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Pastor's Letter 20191128 - 28 November 2019 - Holy Eucharist

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28 November 2019 

Thanksgiving Day 

Special Edition:  The Holy Eucharist

A Message from Father † Michael


Today’s Theme:  “In Memory of Me”

Scripture Note

Jesus said: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst....” And, “I am the living bread that has Who descended from Heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he shall live in eternity; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:35-52.) Those hearing Him had seen Jesus raise the dead; and heard Him preach all kinds of surpassing things sounding revolutionary, at first, which then made sense—fulfilling the Law of Moses—and brought them into a new focus with a clear purpose. Still they were surprised, asking: “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” So, Jesus repeated—and repeated again: “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you...for My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed...He who eats my flesh, and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him”  (John 6:54-57.)

But some of the disciples left, thinking this was too difficult to believe. Jesus didn’t call after them, but asked the Twelve if they wanted to go, too. Peter tactfully avoided the question, saying: “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed, and we recognize that you are the Christ, the Son of God” (John 6:69-70.) And they did so, right through the Last Supper, when He went back to the same theme: He took the bread, saying unequivocally: “This is My body...” and then the cup of wine, and said: “This is My blood....” And finally, “...Do this in memory of Me” (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22–23; Luke 22:19-20)

Suddenly it all made sense to them. It was in this way that Jesus would give His flesh to eat and His blood to drink: sacramentally, in the Holy Eucharist. That’s how He could remain physically present among us until the end of time, and how He would let us fulfill His absolute requirement for salvation. From that moment on, the Church has fulfilled His command, without interruption, continuing the Last Supper in the liturgy of the every Holy Mass—in perpetuation of the sacrifice of Calvary. It’s an idea that’s so obvious, so simple—as simple as He said it was—yet everything that the Church teaches, and upon which it depends.

Moving Ahead

For two millennia, a hierarchy of priests and bishops has been maintained since the apostles chiefly to celebrate the liturgy that changes bread and wine into Body and Blood. Multitudes of parishes exist so that everyone has easy access to Christ in the Eucharist. Churches and their art—the music, vestments, and metalwork of the vessels of Holy Communion, myriad paintings and sculptures—are designed to accommodate this liturgy; and are basically the handmaidens of the Eucharist. Everything is brought into being to serve the Eucharist; to depict it; refer to it; reflect it; or otherwise lead people to the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ.

Technically, the process by which the bread and wine physically, become the Body and Blood of Christ can be described as transubstantiation. (This word has been used at least since the days of St. Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225- 1274 a.d.) and officially adopted by the Council of Trent, (Ca.1545-1563 a.d.)  It is rather the opposite of transformation, in which the substance of something stays the same, but its appearance changes. (Think: the folding of steel into a sword....) Transubstantiation means that the appearance of the bread and wine stays the same, but their substance is changed, as Christ said at the Last Supper, the last Passover meal He celebrated with His apostles.

The liturgy of the Holy Mass has its origins in the old Jewish ceremonial meal for a family. It’s for a family that includes the assembly of hundreds or even thousands of people, the main occasion for which is worship and education. Most importantly, it’s the way Christ stays physically present to His Church, and the Passover service wasn’t directed to that end.

So the apostles and their successors stuck firmly with the liturgy that Christ established at the Last Supper—you can’t really compromise with a directive like “Do this”—and on this foundation they framed the Mass as an unique liturgy in its own right. The core of the Mass has never changed since. As time went on, however, other procedures, prayers and symbols were attached to this basic framework, so that the Mass could do what it needs to do and be understood by everybody who attends.

The nature of these attachments was determined by the times and places in which the early Church was working—by what you might call “geopolitical” factors. The important liturgical centers were where the apostles were, in the eastern Roman Empire at first, and later in Italy and France—all places where it’s perfectly natural for people to use outward symbols and gestures to express an inward truth. So the Church, reaching out from its Jewish heritage to embrace the known world, supplemented and supported the words of the liturgy with expressive ceremonials. Many rituals were adopted from Roman civil procedures—from courts of law and halls of the emperors—that would say the appropriate things in ways everyone would understand.

From time to time, some ceremonials are revised, or deleted, when it is determined they may hide the framework, or in order that the original meaning can still be perceived. Most of us have seen this process, in recent years. Notably, the stately Baroque presentation of the Mass mandated by the Council of Trent— the Tridentine Mass—offered entirely in Latin, was reformed in the 1960s to afford Mass in vernacular languages, all around the world. Thereafter, the liturgy focused on the essentials, restoring its timeless simplicity and elegance and bringing the unchanging pattern of the Mass more clearly into view.

The Mass: Organization

Each Mass begins with an ordinary—structured forms which are continuous from Mass to Mass—including the introductory rite: a greeting, the Sign of the Cross, and then a wish for grace and peace from the celebrant (priest.)The congregation answers, “And also with you,” in reply, and this starts the interaction between priest and congregation, the two major, active participants in the Mass. Next, a penitential rite affords each one in attendance to consider their personal sinfulness, and upon sincere repentance, absolution is given, by the celebrant, (similar to the cleansing action of our Baptism.) This Liturgy of the Word includes selected prayers and Bible readings making up the proper of the Mass, compiled to commemorate specific temporal cycles of feasts, (i.e. Easter, Christmas, and Holy Days.)

Secondly, the Liturgy of the Eucharist echoes the Passover Meal the Seder, mandated by Moses, and it follows Jesus’ commission: “Do this in memory of Me,” from the Last Supper. All the faithful who have been baptized are invited to participate in receiving Holy Communion, and thereby, as a family, become spiritually united into the Mystical Body of Christ. Each of us is united, as equals, before the Lord, at Holy Mass, in a supreme act of solidarity.

The whole idea is that Christ comes physicallyto the altar, then flows outward to the congregation, who carry Him immediately out into the world—because that’s where He’s needed....

One can plainly see, therefore, that separating our worship, eliminating either the education of the Word or the inclusiveness of the Holy Eucharist, prevents us from the complete “Jesus Experience.”

May God Richly Bless You!

Edited by Father Michael
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