Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

 

 

 

O Cross our one reliance hail!
So may thy power with us avail
To give new virtue to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.

Eucharist leaves a precise purpose

We are still on the path that Christ has given Mother Church: eternal life. It takes a long time to accept the fact the God the Father through His Son Jesus nourishes, strengthens, and guides our way through all of life’s challenges. Within human limit we are given grace. The matter is: do recognize the graces? These weeks we are given extensive sections of the Bread of Life discourse; John 6 is our text for meditation.

Accepting that Jesus is THE answer takes a long time

Yesterday, after Mass, I spoke with a friend who is a few years my senior who told me she is now learning what it means ‘to give all to God.’ She freely admits (I can relate to the experience) that she always seems to have a fingernail of reality saved of the self reserved for herself. Thus, she knows that not everything is given to God. The spiritual masters, as we have heard, tell us that we need to abandon everything to the Lord. Yes, all things are given to Christ change; nothing is reserved for the self –absolutely nothing. I find this advice to be true, but rather difficult to live because I always want to keep something for myself. Deep down the difficulty surfaces because I don’t trust enough the relationship I have with the Lord; eternal life is not a merit badge for a life well-lived. In other words: do believe the promises of the Lord are too good to be true?

What I am finding more and more among those who claim to be in relationship, friendship with Christ (i.e., those who claim for themselves to be “good Catholics”) is how shallow said relationship with the Lord really is. What I am finding from people a bunch of alternative reasons NOT to worship Him (the 3rd commandment), not to serve our neighbor (MT 25), not to live in the Mystical Body of Christ –the Church (St Paul), are too prevalent and easy. Too many Catholics are zombies.

The first reading for today’s Mass comes from the Book of Proverbs which tells us that our task in the spiritual life is about ‘forsaking foolishness’. What is foolishness? Foolishness can be seen as anxiety, worry, sin, making excuses, expressed anger, addictions, living with a lack of a pure heart –all leading to being unfaithful and spiritual and human death. Foolishness unworthy of the Eucharist. Only being faithful to Jesus Christ will give us eternal life (permanent life, peace and love, beatific vision –communio with the Trinity). Faithfulness to whom? Only to Jesus Christ will fulfill our hunger for eucharistic living. Only to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist leads us to eternal life. This eucharistic theme is explained by the Holy Father.

Before we get to Pope Francis let us consider what the great Saint Irenaeus taught: “Just as the bread that is made from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so also our bodies when they receive the Eucharist are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.” Is this what we really believe?

The Sunday Angelus (8/16/15) address by Pope Francis told us today:

eucharistOn these Sundays, the Liturgy proposes to us, from the Gospel of John, Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, that is He Himself and that is also the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Today’s passage (Jn. 6, 51-58) presents the last part of that discourse, and refers to some of those among the people who are scandalized because Jesus said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn. 6,54).

The astonishment of those listening is understandable; in fact, Jesus uses the typical style of the prophets to provoke in the people – and also in us – questions and, in the end, to make a decision. The first of the questions is: What does “eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood” mean? Is it only an image, a way of saying, a symbol, or does it indicate something real? To answer this, one needs to guess what is happening in Jesus’ heart while he breaks the bread for the hungry crowd. Knowing that He must die on the cross for us, Jesus identifies Himself with that broken and shared bread, and that becomes for Him the “sign” of the Sacrifice that awaits Him. This process culminates in the Last Supper, where the bread and wine truly become His Body and His Blood.

It is the Eucharist where Jesus leaves us a precise purpose: that we can become one with Him. In fact, he says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (v.56). To remain: Jesus in us and us in Him. Communion is assimilation: eating Him, we become Him. But this requires our “yes”, our adherence to the faith.

At times, during the Holy Mass, it may happen to feel this objection: “What is the purpose of the Mass? I go in Church when I feel like it, and I pray better alone.” But the Eucharist is not a private prayer or a beautiful spiritual experience, it is not a simple commemoration of what Jesus has done in the Last Supper: we say, to understand well, that the Eucharist is a “memorial”, that is, an act that actualizes and makes present the event of the death and resurrection of Jesus: the bread is truly His Body given to us; the wine is truly His Blood that has been shed.

The Eucharist is Jesus who gives Himself entirely to us. By nourishing ourselves from Him and remaining in Him through the Eucharistic Communion, if we do it with faith, it transforms our life; it transforms it into a gift to God and a gift to our brothers. To nourish ourselves from that “bread of life” means being in tune with the heart of Christ, to assimilate His choices, His thoughts, His behavior. It means entering into a dynamic of sacrificial love and become a person of peace, of forgiveness, of reconciliation of sharing in solidarity. It is the same as Jesus has done.

Jesus concludes his discourse with these words; “Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6,58). Yes, living in a concrete, real communion with Jesus on this earth makes us pass from death to life. The heavens begin precisely in this communion with Jesus.

In Heaven, Mary our Mother awaits us – yesterday we celebrated this mystery. May She obtain for us the grace of nourishing ourselves always with faith in Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Jesus: I am the bread of life

Last Supper San MarcoI love the gospel readings for the month of August because they give us the eucharistic theology of Divine Presence and the Divine Pledge for Eternal Life. These readings are known as the Bread of Life discourse taken from the Gospel of Saint John (chapter 6). You might say that the readings from Saint John’s gospel offers a timely reflection and orientation for eucharistic coherence. They indeed do, and this is no small gift these days when you hear more disagreement of what the Holy Eucharist is and why we receive Him. Faith informs me that sacramental Communion is Jesus Himself.

Whom do we receive in Holy Communion?

 

The question of what it means to be fed by the Bread of Life is not only a question for Holy Thursday, Corpus Christi or on the feast days of “eucharistic saints” like Saint Peter Julian Eymard. Today, the 19th Sunday Through the Church Year gives us the pericope that records the words of Jesus, and it is quite clear of who Jesus is and what the point is: “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” He also tells us: “I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”

Here is a paragraph from a Sermon by Eutychius of Constantinople:

No one, then, after the sacramental sacrifice and the holy resurrection, should have any doubt regarding the incorruptible, immortal, holy, and life-giving body and blood of the Lord. Once infused into the sacred elements through the liturgical rites, they communicate their own properties no less than do the aforementioned examples. They are wholly present in every part, for then the Lord’s body dwells corporally, that is to say, substantially, all the fullness of the divine nature of the Word of God. The breaking of this precious bread signifies his sacrificial death, and so he spoke of the passover as something to be longed for because it was to bring us salvation, immortality, and perfect knowledge.”

Transfiguration of the Lord

TransfigurationFor an instant on the summit of Tabor, Christ unveils the splendor of his divinity, manifesting to his chosen witnesses what he really is: the Son of God, “the radiance of the glory of the Father and the imprint of his substance”; but he also makes visible the transcendent destiny of our human nature, which he took on to save us as something likewise destined, because it is redeemed by his sacrifice of irrevocable love, that we too might participate in fullness of life in the “fellowship of the saints in light.” That body, transfigured before the astonished eyes of the apostles, is the body of Christ our brother, but it’s also that of our body called to glory; the light which floods inside of it is and will be our inheritance and our splendor. We are called to share that glory because we are “partakers of the divine nature.” An incomparable lot awaits us if we have honored our Christian vocation: if we have lived in the logical consequences of word and deed what the responsibilities of our Baptism demand of us.

Blessed Paul VI
Excerpt, Angelus address for 6 August 1978, only to never deliver it –he died that day.

Jesus is the Bread of Life

Morgan Bible Give us this dayThe first reading today for the sacred Liturgy of 18th Sunday Through the Church Year, reveals the pouring out from heaven of manna for the people of Israel. The manna, you will recall, is an Old Testament type for what is revealed by Jesus in the feeding narratives and then as the Holy Eucharist. A central image of Jesus in the Gospel of St. John (John 6:24-35) is that He is the Bread of Life; later we speak of this as the heavenly banquet, the spiritual food for eternal life, as a holy sacrament. Christians believe the OT typology is a direct prefiguring of what is revealed in the NT narratives where we read of Christ’s multiplications of bread, signs of Eucharist (Thanksgiving, of heavenly food on earth), of Jesus Christ being the Bread of Life.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria teaches us that “In effect, Jesus is saying ‘I am the bread of life’, not bodily bread, which merely eliminates the physical suffering brought on by hunger, but rather that bread that refashions the entire living being to eternal life. The human being, who had been created for eternal life, is now given power over death.”

The good news here is that God, our Provident Father, provides for us in varied ways: He nourishes us and gives us the medicine of immortality.

The image is a striking one: it is a medieval illumination from the Morgan Bible called “Give Us This Day.” Indeed, may we worthily received the gift of the Bread of Life for our salvation.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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