Immersed in Christ: August 16, 2020
Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Mission to unity
Where do you “find” God? Experience his presence? Feel you are seeing something of the mystery of what and who he is? Does the Eucharist help you do this?
The Entrance Antiphon invites us to be conscious of God’s presence to us: “If we can be with you even one day, it is better than a thousand without you.”
In the Opening Prayer we beg to “love you in all things....” God is the Creator of everything we see, hear, taste and feel. But creation is an ongoing act. If God says, “Be...” he has to hold the note. Our existence, and that of every other person and thing, is an ongoing act of God present in them and acting, giving them their color and form, taste, hardness or softness, translating his goodness into created form. Everything we see is an encounter with God. This adds reverence and mystery, but also unity, to our perception of everything, especially every human being. God is in all. All are called to be one in God. We celebrate this in Eucharist.
In the Prayer Over the Gifts we declare that we, who receive everything we have and are from God, nevertheless have something to offer him. Our Eucharistic sacrifice is a “holy exchange of gifts.” When we choose to offer what God has created — the bread and wine that represent us in our created humanity — God responds by giving us the Uncreated Gift of his own divine Life and Self. He gives us back the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ. To our own humanity he adds the “grace” of divinity. “In Christ,” as one with him, we are divine.
The gift that is the goal of all is unity — unity with God in Christ, unity with one another in Christ. In the Prayer After Communion we affirm: “By this sacrament you make us one with Christ.” And all who are one with Christ are one with each other. “By becoming more like him on earth” we overcome all that divides us, until we grow into and form that “perfect man” who is Christ brought to “full stature.”
This is the goal of life and grace: God’s “plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth,” that being made perfectly one with Christ and all of redeemed humanity, we should “come to share his glory in heaven.” We, his body brought to perfection as “one Christ, loving himself,” will be his glory. In Eucharist we celebrate the “making one” of all things in Christ. 1
“These I will bring”
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 declares early the “catholicity” of the Church:
The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD.... these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.... for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
The word “catholic” means “throughout the whole” (kata-holos). In Christ’s acceptance of the Canaanite woman, a “foreigner,” in Matthew 15:21-28, the early Church was making clear to the fundamentalists of the Christian “Pharisee party” who resisted all change, that it was God’s intention from the beginning to bring the Gentiles into the People of God as full and equal members of the Church. To be “catholic” means to affirm and embrace the unity of a multiplicity of nations in the Church, each expressing and celebrating the same faith according to the concepts and tastes of its own culture. The “heresy of uniformity” is a denial of the Church as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic because, by a unity without diversity it distorts the mystery of God bringing together distinct things to be one in Christ.
Unity is the unifying theme of the whole Eucharistic Prayer: unity with Jesus offering himself for the salvation of the world; unity now with all who are saved in the oneness of his body on earth; and eschatological unity in the “peace and unity” of his kingdom to be experienced at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.”
• “The Eucharistic Prayer begins with an opening dialogue [the three invitations and responses that introduce the Preface] that serves to unite presider and assembly in offering its Great Thanksgiving with their hearts lifted up. Thus at the outset the prayer is seen as the assembly’s prayer and not simply that of the presider who proclaims it in the assembly’s name.”
• “The Acclamations [“Holy, holy, holy...,” “Christ has died...,” Great Amen]... show that the prayer belongs to the whole assembly.”
• The Sanctus is also meant “to link the praise of God by the assembly to that of the heavenly liturgy [“all the choirs of heaven”] so that with one voice all creation praises God.”
• “The Institution Narrative... recalls not only what Jesus did at the Last Supper, but what the whole assembly is doing right now.” And we acclaim it: “Christ has died... is risen... will come again.”
• The Anamnesis is a remembrance of the three foundational events of the Covenant (Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension) that unites past and present by making them present now in “this life-giving bread, this saving cup.”
It is natural that the Anamnesis segues into the Offering : “We offer you, Father, this holy and perfect sacrifice, his body and blood....” because anamnesis is from the Hebrew zikkaron. It means “God makes a covenant; God establishes a sign of the covenant; the sign is presented to God so that God will remember and act once again according to the covenant....”
The point of re-calling to God the sacrifice of Christ is that its benefits may be made present to the faithful here and now... The formal remembering before God of the sacrificial life and death of Christ is therefore connected with the offering of bread and wine, through which [we ask that] the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice will be received in holy communion. 2
“We offer....” (plural) also “makes explicit the assembly’s sense of being united to the redemptive act of Christ.”
• The second Epiclesis calls down the Holy Spirit in a “petition for unity among the worshippers who will participate in the gifts” by Communion.
• “The Intercessions follow.... These are not only intercessions for the living and the dead but expressions of ecclesial communion across time and space.”
• The Doxology joins Christ and the Spirit to the Father. We can also understand this to say that if we, the Church, act in union with Christ — “through, with, in him”— in all we do, held together in the “unity of the Holy Spirit,” we will effectively give “all glory and honor” to the Father as the risen body of Jesus on earth.
The “Great Amen” is the united response of the whole assembly to all that has been celebrated in the Eucharistic Prayer.
Jesus told the Canaanite woman his mission was “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But ever since Pentecost the words of Eucharist make it clear that his house “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” God’s “plan for the fullness of time” was and is “to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Only from the perspective of this achieved and to-be-achieved union of all creation in Christ can we understand the Mass.
“Apostle of the Gentiles”
The passage from Romans 11:13-32 actually concludes:
O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!.... To him be the glory forever. Amen.
Paul rejoices to give God glory: “I glory in my ministry,” he says, which is to be the “apostle of the Gentiles.” He knows he was called “to make everyone see... the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” The mystery is that “the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” 3
This was in fulfillment of Jesus’ command to the Eleven before his Ascension: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [ethne: same word in Greek as “Gentiles”].
We “remember” the Ascension, together with Christ’s death and resurrection in the Anamnesis, right after the Institution Narrative. These are the three events which unify the world and are unified in Eucharist. In Baptism/Eucharist all die and rise in Christ. And before his Ascension Jesus gave his disciples the command to go out, “looking forward to his coming in glory,” and bring the whole human race together into the unity of his Church.
All three events recalled are actually present in the consecrated host, where Christ is present simultaneously as offering himself on the cross, rising from the dead and “seated at the right hand of the Father” to return again in glory. This is the Christ present to us on the altar, the Christ “We offer to you, God of glory and majesty....”
What unifying theme will help you follow more easily the Eucharistic Prayer?
During the Eucharistic Prayer immerse yourself in the mystery celebrated.
1 Colossians 1:10-27; Ephesians 1:3-10; 2:12-22; 4:1-16. 2 Anamnesis “is practically untranslatable in English. ‘Memorial,’ commemoration,’ ‘remembrance” all suggest a recollection of the past, whereas anamnesis means making present an object or person from the past.” See John B. Ryan, “Eucharistic Prayers,” Peter Fink, “Eucharist, Theology of.” and Frank Senn, “Anamnesis,” in New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, ed. Peter Fink, S.J., Liturgical Press 1990. 3 Ephesians 3:1-10.