Michael M. Burke, O. P., D. Min.
The Eucharist
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The Eucharist

             I think for most Catholics the Mass or as we call it now, the Eucharist, or the Liturgy of Celebration of the Eucharist is the high point of our faith experience.  Throughout the centuries Christians have gathered to do what Jesus ‘told them to do,’ ‘Do This in Memory of Me.’ It has always been a source of inspiration and self identity for Christians.  When we do this we are doing what Jesus told us to do to remain in Him and with one another.

            We may not have understood the theology or ‘why’ gathering for Eucharist does feed and encourage us, but we feel it.  Sometimes it is as simple as saying, ‘You know, I had a headache when I got to Church, but after the Mass I felt so much better.’  That is the experience of the Eucharist sustaining and healing us.  It has a power to change us and make us more who we are meant to be, whole persons in Christ.

            I think there are two realities at work in every Eucharist.  The first reality is the very Person of Christ whom we meet in every Eucharist.  We meet Christ in the very act of giving himself to us.  We meet him in his sacrifice of himself to the Father on our behalf.  It is His person we encounter at this level.   It is the essence of why he came, the moment in his life when he gave all and emptied himself completely in love.  It is the sacrifice that redeems the world.  That is why we say we are not ‘repeating’ the sacrifice when we gather to celebrate, but we are continuing the one eternal sacrifice initiated in the Upper Room, enacted on Calvary and ratified and endorsed in His Resurrection in the Garden.  

            The second reality we encounter is that of the Body of Christ itself, we the members of Christ, who celebrate this mystery with him, who are caught up in the same offering, so that we say the Eucharist is the ‘Whole Christ offering the Whole Christ to the Father.’  We the members of Christ with him are the whole Christ and together with him we offer ourselves to the Father.  We who are baptized into him offer the sacrifice with the priest and with Christ to the Father.  So, our part is significant.  We become like Christ in the Eucharist, we are placed in a stance of giving of ourselves to one another in sacrifice in union with Christ.

            This second reality, our part, is very important in understanding the full impact of why and how the Eucharist sustains us.  If we do not realize or emphasize our part then a major part of the Eucharistic experience is diminished for us.   Before the renewal of our liturgy we didn’t stress our part.  The emphasis was on ‘receiving Jesus in Holy Communion.’  There was little awareness of emphasis on how our presence there or what we did together affected anyone else.  We had little sense of Eucharist as worship of the whole Body of Christ and we as members of it.

            The renewal of our understanding of what Eucharistic Liturgy and indeed, all celebration of Liturgy and Sacraments, enables us to see that we together offer this sacrifice and that each of us contributes to the full impact of the celebration.  If we are not aware of this and do not see ourselves as affecting the impact of the celebration then we diminish that impact.  For example, if we come in a passive way, thinking that we are just there to receive, then we do not understand that we are all meant to see ourselves as active participants and celebrants of the Eucharist.  How we participate, actively, enthusiastically, contributes to the impact of the celebration and affects those there with us. 

Father Michael Burke, OP
Submitted 12/07/2005
Email: michael@mburkeop.com

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