When the Lord gives himself as food to his disciples on the eve of his death, his Pasch, his suffering and death must be completed in that instant; completed, to be sure, not in a bloody manner as on Good Friday, but completed quite as really and actually, even though under the veil of symbolic action. Words of blessing, of thanks, of transformation are spoken; the bread is broken; the chalice is passed around; the simple man who thinks in symbols rather than general ideas knows what has happened. Here on the eve of the offering in blood the Lord has given himself for the sins of the world as God's scapegoat; and to men as food, to give them a share in God's life. Not first in the bloody event of Good Friday, but in the symbolic meal of Thursday did this become real and present. (Aemiliana Lohr O.S.B.) my source: "Year of Grace"
THE EUCHARIST, A MYSTERY
TO BE BELIEVED
"This is the work of God: that you believe
in him whom he has sent" (Jn 6:29)
The Church's eucharistic faith
6. "The mystery of faith!" With these words, spoken immediately after the words of consecration, the priest proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding. The Eucharist is a "mystery of faith" par excellence: "the sum and summary of our faith." (13) The Church's faith is essentially a eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist. Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God's word, faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: "faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith." (14) For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church's life: "thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!" (15) The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church's very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his people.
The Blessed Trinity and the Eucharist
The bread come down from heaven
7. The first element of eucharistic faith is the mystery of God himself, trinitarian love. In Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus, we find an illuminating expression in this regard: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3:16-17). These words show the deepest source of God's gift. In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a "thing," but himself; he offers his own body and pours out his own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love. He is the eternal Son, given to us by the Father. In the Gospel we hear how Jesus, after feeding the crowds by multiplying the loaves and fishes, says to those who had followed him to the synagogue of Capernaum: "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world" (Jn 6:32-33), and even identifies himself, his own flesh and blood, with that bread: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (Jn 6:51). Jesus thus shows that he is the bread of life which the eternal Father gives to mankind.
A free gift of the Blessed Trinity
8. The Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history (cf. Eph 1:10; 3:8- 11). There the Deus Trinitas, who is essentially love (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition. In the bread and wine under whose appearances Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal (cf. Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26), God's whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us. God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At creation itself, man was called to have some share in God's breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). But it is in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God's inmost life. (16) Jesus Christ, who "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God" (Heb 9:14), makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God's own life. This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfilment of God's promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience. The "mystery of faith" is thus a mystery of trinitarian love, a mystery in which we are called by grace to participate. We too should therefore exclaim with Saint Augustine: "If you see love, you see the Trinity." (17)
The Eucharist: Jesus the true Sacrificial lamb
The new and eternal covenant in the blood of the Lamb
9. The mission for which Jesus came among us was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. On the Cross from which he draws all people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32), just before "giving up the Spirit," he utters the words: "it is finished" (Jn 19:30). In the mystery of Christ's obedience unto death, even death on a Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), the new and eternal covenant was brought about. In his crucified flesh, God's freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact. Human sin was also redeemed once for all by God's Son (cf. Heb 7:27; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). As I have said elsewhere, "Christ's death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form." (18) In the Paschal Mystery, our deliverance from evil and death has taken place. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus had spoken of the "new and eternal covenant" in the shedding of his blood (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20). This, the ultimate purpose of his mission, was clear from the very beginning of his public life. Indeed, when, on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he cried out: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant. The Eucharist contains this radical newness, which is offered to us again at every celebration. (19)
The institution of the Eucharist
10. This leads us to reflect on the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It took place within a ritual meal commemorating the foundational event of the people of Israel: their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This ritual meal, which called for the sacrifice of lambs (cf. Ex 12:1-28, 43-51), was a remembrance of the past, but at the same time a prophetic remembrance, the proclamation of a deliverance yet to come. The people had come to realize that their earlier liberation was not definitive, for their history continued to be marked by slavery and sin. The remembrance of their ancient liberation thus expanded to the invocation and expectation of a yet more profound, radical, universal and definitive salvation. This is the context in which Jesus introduces the newness of his gift. In the prayer of praise, the Berakah, he does not simply thank the Father for the great events of past history, but also for his own "exaltation." In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. At the same time, he reveals that he himself is the true sacrificial lamb, destined in the Father's plan from the foundation of the world, as we read in The First Letter of Peter (cf. 1:18-20). By placing his gift in this context, Jesus shows the salvific meaning of his death and resurrection, a mystery which renews history and the whole cosmos. The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus' death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in him a supreme act of love and mankind's definitive deliverance from evil.
Figura transit in veritatem
11. Jesus thus brings his own radical novum to the ancient Hebrew sacrificial meal. For us Christians, that meal no longer need be repeated. As the Church Fathers rightly say, figura transit in veritatem: the foreshadowing has given way to the truth itself. The ancient rite has been brought to fulfilment and definitively surpassed by the loving gift of the incarnate Son of God. The food of truth, Christ sacrificed for our sake, dat figuris terminum. (20) By his command to "do this in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:25), he asks us to respond to his gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, his expectation that the Church, born of his sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament. The remembrance of his perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper, but in the Eucharist itself, that is, in the radical newness of Christian worship. In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into his "hour." "The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving." (21) Jesus "draws us into himself." (22) The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of "nuclear fission," to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).
The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist
Jesus and the Holy Spirit
12. With his word and with the elements of bread and wine, the Lord himself has given us the essentials of this new worship. The Church, his Bride, is called to celebrate the eucharistic banquet daily in his memory. She thus makes the redeeming sacrifice of her Bridegroom a part of human history and makes it sacramentally present in every culture. This great mystery is celebrated in the liturgical forms which the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, develops in time and space. (23) We need a renewed awareness of the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the evolution of the liturgical form and the deepening understanding of the sacred mysteries. The Paraclete, Christ's first gift to those who believe, (24) already at work in Creation (cf. Gen 1:2), is fully present throughout the life of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ is conceived by the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35); at the beginning of his public mission, on the banks of the Jordan, he sees the Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove (cf. Mt 3:16 and parallels); he acts, speaks and rejoices in the Spirit (cf. Lk 10:21), and he can offer himself in the Spirit (cf. Heb 9:14). In the so-called "farewell discourse" reported by John, Jesus clearly relates the gift of his life in the paschal mystery to the gift of the Spirit to his own (cf. Jn 16:7). Once risen, bearing in his flesh the signs of the passion, he can pour out the Spirit upon them (cf. Jn 20:22), making them sharers in his own mission (cf. Jn 20:21). The Spirit would then teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. Jn 14:26), since it falls to him, as the Spirit of truth (cf. Jn 15:26), to guide the disciples into all truth (cf. Jn 16:13). In the account in Acts, the Spirit descends on the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary on the day of Pentecost (cf. 2:1-4) and stirs them to undertake the mission of proclaiming the Good News to all peoples. Thus it is through the working of the Spirit that Christ himself continues to be present and active in his Church, starting with her vital centre which is the Eucharist.
The Holy Spirit and the eucharistic celebration
13. Against this backdrop we can understand the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic celebration, particularly with regard to transubstantiation. An awareness of this is clearly evident in the Fathers of the Church. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Catecheses, states that we "call upon God in his mercy to send his Holy Spirit upon the offerings before us, to transform the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ. Whatever the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and completely transformed" (25). Saint John Chrysostom too notes that the priest invokes the Holy Spirit when he celebrates the sacrifice: (26) like Elijah, the minister calls down the Holy Spirit so that "as grace comes down upon the victim, the souls of all are thereby inflamed" (27). The spiritual life of the faithful can benefit greatly from a better appreciation of the richness of the anaphora: along with the words spoken by Christ at the Last Supper, it contains the epiclesis, the petition to the Father to send down the gift of the Spirit so that the bread and the wine will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that "the community as a whole will become ever more the body of Christ" (28). The Spirit invoked by the celebrant upon the gifts of bread and wine placed on the altar is the same Spirit who gathers the faithful "into one body" and makes of them a spiritual offering pleasing to the Father (29).
The Eucharist and the Church
The Eucharist, causal principle of the Church
14. Through the sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus draws the faithful into his "hour;" he shows us the bond that he willed to establish between himself and us, between his own person and the Church. Indeed, in the sacrifice of the Cross, Christ gave birth to the Church as his Bride and his body. The Fathers of the Church often meditated on the relationship between Eve's coming forth from the side of Adam as he slept (cf. Gen 2:21-23) and the coming forth of the new Eve, the Church, from the open side of Christ sleeping in death: from Christ's pierced side, John recounts, there came forth blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34), the symbol of the sacraments (30). A contemplative gaze "upon him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37) leads us to reflect on the causal connection between Christ's sacrifice, the Eucharist and the Church. The Church "draws her life from the Eucharist" (31). Since the Eucharist makes present Christ's redeeming sacrifice, we must start by acknowledging that "there is a causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church's very origins" (32). The Eucharist is Christ who gives himself to us and continually builds us up as his body. Hence, in the striking interplay between the Eucharist which builds up the Church, and the Church herself which "makes" the Eucharist (33), the primary causality is expressed in the first formula: the Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross. The Church's ability to "make" the Eucharist is completely rooted in Christ's self-gift to her. Here we can see more clearly the meaning of Saint John's words: "he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). We too, at every celebration of the Eucharist, confess the primacy of Christ's gift. The causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church's origins definitively discloses both the chronological and ontological priority of the fact that it was Christ who loved us "first." For all eternity he remains the one who loves us first.
The Eucharist and ecclesial communion
15. The Eucharist is thus constitutive of the Church's being and activity. This is why Christian antiquity used the same words, Corpus Christi, to designate Christ's body born of the Virgin Mary, his eucharistic body and his ecclesial body.(34) This clear datum of the tradition helps us to appreciate the inseparability of Christ and the Church. The Lord Jesus, by offering himself in sacrifice for us, in his gift effectively pointed to the mystery of the Church. It is significant that the Second Eucharistic Prayer, invoking the Paraclete, formulates its prayer for the unity of the Church as follows: "may all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit." These words help us to see clearly how the res of the sacrament of the Eucharist is the unity of the faithful within ecclesial communion. The Eucharist is thus found at the root of the Church as a mystery of communion (35).
The relationship between Eucharist and communio had already been pointed out by the Servant of God John Paul II in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. He spoke of the memorial of Christ as "the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church" (36). The unity of ecclesial communion is concretely manifested in the Christian communities and is renewed at the celebration of the Eucharist, which unites them and differentiates them in the particular Churches, "in quibus et ex quibus una et unica Ecclesia catholica exsistit" (37). The fact that the one Eucharist is celebrated in each Diocese around its own Bishop helps us to see how those particular Churches subsist in and ex Ecclesia. Indeed, "the oneness and indivisibility of the eucharistic body of the Lord implies the oneness of his mystical body, which is the one and indivisible Church. From the eucharistic centre arises the necessary openness of every celebrating community, of every particular Church. By allowing itself to be drawn into the open arms of the Lord, it achieves insertion into his one and undivided body." (38) Consequently, in the celebration of the Eucharist, the individual members of the faithful find themselves in their Church, that is, in the Church of Christ. From this eucharistic perspective, adequately understood, ecclesial communion is seen to be catholic by its very nature (39). An emphasis on this eucharistic basis of ecclesial communion can also contribute greatly to the ecumenical dialogue with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities which are not in full communion with the See of Peter. The Eucharist objectively creates a powerful bond of unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, which have preserved the authentic and integral nature of the eucharistic mystery. At the same time, emphasis on the ecclesial character of the Eucharist can become an important element of the dialogue with the Communities of the Reformed tradition (40).
my source: Goodnews archives
Q: What role does the Eucharist play in the life of the Church?
Father McPartlan: The Eucharist is at the very core of the life of the Church and gives the Church its identity. The Church is the Body of Christ, and, as St. Augustine taught, we receive the body of Christ in order to become the body of Christ: "Be what you see and receive what you are." The whole mystery of Christ and of the Church as his body is what we receive in the Eucharist. This sacrament therefore renews our life together in Christ; in other words, it renews the Church.
"The Church draws her life from the Eucharist," as Pope John Paul II said at the start of his encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia." The life that we share in Christ is the life of the Trinity, because Christ is the Son of God incarnate, and that life is one of perfect communion. The phrase we use about receiving the Eucharist is really very significant; we say we are receiving Communion. There is such a lot of meaning concentrated in that phrase. We are receiving Christ himself, but the life he shares with us is the communion life of the Trinity -- the very life that calls us out of our own individualism and draws us together as the Church.
The Eucharist renews the very gift that makes us to be the Church, and it follows that the community dimension of the Eucharist is of the utmost importance. It is really communities, and ultimately the Church as a whole, that receives the Eucharist, not just lots of individuals. We should always be conscious of those with whom we receive; the Eucharist renews our life as brothers and sisters, caring for one another and working together to bear witness to the communion life of the Kingdom of God. Our life in Christ begins, of course, with baptism, and people sometimes think that an emphasis on the Eucharist as making the Church detracts from the importance of baptism in making the Church. We must avoid any such impression. Baptism and Eucharist are both given to us by Christ and therefore there can never be any rivalry between them. Rather we must understand how they fit together. What baptism begins in us, the Eucharist renews, strengthens and sustains. For instance, in every Eucharist we are washed by the blood of the Lamb, as it says in Revelation 7:14; it is a washing that renews the washing in water that we received in baptism. We must never forget that there is forgiveness in the Eucharist, particularly expressed when we receive under both kinds and drink from the cup of the Lord. In a sense, the Eucharist keeps the grace of our baptism fresh in us until the moment when it is consummated at our death. As we pray in the Mass for a deceased person: "In baptism she died with Christ, may she also share his resurrection."
Q: What does it mean that "the Church makes the Eucharist" and "the Eucharist makes the Church"?
Father McPartlan: These two phrases were coined by the great French Jesuit Henri de Lubac [1896-1991], who was a leading pioneer of the renewal of the Church at the Second Vatican Council and became a cardinal toward the end of his long life. Both are true, of course. However, he thought that the first millennium, and especially the era of the Fathers of the early Church, was characterized by the idea that "the Eucharist makes the Church;" whereas the second millennium, the era of scholasticism, held more to the idea that "the Church makes the Eucharist."
It is clear from the title of the Pope's encyclical that we have returned in recent times, particularly after Vatican II, thanks to the work of de Lubac and others, to a more patristic point of view. The two phrases in fact tend to identify two rather different perceptions of the Church. If we say that the Eucharist makes the Church then we will readily understand that the Church is itself a family of Eucharistic communities, a communion of local churches, which was the patristic model.
However, de Lubac showed that the community dimension of the Eucharist suffered greatly as a result of Eucharistic controversy at the start of the second millennium. Much more attention was paid to the fact that bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ than to the fact that the Church then receives these transformed gifts and is itself transformed in Christ. The Eucharist ceased to shape the Church and became one of seven sacraments that the Church celebrates. Hence, the Church makes the Eucharist. Juridical factors then began to shape the Church, and the standard picture of the Church in the scholastic era is that of an institutional pyramid, with the pope at the top. Vatican II grappled with how to integrate these two pictures of the Church and this is still an issue today. Nevertheless, we can certainly say that the Council showed a strong desire to reinstate patristic perspectives. We naturally speak nowadays of the Church as a Eucharistic communion of local churches and this is of immense importance ecumenically.
CHRISM MASS IN NOTRE DAME DE PARIS (in French)
THE CHRISM MASS IN ROME WITH POPE FRANCIS
ABBOT PAUL OF BELMONT: HOMILY FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY
“At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.” We have just heard Jesus saying these words to Simon Peter, who had questioned what Jesus was doing to his disciples. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” The Bible is full of people who ask God why and how. Think of Mary at the Annunciation, “How can this be?” or of Moses before the burning bush, “What shall I say?”
Throughout the Exodus, the Israelites kept complaining against Aaron and Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to this place, where there is no food and water?” At the time they did not know what God was doing, but later, in the Promised Land, they looked back and understood. They celebrated the Passover to show that they understood God’s plan. Understanding brought with it repentance and thanksgiving.
At the Last Supper, the disciples did not know what Jesus was doing. What did he mean when he said, “This is my body,” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” when all they could see and taste was bread and wine? Then this talk about a Paraclete, who would remind them of what Jesus had told them and lead them into all truth. And now at the end of the meal here was Jesus washing their feet and telling them to follow his example. What could this mean?
Judas, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Jews, the Romans, the Pharisees, the soldiers and the crowd, all those involved in the drama of the Passion and Death of Jesus, what could they possibly have known at the time? Jesus alone knew that his hour had come. Only later did they understand, beginning surprisingly enough with the good thief, who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Then it was the soldier who first declared, “Truly this was the Son of God”.
Only after the Resurrection did the disciples begin to understand, and they weren’t easily convinced. At Pentecost their eyes were opened to the meaning of Jesus’ life. Finally they understood that he was Lord and Christ, God-with-us. And this understanding led them to repentance and thanksgiving. This is why we still celebrate Holy Week and Easter, why we celebrate the sacraments and come to church. Christians have come to understand the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation.
Tonight’s celebration reminds us eloquently that it is not enough simply to understand, to come to Mass and give thanks, wonderful as that is. No, Christ wants us to follow his example. He wants us to show how perfect our love is. He wants us to serve others with humility and charity. He wants us to sacrifice our lives for others and not count the cost. We, of course, understand all this, but have we the courage to do what Jesus asks? Have you ever thought what the world would be like if we Christians were just to follow the example of Jesus? Mind you, if you do take up your cross every day and follow him, don’t be surprised if in the end they crucify you.
“I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” Lord, give me faith, hope and love. Give me courage too, to follow your example and with you lay down my life in service for others and for the salvation of the world. Amen