The Eucharist is ‘Mass-prepared’ but one of a kind
“It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures” (LS 236).
“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’” (Mark 14:23).
By Deacon Clayton Nickel
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle (Washington, D.C., USA)
Go to any supermarket and look at your cart. What sort of things, what sort of items, what sort of food have you put it in there?
You will probably see two kinds of food: one mass produced that is easy to prepare, easy to throw into the microwave or maybe even less preparation is needed. It may be good but it isn’t exceptional.
The other kind of food could be seen as a less mass-produced food. Artisanal food for special occasions. Food to treat yourself and your family or friends. Food with a story.
Now consider the food of our Eucharistic celebration. The altar bread has the dubious distinction of being the world’s first mass-produced food. The hundreds of wafers, stacked up in a ciborium for fast delivery, are the polar opposite of the artisanal loaf from a local bakery smelling of freshness. The Eucharist is neither mass-produced nor artisanal food.
The Eucharist is a mystery. It is “‘Mass-prepared.” It is unlike any other food.
When we receive the Eucharist, we participate in the sacrament whereby we become that which we consume, instead of that which we consume becoming us.
As Sacrosanctum Concilium asserts, the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. We bring our whole selves to the Lord’s table, and we go forth transformed from that celebration renewed in our baptismal call to follow in the footprints of Jesus Christ. It is a time of renewal and recommitment.
I want to draw your attention to paragraph 236 of Laudato Si’ in which Pope Francis says, “It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation.”
Just hold that for a minute, that it’s not just about yours and my human experience, though we are certainly a part and parcel of creation and part of what God has intended for salvation history.
But Pope Francis reminds us that all of creation is summarized, is exalted, is elevated, in the celebration of the Eucharist, in the celebration of the Church’s sacraments.
A second passage from this very important paragraph: “The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living center of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. Indeed, the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love.”
Then finally, the Holy Father ends this particular passage on the Eucharist with this line: “Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment.”
My dear brothers and sisters, on the feast of Corpus Christi, or at any Mass for that matter, ask yourself, “When we look at the blessed sacrament, do we see the host as our Earth, material, and fragile? Do we feel connected? Do we see a web of creation of which we are a part and God lovingly chose to enter?”
When we say “amen” to the proclamation, “the body of Christ,” do we recognize that we are also affirming the goodness of the world that God freely created and renewing our responsibility to care for this world as it already cares for us?
When we consider the importance of the Sabbath day, do we recognize what Pope Francis proclaims in Laudato Si’ (237), that, “Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the ‘first day’ of the new creation, whose first fruits are the Lord’s risen humanity, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality”?
May we approach Christ in the Eucharist with a renewed sense of the ecological significance of the sacrament we share, the divine gift we receive, the communion in which we are called to participate and the duty we have as members of the body of Christ to “care for our common home”.
Join the June Prayer Gathering on Friday 4th
- Think about how you approach the Eucharist. Do you view it as mass-produced, something you take routinely, or as something Mass-produced, the truly sacred body of Jesus Christ?
- Pope Francis writes, “Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment.” How is the Eucharist a source of light for you and your loved ones? If it’s not already, how can it be even more so in the future?
The above reflection and questions were adapted from the June Laudato Si’ Encounter. The spiritual resource is produced monthly for Laudato Si’ Animators, Laudato Si’ Circles, and everyday Catholics to use and help them grow closer to our Creator.