Eucharistic AttitudesMoving us on to the mystery to be lived By Fr. Erasto Fernandez
AUG. 20, 2009 (www.holyspiritinteractive.net
) - In my past reflections, we have spelled out the implications of celebrating the Eucharist ‘actively, intelligently and fruitfully’ as Vatican II desires of us. In a sense the Council asks us to return to the Early Christian way of celebrating Eucharist: for them meeting every week for Eucharist was no mere ritual. It was truly the centre of their Christian living, it was an opportunity for them to express once again their gratitude to the Lord Jesus for having chosen them to receive the great gift of eternal life. Since they sincerely made Herculean efforts to live up to the challenge of the Christian following of Jesus, (we recall that these were times of intense persecution) they saw themselves rising to newer and greater heights each day and week. That this was the result not of their own power but of the risen Lord present in their midst and lives became more and more evident to them.
Thus each week at Eucharist they not only gave thanks to God for the marvels they witnessed in their lives; they also consciously surrendered themselves more and more generously to the Lord, to be used totally and mightily for the kingdom. This is why we see ordinary lay persons like Barnabas taking the initiative and organizing a mission tour together with Paul of Tarsus. Other missionary journeys followed – not because these people intentionally sat down and got things organized with their own experience and skills, but rather because they kept themselves totally open to the promptings of the Spirit. We recall the vision that Paul received in which he and his followers were invited over to Macedonia (Acts 16:9 ff) or again how he reports a little earlier, that time and again the Spirit would not allow them to go on a trip ‘they’ had planned (Acts 16:6-8).
In several places today the Church is waking up to the tremendous potential there is in simple lay Christians. Often they are more enthusiastic and enterprising than others better endowed. The key and decisive element that seems to stand out in the lives of all these ‘lay apostles’ of today is their personal experience of Jesus. What seems to happen in all such experiences is that the person concerned gets a sudden yet deep insight into the meaning and purpose of life on earth. Whereas everyone else seems to be busy with making both ends meet as they struggle through life, these few can raise their sights higher and see ‘the harvest that is ripe and waiting to be reaped!’ Having realized how deeply they have been blessed they offer themselves into God’s hands to be his instruments in taking his blessings to others.
Starting off in small ways, they soon get the necessary experience and know-how to launch out into the deep. While it is true that not everyone is taken up with what this particular apostle(s) does, yet he does manage to spread the kingdom among a certain number of people at least. Why some choose to follow or join and others not, depends on various factors, but where the apostle is genuine and sincere, as also humble and prayerful, s/he does not place her/himself in competition with others, but is content to work in her/his own allotted ‘field.’ S/he can rejoice in the work that others also do; s/he networks with other groups as effectively as possible seeking always to be faithful to her/his own personal calling while also supporting and collaborating with others.
Our hope is that numerous such groups will mushroom all over our dioceses and parishes with each doing their little bit. The work of the ‘hierarchy’ then would be to direct and guide these groups, not to squash them with a multiplicity of rules and regulations, mostly consisting of don’ts more than dos. That these fledgling apostles will make mistakes is to be expected, but here again, when all are open to the guidance of God’s Spirit and selfless obedience is a prized virtue, not much harm will come. What we seem to need is a Church that is gripped with a sense of its own mission! Unfortunately, so many seem to be content only with engaging in maintenance work, attending only to those of the fold, and basically the same old goody-goody people who revel in individualistic and ‘soul-saving’ ceremonies. The need of the times is a group of eager and dynamic Christians wanting to be ‘missionary’ in the strongest and best sense of the term. A missionary is one who is sent out by the risen Lord to witness to the power and presence of God’s love freely made available to all, especially to sinners in and through Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
Evidently, this missionary thrust will work best when it is the vision of the entire Church, starting with the Hierarchy but also engaging as many Christians as possible all down the line – priests, religious, seminarians, dedicated laity who are members of some association or other and also, above all, including every single Christian parent, housewife, office-goer or labourer. It is clear that such a vision calls for a real new Pentecost – a colossal outpouring of God’s powerful Spirit.
What we have been suggesting through the pages of this book is that while this massive outpouring of God’s Spirit is something that we pray for and await eagerly, there is yet something more simple and basic that is within our grasp – and that happens in a small way, piecemeal almost, yet surely and decisively. If each Eucharist celebrated in any given parish Church or Chapel awakens just a handful of Christians to the reality of God’s love and presence in our midst; if Eucharist is seen more as a living encounter with the Risen Lord rather than as a mere impersonal ritual that is celebrated to fulfill some stringent obligation somewhere – then what we would possibly have is what Elijah experienced on the top of Mt. Carmel (1 Kgs 18:41-46). When he prayed with his head between his knees and later asked his servant to go out and look towards the sea – on seven occasions the servant saw nothing.
Elijah did not give up, though. He continued his prayer and on the final trip, the servant saw a dark cloud as small as a man’s fist arising out of the sea! That was the sign Elijah had been waiting for. Soon that fistful of a cloud would turn into a raging thunder-storm that brought rain and relief to the entire land. Everyone who had been suffering from the severe famine, now experienced God’s power and presence. Could something similar happen to the Church in our land? A small effort to begin with yet it is full of promise as we go along. Concretely, this would need of the celebrant of each Eucharist that he direct every Eucharist celebrated towards a particular mission for the day, small though it be. Initially, this approach might seem to fall on deaf ears, but if the priests did continue ‘in season and out of season’ eventually the two will be linked in the minds of our people.
What they are asked to do must flow from the celebrations – not just the readings, but the entire experience of God’s faithful love. In the beginning the celebrant could make some concrete suggestions. But as the idea begins to catch, it would be helpful to ask the community itself for suggestions and choose one or two that grip their imagination. What we suggest here has been tried out, of course with our own Blessed Sacrament religious – here too the beginnings were slow and almost disappointing. Yet, perseverance paid and by now we can confidently say that the idea that the Eucharist continues through the day has stopped being ‘a strange or foreign idea!’ Could something similar not be done in the parishes too? Granted that it may be a little more difficult, because in any given parish we do have an ‘amorphous’ group generally of senior citizens, some of whom are hard of hearing and living still way back in pre-Vatican times, yet one cannot discount the power of God’s Spirit working in our midst.
For this effort to succeed, the key quality one would need is persistence. And of course for this, one would need to be convinced of this line of action oneself before proposing it to others. If one can practice this oneself and then speak from practical experience that would be far better and more effective than a purely theoretical approach. Our hope is that at least some would be inspired to attempt this approach: it is what the Church really needs in our day and also what the Holy Father keeps asking repeatedly. We end where we began reminding ourselves of the document Sacramentum Caritatis which is the result of the Synod of 2005 on the Eucharist. The Holy Father consciously takes our minds from the mystery to be believed (in our hearts) to the mystery to be celebrated (in our churches) but moves us on to the mystery to be lived (in our day to day lives). EUCHARISTIC ATTITUDES:
Chapters of the book
Index Page Unity and Fellowship Gratitude for Forgiveness Words of Eternal Life Our Response is Faith Presentation of Gifts Praise and Thanksgiving Consecrating the World The Art of Communing Sharing with Others Sent on a Mission of Love Conclusion