Sometimes sin appears when you're not looking for it. Yesterday was a semi-holiday, by which I mean I was still off work, but spent some of the time reading God Matters, Herbert McCabe. When he died in 2001, the Church lost one of its sharpest minds and most gifted homileticians. It's dated now, but his critical review of The Myth of God Incarnate in 1977 (chapters 5 and 6 here) is a model of precise dissection worthy of Silent Witness! McCabe several times alludes to what he sees as a cardinal sin in theology, "intellectual muddle". His review provoked some of the "Myth's" contributors into an exchange they didn't win!
However, back to sin. In this volume there is a long sermon for Easter, divided into three shorter chapters. In the first of these, on Maundy Thursday and the Eucharist, in several lucid sentences, McCabe sheds light on the dark shadowy mystery we call sin.
"Sin is the disunity of people, their deep disunity. Sin too, is a mystery; it is not to be identified with what we see on the surface. I do not mean by this that sin is some hidden 'spiritual' reality quite distinct from the physical facts of cruelty and greed; I mean it is the depth within our quarrels and disunity and dislikes. Sin is the seriousness within human injustice, where it becomes a matter of what God we serve.... Sin is the mysterious depth within the alienation and isolation of people from each other. Sin is not to be identified with the more obvious signs of human separation, any more than real unity in love can be identified with superficial friendliness and cheerfulness."
Herbert McCabe, God Matters (London: Continuum, 2010) pp. 79-80.
The Eucharist, the table and what happens at it, is the context within which McCabe explores sin and love, human failure and divine response, the cosmic tragedy of evil redeemed by love on a scale capable of renewing and restoring creation to truth, beauty and goodness, a reconciliation of all reality on a Colossian scale. And the Eucharist is consequently the place where divine sacrifice is acknowledged and thanksgiving offered, the place where the Word of God made flesh and matter communicates itself to the gathered people and through them to the created and human world, so that the table is the one place where more than anywhere else on earth, the love and wisdom of God are celebrated, appropriated, shared and communicated to a God-loved world.
The Eucharist, where bread and wine are offered and received, becomes therefore the place where sin is best understood and named as the alienating, isolating, life-denying contradiction of God's creative love; and therefore the place where sin meets its antithesis and its antidote. The table, and the celebrated Eucharist, is where as nowhere else, the Gospel is proclaimed and enacted, and points to what a very different theologian, James Denney, called "the last reality of the universe, Eternal love bearing sin", and so reconciling all things to God in Christ, making peace by the blood of the cross.
It takes theology of that seriousness to instill in our practices and observance of the Lord's Supper, a corresponding seriousness...and joyfulness.