Michael Northcott has authored three major studies of environmental theology - Environment and Christian Ethics; A Moral Climate; and A Political Theology of Climate Change. Today's short extract on the Eucharist comes from A Moral Climate.
There are a number of practices which would foster the reconnection of Eucharistic worship with the food economy. The first would be to recover the sense in which the Lord's Supper is a holy meal that fosters and sustains the holy lives and holy eating of Christians in their day-to-day conversation and walk. One means of remaking this connection would be to revive the medieval practice described by Eamon Duffy of the presentation of a "holy loaf" as a Eucharist practice, and as still performed in some parts of Europe. According to this tradition a different household from the congregation makes the bread by hand each week, from flour that has been sustainably grown, and brings it to church to become the one loaf which is broken and shared in the Eucharist.
The second would be to return to the early Christian norm of worship around the Lord's Table and to find ways of reversing the historical trend from a real meal to a token meal. This would mean recovering the use of real loaves of bread, and not wafers of even a token small loaf, of drinkable quantities of wine and water as central elements of regular Eucharistic feast in Church. It would also mean the recovery of the Eucharist as the central act of worship in all Christian churches, after the problematic break with the practice among many Reformed churches.
A third means may be indicated in the extent to which in many churches in Europe and North America there is a practice of the "pot luck" lunch or supper after worship on Sundays, which for many is as constitutive of the community life of the church as the service of the Word which precedes it. But the food eaten at such gatherings is neither consider holy nor is it any different fro the food sold in industrial food stores and grown unsustainably on industrialised farms. Resituating this meal which follows worship to an agape meal at the heart of worship and organising the service of the Work around the meal, rather than tacking the meal on at the end once the liturgy is over, would offer another powerful way to restore the connection between Christian worship and the fruits of the earth.
There are three ruptures which need healing and restoring. First, there is the rupture between the service of the Word, sometimes with the Sacrament attached, and the potluck meal which follows. Second, there is the rupture between the holiness of the Sacrament and the unholiness of the way in which food at a potluck supper has mostly been grown. And third, there is the rupture between holy eating in church and holy eating in the home. If, as I am suggesting, faithful feasting is paradigmatic of the Christian relation to creation, and of Christian worship, then all meals are holy meals. In the home as well as in the Church, food should be sourced with this in mind.
Michael Northcott, A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming (DLT, 2007), pp.265-266.