Sorry I missed blogging yesterday. I am in transit right now, heading out to Bruno SK to teach a course on liturgy, and my schedule is a bit wonky. I am actually writing this blog post in the Ottawa airport waiting for my flight.
On Thursdays (this week, Friday) we are going through the Mass, bit by bit, to show how every bit of the Mass is about every bit of our lives outside the Mass and vice versa. The Mass is the template of Christian life and discipleship, in other words, as well as being the font of grace that makes it all possible.
So we have reached the heart of the matter now, with the actually Institution Narrative, the words Christ Himself spoke on the night of that first Holy Thursday, where bread and wine became His body and blood. Or, as we say at each Mass:
On the day before he was to suffer he took bread in his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying:
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT: FOR THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.
In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took this precious chalice in his holy and venerable hands, and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT: FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT, WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.
Oh, what is there to say about this? Everything, and yet everything does not suffice. All the words of human language are inadequate to the mystery contained here. Christ, acting in the priest in a direct way, takes bread and wine and makes them His Body and Blood, His living and real presence. And this living real presence of the Lord Jesus is doing on the altar exactly what He did on the Cross—offering Himself in a perfect act of worship and sacrifice to His Father in obediential love, offering Himself to us as a saving gift of love and mercy for humanity.
Everything that was then, is now. We are present on Golgotha, and present in the company of the Risen Lord Jesus who makes all of this available to us. What wondrous love, and what a wondrous gift! If we not only believed this (I hope, fervently, that most practicing Catholics do believe it), but remembered it and lived it, our lives would be lives of peace, joy, beauty, and grateful praise of our God.
What is there to say? Nothing, and everything. It is the heart, the soul, the center of our Catholic faith, that which both brings to perfection and sets in order the rest of it. All else in our faith is subservient to, at the service of, the total encounter of Love that the Eucharist is.
One aspect of this I would like to highlight is that this heart, soul, and center, is very much a matter of our present life here and now being conformed to the mystery of Christ’s self-offering on Calvary. In other words, it is not just any old meeting with Jesus we are talking about here. We meet Him where He is doing that which in fact He is—total gift to the Father, total gift to the world. Love poured out, at the cost of terrible suffering, to the furthest end of death.
And since the Eucharist is the template of our lives, the pattern of Christian life and discipleship, this means that our entire life of discipleship can only be understood rightly, and lived rightly, if we are ourselves ordered towards that same total gift to the Father, that same total gift to the world.
Total gift to the Father—obedience, absolute and unconditional, no matter what the cost. Total gift to the world—merciful love, service, laying down our lives for our brethren.
And the two are one act, one thing, one reality. We cannot be obeying the Father if our lives do not reflect the charity of the Son. And we cannot be loving our neighbor if our lives do not reflect the obedience of the Son. One single act of Christ, revealing who He truly is. One single reality for you and for me, and our union with Him (i.e., our eternal salvation) hinges on it.
Serious business—the most serious there is. But also very beautiful, very joyous, glorious and glad. So let us simply give ourselves to it, and in the celebration of the Mass beg for the gift of deeper obedience and deeper love, according to the action of Christ in us through this great sacrament.