Source and Summit #8 – Eucharistic Feast
Beloved, we will continue our catechesis on the Eucharist. After the great doxology, after the solemn singing: “Through him with him and in him” we come to the last part of the Holy Mass, the liturgy of the Eucharistic feast. We know that the Holy Mass is the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ; we know that the Eucharist is thanksgiving; we also know that the Eucharist is the banquet at which Christ Himself wants to feed us. He wants us to feast on Himself – His own body and blood!
Before the rite of Holy Communion, we have the beautiful, great call to the Lord’s Prayer, of the prayer that Jesus Himself taught us. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus said: “Pray: our Father who are in heaven”. This is the moment during Holy Mass when all gathered are invited to pray the Lord’s Prayer together. The priest has several options to choose from when inviting the faithful to this prayer – depending on the period of the liturgical year. He can also invite us to this prayer with his own words. The Lord’s prayer is extremely valuable not only because Christ Himself gave it to us, but also because the Our Father Prayer was offered to us all at our baptism. This is the first prayer that our parents said for us during our baptism. During the Mass, the Our Father can be sung or recited. We not conclude with “amen”. After we cry to the Father: “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” the priest continues this prayer to free us from evil, saying, save us, Lord, from all evil, help us in your mercy, that we may be free from sin. When the priest completes the Our Father prayer, the faithful close our prayer of praise with: “For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours now and forever.” I want to emphasize the during the Lord’s Prayer we call God “Our Faher.” If we call God “Father”, this means that we are all brothers and sisters, we are all children of the same God.
Beloved, at the conclusion of the Our Father, the priest initiates the rite of peace. This is the moment when we, gathered in the community of believers, we, Jesus’ disciples, want to give each other peace. This is not our peace; it is a gift of peace from Jesus himself. We extend to each other a sign of peace. In the General Introduction of the Roman Missal and in the Instructions of the Polish Episcopate of 2005, the Church recommends that the sign of peace can be given by shaking hands with people standing nearby, or by the nodding toward those nearby. It is a very meaningful, beautiful gesture We may say during this gesture: “Peace be with you” with a respond: “Be with you always”and it is worth doing both of these gestures with faith and conviction. or “Peace to you”, to which we respond “Amen.” This is a very important gesture to unite us all around one table meant to reconcile us with our brother. In the Western church the sign of peace leads us to the very important rite of Holy Communion, during which we feed ourselves with Christ Himself. As an aside, in the Eastern Church, the sign of peace is given before the Rite of Preparation in reference to the Gospel of St. Matthew (Mt 5,23), when it says that: “If you bring your gift to the altar and mention that your brother has something against you, first go and reconcile with your brother, and then come and give your gift”. This is the case in the Eastern Church. In the Western Church, however, we give ourselves this sign of peace just before receiving Holy Communion. It is very important that we have the courage to receive the Body of Christ, live in friendship with all, that we give each other peace, Christ’s peace. This is not our peace, it is the peace of Christ who walks with us through life who supports us.
After offering each other a sign of peace, the people of God sing: “the Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us”. At this time, the priest prepares himself for a dignified reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord. He prays in silence one of two endorsed prayers to be worthy to feed on the Body and Blood of Christ. The priest then prepares to distributes Holy Communion to the faithful.
A provision in the General Introduction encourages that Holy Communion be distributed from hosts consecrated during the current Mass, especially now when there is a smaller influx of the faithful. During weekday Masses the number receiving Holy Communion is more predictable. It is much harder on Sunday when there are indeed many faithful who want to receive the Lord’s Body.
The priests, acolytes, or lay ministers assist in taking the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle. The guiding idea is to feed ourselves with Holy Communion from this Holy Mass which is currently celebrated. The priest and assistants go to distribute the Lord’s Body.
Here is the most important moment of our journey towards Christ. We are not standing still. We leave our pews, go to the designated places to receive the Lord’s Body. The indications of the Polish Episcopate say that we receive Holy Communion in Poland on the tongue, in our mouths, but the Polish Church also acknowledges Holy Communion received on the hand. The minister of sacraments, priest, deacon, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion witness how we eat the Lord’s Body. Holy Communion is consumed in the presence of the steward. According to the Polish Church that the faithful can receive Holy Communion standing or knelling. It is imperative bow to express their respect for the Holy Body of Christ. We do not feed on bread; we feed on Christ Himself, the Body of Jesus Christ. Here I am always reminded of the history of the persecution of the Church, described in many documents. At this point I would like to recall an incident that happened in 304. A group of Christians was caught up in the celebration of the Holy Mass, which has to be celebrated secretly because the Mass was strictly forbidden. When Christians of the fourth century were found celebrating Mass and captured by Roman soldiers, the proconsul asked them: Why did you say Holy Mass? Why are you feeding on the Body of Christ? He probably asked it differently, but I strongly believe that these Christians of North Africa responded: “We cannot live without the Eucharist, we cannot live without the Eucharist”. These martyred Christians have left us with an exemplary strong testimony that because of the Eucharist, we can renounce even human life. We do not suffer persecution; we can participate in the Mass at will. If we are in a state of sanctifying grace, we are invited to feed on the Body of Christ, that is, to participate fully in the Eucharist.
I will tell you that my heart is always filled with pain when I look at the many Christians in our churches who come to Sunday Mass but do not receive Holy Communion. Is it because they do not want to feed on the Body of Christ or because they feel they are not worthy to receive Him; or are they just complacent? On this pilgrimage of faith we are exposed to many dangers. We are weak, sinful and need the graces and power that flows from on high. The grace and power that only comes from God, from Jesus Himself who wants to feed us. Jesus said: “If you don’t feed on the Body of the Son of Man, you won’t have life in you”. If we want to have life, we must feed on Jesus. How good it is to feed on the Body and Blood of Jesus to have the food of life. The food that fills us with the strength of God Himself.
You probably know the incredible story of the French mystic and stigmatist Marthe Robin, who died in 1981. This saintly woman may soon be proclaimed a saint. Bedridden at the age of 21, for the last 52 years of her earthly life, Martha fed only on the Holy Eucharist. She ate nothing else. She received Holy Communion only once a week, on Thursday, that is the day of the week that the Holy Eucharist was instituted. This is an extremely strong testimony of the power of the Eucharist.
In recent years, in our homeland: in the east in Sokółka and in the west in Legnica there were alleged two Eucharistic miracles. Perhaps this is the cry of Jesus Himself to us, that we may come to him, to feed on him, that without him we cannot live well.
Beloved, it is important that we do not condemn anyone for receiving Holy Communion in a standing position, in a kneeling position, if that someone receives Christ in outstretched hands, or on the tongue. These are acceptable forms allowed by the church. The church is on the side of the faithful. Who are we to judge others? We are to feed on Christ. If we do that, that really is our life, Thus, I trust, and I believe that we will live wisely and beautifully.
When we receive Holy Communion, Christ Himself, we became a living tabernacle. Jesus is no longer in the tabernacle. Jesus is in our heart, in us who have received him. What then is our commitment to this sacrament? We are a living tabernacle, we carry Jesus, we cannot go home unchanged. We return home with Jesus – with the living, true God whom we carry in our hearts. This, of course, raises our commitment to a beautiful and wise life.
A very important moment is the moment of thanksgiving after Holy Communion. We express it in different ways. The church offers us a moment of silence or a thanksgiving chant. Our shepherds, in the instructions from 2005, invited us, Poles, to introduce, as the fruit of the Year of the Eucharist, the custom of singing songs of thanksgiving – praising God that he feeds us, that we are filled with thanks. It would be good if we implement this provision. I encourage you to embrace this practice.. then we should adore Jesus in our hearts and thank him for coming into our heart, for wanting to be with us, for strengthening us, and for leading us to the Father.
The Rite of the Eucharist ends with the prayer after Holy Communion. This is one of the three prayers said by the priest presiding the Eucharist. This prayer reveals one great truth that feeding on the Body of Christ obliges us to a better life, to a holy life. If we truly believe and accept that we have received Jesus, we can’t go back the same as we were before the Holy Mass. We become renewed and transformed. The Prayer After Holy Communion encourages us to do just that!