The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year A-2011

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26—NAB)

As is well known, to take part in the Holy Eucharist has not always been as easy and as open as it is nowadays in Christian countries. In ancient and not so ancient times, for example, during the civil war in Spain—and it is still happening today in some non-Christian countries—those who went to Mass were at risk of being persecuted, jailed and executed. But is the Eucharist really separable from hardship?

The fact is that the Eucharist has meant sacrifice from the very outset: the giving up of Jesus’ body and the shedding of his blood. Without doubt, in the sacred banquet is the mind joyfully and luminously filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given to us; yet in it too is Christ consumed and the memory of his passion is recalled.

Moreover, the Lord’s Supper supposes suffering on the part of us participants, for without the experience of trials and tribulations, of hunger and thirst, there is no retaining in, much less engraving on, our mind and heart the teaching that not by bread alone do we live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord. In Greek, there is an uncanny similarity between learning or being a disciple (µ?????, µ??????) and suffering (??????). In fact, Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered (Heb. 5:8), and in the same manner we have to suffer and learn to grasp the Word of God and his Most Holy Sacrament.

No wonder, therefore, that some quarrel among themselves wondering how Jesus can give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, while others complain that Jesus’ saying regarding his flesh being true food and his blood being true drink is hard and unacceptable. If we think of it quite seriously, it is not easy really, I believe, to do what Jesus has commanded us to do in memory of him. It requires of us much and accurate understanding. That is to say, we have to acknowledge our responsibility to follow the model Jesus has given us and to do also what he has done for us; as our true Teacher and Master has washed our feet, so also we have to wash one another’s feet (Jn. 13:12-15).

To break the bread and bless the cup of blessing demands nothing less than that we partake of the one bread and the one cup so as to form one body. We then have to wait for and on one another and serve one another, for no one among us can go hungry, and no poor person in our midst can be made to feel ashamed, without contempt being shown for the church of God, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 11:21-22, 33). The Mass cannot end with the concluding rite but should continue on, as it did in Châtillon-les-Dombes, during St. Vincent de Paul’s stay there [1], with a long procession—worthy of the solemn celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ—of parishioners who, moved with compassion for the poor and the afflicted, go to their rescue and console them with their words and help them in whatever way they can.

And, of course, true and effective participation in the Holy Eucharist means self-control, which is not easy to attain. Such self-control does not tolerate in any way the dictatorial absolutism , which, declaring itself always infallible, obsessed with certainty, safety and perfection, and not granting any right to either error or the erroneous [2], persecutes, brings to inquisition and judgment, jails or executes others of a different faith and of another religion.


NOTES:

[1] P. Coste IX, 243).

[2] Cf. a letter to the editor, America (June 16, 2011) 36.