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.

Doritos Don’t, But Communion Can! – A Little Eucharistic Theology in a T.V. Commercial

Too many people think of Holy Communion as a ritual, rather than a transformative, life giving reality. Jesus spoke clearly of how Holy Communion, the partaking of his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, would give us new life and raise us up:

  1. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (Jn 6:33)
  2. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 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. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:48-51)
  3. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jn 6:54)
  4. The one who feeds on me will live because of me (Jn 6:57)
  5. He who feeds on this bread will live forever. (Jn 6:58)
  6. [In the ancient Temple] a tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place…. When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood…This is an illustration for the present time…..When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made…He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption….to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Heb 9: varia).

So Holy Communion with Jesus takes us, who were dead in our sins, and raises us to a new and eternal life. The word eternal does not refer merely to the length of life, but to the fullness of it. So we are given not just a long life, but a full one.

I am a witness to this and I hope you are. I have been receiving Holy communion just about every day for the last 27 years. And I want to say I have seen sins put to death and new life come forth in me, new gifts given to me. I am more serene, more loving, more chaste, more concerned for the poor, more generous, more patient, more alive that ever before. Holy Communion with the Lord does that, it gives life, bestows holiness and wholeness. And in giving me greater life, he enables me to share it with others.

Whoever eats my flesh will live, says the Lord. And he’s done for me just what he said. Thank you Lord.

And to those who refrain from Holy Communion, The Lord has this to say:

Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you. (Jn 6:53)

Those who have stepped away from the Communion with the Lord in the Sacrament of the Eucharist are starving themselves and risk utter spiritual death: no life you.

To receive the Lord fruitfully in Holy Communion brings life, to refuse him brings death. It is that simple, and if you wish to argue with me, talk instead to Jesus. He said it, not me, though whatever the Son of God says, I believe (credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius). And he did say it.

And now we go to a surprising place: a Doritos commercial (see video below).

  1. In this commercial, a friend going on a journey exhorts his friend to remember to feed the fish, and water the plant.
  2. I wonder if we cannot see ourselves receiving a similar command from Jesus. Jesus often speaks in parables of a King, or landowner (Him really) going on a journey and leaving instructions.
  3. And Jesus’ instructions are similar involving food and drink. For he said, as he went on a journey, Eat my Flesh and drink my Blood….Do this in remembrance of me.
  4. But in the ad, the friend on the couch pays little attention. And as you can guess, he does not really do what he is supposed to.
  5. Interestingly however, HE does eat the Doritos!
  6. Perhaps then, he is emblematic of some modern Catholics, who, though they know how to get to Church themselves, have not evangelized others, even their relatives, and do not make sure they eat and drink by receiving Holy Communion.
  7. Sure enough, as we have noted,  in the ad, the couch bound friend (pew sitting Catholic?) does not give food to the fish, and drink to the plant and they die. And this is what is happening spiritually to our family and friends who do not come to Mass and worthily receive Holy Communion. And to the extent that we have neglected to evangelized them, we, like this couch sitting friend in the ad, share in the blame for their death.
  8. Suddenly the couch bound friend realizes it is Thursday and his friend will return soon. He sees the death he has helped cause by failing to feed,  and urgently tries to remedy the situation. Perhaps (we hope) this is a symbol of us in the Church who have allowed 70% of our brethren to drift away from the food and drink they need (Jesus). Waking up from a long nap, we hear the call to the new Evangelization as we see our once filled parishes and schools empty and closing.
  9. Now things get silly, but action is taken. The couch bound friend suddenly leaves his couch (pew) and goes to work. He feeds the dead fish Doritos and suddenly the Fish comes back to life! I know it’s a stretch, but allow this to be a symbol of getting a friend or family member back to the Sacraments. If we do, that which was dead is now alive. Next, in the ad,  the tree comes alive, and most auspiciously even Grandpa, whose ashes are an the mantle also comes back to life (remember though do not put the ashes of loved ones on the mantle. The Church requires that they be buried or place in a columbarium at a cemetery).
  10. OK, it’s crazy, but the Doritos can symbolize here (by a stretch) the Eucharist. And as for giving life, Doritos don’t, but Communion Can! When Holy Communion is received worthily and fruitfully, what was dead can and does come back to life. And what is already alive is further enlivened.

So the moral is, Stay faithful to Holy Communion or Die. And even if you’re receiving, you know people who aren’t. They need to get back to Holy Communion or they will perish (cf Jn 6:53).

Now don’t let some guy in a Doritos commercial be smarter than you. Get to work, evangelize. There are people out there (including your own children, family members and friends) who are dying spiritually for lack of Holy Communion. Get to work, Jesus may be coming soon.

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. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 3:20-22)

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jn 6:54)

Here’s the commercial:

Even Demons Believe and Tremble – A Story about the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

St Marys Trid Mass smaller

It was almost 15 years ago. I was At Old St. Mary’s here in D.C. celebrating Mass in the Latin (Extraordinary Form). It was a solemn high Mass. I don’t suppose I thought it any different than most Sunday’s but something quite amazing was about to happen.

As you may know the ancient Latin Mass is celebrated “ad orientem” (towards the Liturgical East). Priest and people all face one direction. What this means practically for the celebrant is that the people are behind him. It was time for the consecration. The priest is directed to bow low, his forearms on the altar table the host between his fingers.

As directed I said the venerable words of Consecration in a low but distinct voice, Hoc est enim Corpus meum (For this is my Body). The bells rang as I genuflected.

But behind me a disturbance of some sort, a shaking or rustling in the front pews behind me to my right. And then a moaning or grumbling. What was that? It did not really sound human, more like the grumbling of a large animal such as a boar or a bear, along with a plaintive moan that did not seem human. I elevated the host and wondered, “What was that?” Then silence. I could not turn to look easily for that is awkward for the celebrant in the ancient Latin Mass. But still I thought, What was that?

But it was time for the consecration of the chalice. Again, bowing low and pronouncing clearly and distinctly but in a low voice: Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei, novi et æterni testamenti; mysterium fidei; qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem pecatorum. Haec quotiescumque feceritis in mei memoriam facietis (for this is the cup of my Blood, of the new and eternal covenant; the mystery of faith; which will for the many be shed unto the remission of sins. When so ever you do this, you do it in my memory).

Then, I heard another sound this time an undeniable moan and then a shriek as some one cried out: “Leave me alone Jesus! Why do you torture me!” Suddenly a scuffling as some one ran out with the groaning sound of having been injured. The back doors swung open, then closed. Then silence.

Realization – I could not turn to look for I was raising the Chalice high over my head. But I knew in an instant that some poor demon-tormented soul had encountered Christ in the Eucharistic, and could not endure his real presence displayed for all to see. And the words of Scripture occurred to me: Even Demons believe and tremble (James 2:19).

Repentance – But just as James used those words to rebuke the weak faith of his flock I too had to repent. Why was a demon-troubled man more aware of the true presence and astonished by it than me? He was moved in the negative sense to run. Why was I not more moved in a positive and comparable way? What of the other believers in the pews? I don’t doubt that any of us believed intellectually in the true presence. But there is something very different and far more wonderful in being moved to the depth of your soul! It is so easy for us to be sleepy in the presence of the Divine, forgetful of the miraculous and awesome Presence available to us.

But let the record show that one day, almost 15 years ago, it was made quite plain to me that I held in my hands the Lord of Glory, the King of heaven and earth, the just Judge, and Ruler of the kings of the earth. Is the Lord truly present in the Eucharist? You’d better believe it, even demons believe that!

Are You a Man or A Mouse? A Reflection on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

This Sunday in many places features the (moved) Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Our Lord.

While you may puzzle over my title, allow me to explain it later. On a Solemn feast like this many things occur that might be preached and taught. Allow three areas for reflection: The Reality of the Eucharist, The Requirement of the Eucharist, the Remembrance of the Eucharist. We will look at each in order.

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 we partake of, 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 not a metaphor, it is truly the Lord. Neither is it a “piece” of his flesh, but is Christ, whole and entire. Scripture attests to this in many places:

A. Luke 22:19-20 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.

B. 1 Cor 10:16 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?

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

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

E. John 6:51 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.”

This last quote is from our Gospel for today’s feast. The passage is a profound theology of the Eucharist from Jesus himself and he makes it clear that we are not permitted to think of the Eucharist in symbolic or metaphor.

As he speaks the words, the bread is my flesh, the Jewish people hearing him grumbled in protest. Jesus did not seek to reassure them or insist that we was speaking only symbolically when he said they must eat his flesh. Rather he becomes even more adamant by shifting his vocabulary from the polite form of eating, φάγητε (phagete – meaning simply “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 the fact that most left him that day and would no longer follow 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 supply our answer each time we approach the altar and hear the word, The Body of Christ. It is here that we answer the Lord, Amen as if to say, Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the word of eternal life! (Jn 6:68).

Would that people grasped that the Lord himself was truly present in our Churches! Were that so, one could never empty our parishes of those seeking to pray with the Lord. As it is, only 27% come to Mass regularly. This is more evidence of the narrow road and how few there are who find it. As Jesus experienced that most left him, so too many continue to leave him or stand far away, either through indifference or false notions.

What father would not be severely alarmed if one of his children stopped eating. Consider too God’s alarm that many of us have stopped eating. This leads us to the next point.

II. The Requirement of the Eucharist – When I was a kid I just thought of Church and Communion  as something my mom made me do, it was just rituals and stuff. I never thought of it as essential for my survival. But Jesus teaches something very profound in John’s Gospel today when he was teaching about Holy Communion (the Eucharist). In effect he says that without Holy Communion 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 kid and even a young adult I never thought of Holy Communion as essential for my life, as something that, if I didn’t receive it regularly, I would die spiritually. But it makes sense doesn’t it? If we don’t eat food in our physical lives we grow weak and eventually die. It is the same with Holy Communion.

Remember in the Book of Exodus: the people were without food in the desert and they feared for their lives. So God gave them bread from heaven called “manna” that they collected each morning. Without eating that bread from heaven they would never have made it to the Promised Land, they would have died 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! I guess it’s not just merely a ritual after all. It is essential for our survival.

Don’t miss Holy Communion! Jesus urges you to eat.

A mother and father in my parish recently noticed their daughter wasn’t eating. Within a very short time they took her to the doctor who discovered the problem and now the young girl is able to eat again. Those parents would have moved heaven and earth to make sure their daughter was able to eat.

It is the same with God. Jesus urges us to eat, to receive the Holy Communion every Sunday without fail. Jesus urges us with this word: “Unless!” Holy Communion is our required food.

III. The Remembrance of the Eucharist. The word remembrance comes up a lot in reference to Holy Communion and today’s readings. Consider the following

A. Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert…and then fed you with manna (Deut 8).

B.  Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt (Deut 8:24)

C. Do this in remembrance of me….(1 Cor 11:24 inter al).

What is remembrance and why is it important? In effect, to “remember” is to have present in your mind what God has done for you so that you’re grateful, to have it so present to you, so that you are different. God has saved us, made us his children, and opened heaven for us. Yet, our minds are very weak and we too easily let this slip from our conscious thoughts. Thus, the summons to an ἀνάμνησιν (anamnesin) or “remembrance” that is so common in the Eucharistic liturgy, is a summons to our minds to be open to, and powerfully aware of what the Lord has done for us, “Don’t just stand or kneel there, forgetting, let this be present to you as a living and conscious reality, that changes you!”

Are you a mouse or a man? So here comes the question. Back in seminary days we were all given the example of a mouse who runs across the altar and takes a consecrated host and runs off and eats it. And we were asked, “Does he eat the body of Christ?” Yes! For the Eucharist has a reality unto itself. “But does he receive a sacrament?” No! A mouse has no mind. It eats the very Body of Christ but to no avail for it has no conscious awareness or appreciation of of what (whom) it eats. And so here comes the question – Are you a mouse or a man?

How do you receive Holy Communion? Do you go up mindlessly, shuffling along in the Communion line in a mechanistic way? Or do you go up powerfully aware of He, whom you are bout to receive? Do you remember, do you have vividly present to your mind what the Lord has done for you? Are you grateful and amazed at what he has done and what he offers? Or are you just like a mouse having something mindlessly put into your mouth?

Some people put more faith in Tylenol than they do the Eucharist. Why? Because when they take Tylenol they actually expect something to happen, for the pain to go away, and for there to be relief and healing. But when it comes to Holy Communion, they expect next to nothing. To them, it’s just a ritual, time to go up and get the wafer, (pardon the expression).

Really?! Nothing? How can this be? Poor catechesis? Sure. Little faith? Sure. Boredom? Yes indeed. At some level it can be no better than a mouse eating a host. We are receiving the Lord of all creation, yet most expect little.

To this the Church says, “Remember!” “Have present to your mind all that the Lord has done for you and what he is about to do. Let this reality of the Lord’s presence be alive in your mind so that it changes you and makes you profoundly grateful and joyful. Become the One you receive!”

Jesus is more powerful than Tylenol and we are men (and women) not mice.

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 dulling effects, but it cannot be so that we receive the Lord of glory each Sunday in any way that would be called mindless.

Ask the Lord to anoint your mind so that you remember and never forget.

The Hidden Mass in Today’s Gospel and the Perfect Thanksgiving – A Meditation on the Gospel for the 28th Sunday of the Year

One of the great human inadequacies is rendering proper and adequate thanks to God. Perhaps the biggest problem is that we don’t even know 90% of what he does for us. It is hid from our eyes. A further problem is that we tend, in our fallen condition, to be wired to magnify our distresses and problems and minimize or discount the enormous blessings of each moment. God sustains every fiber of our being and every atom of creation, his hidden blessings  are countless. But we get angry if our iPod is malfunctioning or if one or two out of the trillion blessings he gives is withdrawn.

But in the end an old gospel song says it well:

 I’ve got so much to thank God for; So many wonderful blessings  and so many open doors. A brand new mercy along with each new day. That’s why I praise You and for this I give You praise. For waking me up this morning , For starting me on my way, For letting me see the sunshine, of a brand new day. That’s why I praise You and for this I give You praise. So many times You´ve met my needs, So many times You rescued me. That’s why I praise You.

For every mountain You brought me over  For every trial you’ve seen me through.  For every blessing, For this I give You praise

Fundamental Question – So here is the question at the heart of today’s Gospel. It is best asked in the Book of Psalms: What return shall I make to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The same psalm goes on to answer the question in this way: The cup of salvation I will take up and call on the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116:12)

The Mass is signified – Yes indeed, how can I possibly thank the Lord for all the good he has done for me? Notice that the psalm points to the Eucharist in saying, The cup of salvation I will take up….”  As you know the word “Eucharist” is a Greek  word which means, “thanksgiving.” We cannot thank God the Father adequately, but Jesus can. And in every Mass we join our meager thanksgiving to his perfect thanksgiving. Jesus takes up the cup of salvation and shows it to us at every Mass through the priest. This is the perfect and superabundant thanks that only Jesus can offer the Father. And he joins us to his perfect sacrifice of thanks in every Mass. This is how we give thanks in a way commensurate with the manifold blessings we have received.

Hidden Mass! – Now the Gospel makes this point, that the Mass is the perfect offering of thanks to the Father, in a remarkable and almost hidden way. But for Catholics it is right there for us to see if we have eyes to see it. For the Gospel today contains all the essential elements of Holy Mass. In so doing, this Gospel about giving thanks reminds us once again that it is the Mass which is the perfect thanksgiving, the perfect  “Eucharist.” Let’s look and see how it is a Mass:

  1. Gathering – Notice first that there is a gathering. Ten lepers (us) have gathered and Jesus comes near as he passes on his way. We do this in every Mass, we gather and the Lord draws near. Indeed, in the person of the priest, who is the sacrament, the sign of his presence, Jesus walks the aisle of our Church just like he walked those ancient roads.
  2. Kyrie – Next they cry out for mercy just like we do at every Mass: Lord have mercy! Jesus, Master, have pity on us!
  3. Liturgy of the Word – Next Jesus quotes Scripture and then applies it to their life  just like he does for us at every Mass. In saying, “Go show yourselves to the priests”  Jesus is referencing Leviticus 14 which gives detailed instructions on how the priests of old were to diagnose leprosy and also its having been cured. Jesus quotes this scripture and applies it to their life. This is what we do at every Mass wherein God’s Word is proclaimed and then the Lord Jesus, speaking through the priest or deacon, applies the text(s) to our life.
  4. Liturgy of the Eucharist – Next, the text says that one of them: fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. This is what we do during the Eucharistic prayer, we kneel and thank Jesus, and also, with Jesus,  give thanks to the Father. As we have noted, the word “Eucharist”  comes from Greek and means “to give thanks.” Here is the perfect thanks rendered to the Father. To those who say they can stay home and give adequate thanks to God, there should only be the rebuke that they are prideful. Only Jesus can give perfect thanks to the Father. And we can only give adequate thanks to Jesus by following his command to “do this in memory of me.” We have to be at Mass.
  5. Ite Missa est – Finally, Jesus sends him on his way, saying  Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.  We too are sent forth by Jesus at the end of every Mass when He speaks through the priest or deacon: “The Mass is ended, God in peace.”

So, there it is. In this Gospel that very clearly instructs us to give thanks to God is the very structure of the Mass. If you want to give proper thanks to God and you made it to Mass this morning, you’re in the right place. Only here is perfect and proper thanks given to God.

It was all prefigured in the psalm long ago:  What return shall I make to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?  The cup of salvation I will take up and call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:12).  It is the very cup of salvation, the chalice containing Christ’s blood that is held up at every Mass. It is the perfect sacrifice of thanks. It is the prescribed sacrifice of praise. It is the proper sacrifice of praise.

This video is of the Song I quoted above: