The Eucharist ‘So ancient yet so new’

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Fr. Jose Ernil Almayo, OAR
Just Inspired


IT all started long time ago in a far, far away place called Jerusalem when the Jesus’ last meal with his core group called apostles took place. That meal came to be known as “Last Supper” (though, like the term “Trinity”, it does not exist in the New Testament).

Do this in memory of me,” Jesus said. His apostles faithfully complied. Wherever they went, they propagated the breaking of bread. That life-changing event, re-presented in what we call Holy Eucharist, would continue to nourish the people of God in diverse situations, embolden new generations of Gospel ambassadors, and, yes, eucharistify the face of the earth…

The gargantuan impact of the Eucharist swells beyond description “that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written” to loan St. John’s words (Jn 21:24) in another context.

For instance, when Bishop Dominick Kimengich of Lodwar, Kenya took lunch with us in our convent, I thought it was simply a matter of simple sharing. He talked about his diocese, the presence of our Augustinian Recollect contemplative nuns there, his need for more missionaries, et cetera. When asked about the first time he heard about the Philippines, he said, “Long time ago!” He also made a special mention of Jaime Cardinal Sin during the latter’s attendance at the 43rd IEC convened in Nairobi on August 11-18, 1985.

I was still a seminarian, then,” he recalled. “And everybody swarmed around him because he had a lot of interesting stories to tell.”

As I tried to listen intently to this 55-year old prelate, my mind was stuck on his mention of Cardinal Sin and the year 1985. Then, something different dawned on me like a blitzkrieg. If it was the IEC 1985, I said to myself, then, it must have been the “Eucharistic nutrients” that fortified the brave cardinal six months later, on February 1986, to unflinchingly call for what is now labeled as the People Power Revolution.

I know there is no way to confirm my hypothesis. But the significant relationship is inevitable.

Hopefully, this Eucharistic impact continues to amaze us, as Pope John Paul II wished in his Ecclesia de Eucharistia n.6. Pope Benedict XVI also wished the same: “The wonder we experience at the gift of God has made to us in Christ gives new impulse to our lives and commits us to becoming witnesses of his love” (SC 85).

In this vein, I cannot help but rewind our Church history to 1937 when, for the first time, the IEC was held in Asia, specifically here in the Philippines. The 5-day congress unfolded from Feb. 3-7 of that year. The official hymn, in Spanish, was titled “Gloria a Jesus”, which was a collaboration of Fr. Domingo Carceller, OAR (music) and Emeterio Barcelon Barcelo, a Carmelite third order member (lyrics).  And it amazes us to hear that the then 5-year old Manila Archbishop emeritus Gaudencio Rosales and then 8-year old Ricardo Cardinal Vidal could still refer to that historic event participated in by 1.5 million souls.

The impact is, no doubt, indelible. For that’s the natural dynamics of one’s encounter with the Lord in the Eucharist. There is always that element of “remembering” just as it was at its origin. So ancient yet so new, if I were to use St. Augustine’s phrase.

On a more personal note, I found something compelling, a sort of blessing in disguise, in the tandem of Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of Cavite and the Recoletos choir who led the morning prayers on the sixth day of IEC 2016. Probably, I was the only one who took notice of it. I don’t think the organizers knew this connection. That on this year, 2016, the Recoletos is celebrating its 400th anniversary of evangelization in this diocese. And that tandem was a “thanksgiving Mass” (well, every Mass is an act of thanksgiving) for those four centuries of breaking bread and sharing the faith with the people of Cavite.

In this IEC 2016, I know the impact of the Eucharist will exceed the number of participants. For truly, the ripples have already reached millions—nearly 40 million from organic tweets alone, and that includes those who know and/or follow the proceedings from all over the world.

May the Eucharist send, not just ripples, but waves of change in our personal lives and communities.

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