Each years, for years, I used to take a large group of young people to the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage although that privilege now is left to younger leaders! It’s quite a long coach journey and, when we arrived, we slept in tents in the middle of a field. The food was good considering the circumstances but some of the young people could be, well, quite fussy!
So they smuggled their own food with them. Dried soups and snacks, chocolate, cakes, crisps and other convenience snacks secretly stowed away in their rucksacks. They went on pilgrimage with a good supply of food!
Whenever we make a journey, whether it’s a simple day trip to the seaside or an arduous trek for weeks on end, we need to make sure that we have enough resources. These resources depend on the type of journey we’re making but so important is the need of food for the journey, whether it’s a packed lunch or a stop off somewhere to buy something along the way.
A ‘Way Out’ meal
We, too, on our Christian Journey, need to have food for the journey – not simply physical food to keep us nourished and sustained but something even more important. We need what we may call ‘spiritual food.’
On the night before he died, Jesus gave us this food for the journey. He gave us the Eucharist to feed and sustain us. He sat down with his closest friends and followers to share a meal, familiar ritual which runs through the Jewish story, the Passover of the Lord.
The Passover was the meal that God instructed Moses and the People of Israel to eat before their escape, their exodus, from slavery and their long and difficult journey to freedom (Exodus 12). It was a day that they would remember every year as a pilgrim-feast. It was part and parcel of their identity. The Passover meal was ‘food for the journey.’
Jesus filled this meal with new meaning. He took bread and wine, gave thanks, broke the bread, and shared them with his disciples, and said, ‘This is my Body,’ and ‘This is my Blood.’ ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ he said.
From here to eternity
From that moment, one of the characteristics of Christians was to break bread, to share this special meal, a meal that became known as the Eucharist. In the Acts of the Apostles we see the defining characteristics of the Church and how they devoted themselves to the Breaking of Bread. There we read that ‘they met constantly to hear the apostles teach and to share the common life, to break bread and to pray.’ (Acts 2:42).
From the earliest days, then, the Eucharist was essential, and it remains so today. The Church in Wales calls it ‘The Principal Act of Christian Worship.” It is the source and the summit of the Christian life.
It’s from the Eucharist that we gain our strength and grow in grace, and it is to the Eucharist that we come with a living faith to receive “the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which is our nourishment in eternal life.” (The Church in Wales Catechism)
‘They met constantly to hear the apostles teach and to share the common life, to break bread and to pray.’Acts 2:42
The Eucharist nourishes us along the way, and points us forward to the banquet of heaven, the fulfilment of our journey. It is food for the journey, from here to eternity. On our pilgrimage through life we have a good supply of food.