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

 

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

eglise saint laurent.jpg
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.

Taste and See: New Life

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Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

Luke 24: 13-35

The Gospel at Mass yesterday, the third Sunday in Ordinary time, reminds of the dynamic and life-giving nature of faith.

Faith drained from them, the couple walk to Emmaus, heart-broken. But faith-restored, they hurry back, bursting with the good news that has enlivened them and that they long to share.

Active faith makes a huge difference. It gives life to those who receive it, and makes them long to share it for the good of others.

As with faith, so too with Eucharist which sustains faith and renews it. We are fed so we may be food for others. In this self-giving in love for others we are not diminished: on the contrary we flourish. But, in Christ, we who are few can nourish thousands. If we will as he will…

The words of a song by Bernadette Farrell put it beautifully. Check out the music too… Lovely…

Bread for the world:
a world of hunger.
Wine for all peoples:
people who thirst.
May we who eat
be bread for others.
May we who drink
pour out our love.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the bread of life,
broken to reach
and heal the wounds
of human pain.
Where we divide your people,
you are waiting there
on bended knee
to wash our feet with endless care.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the wine of peace,
poured into hearts once broken
and where dryness sleeps.
Where we are tired and weary,
you are waiting there
to be the way which beckons us
beyond despair.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you call us to your feast,
at which the rich and pow’rful
have become the least.
Where we survive on others
in our human greed,
you walk among us
begging for your ev’ry need.

(c) Bernadette Farrell, 1990

Tabernacle. Abu Ghosh ( a traditional site identified as the biblical Emmaus), Israel. (c) 2012, Allen Morris