Immersed in Christ
Experiencing the Mass: The Eucharistic Prayer (Part 2)
Saturday, January 28, 2023
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today:
Dear Readers: Since the Church is presently engaged in a Eucharistic Revival, we thought it would be helpful to post excerpts from his booklet called Experiencing the Mass, for the next few weeks. (This is not a sales pitch. However, the booklet is available for order on this website for $5 per copy if you would like have a copy.)
Living is loving is ministry
“Grace” is defined as “the gift of sharing in the divine life of God.” But the life of God is love. To live as God, then, is to love as God.
By Baptism we committed ourselves to love like God. More precisely, we surrendered ourselves to let Jesus Christ love with us, in us, and through us; and express that love in and through our physical, human words and actions.
This is the essence—and the mystery—of Christian ministry.
To live as Christ is to live in love. Divine love. This is the “new commandment” Jesus gave to all who would be his body on earth. He changed the “second greatest” Commandment from “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” to “Love one another as I have loved you.”
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.... This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Jesus set the example by loving us as the Father loved him: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”
The Father loved Jesus by giving him the power to give life:
The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing..... For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself... Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes....
My Father is still working, and I also am working.... Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.
Jesus loves us by giving us the power to give life, as his instruments. He calls us to let him live in us and express himself through us.
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
This is how Jesus described his mission: “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
At Baptism we accepted to live “no longer for ourselves but for him” who came to earth to give life. So to live and love as Jesus is to dedicate ourselves to giving and enhancing life, divine life, in others. To nurture. To heal. To help to grow. This is ministry.
Ministry is dying to ourselves in order to live for others in love. To live for others in love is to give life to others. Through ministry—by “presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God,” so that wherever our live bodies are, Jesus Christ can express himself in and through our physical human actions.
Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And John said this is our call: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”
In practice, we “lay down our lives” for others through ministry. Every hour, every minute we give to another in service is an hour or minute of our life, because on this earth “life” and “time” are synonymous. And every time we give expression to our faith, our hope, our love in bodily words and actions we are “dying to self” because we are making ourselves vulnerable. Dying to our fears and reserves. Exposing ourselves. Exposing our deepest thoughts and desires.
St. Augustine defined love as wanting another to esse et bene esse: to “be and to become all one can be.” When we try to help this happen, we are loving in action.
St. Paul described his ministry as bringing Christ to birth and to “full stature” in all those he dealt with. He addresses the Galatians as, “My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you....” And he said God gives his gifts to Christians “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come... to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
To minister is to respond to others’ needs. That is how we know we love. And that is how we know we are alive:
We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another....We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who. sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.... Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. .
No one has greater need than this, to die in Christ in order to live forever. How does God’s love abide in us, if we sees a brother or sister in this need and yet refuse to help? Everyone’s need is for life. We live help all have life “to the full.”
All this is brought into one focal point during the ”first elevation” of the Eucharistic Prayer. After repeating the words of Jesus, “This is my body... my blood... givcn up for you,” the presider holds up first the host, then the chalice for the assembly to see.
At that moment we have been taught to echo the words Thomas spoke when he saw Jesus after the resurrection: “My Lord and my God!”
These are words of adoration. True words. Appropriate words. But not the words we should say.
It is not that we do not adore Jesus or should not adore his “body and blood, soul and divinity” present in the host, the Blessed Sacrament. Of course we adore him. What is held up before our eyes is the Body and Blood of Christ, God himself.
It is just not the time to focus on adoration. Our focus should be on the action that is taking place. What we are called to do at this moment, what the Church and the liturgy invite us to do, is not simply to be lost in rapt and silent adoration. What we need to do at this moment, must do at this moment if we are going to enter into the mystical experience of “full, conscious, and active participation” in the Eucharist, is join in the action. This is the moment to offer Jesus as “priests in the Priest,” and to offer ourselves as “victims in the Victim” in union with Jesus offering himself on Calvary and in the Mass.
The words we should echo at this moment, proclaiming them in the silent depth of our hearts to God and to every member of the human race, are: “This is my body, given up for you.”
Husbands and wives saying to each other, “This is my body, given up for you.” Every member of the congregation saying to every other, “This is my body, given up for you.” All of us, in union with Jesus offering himself on the cross, saying to every member of the human race, “This is my body, given up for you.”
To family and strangers, friends and enemies; yes, to all the murderers, rapists and suicide bombers on the face of the earth, “This is my body, given up for you.”
This is what it means to take the “full, conscious, and active part” in the Eucharistic celebration that the bishops of the Second Vatican Council called for. This is what it means to be authentically at Mass.
This, and only this, is to share personally, fully and authentically in the act of love Jesus made and expressed on the cross. If we do not “offer our bodies” with him for the “life of the world,” we simply are not participating in the mystery of the Eucharist.
But if we do...
If we do, we are entering into the mystical experience of loving as Christ loves us.
This is the experience that will take place again, whether we are fully conscious of it or not, every time we “give our bodies” to another in physical acts of ministry. Every time we give physical, bodily expression to our faith, our hope, our love to enhance the lives of others.
When we give visible expression to the invisible life of God within us, God can use that to communicate divine life to others. Through the audible expression of our faith he can communicate his divine truth. Through the visible, tangible expression of our love he can communicate his divine love. Through our healing, nurturing care for others he can give healing. Give hope. Give life.
This is Christian ministry. This is what we were consecrated to do by the words of our baptismal anointing: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so live as a member of his body.”
This is the summit of the Eucharistic Prayer.
The General Instruction on the Roman Missal lists eight “chief elements” that
make up the Eucharistic Prayer. They are: Thanksgiving. Acclamation,. Epiclesis, Institution narrative and consecration, Anamnesis, Offering, Intercession, Final doxology.
We will take up each of them in the Reflections that follow.
John 13:34; 15:12. John 5:17-26; 10:10; 14:12; 15:7-17. See Eucharistic Prayer IV. Romans 12:1; John15:13; 1John 3:16; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:11-13. 1John 3:14-18; 4:7-11.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry