Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face;
Here would I touch and handle things unseen,
Here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon Thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
Here drink with Thee the royal wine of heaven;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
Here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.
This is the hour of banquet and of song;
This is the heavenly Table spread for me:
Here let me feast, and, feasting, still prolong
The brief, bright hour of fellowship with Thee.
I have no help but Thine, nor do I need
Another arm save Thine to lean upon:
It is enough, my Lord, enough indeed;
My strength is in Thy might alone.
-Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
In one of my favorite hymnals, The Hymnbook, this hymn is filed under “The Church: The Lord’s Supper”. The Eucharistic theology present in this hymn is rich and deep, and it expresses our ability to glimpse into the Reign of God, and provides a true and clear view of the-already-but-not-yet.
I grieve when the Lord’s Supper is simply understood as something that we do solely to remember. In the interest of full disclosure, my Eucharistic theology is formed and informed by the theology of John Calvin. The Eucharist (or the Lord’s Supper, or Communion) is a glimpse into heaven, and we experience communion not only with each other, but also with Christ. Calvin writes that we are lifted up into heaven to commune with all Christians across space and time, as well as to commune with Christ himself ( The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.31-32).
It is in the moment of the Eucharist that we can see Christ, that we can feast with Christ, that we can experience a foretaste of the great banquet that is to be commenced at the eschaton. If the Eucharist is a foretaste of the Reign of God, and this hymn gives us a glimpse into the Eucharist, it stands to reason that this hymn gives a view, albeit through a lens so that we can understand it, of the coming Reign of God.
This is what is so excellent about worship and why the Eucharist is so important to the Christian community. It is in the Eucharistic moment that we are able to experience a thin place, much like Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:12). The sacrament, therefore, is not something in which we think about or remember God — it is an event in which we have an experience with God. When we are looking for signs of the coming kingdom, there is no better sign than participation in the Eucharist: something to which we come back to again and again. It is this foretaste that strengthens our faith and helps us as we continue to seek God, and continue to live into God’s desires.
It is in the Eucharistic moment that we are able to, for a period of time, participate in great banquet of heaven.