We Are Wayfarers and Our Food Is the Eucharist, as Seen in a Commercial

The commercial below reminds me of the fact that the Eucharist is our necessary food for the journey; it is the food of wayfarers. In John chapter 6, Jesus teaches that the miraculous manna described in Exodus and Numbers was the food that sustained the ancient Jews in the desert and strengthened them bodily for their journey to the Promised Land. While most of them did not make it to the Promised Land because of their unbelief, their children did. The manna was the food that fed them for that long journey.

Jesus then says that He is now the living bread come down from Heaven for us:

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is My flesh (Jn 6:48-51).

If for some strange reason the ancient Jews had refused to eat the manna given them, they would have died of hunger in the desert. So, too, for us. If we do not receive Holy Communion, we will not have the strength to make it to the Promised Land of Heaven:

Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (Jn 6:53-54).

So, the Eucharist is our true and necessary food to sustain us. Without it we are starving ourselves and do not have strength for the journey. Even if God has other ways to feed those who cannot reasonably know of or receive the Eucharist, that is no excuse for those of us who know better.

In the commercial below, a young man eats his oatmeal while staring dreamily out the window. Astride his bicycle and seeing a steep mountain before him, he feels strengthened for the journey, an epic journey. For us, the mountain is Heaven and the epic journey is the drama of our life through the hills and valleys of this world. We are wayfarers and our food is the Eucharist.

Unless – A Homily for Corpus Christi

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, Raphael (1510-11)
I.  The Reality of the Eucharist

On this solemn feast we are called above all to faith in the fact (as revealed by the Lord Himself) that the Eucharist, the Holy Communion of which we partake, is in fact a reception of the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, whole and entire, in His glorified state.

We do not partake of a symbol; the Eucharist is truly the Lord. Neither is it a “piece” of His flesh; it is Christ, whole and entire. Scripture attests to this in many places.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20).

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a partaking in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a partaking in the body of Christ? (1 Cor 10:16).

They recognized him in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:35).

For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor 11:29).

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6:51).

This last passage is a profound theology of the Eucharist from Jesus Himself. He makes it clear that we are not to think of the Eucharist as symbolic.

As Jesus spoke the words saying that the bread was His flesh, the Jewish people grumbled in protest. Jesus did not seek to reassure them or to say that He was speaking only symbolically. Rather, He became even more adamant, shifting His choice of words from the polite form of eating, φάγητε (phagete, meaning to eat), to the impolite form, τρώγων (trogon, meaning to munch, gnaw, or chew).

So insistent was He that they grasp this, that He permitted most of them to leave, no longer following in His company due to this teaching (cf Jn 6:66). Yes, the Lord paid quite a price for His graphic and “hard” teaching (Jn 6:60).

Today, He asks us, Do you also want to leave me? (Jn 6:67) We must give our answer each time we approach the altar and hear the words, “The Body of Christ.” It is at this time that we respond, “Amen,” as if to say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).

Would that people grasped that the Lord Himself is truly present in our Churches! Were that so, one would never be able to empty our parishes of those seeking to pray with the Lord. As it is, though, only about 25% of Catholics attend Mass regularly. This is more evidence of the “narrow road” and of how few there are who find it. Two thousand years ago, Jesus experienced that most left Him; many today continue to leave Him (or stand far away), either through indifference or false notions.

What father would not be alarmed if one of his children stopped eating? Consider, then, God’s alarm that many of us have stopped eating.

II.  The Requirement for the Eucharist

This is where the “Unless” in the title of this post comes in. When I was young I thought of Mass and Communion as just something my mother made me do; it was just a bunch of rituals to me. I never thought of it as essential for my survival. Jesus teaches something very profound in John’s Gospel today. In effect, He says that without Holy Communion, the Eucharist, we will starve and die spiritually.

Here is what Jesus says: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (John 6:53).

As a child and even as a young adult I never thought of Holy Communion as essential for my life, as something that, if not received regularly, would cause me to die spiritually. It makes sense, though, doesn’t it? If we don’t eat food in our physical life, we would grow weak and eventually die. It is the same with Holy Communion with respect to our spiritual life.

Remember in the Book of Exodus that the people in the desert were without food and feared for their lives. In response, God gave them bread from Heaven called “manna,” which they collected each morning. Without eating that bread from Heaven, they would never have made it to the Promised Land; they would have perished in the desert.

It is the same with us. Without receiving Jesus, our Living Manna from Heaven, in Holy Communion, we will not make it to our Promised Land of Heaven. It is not just a ritual; it is essential for our survival.

Don’t miss Holy Communion! Jesus urges you to eat. A number of years ago, a mother and father in my parish noticed that their daughter wasn’t eating. They wasted no time in taking her to a doctor, who diagnosed the problem and prescribed the remedy. Those parents would have moved Heaven and Earth to get their daughter eating again! It is the same for God. Jesus urges us to eat, to receive Holy Communion every Sunday. Jesus urges us with this word: “Unless.” Holy Communion is our required food.

III.  The Reverence for the Eucharist

One of the common, mistaken notions about the Eucharist is confusing this sacred meal with the table fellowship Jesus had with sinners. He was known to “welcome sinners and eat with them.” Holy Mass, however, is not one of those sorts of meals. The Last Supper, at which the essential reality of the Mass was first set forth, was held in the context of the Passover. Passover was a sacred meal shared within the family. Therefore, Jesus celebrated that Last Supper with the twelve Apostles.

This lack of understanding of the difference between the sacred meal of the Eucharist and common table fellowship leads many to misconstrue the Eucharist; it also helps to explain the Church’s stance.

Those who think of the Mass as the mere table fellowship Jesus had with sinners tend to interpret the Eucharist as a “Come one, come all” sort of meal. Many also add, “Come as you are.” In their view, there are no requirements; all that matters is that Jesus is offering. “Don’t worry,” they say, “about ‘membership’ or the need to be reconciled from sin. After all, Jesus ate with sinners and He didn’t worry about those things.”

Again, however, this is not what the Last Supper was. Jesus celebrated the Mass in the context of the Passover. Such meals presupposed that the people gathered together were family. This was an intimate meal celebrated in the context of faith, however weak or strong, but a faith that was presupposed. Jesus said to them, You are the men who have stood by me in my trials (Lk 22:28).

This is one reason that the Church has always limited the reception of the Eucharist to those who are initiated, who are “members of Christ’s Body” through faith, and who keep communion with His Body the Church through assent to her teachings, remaining members of His Body by being in a state of grace.

It further explains the need to receive the Eucharist worthily by first confessing serious sins through the Sacrament of Confession. St. Paul teaches,

Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (1 Cor 11:28-30).

Here, too, we see that the Mass is not akin to the table fellowship that Jesus at times kept with sinners. Rather, it is a sacred meal that presupposes membership in Christ’s Body through faith and the forgiveness of all serious sins that might have severed that communion. Holy Communion is meant to strengthen a communion that already exists. Thus, our “Amen” before receiving Holy Communion is not a lie, but is consonant with the reality of existing communion.

I will write more on this topic in the coming week, but for now simply note that our reverence for Holy Communion requires us to receive worthily, in a state of grace that has preserved the communion we celebrate. Further, to receive worthily also requires that we have the faith of the Church, the Body of Christ, and keep communion by a belief in conformity and communion with it.

On this Solemnity of the Body of Christ we are summoned to deepen our faith in the Lord, present in the Eucharist and acting through His Sacraments. Routine may have somewhat of a dulling effect, but it cannot be so much so that we receive the Lord of glory in any way that could be called mindless or lacking in the reverence we ought to have for Him.

Ask the Lord to anoint your mind so that you never forget your need for the Eucharist. Unless! Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you (cf Jn 6:53). However, receive this great gift worthily and with a communion that befits the Holy Communion to which we are summoned.

We Are Wayfarers and Our Food Is the Eucharist, as Seen in a Commercial

The commercial below reminds me of the fact that the Eucharist is our necessary food for the journey; it is the food of wayfarers. In John chapter 6, Jesus teaches that the miraculous manna described in Exodus and Numbers was the food that sustained the ancient Jews in the desert and strengthened them bodily for their journey to the Promised Land. While most of them did not make it to the Promised Land because of their unbelief, their children did. The manna was the food that fed them for that long journey.

Jesus then says that He is now the living bread come down from Heaven for us:

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is My flesh (Jn 6:48-51).

If for some strange reason the ancient Jews had refused to eat the manna given them, they would have died of hunger in the desert. So, too, for us. If we do not receive Holy Communion, we will not have the strength to make it to the Promised Land of Heaven:

Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (Jn 6:53-54).

So, the Eucharist is our true and necessary food to sustain us. Without it we are starving ourselves and do not have strength for the journey. Even if God has other ways to feed those who cannot reasonably know of or receive the Eucharist, that is no excuse for those of us who know better.

In the commercial below, a young man eats his oatmeal while staring dreamily out the window. Astride his bicycle and seeing a steep mountain before him, he feels strengthened for the journey, an epic journey. For us, the mountain is Heaven and the epic journey is the drama of our life through the hills and valleys of this world. We are wayfarers and our food is the Eucharist.

Costly Truth – A Homily for the 20th Sunday of the Year

Sacrament

Sacrament

In the Gospel today, we continue with Jesus’ great treatise on the Eucharist (John 6). Many of the Jewish listeners who hear Him speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum are grumbling and murmuring in protest at His insistence that they eat His flesh and drink His blood. But Jesus does not back down for a minute. In fact, He “doubles down” and quite graphically teaches a very real (as opposed to symbolic) call to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Let’s examine Jesus’ teaching in four stages.

I. REALITY of the Eucharist – Jesus begins by insisting on its reality, saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Notice, therefore, that the bread IS HIS FLESH. The bread is not simply a symbol of His flesh, His body, or of His life and teachings. It is not simply a way of remembering Him when He is gone. No, it IS His flesh. Other scriptural passages also insist on the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the truth that it is His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

· For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:23-25).

· The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? (1 Cor 10:16)

· Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:27-29).

· When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:31, 35).

Thus the Lord first teaches them of the reality of the Eucharist, of the bread and wine that He offers: it is in fact His Body and Blood.

II. REACTION – The Lord’s teaching provokes a strong reaction from His listeners: The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

This is one of the most difficult moments of Jesus’ public ministry. The scene is the synagogue at Capernaum, the town where Jesus worked some of His greatest miracles. You’d think he’d have a really supportive audience here!

But as it turns out, you might say he had no “Amen corner.” The old spiritual was demonstrated that goes, “Way down yonder by myself and I couldn’t hear nobody pray.” As we continue with this gospel next week, we will see that their reaction is one of revulsion so severe that many will leave Him and no longer walk in His company.

I wonder if Jesus had this moment in mind when he said of Capernaum, And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to Heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Mat 11:23-24).

III. REINFORCEMENT – But Jesus does not back down. Their rejection leads Him to reinforce His teaching: Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

Yes, Jesus gets emphatic and uses the intensifier “Amen, Amen I say to you” which is the Jewish equivalent of “Let me be perfectly clear.” He also switches His vocabulary from the polite word for “eat” (φαγεῖν (phagein) in Greek) to τρώγων (trogon), which more graphically and almost impolitely speaks of gnawing on, crunching, or chewing His flesh.

Jesus wants to be very clear. His listeners now understand Him to speak literally, rather than metaphorically or symbolically. Jesus assures them that He expects to be understood literally. Why is He so emphatic? He wants to save us; He links the eating of His Body and Blood to eternal life: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. In order to be raised up and to make the journey to eternal life, we must be sustained and strengthened for the journey by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

It is just like the manna that sustained the Israelites for forty years in the desert as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Had they not eaten, they would have died in the desert. And so it is for us in the desert of this world. Without our manna, our Bread from Heaven, without the Body and Blood of the Lord to sustain us, we will not make it to the Promised Land of Heaven.

Jesus insists and says, “Unless …,” “Eat …,” else the journey will be too long for you! For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. I am the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.

IV. REWARD of the Eucharist – Here the words of Jesus speak plainly of the reward in receiving the Eucharist: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever. Note that Jesus mentions three rewards:

A. Intimacy – The Eucharist is called Holy Communion because, by it, we grow into a deep, lasting union with Jesus. Our knowledge and experience of Him in our life becomes deeper and more real. We see and experience His power at work in our life.

B. Increase – We find that our life grows richer. Sin is put to death and graces come alive. We are more joyful, confident, and serene. We are less vain, angry, lustful, and distracted. Jesus in His Eucharistic indwelling of us produces these effects over time.

C. Immortality – Eternal life refers to the fullness of life more so than its length. And thus we become more alive as we grow into Holy Communion with the Lord. This happens even now, though its fullest effects wait until Heaven. But don’t miss the “now-ness” of eternal! It begins now and grows deeper with each year. Heaven will see its full unfolding, but even now a growing experience of a fuller and fuller life is to be the normative experience of every Christian.

The Teaching of the Eucharist was a costly teaching for Jesus in many ways. Clearly it pointed to and flowed from His horrific passion and death. But even before that, He had much to suffer in the murmuring of many disciples. As we continue with this gospel next week, we will see that many would no longer follow Him because of this teaching. It was, to be sure, a shocking—even graphic—teaching. And yet, so critical was it to the Lord that we obtain the Eucharist, that He was willing to risk rejection and ultimately give up His life so that we could have it. A costly meal indeed.

A Word By Word Translation and Study of the Latin Hymns Used at Benediction

071813I sometimes get requests for help in understanding the Latin texts of the very familiar hymns for Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. The O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo, though familiar to many Catholics remain only vaguely understood in terms of a word-for-word translation. Most know the poetic English renderings (“O Saving Victim Opening Wide” and “Humbly Let us Voice our Homage”) but this does not necessarily facilitate a word-for-word understanding as the Latin is sung. What I hope to do here, and in greater detail in the attached PDF files, is to give a very literal rendering that preserves the word order of the Latin so that one can understand the Latin precisely. In the PDF I also give a brief word study of each word in both hymns. It is my hope to bring these hymns more alive for the faithful who sing them who may not be highly skilled in Latin.

1. The O Salutaris – The Author is St. Thomas Aquinas. These are the last two verses of a longer hymn Verbum Supernum Prodiens (The heavenly Word, going forth) which was composed for Lauds (Morning Prayer) of the Divine Office of Corpus Christi. The meter is Iambic Dimeter, accentual with alternating rhyme. This hymn was said to so please even the hostile Rousseau that he would have given all his poetry to be its author. I propose here to record the Latin text to the left and then a very literal English translation to the right which also preserves the word order for easy comparison:

    • O salutaris Hostia (O saving victim)
    • quae caeli pandis ostium (who of heaven opens the gate – i.e. who opens the gate of heaven)
    • bella premunt hostilia (wars press hostile – i.e. hostile wars press)
    • da robur fer auxilium (give strength, bear aid)
    • Uni Trinoque Domino (To the One and Threefold Lord)
    • sit sempiterna gloria (may there be eternal glory)
    • qui vitam sine termino (who life without end)
    • nobis donet in patria (to us may he grant in the Fatherland)

I have prepared a printable and more thorough word study here:Study the O SALUTARIS

2. The Tantum Ergo– The author is St. Thomas Aquinas. It was composed for Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Divine Office for the Feast of Corpus Christi. The meter is trochaic tetrameter catalectic, rhyming at both the caesura and at the end of the line. These two verses are the last two of the full hymn Pange Lingua. There is here a wonderful union of sweetness of melody with clear-cut dogmatic teaching. I propose here to record the Latin text to the left and then a very literal English translation to the right which also preserves the word order for easy comparison:

    • Tantum ergo sacramentum (So great therefore a sacrament)
    • veneremur cernui (let us venerate with bowed heads)
    • et antiquum documentum (and the ancient document)
    • novo cedat ritui (to the new, give way, rite i.e. gives way to the new rite)
    • Praestet fides supplementum (may supply faith a supplement i.e. may faith supply a supplement)
    • Sensuum defectui. (of the senses for the defect i.e. for the defect of the senses)
    • Genitori Genitoque (To the One who generates and to the one who is generated (i.e. Father and Son)
    • Laus et jubilatio (be praise and joy)
    • Salus, honor, virtus, quoque (health, honor, strength also)
    • sit et benedictio (may there be and blessing)
    • Procedenti ab utroque (to the One proceeding from both)
    • Compar sit laudatio (equal may there be praise i.e. may there be equal praise)

I have prepared a printable and more thorough word study here: Study the TANTUM ERGO.

I hope that this may be of some help along with the printable PDF word studies.

Here is setting of the Tantum Ergo by Mozart which I paired with some video footage I found:

A Beautiful Summary of Eucharistic theology in an antiphon by Aquinas

011613There is a great hymn, an antiphon actually, written by St. Thomas Aquinas for the Office of Corpus Christi. It is O Sacrum Convivium and it serves as a wonderful summary of Eucharistic theology that is worth our attention. With that in mind I’d like to make a brief reflection on some of its compact teachings. First the text, then some commentary:

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.

O sacred Banquet
In which Christ is received
The memory of his Passion is recalled
The Mind is filled with grace
And Pledge of future Glory is given to us.

O Sacred banquet (O Sacrum convivium) In recent decades there was perhaps a tendency to over emphasize the meal aspect of the holy Mass, without due and balanced reference to the sacrificial aspect of the holy Mass. But the necessary correction in more recent times, back toward emphasizing that the Mass makes present the Sacrifice of the Cross, should not lead us to forget the mass is also a holy banquet, a sacred meal with the Lord.

For the Lord says, For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink (Jn 6:55). Thus, the Holy Eucharist is no mere sign, or symbol, but is in fact the true food of Christ’s true Body, true Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Eucharist, is also a foretaste, a praegustatum,  of the great banquet in heaven, of which Christ says, And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Lk 22:29-30). And yet again, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20).

Note too that the Latin word convivium, of which “banquet” is an adequate translation, but also contains nuances that go beyond a mere meal. The Latin emphasizes a kind of coming together a sort of celebration of life. Con (with) + vivere (to live).  Hence, the meal here is no mere supplying the food or calories. It is a coming together to celebrate new life. We receive the food of Christ’s Body and Blood, which not only gives an ingredient for life, but is in fact the true and very life of Christ.

In the Eucharist, we receive Life Himself, for Christ said of himself, I am the life (Jn 14:6). And further, he declares,  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will have life because of me. (Jn 6:57).

Of this life, he further describes it as “eternal life,” a term which refers not merely to the length of life, but also to the fullness of life.

Thus the Holy Eucharist is a meal, but no mere meal, it is Life, it is a convivial celebration of that life; it is a banquet which gives Life Himself.

In which Christ is received (in quo Christus sumitur)– Here again, is affirmation that we do not receive mere food, we receive Christ himself. This is no mere symbol, no mere wafer, no mere memory. It is Christ himself that we receive.

The verb here, sumitur, is in some sense bold. More literally translated than “received,” it is more literally translated as “taken up.” It is a present passive indicative form of the verb. And this indicates the great humility of our Lord. He lets himself “be taken up.”

Imagine, the Lord being in a moment of a passive relationship with us. He lets himself be taken up, or taken in by us. He is taken up, and becomes our food. Here is an astonishing humbling by our God, who then allows himself to be assimilated by us, and thereby assimilates us into him.

His humility, is meant to conquer pride in us. Yes, in this great banquet Christ himself is taken up, is received, is assimilated by us.  And in this humble manner we are taken up into him, taken in, more perfectly to be a member of  his body.

The memory of his passion is recalled (recolitur memoria passionis eius) The Eucharist is not only a meal, it is the making present of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In every mass, we are brought to the foot of the cross, and the fruits of that Cross are applied to us.

We are also at the resurrection, for in Holy Communion we receive Christ who is living, present, and active.

The Latin verb recolitur, is properly translated “recalled.”  However, once again there are nuances in the Latin verb which are hard to render with one English word. The Latin verb recolere means “to cultivate anew.” This somewhat agrarian image points to a kind of careful and intentional growing and fostering of something, in this case the memory of Christ’s Passion.

To cultivate in agriculture, is also to prepare for, and or pave the way for the growth of something. It means to prepare the soil.

In non agrarian settings, to cultivate anything implies a kind of care for it, and intention to foster the growth of something, to further or encourage something.

In all these images we see that the memory of Christ’s Passion is something that we should cherish, encourage and foster. It is something in which we should prepare the ground of our heart for ever deeper insights and for new growth in the memory of what He’s done for us

The other word, “memory,” is also a very precious word. What is memory and what does it mean to “remember?”  To remember is to have deeply present in my mind and my heart what Christ has done for me, so that I am grateful, and I am different. It means to have it finally dawn on us what Christ has done for us in such a vivid and real way that our hearts and minds are grateful, transformed, and different. Our hearts of stone are broken open and God’s light and love flood in and we are changed. This is what it means to remember.

It is of course and ever deepening process to recall the memory of His Passion, not a mere one time event.

The Mind is filled with Grace (mens impletur gratia) – There are many graces of course that come with holy Communion:

Our venial sins are forgiven, our holiness is increased, our union with Christ becomes more perfected, we gradually become the One we receive,  we receive strength and food for the journey across the desert of this world unto the Promised Land of Heaven, we receive life, and begin to participate in eternal life, our union with Christ and membership in his body is strengthened, as is our union with one another, and our union with the saints in heaven.

Yes, so many grace are infused, are poured forth into the mind and heart!

And a pledge of future glory is given to us (et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur) – with the reception of Holy Communion come promises from Christ:

But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever….Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day….Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:50-58)

Yes, here is a pledge of future glory, of victory. Jesus alludes to the manna in the wilderness that sustained them for forty years in the desert. It was a sign of the victory to come. For why would God sustain them in the desert if he did not will to lead them ultimately to the Promised Land? It is the same for us. That God feeds us in this way is a sign and promise of his will to save us and bring us to the Promised Land of Heaven. He blesses and strengthens the journey and so adds surety and the pledge of the destination of future glory.

To this pledge the Lord also adds a warning: I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6:53)

And St. Paul also adds: Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor 11:27-29)

Not a bad little summary of Eucharistic theology, all in a short antiphon.

Dublin’s Pilgrim Walk

One of the unique events of this Eucharistic Congress in Dublin is the Pilgrim Walk. Noting the revival of people’sinterest in pilgrim walks, the Congress committee created the route around seven of the oldest churches in Dublin. Readers of this blog from the Archdiocese of Washington know of the annual Seven Churches Walk sponsored by our Young Adult Ministry and this Dublin walk is very similar.

I began my walk with Mass and the  Reconciliation at St. Mary Pro-Cathedral, the mother-church of the Archdiocese.  I wound my way through the city, stopping at St. Anne’s, founded in 1723 where Irish poet and writer, Oscar Wilde was baptized. At St. Anne, there is a bread shelf located by the choir. It was a tradition to stack the shelves with loaves of bread which the hungry and poor were welcomed to take.  From St. Anne’s, I headed for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, home of the Carmelite Fathers and established in 1279. Here pilgrims had a chance to venerate the relics of Saint Valentine.

From St. Anne, on my way to St. John’s Lane Church I passed the house where Frank Duff founded the Legion of Mary in 1921. St. John was built by the Augustianians in 1280 and this year has been a special one for the parish as it celebrates the 150 Anniversary of the “Solemn Blessing and Laying of the Foundation Stone,” on Easter Monday in 1895. Not far from St. John’s and in the very neighborhood that is home to Guinness’s Beer world headquarters and plant is St. James church, St. James, founded in 1844, has a special link to the Camino de Santiago as many Irish pilgrims have their Camino passport stamped at St. James before starting out for Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

The sixth visit was to the Gothic style Church of St. Mary of the Angels, which started as a chapel site around 1689, following the Battle of the Boyne. This really beautiful church with a rich wood ceiling was established in 1868. I ended my pilgrimage at the parish of St. Michan, the oldest parish in Dublin. Historical records show the presence of a Christian Shrine dating back 1,000 years, though the present church was not constructed until 1730. The presence of a chapel for some 1000 years has some support in the fact that at the Episcopal Church also named St. Michan, in the same neighborhood, there are catacombs with graves that have been dated at 800 years.

This pilgrim walk was not just a history lesson, but a time for extended prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. A number of the Churches have extended hours of Exposition during the Congress and many added Masses so that pilgrims can take full advantage of this time of walking with Our Lord. In prayer, one is able to recall themes from the homilies and catechetical sessions that come alive in private prayer and to pray for God’s blessing that the fruits of the Congress will be carried to the home dioceses and parishes of the pilgrims. At each church, pilgrims end their time of private prayer with this prayer:

Lord Jesus, you were sent by the Father to gather together those who are scattered.

You came among us, doing good and bringing healing, announcing the Word of Salvation and giving the Bread which lasts forever. Be our companion on life’s pilgrim way.

May your Holy Spirit inflame our hearts, enliven our hope and open our minds,

So that together with our sisters and brothers in faith we may recognize you

in the Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. May your Holy Spirit transform us into one body and lead us to walk humbly on earth, in justice and love, as witnesses of your resurrection.

In communion with Mary, whom you gave to us as our Mother at the foot of the cross, through you may all praise, honor and blessing be to the Father in the Holy Spirit and in the Church, now and forever. Amen

50th International Eucharistic Congress.

Today, On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Church of Ireland opens its doors to the world as it hosts the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. As with the first 49 congresses, Popes have called congresses for three main reasons:

  • promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church
  • help improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy
  • draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist.

I participated in my first Eucharistic Congress in 1979 when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hosted the congress and I served as an usher at the closing Mass. This year, I have the privilege of going as a speaker but more on that later.

The Archdiocese of Washington will be represented by myself and three other staff people who are at the Congress for different reasons and who have all agreed to blog so that you can follow the highlights through the eyes of our blogging team.

Sr. Revelacion Castaneda, who is traveling with a group of young people from all over the U.S.

Mary O’Meara, Executive Director of the Department for Ministry for the Deaf and those with Disabilities who is coordinating the program for an international delegation of deaf Catholics

Sr. Mary Dolora Keating, Director of the Office for Consecrated Life who is representing her religious community.

While the celebration of the Eucharist is the central event of each day, the place of the Eucharist in our lives is explored in catechetical workshops, personal testimonies and cultural events. We will try to give you a taste of each part of the congress.

We look forward to sharing our week with you.