One discussion during a Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist concerned the connection between the Eucharistic form of life and moral transformation. They were saying that something is going on –when we enter into the inner dynamism of the Mass something is really happing to us, interiorly. Something that has the power to change who we are and how we live. They’re saying at Mass we have the opportunity to tap into something that has the potential to change our lives, because it changes us interiorly.
Let’s get back to what Jesus was up to in the Gospel. What was Jesus trying to teach the disciples? They were trying to send the people away. Jesus' reply was confronting: Give them something to eat yourselves! He was drawing them into his own way of life which was a way of being-given-up for you; of being-given-up for all. This is in fact what the Eucharistic celebration is—in its profoundest form—Christ (and his Body) being-given-up to the Father, out of love for all. Jesus’ action is never about himself.
- The offering of his Body in Eucharistic form, makes room for Christians to be a part of that offering at Mass.
- The inclusion of “you” (which we hear in the institutional narrative/consecration) means that the Eucharist is profoundly, and fundamentally other-centred. This is a characteristic of love, hence the Church calls the Eucharist the sacrament of love.
Jesus wants us to enter into that spirit of love at Mass, becoming a living sacrifice in Christ. The love-action is sacrificial because it is other-centred. Moreover, it is not something Jesus is doing himself, it is something Jesus is doing with us! The Eucharist is an action, an offering, a sacrifice …of the whole Body of Christ to the Father through the Holy Spirit, in the name of humanity (the focus of the other-centred action). This offering—when we become a part of it (i.e., participate in the Eucharistic offering)—transforms our whole way of life. This is because, as we are also nourished by it (i.e., receiving communion), we are able to bring this (communal) offering of love to completion in our day-to-day community.
Yet we often think about the Eucharist in such a limited, selfish way . . . about getting something to eat – and not about giving of ourselves in sacrifice. So now I want to think about something else.
Do you believe magic?
I applaud the fact that Holy See has recognized the validity of the Eucharistic sacrifice celebrated using the Eucharistic prayer of Addai and Mari (Taft, 2003). This means that during the Mass there is no institutional narrative i.e., the part of the Eucharistic prayer where Jesus proclaims the bread and wine are no longer, but have become his Body and Blood. It helps remove our thinking from the belief in a magical moment, wherein Jesus works the Eucharistic miracle exclusively through the agency of the priest (and at a fixed moment in time). One point that the Eucharist—without this moment—affirms, is that the Eucharistic miracle is a work of the Christian community, through and in which Christ is present.
The implication that Jesus is made present through and in his Church as one unified body, carried into pastoral practice, is confronting. What that implication means for pastoral practice is that any and all ministries of the Church are a work of the entire Christian community, and not exclusively of the priest. Parishioners cannot simply leave the work of ministry to their priest, that would be tantamount to the belief in magic.
The point Taft (2003) is making is that the Eucharistic consecration/miracle comprises the prayers of the mass in their entirety. The point of this blog is to raise an awareness that ministry is a work of the parish in its entirety.
Taft, R. F. (2003). Mass Without the Consecration? America, the National Catholic Weekly Magazine, 188(16). Retrieved from http://teamrcia.com/home/Classes/ILM/Mass%20Without%20the%20Consecration%20(for%20sesn.%206).pdf
In reply to Peter (below) - yes there is a real need for a priest for the institution of the Eucharist. During the sacrifice of the Mass everyone offers themselves as the one Body of Christ. However, we participate in the one priesthood of Christ differently.
This is from Lumen Gentium (10). http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html
10. Christ the Lord, High Priest taken from among men, made the new people "a kingdom and priests to God the Father". The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices… Therefore, all the disciples of Christ… should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…
Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.