Taste and See: Jesus, source of life for us

Eucharistic Symbol SJW2007

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

John 6:51-58

For Christians, and perhaps for Catholics in particular, the Gospel passage heard at Mass on Sunday, the feast of Corpus Christi, speaks especially of the Eucharist. The controversy there presented – ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ – evokes other, later controversies about whether or how this flesh is given in the Eucharist. A variety of Christian attempts at answers maybe recalled – transubstantiation, transignification, a memorial, a ‘mere’ remembrance….

The debates about what/who the Eucharist is continue to be important. From the Catholic perspective the reality of real presence in the Sacraments, and the principle of sacramentality underpins so much of our understanding of God and the world, and our reading of the salvation God continues to offer to us.

However what is prior to our talking about the sacraments is the belief that in Jesus, and expressed in his humanity, the incarnate Son, God is really present. And really present, through the incarnation, God makes free gift of himself for all who would receive him and ‘eat’ of him. Through our communion with him, expressed in many ways, and including now the sacraments, we can in truth enter into life in him and for ever.

The Pelican – sign of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Detail of Eucharistic Screen, Our Lady’s church, St John’s Wood. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The true Bread

IMG_3785 Lourdes 2008

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, Corpus Christi, was a very brief one. However it is a very important reading, perhaps the Church’s earliest (written) theology of the Eucharist.

Paul stresses that the Eucharist draw us into communion with Christ and into communion with each other. He has learnt this, and certainly teaches is, relying on the authentic symbol of the One Bread shared.

The point is regularly made that this teaching could not be so easily argued from our liturgical practice today. Too often we celebrate not with the one bread, still the ideal promoted in the Roman Missal. The virtue of this is so emphasised that there is insistence that should it be impractical to have one bread consecrated at least some of the faithful should receive communion from the host held/presented by the priest or bishop, and seen by the congregation during the Eucharistic Prayer. Again, sadly this requirement is often neglected. But you might like to read the Instruction – look up paras 319-321 in the Instruction linked to here. We neglect the authenticity of the Church’s liturgical symbols at our peril!

  • Why does it matter that we retain the experience of their being one bread from which we all eat?
  • Why does the Church require that the bread used at Mass should be recently made and truly have the appearance of food?

 

One of the ‘lower’ Stations of the Cross, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: faithful praise

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You are blest, Lord God of our fathers.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
Blest your glorious holy name.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

You are blest in the temple of your glory.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest on the throne of your kingdom.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

You are blest who gaze into the depths.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest in the firmament of heaven.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

Daniel 3:52-55

The Responsorial Psalm on Trinity Sunday, Sunday of this week, came from the prophet Daniel. As reminded last week it is a song sung in dire circumstances, but trusting in the God of Glory.

We face dire situations again and again, in our personal lives, in our lives in community. The response of faith is always to give praise to God – not for the dire situation (!), but that in all we remain God’s beloved children, cared for and cherished by him. We often have much to endure, but that will never be the end. The end is his love and his safeguarding – of us and all, we pray. And from that comes hope and a certain ability to endure – and a capacity to share hope and faith. It is often far from easy – but it is our call and, sometimes, we realise it is our privilege.

  • When and how have your struggles helped you to lived faith?
  • Where and why have they hindered faith?

Throne of Mercy – medieval wall painting. Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Called to unity

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May receiving this Sacrament, O Lord our God,
bring us health of body and soul,
as we confess your eternal holy Trinity and undivided Unity.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

One of the briefest prayers at Mass on Sunday, Trinity Sunday, the Prayer after Communion beautifully summarises the mystery of God and the challenge for us.

God is three and God is one: a mystery which defies logic and mathematics. Each of us is one person but, gosh, we are so often divided within and from our self.

For God the diversity achieves perfect expression in unity. So too for us, but we have not got there yet – our heart and our mind are in different places; our body and soul too. God works to unite us, each of us, so we become ourselves, entire, whole, and holy. And then God seeks to draw us together in community with each other and with him.

It is through our perception of God in his glory and humility; and in our reception of his grace in its manifold forms that we are helped to health, and made fit for eternal life.

  • What best moves you to contemplation of God, and how do you try to make the most of this?
  • What helps you to know yourself better, and how do you make the most of this?

Icon,  featured in exhibition in Château des ducs de Bretagne Nantes, 2016. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Compassion and care

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Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.’

John 3:16-18

The Gospel heard at Mass yesterday, Trinity Sunday, contains famous words of reassurance and consolation.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.

In this is our hope and our salvation.

However the Gospel passage continues with words that speak, and warn of condemnation for those who refuse to believe, who do not, will not, cannot accept what is offered. So is it salvation for those who believe and condemnation, damnation, for those who doubt?

The Gospel suggests that at the end of the day it could be so. But the end of the day is not yet, and in every moment the Lord comes, is with us, to draw us from our fears, doubts and darkness. By love he seeks to win us. And there is no sign yet, that he will ever give up on trying to win us for life and love.

  • Give thanks for the persistence and humility of God

The saving of humankind. St Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: At one in Christ and by the Spirit

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Grant, we pray, O Lord,
that, as promised by your Son,
the Holy Spirit may reveal to us more abundantly
the hidden mystery of this sacrifice
and graciously lead us into all truth.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer over the Offerings

The above prayer was used at Mass on Sunday, the feast of Pentecost. It reminds that one of the principal works of the Holy Spirit is the Eucharist.

The Spirit is invoked in the Eucharistic Prayer both that the bread and wine may become truly Christ offering himself to the Father and to us; and that we might truly be one in Jesus Christ, one Body, one spirit with him.

  • How has participation in the Eucharist changed you?

The Eucharist. St Mary Majors, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Living Spirit

Pentecost aylesfordNo one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13

With Pentecost the liturgical season of Easter came its conclusion. But Easter joy and purpose lives in us through the gift of the Spirit.

That gift is made manifest in many many diverse ways, suited to the person and God’s purpose. The gift is the Spirit’s and the purpose is to fulfil God’s will.

Often our will and God’s will are not in perfect synch! When this is so, then we may well fail to see God’s purpose being fulfilled in this or that person or this or that work they do.

The guidance of Jesus that the one who is not against us is for us is a good place to start in trying to grow in humility, tolerance and openness to learning more about God’s will. But it may not be enough!! We probably need to supplement it with the advice St Ignatius  Loyola gave that we should actively seek to put a good interpretation on what others say and do. There are limits, but when these are met, the ‘error’ should be checked with kindness.

Pentecost. Aylesford. (c) 2008, Allen Morris