apprehension." We may so, and we are bound so; vere dignum et justum est. And we do so, so oft as we do with St. James lay hold of, "apprehend," or receive insitum verbum, the "word which is daily grafted into us." For "the Word" He is, and in the word He is received by us. But that is not the proper of this day, unless there be another joined unto it. This day Verbum caro factum est, and so must be "apprehended" in both. But specially in His flesh as this day giveth it, as this day would have us. Now "the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body, of the flesh, of Jesus Christ?" It is surely, and by it and by nothing more are we made partakers of this blessed union. A little before He said, "Because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also would take part with them--may not we say the same? Because He hath so done, taken ours of us, we also ensuing His steps will participate with Him and with His flesh which He hath taken of us. It is most kindly to take part with Him in that which He took part in with us, and that, to no other end, but that He might make the receiving of it by us a means whereby He might "dwell in us, and we in Him." He taking our flesh, and we receiving His Spirit; by His flesh which He took of us receiving His Spirit which He imparteth to us; that, as He by ours became consors humanae naturae, so we by His might become consortes Divinae naturae, "partakers of the Divine nature." Verily, it is the most straight and perfect "taking hold" that is. No union so knitteth as it. Not consanguinity; brethren fall out. Not marriage; man and wife are severed. But that which is nourished, and the nourishment wherewith they never are, never can be severed, but remain one for ever. With this act then of mutual "taking," taking of His flesh as He has taken ours, let us seal our duty to Him this day, for taking not "Angels," but "the seed of Abraham."
Following the lead of those who had come before, most notably Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and later, Richard Hooker, Andrewes placed before his hearers the importance of frequent Communion, and the salvatory effects of faithful reception. In this passage of his sermon, and not without influence from his well-known association with the Greek Orthodox of his day, he spoke of salvation in terms of theosis (Θέωσις), as expressed most simply and directly in the Second Epistle of St. Peter (part of which he has quoted in the above portion):
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 1
In quoting this phrase, Andrewes has tied it in with the theology so simply expressed by St. Athanasius: "God became man so that man might become divine." 2
This mystical theology of the sacrament of Holy Communion is rooted firmly in the Incarnation, and in God's eternal purpose of our salvation in Christ with its ultimate end, glorification of the elect ("elect" as a Biblical word, ἐκλεκτός- eklektos ). So writes St. Paul to the Church in Rome:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 3
To understand what is meant by saying that God makes all things work together for good, we need to consider the Greek word used, which is ἀγαθός (agathos), which indicates a thing that is good, laudable, useful or worthy. The promise is not that those who love God will have all things go their way, and certainly not in the context of a mortal life that must fall to a final illness or injury, or at last simply exhaust and so end. The promise is that those who love God, "called according to his purpose" are transformed into the very people who fulfill that purpose. This takes us back to that Second Epistle of Peter: "brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure." 4 What is that calling? It is a calling to holiness, or, to become saints. God's purpose in his saints, that is, all of us who are in Christ and called to become saints (or holy), requires transformation that comes only by his grace. The end is a share in immortality and glory as creatures whose love for God is perfected, and who cannot die. The elect are called to become holy, and then justified freely by God's grace, and their end is to be glorified (δοξάζω, doxazō).
This end begins with the Incarnation of the Word. The writer to the Hebrews tells us, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." 5 To say that he was a partaker of flesh and blood, is the same as saying, "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." 6 The writer to the Hebrews, where we see the word "partakers," uses a word that means "fellowship" (κοινωνέω, koinōneō from κοινωνία, koinōnia). Our flesh and blood nature is not ours alone, but shared with the whole human race; and so, the Word who is eternally one with the Father and Holy Spirit has entered that fellowship, our fellowship.
It is that same fellowship to which each of us are called, and in which we live out our life in the Church. So, St. John wrote:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship (κοινωνία) with us: and truly our fellowship (κοινωνία) is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 7
This fellowship between God and man is possible only because Christ has taken fellowship with us. Yes, taken, in keeping with Andrewes' emphasis of being "apprehended" of Christ, in his sermon drawn from the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He took fellowship with man, for it was not his by Nature, that is his uncreated eternal nature as the only begotten of the Father, to have fellowship with man. As the Word who is God and equal to the Father, he mediated 8 for us by taking fellowship with us, taking our nature into his Person as the Word (λόγος). He took fellowship with our sins, not by staining himself with sin, but by dying. For, death is the fruit of sin, and so the Righteous and sinless Son of God bore our sins by taking our death, for death has come to man only by sin. 9
In return, the Risen Christ gives us the nature of God's own children.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 10
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. 11
So, Andrewes has reminded us, "in that we are one--one flesh and one blood, with the Son of God...Because He hath so done, taken ours of us, we also ensuing His steps will participate with Him and with His flesh which He hath taken of us. It is most kindly to take part with Him in that which He took part in with us, and that, to no other end, but that He might make the receiving of it by us a means whereby He might 'dwell in us, and we in Him.'"
When we say that two sacraments are "generally necessary to salvation." we need to understand salvation as both eternal and as current, a state into which we are called even now, in this life, to be the children of God, to have the new identity given us in our baptism paramount in our hearts and minds, and practical as lived in our daily lives. Our calling and election are to be made sure by living in this world as God's own children adopted in the Son. We need to see it as eternal, so that we never lose hope. The end of our salvation is that thing Paul called "glorification," and that Peter has held out to us in the words, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." When he says "partakers" he uses also that word (κοινωνός), meaning, therefore, that we have fellowship with the Divine Nature as our blessed hope, the promise set before us of eternal life in Christ. Fellowship with the very nature of God is the grace given to us in Christ, adopted as children. The nature that is planted in us, as we apprehend that for which Christ apprehended us, cannot die. It is inherently immortal; it cannot sin; it is inherently holy. This is the ultimate grace to be experienced in the resurrection of the dead, in the world to come.
When Andrewes says, "It is most kindly to take part with Him in that which He took part in with us, and that, to no other end, but that He might make the receiving of it by us a means whereby He might 'dwell in us, and we in Him,'" it is obvious that he means to draw our attention to the Prayer of Humble Access, and therefore to the Sacrament:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ. 12
What is "communion?" It is fellowship, for St. Paul uses that same word κοινωνία (koinōnia). Andrewes draws our attention to the communion, that is, the fellowship, that saves us, and gives us eternal life as we partake of the food and drink of eternal life, that is, as we have fellowship with Christ physically by eating and drinking, and through this means fellowship with the One who took fellowship with our nature, and through death restored us to fellowship with God when he rose again.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. 13
So we pray before receiving the sacrament of this communion, that is to say, fellowship:
But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. 14
We know from the Law of Moses that death itself is unclean, and that leprosy was unclean as well, In the Gospels Jesus touched a leper and made him clean. Normally, by the Law only the reverse would have been true. Whatever comes into contact with uncleanness is made unclean.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 15
But, when Christ touched the leper, the leper was healed of his unclean disease. 16 When Christ took fellowship with our sin through death, and was himself dead for the space of three days, he reversed the uncleanness of our death, and of our sin. Our sinful bodies will be made clean by his resurrected body, cleansed from the unclean state of death on the Last Day; our souls are washed through his most precious blood from all guilt of sin.
By tying all of these things together; the Incarnation, Christ's partaking of our nature, our partaking of his body and blood, our partaking of his divine nature, with "the receiving of [the sacrament of communion with his Body and Blood] by us a means whereby He might 'dwell in us, and we in Him,'" Lancelot Andrewes unlocks the glorious mysteries of God's grace in the sacrament. He unlocks for modern readers, especially those who are not scholars, the deeper meaning of Cranmer and Hooker who were before him, who emphasized "the communion of the blood of Christ...the communion of the body of Christ."
Modern readers, especially those who have been unaware of the original Greek New Testament, have mistaken the word "communion" for something that places the Real Presence of Christ a step away from us, as it were. Instead, this same word that speaks of the fellowship of the Eternal Son with the flesh and blood he took into His own Person, brings us as close as possible; it puts us in Christ and Christ in us. We are joined to His Divine Nature as he joined His uncreated Person to our created nature. It cannot get closer than this. That is Real presence in the sacrament.
Communion, fellowship, with His Body and Blood is all about the glorious hope of our calling and election: He took our created nature, so that we may take his body and blood, and so we partake of his Divine Nature.
1. II Pet. 1:4
2. St. Athansius, On the Incarnation.
3. Romans 8:28-30
5. Heb. 2:14
6. John 1:14
7. I John 1:1-4
8. I Tim. 2:5
9. Study Romans 5 and Isaiah 53
10. John 1:12-14
11. Romans 8:15,16
12 I Corinthians 10: 16
13. John 6:47-58
14. Prayer of Humble Access, Holy Communion, Book of Common Prayer
15 Haggai 2:11-13