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Posts tagged ‘Eucharist’

A Lamb Who Was Slain—A Lion Who Reigns


Happy Easter!  This Wednesday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Sagrada Familia

My wife and I were recently on vacation in Mexico with our two sons (the girls being in school) and my Dad and Step-Mom.  We attended Palm Sunday Mass at a local parish.  It was in Spanish and, alas, we are not fluent in the language!

No worries!  I knew that the Mass would follow the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, albeit in Spanish.  I am familiar enough with the structure of Mass to recognize the various parts.  When I recognized a specific prayer (e.g., Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, etc.), I did my best to follow along in English (not too loudly as to disrupt my Spanish-speaking brethren).

More importantly, I could tell the precise moment when the bread became Christ’s body because I recognized the priest’s gestures.  Likewise, I knew exactly when the wine became His blood.  Because of this, I could participate in this Mass, which is the same Mass celebrated throughout the world.

I understand that when the priest—acting in the person of Christ—lifts the host and utters the words, “this is my Body” and “this is the chalice of my Blood“, regardless of the language, he is united with priests throughout time and space—with Christ Himself at the Last Supper!   And the alter at la Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia becomes the table in the Upper Room, in union with every other alter!

Scott Hahn tells us that “the Mass ushers us into the presence of the Father and the Lamb, and into worship with the four living creatures, the elders, the saints, and the myriad of angels.”  So, when my family joined in communion with the Spanish-speaking congregation, our illiteracy was no obstacle to our participation in Mass.

All too often, I hear complaints about Mass:  “I just don’t get anything out of it!”

Sometimes the complaints target the priest:  “he’s so boring! His homilies are too long!” (Or too intellectual, or too . . . you get the point!)  Sometimes the complaints target the music (I’m guilty of this):  “I hate the guitar!” “That was too folksy!” “The choir was too stiff!”  Maybe the incense was too strong, or the AC was too cold.

All these elements are important in contributing to a proper celebration attitude and atmosphere.  But they shouldn’t detract from the importance of the Mass itself.

Participating in the celebration of Mass in a foreign tongue has allowed me to focus on the truly important aspects of the Mass in the Universal Church.
Day 50-1 Admittedly, in my arrogance I sometimes keep track of moments when a celebrant seems to stray from the GIRM.  The Spanish Mass helped me on this, too, keeping my focus on the sacrifice and celebration at hand.Day 50-2

A Once-For-All, Never-Ending Sacrifice


On this Good Friday, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Jesus, at the Last Supper and through His cross and resurrection, is both priest and sacrifice.  Scott Hahn reflects on all the parallels between the holocaust offerings of the Old Testament and Christ’s offering.  The reading for today digs deeply into the Letter to the Hebrews.

Not only does the epistle describe Christ’s offering in terms of sacrifice.  Paul also describes the sacrifice in terms of inheritance:

Now where there is a will, the death of the testator must be established.  For a will takes effect only at death; it has no force while the testator is alive.  Heb. 9:16-17.

Christ had to die for the will to work because, as any estate planning attorney will tell you, a will only speaks at the death of the testator.  So, Christ’s death was necessary for anyone to gain His “eternal inheritance.”  Paul describes who the heirs are:

“Those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”  Heb. 9:15.

Who, then, is called to receive the eternal inheritance?

Jesus tells us:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  Matt.  28:19-20.

We all are heirs!  Jesus told the Apostles to make disciples of everyone!  And so, if I am to be an heir to the eternal promise, I need to behave as an heir.

Day 45-1 Through Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice, which we participate in at every Mass, Christ wipes our slates clean and gives us eternal life.Day 45-2

The Bread of Life


On this Holy Thursday, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

I’ve been hearing about the distinction between “true hunger” and “false” or “toxic hunger.”  Dr. Oz describes how sensations differ:  you don’t feel “true hunger” in your stomach, for example.   The NIH website describes one study related to “true hunger” and says:

 True hunger protects lean body mass, but does not fuel fat deposition. It exists to protect lean body mass from utilization as an energy source.

True hunger, then, ensures that we eat what we need and when we need it.  On the other hand, the study explains that “People overeat because their hunger directs them to consume more calories than they require.”

This Lent I fasted.  But I also feasted.

I fasted from snacks between meals, but also from unnecessary internet and video binges.

I feasted on prayer—focusing on the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Stations of the Cross.  I feasted on His Word, with readings and reflections from Scripture guided by Scott Hahn’s book.

Really, fast and feast went hand-in-hand.  My fasting—denying myself the “empty calories” of wasted time—freed me to feast on activities that strengthen my faith and draw me closer to God.

By fasting, I am allowing myself to focus on those clues that reveal that which I truly hunger for.  When I am not fasting, I have a tendency to gorge myself with superficial, saccharine-sweet, fatty things that may temporarily satisfy me but really do nothing for my true hunger.

When I fast, I begin to recognize how I truly hunger for Him.

Day 44-1

By fasting, I recognize that “binge-eating”—overindulging in materialistic or shallow endeavors—denied me the source of life.  Christ—through the Eucharist—provides me the Bread of Life.  And through the Word nourishes my soul.Day 44-2

Jesus, Our Passover Lamb


On this Monday of the Holy Week, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

As we approach the Paschal Triduum, it is appropriate that this day’s reading focuses on the Institution of the Eucharist.

In 2002, Blessed John Paul II introduced the Mysteries of Light, or the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  Introducing the new Mysteries, the Pontiff said, “each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus.

Admittedly, these new Mysteries did not have a profound impact on me in 2002.  Being a traditionalist/conservative (which, in my case, you can read: predisposed to resist change), I am not sure that I wholly embraced them, but at the same time in my reverence for the Magisterium I did not actively resist them either.

Once I started praying the Rosary more faithfully, however, I soon discovered the richness of these Mysteries of Light.  Some easily tug at my heart (particularly the Wedding at Cana, when Mary tells the servants to obey her son); some challenge my understanding of our faith (particularly the Proclamation of the Kingdom of God), and one in particular reminds me of my hunger—my thirst—for Him:  the fifth Mystery of Light, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist.

This Lent I have been praying the Rosary and meditating on its Mysteries more regularly.  I particularly have enjoyed the Scriptural Rosary, which interjects a relevant scriptural passage with each Hail Mary in a decade.  For the Fifth Mystery of Light, these verses are used:

1.    Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, / the disciples came to Jesus, saying, / “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (Mt 26:17)
2.    [Jesus] said, / “Go into the city to such a one, and say to him, / ‘The Teacher says, My  time is at hand; / I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” (Mt 26:18)
3.    And when the hour came, / he sat at table, and the apostles with him. / And he said to them, / “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Lk 22:14-15)
4.    And as they were eating, he said, / “Truly, I say to you, / one of you will betray me.” (Mt 26:21)
5.    Judas, who betrayed him, said, / “Is it I, Master?” (Mt 26:25)
6.    Now as they were eating, / Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, / and gave it to the disciples and said, / “Take, eat; / this is my body.” (Mt 26:26)
7.    And he took a chalice, / and when he had given thanks / he gave it to them, saying, /  “Drink of it, all of you; / for this is my blood of the covenant, / which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:27-28)
8.    For as often as you eat this bread and drink the chalice, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor 11:26)
9.    “I am the living bread which comes down from heaven; / if any one eats of this bread, / he will live forever; / and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world / is my flesh.” (Jn 6:51)
10.    “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, / and I will raise him at the last day.” (Jn 6:54)

As I meditate on this Mystery, I am gaining a deeper understanding of the profound sacrifice Christ made for me and for all.  But today’s reading, which focuses on the rich parallels between the Old Testament and the events on that first Paschal Triduum, again reveals to me how much I have yet to learn and how much greater an appreciation I have yet to gain.

I am excited to continue this in-depth exploration of the pivotal event that we celebrate every Sunday at Mass.

Day 41-1
While my Lenten activities have highlighted my relative ignorance about my faith, even more they have whet my appetite to learn even more, to grow in faith and understanding.Day 41-2

A Privilege and a Responsibility


On this Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai to deliver the Law as God promulgated it, the Israelites answered with one voice:

“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”  Ex. 24:4.

In essence, the Israelites acknowledged their Covenant with the Lord.  How was this occasion marked?

In modern times an informal arrangement may be consummated with a handshake.  We often call these arrangements “gentlemen’s agreements.”  More formal relationships require more intricate formalities.  Some types of contracts require a written document signed by the parties.  Often when the president signs a law, he may do so in a signing ceremony.

And when Japan surrendered to end World War II, they did so in an elaborate signing ceremony on board the USS MISSOURI, with Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signing for Japan and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signing for the Allies.

Ceremonies for events such as a surrender or passage of a significant bill serve a larger purpose than just the immediate act involved; ceremonies memorialize the events and remind all participants the gravity and significance of the events.

So, when Moses brought God’s Laws and the Israelites assented, what ceremony marked the beginning of the Covenant?

Sacrifice:

Then, having sent young men of the Israelites to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls as communion offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will hear and do.” Then he took the blood and splashed it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” Ex. 24:5-8.

Thus began the Covenant between God and His people.

So when Christ brought His people into the New Covenant, how did He mark the occasion?

Sacrifice:

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”  Mark 14:22-24.

Every time we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are transported back in time to the very moment Christ first instituted this most holy Sacrament.  As one priestly blogger noted, “we are not recreating or enacting a Last Supper but are present at the life death and resurrection of Our Lord – are present at THE Last Supper.”

Every Mass is an opportunity to rejoin Christ and His disciples in the Upper Room.

Day 27-1a

As I more greatly acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over my life and my being, my desire to be with Him should increase exponentially.Day 27-2

Joyful Anticipation


 

IMG_0222

I can learn a lot by watching my dog.  For example, whenever I am eating she is always so attentive.  If I have a single scrap, or if she even suspects I do, she is underfoot, staring with anticipation, hoping that I drop something for her.  And lately I’ve seen in her a kindred sensation, similar to the feeling of joyful anticipation I sometimes feel at Mass.  I don’t always feel this sense of expectancy, but when I most fully appreciate Who it is that I am about to receive, I start to get that thrill of hope. And so I try to be more attentive during the Liturgy of the Eucharist when the priest raises the host and repeats the words of Christ,

Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is my Body which will be given up for you.

Juan Martín Cabezalero - The Communion of Saint Theresa

At times I have to remind myself of the significance of the event.  I have to admit that, while I am a cradle Catholic, I don’t always appreciate this sacrifice, nor the power of the physical, real presence of our Savior.  But when I begin to more fully appreciate the reality of His presence, I enter the Communion line with a sense of anticipation, like a child ticking away each day of Advent until Christmas Eve.  And as the line ahead of me dwindles, and the Eucharistic Minister–the Christ Bearer– is nearer, I find the experience humbling and exhilarating to know that He gave himself so fully and so completely for me.  I just hope that He sees in me the same excitement to see Him as my dog shows for me.  And I hope I am just as attentive, just as focused on the morsel that will fully satisfy me, as Rudy is on the little scrap that will barely whet her appetite.IMG_0266

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