Saturday, June 1, 2013

Corpus Christi 2013

(From the bulletin of St. Barbara Parish, Santa Barbara, California) 
Dear Parish Family,
Peace and all good!  This weekend we celebrate Corpus Christi—the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. We take the time now — on the cusp of summer and vacations—to reflect upon the extraordinary mystery of God’s Love expressed in the Eucharist we share.  Not coincidentally, our meditation hearkens to the celebration of the First Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.  Our Holy Week liturgies are so intense and imbued with meaning and emotion, however, that we really need to take a moment to unpack the significance of the Eucharistic event separately.

“There is something almost sacred about people coming together to share a meal.” The summer issue of my college alumni magazine was all about food, and the opening line of the lead article began with this casual  comment.   “Almost sacred?” I thought to myself.  Hmm.  I’d propose that the sharing of a meal is always sacred-- always  contains some element of the transcendent,  thank you very much.  Especially when we as a family of faith come together to share the banquet in which Jesus is both our host and Host—quite literally—in this most extraordinary outpouring of His Love and Life (Body and Blood).  What more can be said— the mystery is so ineffable, so precious, so absolutely central to our identity as Catholic Christians that we would cease to exist as a community without it.

The words, motions (and emotions) of the Liturgy of the Eucharist both retrace and re-echo the forms of the traditional Jewish berakah, the prayer of blessing before meals intended to sanctify the physical act of nourishment: “Blessed are You, Lord Our God, who brings forth bread from the earth…. Who creates the fruit of the vine.”  But then, in the words of Consecration, we are moved into a realm of experience and contemplation in which prayer becomes the springboard to sacred mystery, the Sacred Mystery of Christ’s being and becoming really and truly present in the breaking of the bread.

St. Paul’s description of Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11) is both solid and succinct.  In this first scriptural account of the sacrament, nothing is wasted in the melding of word and gesture:  take, break, thank.  Words and gestures amplified in Luke’s account of the feeding of the five thousand, which unequivocally foreshadow Jesus’ self-giving in the Eucharist.  However, there is an unavoidable and even bothersome hook to this account:  “Give them some food yourselves,” Jesus tells His disciples--and us. (Chapter 9: 13).  Notice, however, He is the one who performs the miracle; they (we) are the ones to distribute his bounty and blessing.  The implications for our shared ministry are clear:  Christ gives Himself to us, Body and Blood, so that we might share the One we have received with others—becoming food for others just as He has made himself food for us.

So, every meal, every sharing becomes a share in the Eucharist we have received and are to become.  Don’t ask me how it happens, but it does. You know as well as I do that something is changed—no, we are changed in the breaking of the Bread.  Changed and charged.  Strengthened and sent.  To bring, be, and become Christ for others:  Go ahead: “Give them some food yourselves.”//

Note: St. Barbara Parish (Old Mission), Santa Barbara, California, where I am currently serving as Pastor.  It has been quite a while since I’ve written a blog entry.  Someone asked me the other day—“Why don’t you start again?” and I thought:  “Well, why not?”  So here I am and here it is.  PS:  "Monstrance" image from book cover  Poems by Sarah Klassen –ct

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