Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

07 December 2011

Advent and the Eucharist

Recently I was privileged to speak to a gathering of women at St. Catharine of Siena Parish on the subject of the Eucharist, with an Advent "spin."  I do not know how to post a document as a specific web address, so here is the full text of the outline:

The Eucharist is the memorial (actualizing, vs. mere recollection) that perpetuates the Sacrifice of the Cross, and the Sacred Banquet of Communion with the Lord’s Body and Blood.

·      The Altar is both the place of sacrifice and the banquet table: there we receive Him who is both the Victim for our reconciliation and the Food for our nourishment.
·      The First Eucharistic Prayer emphasizes the centrality of the altar in our corporate worship (our offering to God and God’s offering to us):
o   In humble prayer we ask you, Almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty,
o   so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.
·      Jesus extends the invitation to Communion, one we would do well to heed if we know what’s good for us: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you” (Jn 6:53)
·      For such a moment we must examine ourselves, lest we profane the Lord’s Body and Blood—failing to discern (recognize, perceive, regard) the Reality-at-Hand.  Likewise we often fail to discern the Lord’s Presence in each other; there is a certain reciprocity between “what we do ‘in here’ [Church, the Liturgy]” and “what we do ‘out there’ [in the world, in our sphere of influence].”
·      What is the proper spiritual disposition for reception?  We express it before approaching the Altar: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”  The Eastern Church, in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, has a beautiful prayer before Communion that expresses the same sentiment: “…Accept me as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God; for I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas, but like the Thief I confess to you: Remember me, O Lord, when you shall come into your Kingdom…”
·      The Church enjoins upon us the discipline of fasting as a way to prepare ourselves for Communion; preparation in fact extends to our attire, our time and state of arrival…though I have gained great respect for parents who struggle heroically to arrive at Mass, dealing with accidents (with cars, with their kids).
·      What’s in It for us?  What do I receive when I receive the Lord?
o   Augments our union with Christ: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6).  This word “abide” is used to describe the relations of the Persons of the Trinity—a dynamic relationship.  The Eucharist “preserves, increases, and renews” the life of grace inaugurated at Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation
o   Separates us from sin, past and future.
§  As with the Penitential Rite at Mass or the Act of Contrition, devout reception of the Eucharist wipes away venial sins that whittle away at charity like fine-grade sandpaper.  Holy Communion helps break our disordered attachments to whatever is taking the place that God deserves and desires to have in our lives.
§  Holy Communion also preserves us from committing future mortal sins.  As we share the friendship of Christ it becomes more difficult to break away by mortal sin
o   Makes the Church: The Eucharistic Body of Christ is the Food that renews, strengthens, and deepens the identity of the Mystical Body of Christ.  The relationship between the Eucharistic and Mystical Body is a dynamic one
o   Commits us to the poor: The Eucharist is Mercy and Compassion Incarnate.
§  Recall that Bl. Teresa of Calcutta’s communities spend substantial time before the Blessed Sacrament before going out into the streets to encounter Jesus in His “most distressing disguise,” the poor
§  Recall Matthew’s Parable of the Judgment of the Nations, in which the Lord explicitly connects our regard for “the least brethren” to our regard for Him.
§  “The poor you will have with you always” (Mt 26:11)—I believe this can refer not only to that ever-increasing class of persons in material poverty, but also to the spiritually deficient…among whom we must number ourselves.  That which is poor in you, you will have with you always; and your poverty can only be filled, one Meal at a time, by the Lord in the Eucharist
o   Fosters the Unity of Christians:  As of yet all Christians do not share a common table, making the experience of division all the more painful.  Our Lord knew it would happen, but still prayed for unification under One Fold, and One Shepherd
·      The Eucharist is the Pledge of Future Glory
o   If we deem ourselves blessed here, how much more hereafter?
o   “I will not drink this fruit of the vine again with you until I drink it anew in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 26:29).  This emphasizes the forward-looking nature of the Eucharist.  Note Revelation: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’…Come, Lord Jesus!”  Like the culmination of Ravel’s Bolero, the Liturgy incites us to “await the blessed hope and the glorious coming of the Savior, Jesus” (Titus 2:13—this quote is now more evident in the newly-retranslated “Embolism,” the prayer inserted between the Our Father and the Doxology in the Mass).
o   The Eucharist is a refuge amid life’s sadness.  We celebrate it for ourselves, the “Church militant,” for the “Church suffering” (those in purification for the vision of God)—yet along with the “Church triumphant,” the saints and angels in heaven—until that day “when every tear will be wiped away,” when the “new heaven and the new earth” (2 Peter 3:13) come to fruition.

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