Taste and See: Bread broken for us

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The disciples recognised the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread.

Alternate Communion Antiphon for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The brief antiphon above reminds of one of the central moments of our participation in the Mass – our recognition and personal encounter with the living Lord, who comes to meet with us.

He comes to us in the assembly that is his Body; the word proclaimed; the ministry of the priest acting in persona Christi; and in the Eucharist the Sacrifice of Calvary re-presented to the Father and shared with us in Holy Communion. Christ really present for real and effective engagment with us, to draw us to life.

Carving from Lower Stations, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

 

 

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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

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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

 

Speak Lord: Bread of Life

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Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not become proud of heart. Do not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16

The First reading at Mass today, the feast of Corpus Christi, refers us to God’s feeding of Israel with manna, during their long journey from enslavement to the Promised Land. The food and the journey are viewed by Christians as types for, anticipations that will be fulfilled by,  the Eucharist and our salvation in Christ.

The gift we receive is greater than that offered to Israel. And yet the fruitfulness of our reception of it lies equally in doubt.

The feast of Corpus Christi provides us with further reason to pause and take stock on how carefully we receive the gifts of God and how we try to live them for our good and the good of all.

Detail from altar and sanctuary in chapel of St Bernadette, Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

 

 

Speak Lord: Loving food

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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, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, speaks to some of the core truths about the Eucharist. It reminds us that the Eucharist is about communion with Christ and communion with each other, through Christ.

Controversy about the Eucharist and subsequent development of doctrine has led the Western Church, at least, to a certain preoccupation with the ‘what’ of the Eucharist and a neglect of the ‘why’.

The Eucharist surely is, as Christ said, his Body and his Blood. It is he himself, present for us as food and drink. But there lies the clue to the why of the Eucharist: this is Christ present as food and drink for us, to nourish us for life.

That life is found in communion with him and fulfilled when we live our life lovingly and for the lives of others. It is a life nourished by the gift of the life of God in flesh, of the divine Son begotten before the ages, and united with our humanity in Jesus of Nazareth. It is a life we begin to live now and that finds its completion in eternal life.

  • How do you live from the holy food that Christ is?

Grave marker of a priest in the graveyard of St Giles, Cheadle. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Bread of Life

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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

Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). The Gospel we hear is drawn from the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John.

We hear the words of Jesus, familiar with the Sacrament of the Eucharist. So we are not likely to mistake Jesus words for an advocacy of cannibalism. But pity those who first heard them – how else could they have understood them?

But, perhaps those who knew him best would be able to understand the metaphor Jesus applies to himself – that he is the living bread. Perhaps they could know from their experience of his love and care for them and others, his self-sacrifice for their sake; his radical obedience to the will of the Father that he has been and is bread for their eating; wisdom for their guidance, the living word of God for their salvation.

Jesus is this for them and us, but not in words only, not in inspiration only, but in the very fact and physicality of his humanity, in its particularity and in its service of his Father and his neighbour.

The Last Supper. Eglise St Lauren, Paris. (c) 2017, 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.