EUCHARIST- HOLY THURSDAY 2013 March 28, 2013 Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
EUCHARIST HOLY THURSDAY 2013
March 28, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
In writing to the Christian Community at Corinth in Greece, Paul recounts (I Cor. 11:23-26) what he has heard from Peter and the Apostles. Paul’s language reflects the technicalities of the Jewish tradition. He tells us, without addition or subtraction, exactly what he has been told.
In this instance, we attend to the living memory passing along a valuable tradition. You and I have come to depend upon the written word, but before the age of printing, memory carried a tradition. If today we receive a newspaper, and in twenty-four hours toss it for a recycle, in a former age, the person of memory was able to recite a lengthy poem or a Christian liturgy. The lengthy Homeric poems of the Iliad and Odyssey were recited from memory long before they were written. Paul explicitly writes only that which he has received, and this Paul now delivers. Received teaching is faithfully handed on to the next generation. This living tradition that St. Paul recounts has been rooted in the memory of the past, and it shapes our religious life today.
Immigrants pass along to their children the language which they learned; memorized tradition continues for immigrants; they pass along songs from their homeland, recipes, and modes of dress and festival sayings from their original country.
As surely as the English language shapes our tongue, as surely as the Constitution shapes our laws, as surely as the Fourth of July dominates our summer, so surely does the Eucharistic practice form our religious thought. Paul recites what has come to him, that is, the practice of the Eucharistic meal. In the first years after Christ had died and risen, Christians gathered for the purpose of celebrating the Eucharist. This is the Christian tradition; it is what Christians do.
Last week I rode the ferry to Seattle. Without dark or cloud, I saw Mount Rainier rising, snow white, broad shouldered, huge, massive, capturing my vision and forcing my eyes to center on this magnificently towering formation. When we describe our countryside to a foreigner, we cannot omit describing either our Puget Sound or our Mount Rainier. Those necessarily shape our geography; they are our shaping mold.
Just so, the Eucharist rises in any description of the Catholic faith. Just so, the Eucharist rises huge and massive in my personal Christian experience. We have all seen those bumper stickers that read, “I’d rather be sailing; I’d rather be skydiving.” Even so, my Christian preference would rather have me in communion with the Eucharist.
In tender years, my first Holy Communion loomed large, capturing my attention, perhaps being the first and most important milepost along my way to adult status. With the Eucharist, I began in earnest my religious life; I will hopefully close my hours with Viaticum. Thus the Eucharist looms large at the center of life with the Lord.
In the culture of our Christian faith, the Eucharist overwhelms all other dogmas and practices. We study about actual grace, about venial and mortal sin, about the saints from Peter to Mother Theresa. Yet all these lose energy when I compare them to the quiet excitement experienced in receiving my Lord in Holy Communion.
“Do this,” said Christ, and we repeat it at each Mass, “in memory of Me.” Postcards and photos ordinarily suggest the passage of time. We recall a glorious vacation or a wedding when we pour over the photographs of previous years, and with such visuals we relive yesteryear’s events. Perhaps at a family gathering we retell old incidents and so we live once more the bygone occasion.
So also with the Eucharist. Bit by bit, we identify ourselves as people reliving the Lord’s way of remaining with us. Christ exists as you receive Him, body and blood, soul and divinity, present in the fullest sense, a substantial presence by which Christ—true God and true man—makes Himself wholly and entirely present. The family identity is passed to us. It is our inheritance, of greater charm and of greater worth than a sack of gold.
When Jesus spoke saying, “Do this in memory of Me,” He meant that we should offer the Eucharistic sacrifice not only as an historical bit, but more importantly as a living record and a repeating of His being at table among us.
During His life among us, Jesus changed a blind person to a seeing person, and a dead body to a live person (Nain); at the wedding in Cana of Galilee Jesus changes water into wine. At the Last Supper, Jesus changes bread and wine into His own body and blood. In this manner, Jesus Christ arranges to remain among us, even becoming food and drink to His faithful disciples.
After His resurrection, Christ appeared to the Apostles. In speaking to them, Jesus says, “‘look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ As He said this, He showed them His hands and His feet…. They were incredulous and amazed” (Luke 24:39-41). At the time of Communion, Jesus comes to us with this verity, this fullness of presence.
At each Mass, a drama occurs, and we spiritually are transformed. In receiving Communion, Jesus transforms us into Himself. We unite ourselves with the Lord. He is within us, and we are in Him. To receive love, we open ourselves to love.
When we are offered the Host and hear the statement “The Body of Christ,” we answer, “Amen,” that is, “Yes, I believe.” Amen!