Nighttime is like our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. There is light, beautiful light, but more is promised with the dawn of greater understanding.
“Eucharist” can mean different things to different people; it is more than any human can fathom; it is mystery – but, in faith, a mystery that excites one’s imagination and offers an intimate experience of God.
The ‘Way’ We Enter into Eucharist
Eternity is timeless – no beginning and no end. It is a perpetual NOW. Everything Jesus did on earth is eternally present to the Father. So in the Mass, you enter into the one reality of salvation – all of salvation history. You especially enter into the reality of the Last Supper, the passion and death of Jesus, his resurrection and appearance to his disciples.
You are there – in the Upper Room, on Calvary, at the empty tomb, on the way to Emmaus. In real-time, you experience what is eternal. That’s the power of the liturgy.
For just a moment, reflect on some of the parts of the Mass to see how we enter into Eucharist.
The Liturgy of the Word
After the entrance hymn and procession, the expression of sorrow for sin and the opening prayer, you enter into the Liturgy of the Word, the great “listening” part of the Mass.
First, there are the Old Testament readings. God speaks to us today through ancient history – we witness the creative, saving and majestic power of God, and the frequent faithlessness of his chosen people; we hear the voices of the prophets and join in the praise of the psalms. This is more than a mere remembering of the Old Testament: We live it because it is the living, powerful word of God. He speaks to us now as he did back then to the Hebrews.
Then, in real-time, we enter into the eternal presence of Jesus and the timelessness of his own words. The Holy Spirit brings to life those sacred words from Paul and the other writers; Jesus speaks to us today in the gospels; we see him manifest his power in miracles and his mercy in forgiving sinners.
In the Offertory, we are offering more than money. We bring to the altar our entire lives. In gratitude, we offer the Father all the blessings we receive – food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, faith and hope. We also bring to the altar our pain, weakness, temptation and our sinfulness. We bring all this to Jesus who has died for us, to Jesus whose death and resurrection we will witness in real-time in just a few minutes.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
It can seem like mere replaying of a scene from Passion Sunday – “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” That was the cry of the people who spread their cloaks and palm leaves before the Lord who came into Jerusalem on the first day of Holy Week, the week in which he was to be betrayed, suffer, die and rise again.
But those words ring out in history, find root in our own hearts as we this day cry out: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
He is coming, really coming – right here in our midst, here on our altar. We are going to receive him, the Bread of Life, our Savior, our Lord and our Brother. He comes to us, not riding on an ass, but as food for mind, body, spirit and soul. This is really Jesus –Son of God, Son of Man, Son of Mary.
He comes to us and we are made one in him. We draw ever closer to the Father, in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharistic Prayer
It is through the power of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, that we have the Eucharist.
Just think about the words of the Eucharistic Prayer:
“Make holy, therefore, we pray, by sending down your Holy Spirit like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Think, too, of the words of consecration: “This is my Body given up for you,” and “This is my Blood poured out for you…” I added the emphasis because Jesus is acting freely. He is giving and pouring out – for love of us. He is dying in obedience to the Father – for your sake and mine.
In the face of such a gift of salvation, we may want to pray: “How, dear Lord, can I respond to such selfless and pure love? Help me, Lord to live and die for you.”
Then, with the priest, we address the Father: “Through him, with him and in him all honor and glory are yours Almighty Father …” And we respond with a great “Amen!”
- There is a great truth here. We know that we go to the Father only through Jesus. And we want to go with him. But it’s important to realize what it means to go IN him.
- IN HIM, we are the Body of Christ. In him, we call God Father. In him, by the grace of baptism, you can look at God intimately and say, “Father, I am your son” or “Father, I am your daughter.
The Lord’s Prayer
When we pray together the Lord’s Prayer, we are doing more than merely saying words Jesus taught us to say. It is no stretch, because we are the Body of Christ, to see ourselves with our Lord and those early disciples who have just asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
We pray together, with Jesus, to the Father. We join with Jesus and we pray “through him and with him and in him.”
In your personal and private prayer, have you ever asked the Lord Jesus to pray with you this prayer to our Father? Try it. You may well experience a new depth in prayer. Think for a moment on one particular phrase in the Our Father: Forgive us … as we forgive others. What comes to mind? Jesus on the Cross? Jesus in his agony praying for his executioners and tormentors – and for you and me? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The Greeting of Peace
This is a very important action of worship. It acknowledges that we are one in Christ, that we love one another that we want to be close to one another in the Lord. The peace greeting also underscores the need to forgive one another. How can you honestly offer peace with anger and resentment in your heart? As you wish peace to those immediately around you, you offer it to everyone in your parish church and to all believers worldwide – for, you see, we are one body in the One Lord.
The Plea for Mercy
Anyone who believes in God must admit he or she is indeed a sinner and in need of God’s mercy. We also pray for peace of mind, heart and soul, for peace in our Church and in our world.
“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us … grant us peace.”
Behold the Lamb of God!
Here is the proclamation of prophesy fulfilled!
“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”
Here is the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice once and for all.
The Hidden Mystery
There! There it is! The hidden mystery – the truth and completion of Communion: When you receive communion, you receive the total Christ – his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Since his divine nature is the one and same nature he shares with the Father and Holy Spirit, you receive, “through him and with him and in him,” the Father and the Spirit.
You enter ever more deeply into the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. You affirm your communion with all the saints. The saints are one with God. You and I are one in God. We are all together in God, basking in his merciful and everlasting love.
But being in God’s love is not the end of the Mass. The command is there: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Go and make disciples, the Lord tells us, share my love with all people of every nation, show them the joy of living in faith, expand my kingdom on earth.
And enthusiastically we say, “Amen!”
“So be it! We believe! We live for the Lamb of God!”