A MINI-RETREAT FOR LENT IN PREPARATION FOR HOLY WEEK - THE EUCHARIST AND SERVICE


The poignancy of Holy Thursday. Jesus wanted to be with those he loved. The story of my father as he was dying . Eucharist at his bedside.

The gift of the Eucharist on the night before Jesus died. It was a summary of his whole life and mission: ‘He loved them to the end’. He loved totally. The Eucharist was and is a kenosis or outpouring of his love and person. St Bonaventure: Love as ‘Goodness diffused out beyond itself…bonum diffusivum sui.’ The Mass is this source of love.

The Eucharist as being the source of God’s love like a torrent that turns a waterwheel:


‘The mystery of the Trinity invites us into full participation with God, a flow, a relationship, a waterwheel always outpouring love. Trinity basically says that God is a verb much more than a noun. Some Christians mystics taught that all of creation is being taken back into this flow of eternal life, almost as if we are a ‘fourth person’ of the eternal flow of God or, as Jesus puts it, ‘where I am you also maybe be’.

Richard Rohr.

This is an opportunity when we can’t celebrate Mass to appreciate it all the more.

Th Mass is God’s way of loving us. It is an invasive experience – it reaches into every nook and cranny of our lives with the power of his transforming love.

The Eucharist always calls us beyond ourselves in sacrificial love for others.


THE IMPORTANCE OF PARTICIPATION:

Sacrosanctum Concilium 14: ‘Full conscious and active participation’.

We are still operating out of a model of the Eucharist as performance and passive observance. Listen! Watch the priest! More formation needed for children and adults. Together we are active participants in the prayer of the Mass.

We love with his love: more than just imitation or repeating the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. ‘Not just imitation of but participating in’ the mystery.

Prayer at the offertory: ‘By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity’.

Our full participation in the Eucharist is founded on and predicated upon our prior participation in God’s being and his life. We are not just participating in the liturgy but in the life of Christ himself.

Rublev’s icon of the Trinity where bread and wine are on the altar table.


A TOUR DE FORCE OF THE EUCHARIST UNDER THE RUBRIC OF IT BEING GOD’S WAY OF LOVING US

Imagine for a moment the love of God being a circle of love where the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and the Holy Spirit is the love between them. This is the divine life we see represented in the famous icon of Rublev where the Father, Son and Spirit are all seated at a table on which there is bread and wine. In the front of the table there is a vacant space reserved for us to enter and sit down with them. Here is the moment when God’s circle of love has been opened and where we are welcomed and accepted into that exchange love that is shared by the Father, Son and Spirit. Here we enter into the heart of God, into the centre of the life of the Trinity. Right at the very beginning of the Mass, because of our presence, we experience the love of God as unconditional welcome and acceptance. Our God welcomes us and accepts us.

What power there is in knowing this! What joy! God’s rejoices that we have come like a great father or mother who rejoices to sit down to Sunday dinner, surrounded by their children.

Then comes the experience of God’s love with his forgiveness. He forgives our sins when we ask him. He forgives us because he loves us. It’s that simple and that beautiful. This is a gift that we receive freely but one which has cost Christ dearly. It was the price he was willing to pay out of love for you and me.

The next experience of God’s love in the Mass comes as he speaks to us through his Word. In the readings, the dramatic love story is told once again of God and his people, as recorded in the Bible. It is a story of a faithful God who never stops reaching out to his people, who desires our trust and faith, and who communicates his love to us in ways we can understand. Contained in these stories is a power of love that affirms, blesses and yet challenges us to grow more perfectly in love. When necessary, his Word warns us when we are tempted to stray from the source of love who is God himself. The stories of infidelity to God in the Scriptures are followed by God reaching our even more, offering his people a second chance and a way out of the misery that sin has caused. In these stories we recognise the drama of God’s love at work in our own lives today. In the Gospel and homily, the story of Jesus’ life comes alive as we see the fullness of God’s love revealed – a love that gives itself away in a life laid down for others. Jesus is sent by the Father to save the world with a love that reconciles, heals, unites and goes to the depths of darkness and suffering out of love for those had gone there. Here is the friendship and love of the Father, offered in Jesus, for everyone and for all. As we listen to the Gospels, all of what Jesus’ life was about is summed up by his words at the Last Supper: ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you’ (John 15:9). All that he asks of us is summed up by the great commandment to ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34). At the Mass, this love is active once again, offered by the Father through his Son in the Spirit, accepted in gratitude by us, shared and increased.

In the prayers of intercession, we call to mind those who really need our love and support as we present the needs of humanity to the Father through Jesus. Jesus intercedes for us for he knows well the anguish of suffering humanity from his ministry and from the cross.

Having heard and accepted God’s Word of love for us, at the offertory we join with Jesus in offering ourselves back to the Father in thanksgiving. Because God never loves us by half but completely, so he asks us to give ourselves completely in love to Him. Therefore, with the bread and wine we offer ourselves totally, all we have and all we are. With Christ we ‘lift up our hearts to the Father’.

Then begins the great Eucharistic prayer where the priest, in the name of the Church present, asks the Father to pour out his Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine we have offered, transforming them into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Just as the bread and wine are changed into Christ, so do we become more radiant images or icons of the Lord himself as the Holy Spirit transforms us and absorbs us further into the life of God. The Eucharistic prayer asks God to unite us closer to himself and all those citizens in heaven who have gone before us and who pray with us at the Mass. Through the Spirit’s power of love at work in the Mass, the Church is united in heaven and on earth, lead along the path that leads closer to our final union with God’s radiant beauty.

At the Our Father, we realize that we cannot love God as our Father without loving each other as brothers and sisters. At the Mass we go to God together. With the sign of peace we turn and recognise each other as family and realize that together we are a living reflection of God who in his deepest mystery is a family of love, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the Mass God’s love unites us closer as family. At the Mass we are connected with and in communion with the communion of saints. It is the ‘pledge of future glory’.

‘In receiving Jesus’s visit, I received also Mamma’s. She blessed me and rejoiced at my happiness’ St Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul.

Then comes the sublime moment when we receive Holy Communion as the love of the Father gives itself away to us through his Son. Here is the Son of God given by the Father in humble and self-emptying love ‘for you’, ‘for me’ and ‘for the world’. The Eucharist is God’s way of uniting himself to us as food and drink. Just as food and drink is digested and whose nutrients are carried to every cell in the body, so the power of God’s Spirit and love can reach, as food, every nook and cranny of our bodies, soul, minds, hearts and wills. By receiving the Eucharist with an open heart, no part of us is left untouched by God as the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ floods and changes our body, blood, soul and humanity. Just as a mother feeds her young so does God feed us whom he loves, not just with food but with himself (see Hos. 11:1, 3-4).

‘I myself am his food…I am digested as I am changed; I am assimilated as I am transformed…for if I eat and am not eaten, then he is in me but I am not yet in him’. Bernard of Claivaux, On the Song of Songs, vol. IV, Sermon 71, 5-6.

St Therese at her first communion: ‘I felt that I was loved and I said “I love you and I give myself to you forever…it was no longer a look, a fusion…she wanted to be united forever to the Divine strength’. Story of a Soul , IV, 77.

Here is an intimacy with God that no words can fully describe but is the experience and amazing privilege of those who take part in the Mass. For those who know this moment, no words are necessary. For those who don’t, no words are possible. Yet this is only a taste of what is to come. It is but a partial sharing in the fuller joy that awaits us in the heavenly banquet in the future.

At the end of Mass, we experience God’s love once again as a blessing as the celebration ends. With his blessing we re-enter the world of our work, families and daily routine. But we do so as different people. Experiencing God’s love changes us. It changes us to become more like the love we have received. As God has truly given Himself to us in the Mass as self-sacrificing love, so we go and be Eucharist for others, emptied of ourselves, filled with God and ready to serve. In this way the amazing love of God spreads and intensifies like a fire that has been ignited in the awesome prayer of the Mass.


THE EUCHARIST AND SERVICE

The washing of the feet. An act of service. To serve, we need to be humble. ‘He emptied himself’. The descending nature of God’s love in Christ. A love that humbles itself, lowers itself and serves.

Love as ‘willing the good of the other as other’ in the words of St Thomas. ‘He loved them to the end’.

‘To serve means to become Eucharist for others, to identify ourselves with them, to share their joys and sorrows, to learn to think with their heads, to feel with their hearts’. Cardinal Francis-Xavier Van Thuan.


THE CALL TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE MASS AGAIN

People will come to Mass because they want to and love the Mass or they will not come at all.

Fr Ragheed Ganni – Martyred for the faith on 4th June 2007.

‘The terrorists take life but the Eucharist gives it back’.

‘At times when I get up in the morning, I am filled with fear. But when I celebrate the Mass and as I hold the host at the Lamb of God, I know that it is not just me holding him but rather He who is holding me’.


IRELAND’S LOVE FOR THE MASS

‘Pilgrim walk softly, this is holy ground.

It has been made holy by the feet of generations

who came here to worship God,

to hear Mass, to honour Our Lady,

to pray for their needs and for peace.


Here are the memories of a poor, persecuted people,

they braved death to come.

They walked barefoot through the woods to worship in secret.

Here are memories of hunted priests,

offering Mass in this hallowed place at risk of their lives.


Will their sufferings and sacrifices be in vain?

They have handed on a torch - Let us keep that torch alight’.

Prayer posted by the Mass rock at Tobernalt, Co. Sligo


'To become the Eucharist! May precisely this be our constant desire and commitment, so that the offering of the Body and Blood of the Lord which we make on the altar may be accompanied by the sacrifice of our existence. Every day, we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord that free, pure love which makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses to his joy’.

Pope Benedict XVI, 11th June 2009, St John Laterans.


‘Holy Mass is the absolute centre of my life and every day of my life’. Pope John Paul II.


ADORATION OF THE EUCHARIST:

On Holy Thursday – ‘Could you not watch with me one hour?’

Archbishop Fulton Sheen: ‘The Hour that makes my day’.

‘The Mass held in Contemplation’ Karl Rahner SJ.

A time for the Lord to re-shape our hearts.

To be actively passive before Christ’s real presence.

‘I look at him and he looks at me’ St John Vianney.

AD-ORATION from Ad-Oratio – mouth to mouth. Intimacy and dialogue with the Lord.

Adoration of the Eucharist as a space like a furnace and forge.

Discovering again the joy and refreshment of abiding in his presence. The wellspring of divine friendship.

‘Time spent in my presence is not time lost. It is the multiplication of time and the magnification of your limited strength into an energy that comes from Me, an energy by which I will do great things through you’ In Sine Jesu, p. 223.


ADORATION AS SPIRITUAL ‘RADIATION THERAPHY’.

‘The Lord’s breast is the sponge of the heart’. St Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on the Song of Songs.

‘’How often dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support’ John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 25.


‘To adore me is to demonstrate that all your hope is in me. To adore me is to show me that you count not on yourself nor on others , but on me alone. To adore me is to give me the freedom to act within you and upon you, in such a way as to unite you wholly to myself, as you have asked me to do: my heart to your heart, my soul to your soul, my body to your body, my blood to your blood’.

In Sine Jesu, 181.

The Eucharist as a cosmic event – all of creation present, offered and transformed.