Spiritual Reading 28

28. The Eucharist: Centerpiece of Devotion To The Sacred Heart

Where was Jesus looking when he said: “This is my Body”?

The early Church chose the word ekklesia to describe itself. This word meant citizenry which was expanded to include all individuals, even women and slaves. It is significant that they did not choose the word koinon which means guild, i.e., a group with one specific interest. The Church was meant to be universal in its inclusiveness, without class distinctions or rankings: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3: 28

Catholic means universal in that the outreach is without discrimination or border. This is evangelical Catholicism. In mystical Catholicism universal means in-reach to a center by the whole human community. That center is not some physical place like Rome. It is the Eucharist, which according to theologian Henri de Lubac, makes the Church.

The Sacred Heart as well as the Eucharist show that the boundary between spirit and matter is not as clear-cut as we might have imagined. As Teilhard wrote to Christ: “From the moment that you said ‘This is my Body,’ not only the bread on the altar, but to a certain extent everything in the universe became yours and now nourishes in our souls the life of grace and the spirit.... All the communions of all men, present, past, and future are one communion.... Right from the hands that knead the dough to the hands that consecrate it, only one Host is being formed.... The Host is formed by the totality of the world and all the duration of time is needed for its consecration…. Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day, say again the words: ‘This is my Body.’ Over every death force which is waiting to corrode, wither, or cut down, speak again your command: ‘This is my Blood.’”

Carl Jung adds in this respect: “The symbols of the Mass penetrate into the deepest layers of the psyche and of its history.... The mystery of the Eucharist transforms the soul of the person, only partial, into a totality, symbolically expressed by Christ. In this sense, we can speak of the Mass as the rite of the individuation process.”

Alchemy reverses values and combines opposites and, in that sense, it is like mysticism. The alchemical/paradoxical theme in the Eucharist is that the least valued, nutrition-less bread becomes the most valuable, all-nourishing food of the soul. The Eucharist presents us with the good news that something behind mortal appearances is personal and loves us. This reversal of common sense in favor of divine meaning is visible only when we see with faith. The Eucharist is the means by which we become intimate with God. Good-byes are intimate and the Eucharist was given to us as a parting gift at the last supper. It was how Jesus found a way to stay with us. Only a lover would have cared for us in that way. Only one who knew what it felt like to be forsaken would have appreciated how we needed the ongoing presence and full accessibility of his heart for all our lives. This is how the Eucharist is the mystical presence of the Sacred Heart. At the same time, St. Augustine says: “The body of Christ gives the body of Christ to the body of Christ.” The presence is therefore in the community. The Eucharist has only taken effect in us when we are community and when no one is excluded from our concern, respect, and compassion. Then the Eucharist, like the Sacred Heart, is a verb, an action of universal, limitless, borderless love in community. The Great Amen at the end of the canon of the mass is a yes not only to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist to his presence in all of us gathered to celebrate him.

We are the sacraments —the visible signs of the unity of God’s people— of the Blessed Sacrament. We are the way the Eucharist comes to life as consecrated hosts that are here to nourish the sufferings and joys of the world. Since childhood, our destiny was always visible in the monstrance holding the Host, the heart of our faith. Our destiny is perpetual exposition of our love for all to see and share. The design of devotional life is unique to each of us while at the same time it becomes a communal event in the believing community. This is how we become the benediction of the Eucharistic heart of Jesus. Nothing less is asked of us; nothing less is offered to us. When we imagine we can prepare for the Eucharist by making ourselves worthy, we miss its gift dimension.

Sacramentum in ancient Rome referred to an oath. The Eucharist and all the sacraments are the resources for our commitment/oath to resist the dominant paradigm. We act with love in season and out of season till more and more hearts are converted to the radical loving-kindness Christ showed by his life and gives us by his grace. Our sacramental life then becomes an enthusiastic devotedness to Christ’s mission in the world. Jesus is the exemplar of the virtues by which we fulfill ourselves. He communicates this in the Gospels and in mystical revelations throughout the history of the church.

From the moment that you said “This is my Body,” not only the bread on the altar, but to a certain extent everything in the universe became yours and nourishes in our souls the life of grace and the spirit.... The Holy Eucharist is in fact extended throughout the universe and so constitutes a promise of its eventual transfiguration.... It captures all the power of loving in the universe.... The priestly action extends beyond the Host to the cosmos itself which the still unfinished Incarnation gradually transforms in the course of the passing centuries.... All the communions of all men, present, past, and future are one communion.... Right from the hands that knead the dough to the hands that consecrate it, only one Host is being formed.... The Host is formed by the totality of the world and all the duration of time is needed for its consecration…. Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day, say again the words: “This is my Body.” Over every death force which is waiting to corrode, wither, or cut down, speak again your command: “This is my Blood.”

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host. And let us pray the Lord to help us become priests in this sense, to aid in the transformation of the world…that our lives may be a true liturgy, an announcement of God, a door through which the distant God may become the present God, and a true giving of ourselves to God.

—Benedict XVI, Homily at Vespers, July 24, 2009

The symbols of the Mass penetrate into the deepest layers of the psyche and of its history.... The mystery of the Eucharist transforms the soul of the person, only partial, into a totality, symbolically expressed by Christ. In this sense, we can speak of the Mass as the rite of the individuation process.

—Carl Jung