Taste and See: Newness promised

Kensal Green memorialThe second reading at Mass yesterday, Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, reminds us of the glory and goodness that lies ahead for us.

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’

Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’

Apocalypse 21:1-5

In this present age we will have death to grapple with, and mourning, sadness and tears..

But the word of God, and the sacraments, accompany us and sustain us on the journey to the new Jerusalem.

In heaven these gifts of God cease, there we will see and hear the Word direct, face to face, without need for the mediation of scripture and sacrament. And we will be new. God promises.

 

Grave memorial, Kensal Green Cemetery. (c) 2009, Allen Morris

Taste and See: You are Christ.

Ravenna

The Collect, the Opening Prayer, at Mass on Sunday had the Church pray for something quite extraordinary and remarkable.

Almighty ever-living God,
constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,
that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism
may, under your protective care, bear much fruit
and come to the joys of life eternal.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

For myself, I tend to think of the Paschal Mystery as something which is about Jesus, about his Passion, Death, Rising and Ascension. These events in his life are source of salvation for us, of course, but I had not really thought of the Paschal Mystery – as the Collect has us ask – being accomplished within us.

Yet, of course, it is. St Paul writes powerfully of our dying and rising in Christ. The Collect takes it a wonderful and and moving step forward, asserting that he also dies and rises in us.

The intimacy and communion shared with us by the Risen Lord is extraordinary. And it leads us to life beyond what we can conceive, but is his free gift.

Christ and his Church together make up the “whole Christ” (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity:

  • Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does “head and members” mean? Christ and the Church. (St Augustine)
  • Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself. (Pope St Gregory)
  • Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person. (St Thomas Aquinas)
  • A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 795

Isn’t it a wonder!

  • Wherein are you like Christ? And where can you see yourself in him?
  • Wherein are you unlike? How might his ministry help you continue to grow?

Neonian Baptistery, Ravenna. 

Speak Lord: you in me and me in you

St Paul, Philippi

The second reading for next Sunday’s Mass, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Among other things, it expresses the gift of  unity and intimacy between the risen Lord and the disciple that is so central to Paul’s understanding of the life we are invited to.

Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results-I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake.

Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:20-24,27

What dignity Paul claims for himself – and not from pride, but because his unity with Christ is entirely Christ’s gift, that he has to struggle – even against himself – in order to receive and live.

  • How is the Lord glorified in your life?
  • What, at present, do you need to take  care to avoid because it would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ?

Photograph is of icon of St Paul from Philippi, showing him as founder of the ancient Church there. (c) Allen Morris, 2006.

Taste and See: Christ’s Sacrifice, our sacrifice

Melchizedek, San Vitale, Ravenna

The Prayer over the Offerings we heard on Sunday evokes the worship of the Old Testament as we participate in the worship of the new covenant.

O God, who in the one perfect sacrifice
brought to completion varied offerings of the law,
accept, we pray, this sacrifice from your faithful servants
and make it holy, as you blessed the gifts of Abel,
so that what each has offered to the honour of your majesty
may benefit the salvation of all.
Through Christ our Lord.

The language of sacrifice is something that has been newly highlighted in the current English translation of the Roman Missal. In the 1970s translation of the Missale Romanum many of the references to sacrifice were softened or excluded, because of sensitivity to the neuralgic quality of the metaphor for protestant Christians.

More recently Catholics and other Christians have come to rediscover value in the metaphor.There is a new appreciation for the way in which the metaphor is renewed in Christ: in him sacrifice is not a something exterior that is offered to God, symbolising our desire to be in right relationship with him, but it is Christ’s own being. The sacrifice and the one making the offering are one and the same.

That integrity between the act and the acting-person, perfectly achieved in Christ, is beautifully foreshadowed in the person (and sacrifice) of Abel, whose offering is remembered in Eucharistic Prayer I.

Some of the old disputes about the appropriateness of using the language of sacrifice to describe Christian life and worship have found some sort of resolution today. Catholics recognise more clearly that the Mass is the Sacrament of the Sacrifice of Christ. We do not offer a new sacrifice to the Father in the Mass. But we do in the Mass re-present to him, in Sacrament, the once and for all Sacrifice, in and with Christ.

This Sacrifice is made newly efficacious for us through liturgical offering, for it re-connects us with the saving love of Christ so that, in him we might lovely be. So that we too might present ourselves in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives as sacrifice, an offering of ourselves, lives lived so as to be pleasing to God.

Mosaic of the Offerings of Abel and Melchizedek, San Vitale, Ravenna. (6th Century)
Photography (c) Allen Morris, 2004.

Speak Lord: One bread, one body

26

The Second reading at the Mass of Corpus Christi tomorrow speaks clearly about the connection between the community and Christ, symbolised in the Eucharistic food and drink.

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

It is often observed that our contemporary Catholic experience is very unlike that of the early Christian communities known by Paul. We use little individual breads, not a single loaf and many (most?) shun or refuse the blessing-cup. We say we form a single body in the Lord, but we don’t necessarily live that way, and for sure we rob ourselves of a powerful symbol of the unity we are offered in Christ.

  • What symbolises your unity with those you are missioned with?
  • With whom do you share the common life? How is that expressed?