Category Archives: Eucharist

Eucharist celebrated, adored, and lived

The Eucharist is to be celebrated, adored, and lived.

This week I took part in the retreat for the clergy of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. I am not yet a member of the clergy but took part as a candidate fort eh permanent diaconate.

Each day began with Mass at 7:00 am, with conferences by the retreat preacher, Father Antonio Rivero, LC. At 4:30 each day we had exposition and adoration of the Eucharist until dinner at 6:00 pm.

Father Antonio spoke of this as a day that began with the Eucharist celebrated and that ended (expect for dinner and night prayer) with the Eucharist adored.

Padre German and I didn’t stay at the retreat center outside of Santa Rosa de Copán because there were not enough rooms for all the priests. So at night we returned to Dulce Nombre where I slept the first three nights.

One night Padre German went to visit Ernesto, an old man who is dying. I had accompanied him a few weeks ago.

We stood around Ernesto’s bed with a son and a daughter-in-law. Another son and daughter-in-law arrived a bit later.

Ernesto was generally unresponsive, though they told us that he had been responsive the day before. He also was not eating.

After a few prayers, Padre administered the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Then we prayed some more and left.

This was the Eucharist lived. Although Ernesto could not receive the Eucharist, here Christ was present.

This experience at Ernesto’s bedside reminded me of my experience with my father, caring for him as he was dying. I also marveled at the care the family was giving him.

I was also reminded that in this year of mercy we are called to practice more fervently the works of mercy, including visiting the sick.

I also found myself challenged. If I am to be ordained a deacon, I need to be present more to the sick and dying, for Christ is present there as well as on the altar.

And so the challenge is to live the Eucharist which we celebrate and adore – living the presence of Christ in the church and in the marginal spaces of this world

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FOLLOW UP:

Ernesto died a day or two ago. May he rest in peace in God’s loving presence.

Knowing the loving artisan

albertSt. Albert the Great, whose feast is today, is most known for a comment he made about his most famous student, Thomas Aquinas, in response to the name some of Thomas’ confreres had given him for his taciturnity: “You call him a Dumb Ox: I tell you this Dumb Ox shall bellow so loud that his bellowings will fill the world.”

But Albert was, in his own right, one of the most learned men of his age. He not only knew philosophy and theology, but he was intrigued by the natural sciences and wrote on astronomy, chemistry, geography, botany, and biology.  He explained how the earth had to be a sphere.

But he was not like those whom the book of Wisdom warns about in today’s reading (13: 1-9):

All those who were in ignorance of God were foolish by nature and, from the good things seen, were unable to know him who is, nor from studying the works did they discern the artisan…

We could see the good things of this world and praise the Maker of all that is. This combination of knowledge of the world and love of God influenced not only St. Thomas Aquinas but the Dominican mystical theologians Meister Eckhart and Johannes Tauler.

A selection from his Commentary on Luke, found in Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary,  gives us a glimpse of the source of his holiness. Commenting on Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of Me,” he wrote:

No precept could be more lovable. For this sacrament begets love and unity. Is it not the greatest proof of divine love that Christ gives himself as food? It is as thought he were saying: “I love them so much, and them me, that I want to be within them, and they want to receive me so as to be one body with me.”

Finally, nothing more closely resembling eternal life could be enjoined. For, the essence of eternal life is God sweetly giving himself to the blessed.

St. Albert recognized that the artisan is “God sweetly giving himself” and sharing in that is real life.

He reminds us that the Eucharist is a foretaste of eternal life – God wanting to be within us.

But for Albert this also had consequences for the way we lived. As he also said,

“An egg given during life for love of God is more profitable for eternity than a cathedral full of gold given after death.”

Saturated with the presence of Christ

Today we Catholics celebrate Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Eucharist, Christ becomes present in bread and wine, ordinary elements, “the work of human hands.”

CorpusChristiDolores

Corpus Christi procession 2013, Dolores, Copán, Honduras

In 2001 when I was in Suchitoto, El Salvador, working on a study of the role of the church in that conflictive region, I brought along William Cavanaugh’s Torture and the Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ.  It’s a rather dense work, treating the Eucharist as Body of Christ and the Church as Body of Christ in the context of the understanding of the church in Chile during the cruel Pinochet dictatorship.

Looking back at the work yesterday, I came across this quote on page 14:

The point is not to politicize the Eucharist, but to “Eucharistisize” the world.

The Eucharist is not a mere sign which points to some more concrete political reality. Christ’s Eucharistic body is both res et sacramentum, sign and reality. Christ does not lie behind the Eucharistic sign but saturates it. Christians do not simply read the sign but perform it. We become Christ’s body in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the true “politics,” as Augustine saw, because in it is the public performance of the true eschatological City of God in the midst of another City which is passing away.

What first strikes me is his statement that “Christ does not lie behind the Eucharistic sign but saturates it.” What a marvelous way of talking about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

But Cavanaugh goes on to note that “We become Christ’s body in the Eucharist.” And so we should become saturated with Christ, offering the world a different vision of reality, a vision made real in the way we live and love.

Transformation and Eucharist

Over the past few months I been reading a book by Anselm Grün, OSB, Images of Jesus, with fifty short meditations on Jesus. At the end of the book he has a chapter entitled, “The eucharist as an encounter with Jesus.”

He includes a moving paragraph on the epiclesis of the Eucharist Prayer,  a meditation which speaks to my sense of the transformation which Christ wants for all of us, which begins with the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

Two rites [in the eucharist] … affect me every day. One rite is the prayer before the transformation, the so-called epiclesis, in which with outstretched hands I call down the Holy Spirit upon the gifts of read and wine, so that they become the body and blood of Jesus. For me that is the daily prayer that the Holy Spirit will transform my work, my conflicts, my longings and wishes, my disappointments and bitternesses, so that Jesus’ spirit shines out in them. I want Jesus to come not only in bread and wine but in all that I think, speak and do. Everything is to make Christ known. And through Christ everything is to become bread and wine for men and women, something that feeds them and gladdens their hearts. (p. 174)

May God transform me and all I do, all I long for, and all I love so that we may become hope for all and a sign of God’s reign.

The Body of Christ

Today the Catholic world celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ.

The feast originated in the thirteenth century but expresses the faith of the Church in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Here in Honduras there will be processions in the streets, as an expression of their deep devotion to the Eucharist. I’m going out to the village of Dolores where people will be walking in from neighboring villages for Mass and procession.

It is important, though, to remember that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not the only place we encounter Christ.

In The Word Encountered, Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J., quotes C. S. Lewis, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

Last year I was in El Zapote de Santa Rosa for Mass and procession, a chance to encounter some of the holiest objects – the Eucharist and the poor – as you can see in this photo.

May Christ touch us today, in the Eucharist and in the people we meet, especially the poor.

 

 

 

Teilhard’s Mass on the World

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., Jesuit theologian, paleontologist, died on April 10, 1955, which was Easter Sunday that year.

During his life his philosophical and theological writings were banned from publication. But his thoughts which try to bring together faith and science have spoken to many of the beauty of the Creation made by God.

Once, in Chine, without bread and wine for Mass, he express his love for the Eucharist in a Mass on the World. It begins thus:

Since once again, Lord — though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia — I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world.

All creation, all the labors and sufferings of the peoples of the world are offered up with Jesus, who became flesh, who gives himself to us, Body and Blood,  in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Rutilio Grande – martyr

Thirty five years ago, on March 12, 1977, Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, S.J., was martyred in El Salvador, between Aguilares and El Paisnal, with the two people in the jeep with him, Manuel Solorzano and Nelson Rutilio Lemus.

Rutilio Grande had been a rather timid and scrupulous man but his work with the poor, forming them in base communities, visiting them in their poor homes, helping train them to be catechists and delegates of the word, and proving them opportunities to train health promoters, moved him to become a simple and straightforward defender of the Word of God and the poor.

A month before he was killed he preached the homily at a public Mass in protest of the forced exile of a priest. At the homily he preached these prophetic words:

“All of us have the same Father. We are all children of this Father, although we were born of different mothers. All of us are brothers and sisters. We are equal. But Cain is an abortion in God’s plan, and groups of Cain do exist.

“The Lord God, in this plan, gave us a material world, like this material bread and this material cup which we lift up in offering to Christ the Lord. It is a material world for everyone, without borders. This what Genesis tells us. It is not something I make up.

“ ‘I bought half of El Salvador with my money and I have a right to it.’ There is no right to discuss this! It is a negation of God! There are no rights for the majority!

“But the material world is for everyone, without borders. A common table with a tablecloth big enough for everyone, like this Eucharist. Each one with a seat, so that each one comes to the table to eat.”

Sad to say, land is still being held in the hands of the few and the many campesino farmers, especially here in Honduras, do not have land to grow the corn and beans they eat. Some rent land, others work as day laborers. The Catholic social teaching principle of the universal destination of the goods of the earth is ignored.

Inspiration Day for the Missionaries of Charity

On September 10, on the train to Darjeeling, India, Mother Teresa experienced a call from God to serve the poorest of the poor, 1946. She subsequently founded the Missionaries of Charity, to care for the poorest of the poor.

A girl came from outside India to join the Missionaries of Charity, We have a rule that new arrivals must go to the Home for the Dying. So I told this girl, “You saw Father during Holy Mass, with what love and care he touched Jesus in the Host. Do the same when you go to the Home for the Dying, because it is the same Jesus you will find there in the broken bodies of the poor.” And they went. After three hours the newcomer came back and said with a big smile. . . , “Mother, I have been touching the Body of Christ for three hours. . . When we arrived there they brought a man who had fallen into a ditch and had been there for some time. He was covered with wounds and dirt and maggots, and I cleaned him, and I knew I was touching the Body of Christ.”

 

The Eucharist and the poor

Today is the feast of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, declared blessed in 2003. Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity who work with the poorest and most maligned, especially the dying, she died on September 5, 1997. For her the poor were another manifestation of the presence of Christ. As with many other contemplatives she saw the connection between the poor she served and Christ int he Eucharist whom she worshiped.

   To make sure that we understand what he says, Jesus is going to judge us on love. He is going to judge us on our response to this very beautiful call, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. Come, the blessed of my Father!” Or, “I was hungry and you did not give me to eat. Go, I do not know you.”

You and I will have to face that one day. But it is not necessary for us to be afraid of Jesus. Let this be our response today:

If we really understand the Eucharist, if we really center our lives on Jesus’ body and blood, if we nourish our lives with the bread of the Eucharist, it will be easy for us to see Christ in that hungry one next door, the one lying in the gutter, that alcoholic man we shun, our husband or our wife, or our restless child. For in them, we will recognize the distressing disguises of the poor: Jesus in our midst.

 

Bede on presences of Christ

By the frequent occurrence of his bodily manifestations our Lord wished to show that he is present by  his divinity in every place to the desires of those who are good…. He appeared in the breaking of bread to those who, supposing that he was a stranger, invited him to share their table; he will also be present to us when we willingly bestow whatever goods we have on strangers and poor people; and he will be present  to us in the breaking of the bread, when we partake with a chaste and simple conscience, of the sacrament of his body, namely, the living bread.

So wrote St. Bede the Venerable, 673-735, English monk, historian of the British Church, who lived almost all his live in a Benedictine monastery. As with many contemplatives, they know that Christ is encountered in many ways – in the poor as well as in the Eucharist. So we must recognize and welcome Christ Jesus, coming to us in many ways.