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Eucharist: Celebration of Communion

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, STD

Along the Way

 

AS the International Eucharistic Congress gets underway, it is time to reflect on the meaning and significance of the Holy Eucharist in our life as Christians. There are many who regard going to Mass as merely an obligation that they have to fulfill every Sunday and other great feasts. Others look at it as part of their personal weekly or even daily ritual that gives them energy. Such view of the Mass which is highly individualistic and pietistic does not fully explain and appreciate the deeper meaning of the Eucharist.

The Mass must be understood as the celebration of our union, that is our communion with Christ and the Church–which is the body of Christ. The Mass presupposes a personal relationship with Christ. Through baptism we have been united to Christ. Throughout our life as Christians we are expected to grow day by day in knowledge of and loving union with Christ and live as his genuine disciples. Through our baptism we have received the Holy Spirit and have been empowered to carry out the three-fold mission of Christ: the prophetic mission of announcing His message (of love, salvation, justice and peace) and denouncing sin and evil in all its manifestation (culture of death, violence, injustice, corruption, etc.); the priestly mission expressed in a life of prayer, self-sacrifice, and active participation in the liturgical celebration; and the kingly/servant mission expressed in loving service to God and neighbor especially the poor and the needy, in our efforts to make God’s kingdom a reality on earth–by working for justice, peace, freedom, and the defense of the environment.

The Eucharist is therefore meant to be the celebration of our life of loving union–of communion–and friendship with Christ and of living as His missionary disciples. According to St. John Paul II:   “Incorporation into Christ, which is brought about by baptism, is constantly renewed and consolidated by sharing in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, especially by that full sharing which takes place in sacramental communion… Eucharistic communion brings about in a sublime way the mutual abiding of Christ and each of his followers: Abide in me, and I in you (Jn 15:4)” Ecclesia de Eucharistia, (EE)  22

When we celebrate the Eucharist, we believe that Christ is truly present in the community that gathers in his name. We believe that it is His Word that we listen to. We believe that He is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine which is His body and blood and which is our spiritual nourishment, giving us energy and strength to continue our journey and fulfill our mission.

The Eucharist is also meant not just to celebrate our communion with Christ but also to deepen it. Without a prior personal relationship and loving union with Christ the Eucharist is just an empty ritual. For it to be meaningful we must experience a personal encounter with Christ – an encounter that leads to personal conversion and decision to live as missionary disciple in community. This also means developing personal intimacy and friendship with Christ.

Besides being the celebration of our union with Christ, the Eucharist is also the celebration of our communion with our fellow believers–our loving union as Church, the Christian community.

The Eucharist creates communion and fosters communion …The Eucharist’s particular effectiveness in promoting communion is one of the reasons for the importance of Sunday Mass… Precisely through sharing in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Day also becomes the Day of the Church, when she can effectively exercise her role as the sacrament of unity.” EE 41 & 42

The communitarian and ecclesial character of the Eucharist is essential. As St, Augustine reminds us, in the Eucharist we celebrate who we are–the body of Christ. A life of loving communion–of unity, solidarity, friendship and sharing–in community makes the celebration of the Eucharist more meaningful. Without this the Mass is an empty ritual, full of pomp and pageantry, signifying nothing. St. John Paul II asserts that the Eucharist presupposes an existing communion in the Church and the local Christian community: “The celebration of the Eucharist cannot be the starting point of communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection.” EE 35

The quality of our relationship with Christ and our community life will be reflected in our Eucharistic celebration. Whenever we go to Mass and receive Holy Communion we must ask ourselves: are we really in communion with Christ and the Church–the Christian community, the body of Christ? If we are not, then we have an obligation and mission of promoting this vertical and horizontal communion in our life. One of the means towards a meaning celebration of the Eucharist is the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities within the parish which St. John Paul II regards as “an expression of communion and a means towards deeper communion.” (Redemptoris Missio 51).

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