Speak Lord: that we may be one

The Second reading at Mass this Sunday, Corpus Christi, is our oldest written account of the Eucharist. It comes from a letter of St Paul dated to the mid 50s, maybe twenty years before the Gospel of Mark, which offers a fuller account of the Passion of Jesus and the Last Supper.

This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26

The chain of witnesses, the unbroken chain that have treasured and passed on this sacramental action is our heritage and yet it is barely conceivable. There have been so many in so many places and circumstances. Yet it is important we try.

Gregory Dix famously did:

Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.

The Shape of the Liturgy.

The Eucharist, this gift of the Lord, is re-presented to God, and us, when we faithfully obey the command of Lord. Our obedience and his faithfulness combining with such power and to such effect.

Eucharist is never just me or you and Jesus. It is always, gloriously and abundantly, us; always Church, the Body of Christ in all times and places, that we be one in him.

Tabernacle in church of Nowa Huta, Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of your Passion

Profile Nowa Huta

The First Reading today, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, comes from the prophet Isaiah.

It is a reading familiar from Holy Week, a reading that is seen to anticipate the Passion of Jesus. This Sunday we hear it as preparation for the Gospel which contains the first ‘Passion Prediction’ of Mark’s Gospel – a prediction which Peter the apostle is unwilling to receive and accept, and which – Mark’s Gospel carefully and starkly shows us – the other disciples fail to deal with either.

The Lord has opened my ear.
For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.
The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed.
My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.
The Lord is coming to my help, who will dare to condemn me?
Isaiah 50:5-9

When we hear the voice of the Lord prefigured in the words of the prophet we are drawn into a moving anticipation of what Jesus would endure.

The passivity of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is notable. From the moment of his arrest, Jesus is not the subject of an active verb in Mark’s narrative. Jesus has become an object, handled and ultimately disposed of by others. It is his choice to be victim, of course. He chooses to endure faithful in love. His love of God, neighbour and self brings about a moral triumph, and achieves victory,over evil, over death, restoring life and love and for always. The resurrection is its demonstration and its guarantee.

And all this for us.

  • What is it about us that God so loves and cares for?

Photograph is detail of the Crucifix in the church of Nowa Huta, Cracow. © 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: restore hope in us

Nowa HutaThe first reading at Mass today, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time comes from the prophet Isaiah.

Its prophecy of healing and hope prepares us for the healing of the man described in Mark’s Gospel. It of course also alerts us to the offer of healing and hope for us and all humankind.

Say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;
for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.

Isaiah 35:4-7

The image above comes from the church of Nowa Huta. Nowa Huta was designed as a town for atheistic communists, and built on the outskirts of Cracow, Poland. Trouble was the good workers who settled there were not so atheisitic as they might have been and the need for a church quickly presented itself. Something of the story of what followed can be read here.

The image above shows in the lower level a frieze of Poland’s history, and above a window depicting God’s promise of protection.

Poland, like much of central and Eastern Europe, has suffered greatly from oppression and occupation. Like the Israel of Jesus time. Like us, perhaps, under influence of the forces and powers of our time, no longer so true to ourselves and our purpose: freedom,health and holiness somewhat beyond our reach.

Today’s Gospel and this first reading offer encouragement. God is with us. Healing and hope are at hand.

  • In prayer let us know our need and ask for help.

West wall, Nowa Huta. (c), 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of love and care

Images of mercy, Nowa Huta, CracowTomorrow, during the Mass of the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we sing a psalm that rehearses the active love of God. God does not ‘just’ love, he serves.

Philosophers may struggle to comprehend how this can be and how we can make sense of this, alongside all the other things we say of God. In faith, though, we know it to be true, and a truth that will not go away. Thank God.

And in the psalm we do.

My soul, give praise to the Lord or Alleluia! 

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free,

My soul, give praise to the Lord or Alleluia! 

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan.

My soul, give praise to the Lord or Alleluia! 

It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

My soul, give praise to the Lord or Alleluia! 

Psalm 145:6-10

How God is, is how we are called to be.

And our response to that call is enabled by God through countless graces. God chooses to extend his love and care to others, by his love and care of us. If we will let him – let him love and care for us, let him help us reach out to others.

  • How today is God present to you?
  • How would you describe God to another person, from your experience in life?
  • Give thanks to God for his service to you.

‘Images of mercy’, from the Church of Nowa Huta, Cracow. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.