THE HOOK OF FAITH PRESENTS
A TIME FOR PRIESTS: 19th January To 16th February 2021
‘FAN INTO A FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD WHICH IS IN YOU THROUGH THE LAYING ON OF HANDS’ (2 Timothy 1:6)
SESSION 6: ‘KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND IMITATE THE MYSTERY YOU CELEBRATE’
PRIESTS AND THE EUCHARIST
The Centrality of the Eucharist:
The Eucharist is the centre and root of the whole priestly life’ Pres. Ordinis, 14.
‘From the Eucharist, from that unique sacrifice, our whole priestly ministry draws its strength’ Catechism of the Catholic Church 1566.
Taking on Christ’s yoke: symbolised by the chasuble. The loving and intimate union of ourselves as priests and Christ at the Eucharist.
At the Eucharist, our oneness with Christ is at its maximum. Our configuration to Christ as head becomes fully visible.
The Eucharist always calls us beyond ourselves in sacrificial love for others.
We participate in the kenosis of Christ, self-giving, pouring out.
St Bonaventure: Love as ‘Goodness diffused out beyond itself…bonum diffusivum sui.’
This is what the Eucharist is for God’s people. It is the source of love. It is God’s way of loving us.
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’.
We priests express our love as lives that are poured out, broken and shared:
THE IMPORTANCE OF PARTICIPATION:
‘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’.
We are still operating out of a model of the Eucharist as performance and passive observance.
Sacrosanctum Concilium 14: ‘Full conscious and active participation’.
Our full participation in the Eucharist is founded on and predicated upon our prior participation in God’s being and his life.
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. 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.
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).
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 CALL TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE MASS AGAIN
Priestly witnesses of the Eucharist:
John Clifford SJ an American who spent 3 years in solitary confinement in China. In that time he could not celebrate Mass: ‘No one but a priest can fully realize the significance of that deprivation’. From ‘In the Presence of my Enemies’.
The pain of our brothers who have been de-frocked or suspended.
‘Many a time, as I folded up the handkerchief on which the body of our Lord had laid, and dried the glass or tin cup used as a chalice, the feeling of having performed something tremendously valuable for the people of this Godless country was overpowering’. Walter Ciszek SJ, He Leadeth Me.
‘Each time I celebrated Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter chalice. Each day in reciting the words of consecration, I confirmed with all my heart and soul a new pact, an eternal pact between Jesus and me through his blood mixed with mine. Those were the most beautiful Masses of my life.’ Cardinal Francis X. Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Pauline Books and Media.
‘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.
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’.
‘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
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.
‘Pastoral charity flows mainly from the Eucharistic sacrifice which is thus the centre and root of the whole priestly life. The priestly soul thereby strives to apply to itself the action which takes place on the altar of sacrifice’ PO 14, PDV 23.
That all of our priestly ministry flows from the Eucharist and returns there to be transformed.
'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.
Our experience of God is mediated through the Church.
‘Priestly spirituality is intrinsically eucharistic….An intense spiritual life will enable him to enter more deeply into communion with the Lord and to let himself be possessed by God's love, bearing witness to that love at all times, even the darkest and most difficult…If celebrated in a faith-filled and attentive way, Mass is formative in the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest's configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation’.
Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 80.
ADORATION OF THE EUCHARIST:
‘The Mass held in Contemplation’ Karl Rahner SJ.
A time for the Lord to re-shape our priestly 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.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen: ‘The Hour that makes my day’.
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.
‘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.
That our celebrations of the Mass be more closely linked to social justice: the sharing of lives, represented by the sharing of food.
‘The Sign we Give’. What is that sign? What are we saying through the liturgy?
That the local community take more responsibility for the liturgy.
That there be a greater connection between baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
‘As they give up their lives for you and for the salvation of their brothers and sisters, they strive to be conformed to the image of Christ himself and offer you a constant witness of faith and love’ (Preface of Chrism Mass)
‘The Mass is the most wonderful thing that has ever entered into my life. When I am at the altar I feel that I am at last the person that God has truly intended me to be’. Thomas Merton
“If you are afraid of love, don’t ever become a priest, and don’t ever celebrate Mass. The Mass will cause a torrent of interior suffering to pour down upon your soul, with one purpose only– to break you in half, so that all the people of the world can enter into your heart.” – Thomas Merton
“If you are afraid of people, don’t celebrate Mass! Because when you start to say Mass, the Spirit of God will awaken in you like a giant and break through the locks of your private sanctuary and invite all of the people of the world into your heart.” – Thomas Merton
“If you celebrate Mass, condemn your heart to the torment of love that is so vast and so insatiable that you will not resist in bearing it alone. That love is the love of the Heart of Jesus that burns inside your miserable heart, and allows the immense weight of his mercy for all the sins of the world to fall upon you! Do you know what that love will do if you allow it to work in your soul, if you don’t resist it? It will devour you. It will kill you. It will break your heart.” – Thomas Merton.