New Vision of Eucharist

The Eucharist extends beyond all boundaries. Beyond ritual. Beyond liturgy. Beyond religious practice. Beyond any one theology or any one spirituality. The Eucharist is the power source of our growth in holiness. The power source of our capacity to love. The power source for creating the Beloved Community. The power source that is at the core of all spiritualities, because it is the ultimate expression of union—and that is what spirituality is all about.

Unfortunately, the Eucharist has been put in the box of liturgy. The liturgy has proven to be a firewall that prevents encounter with Jesus and the Beloved Community. So, let us think outside the box.

Eucharist as Revolution. The first insight we need to grasp is that Jesus did something revolutionary when he instituted a Love Meal at the center of public worship. For a thousand years, as long as theTemple inJerusalem existed, priests and Levites in privateTemple quarters carried out a bloody sacrifice of animals for public worship. It was big business for the transportation and “hotel” industries, but especially for the business of the Temple.

The Pascal lamb could only be slain in theTempleatJerusalem. The religiously observant inRome, inAlexandria,Egypt, inGalilee, wherever there was a Jewish community, had to come toJerusalemfor public worship. At one Passover, 256,500 lambs were slain, with an estimated two and a half million persons in attendance, according to H.V. Morton’s book, In the Footsteps of the Master.

Jesus changed all that. He changed totally religion, spirituality and public worship. He transformed public worship from a ritual performed exclusively by priests and Levites, centered on a bloody sacrifice of animals and exclusively in theTempleatJerusalem, to what? A celebration in a Eucharistic Community, centered on a Love Meal, wherever Jesus’ followers come together. That was revolutionary!

With that one act of instituting a Love Meal at the center of public worship, Jesus  transformed our entire idea of God. From a Divine Being who primarily wants worship to a Being who primarily wants communion with and relationship with all his creatures and creation. As the Eucharistic Power Source, Jesus became the ultimate and eternal source of holiness and union for all humanity. God’s glory became a people fully alive through Jesus and united in him. God’s glory became the Beloved Community. Jesus changed our whole concept of religion!

Jesus gave us a clue as to what was coming when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. She said: “My Samaritan ancestors worshiped God on this mountain, but you Jews say thatJerusalemis the place where we should worship God.” Jesus replied: “Believe me, woman, the time will come when people will not worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem….when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as He really is.” Jesus had revolution in mind!

Eucharist as Jesus’ End Plan. Jesus made our Eucharistic Celebrations the medium for fulfilling his End Plan of creating Christian community, the Beloved Community. Jesus had given us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Not as we love ourselves, but as Jesus loves us. Reason tells us that Jesus would not have given us a new commandment without giving us the means for living it. Our Eucharistic Celebrations are the medium for creating the Beloved Community—Jesus’goal.

In his book, The Spirituality of Communion, a study of John’s Gospel and First Letter, biblical scholar Gerard Rosse throws more light on Jesus’ End Plan: “In their mutual love the disciples (the Beloved Community) make visible the divine reality within which they live, and they reveal the divine Love to the world to which they are sent. By living in fraternal love, which is the sign of unity, the community continues the work of Jesus in the world of human beings. By its mutual love the united community continues down the centuries the revelatory role that had first been that of Jesus. This kind of interpersonal relationship can arouse faith and bring the world to see in the proclamation of Jesus his profound truth as the one sent by God and therefore his oneness with the Father, which reveals God’s love for humanity, a love made present in the community of believers.”

We carry on the work of evangelization by proclaiming the Good News to others. But more basic than that is this: we evangelize the world by our very being—our being the Beloved Community. Creation of the Beloved Community is the ultimate witness to the presence and power of Jesus 2,000 years ago and today.

In the final analysis, only Divine Intelligence could have conceived of a Love Meal to create a Beloved Community as the medium for accomplishing Jesus’ mission. And only Divine Power can carry out this Divine Plan.

Eucharist as Beloved Community.  Gerard Rosse elaborates on the nature of the Beloved Community: “John presents the necessity of loving our sisters and our brothers not only as a response to the commandment of God but also as a natural necessity, since love comes from God and has its roots in God….The divine love that is given to us is the hidden spring that takes hold of the entire person and places it in a state of love, thus defining the believer as ‘one who loves.’”

Jesus based his End Plan on this spiritual reality. Our Eucharistic Celebrations flow from that same hidden spring that unites us with God and the Beloved Community.

Eucharist as Erotic Dance. Jesus is the center and power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Jesus is the center and power source of our Love Meal celebrated in the context of the liturgy of the Mass. Today we must be deeply aware that the Last Supper, initiated in time 2,000 years ago, lasts and lasts, goes on and on at every Mass—with Jesus still the celebrant. It is not a single event, but an ongoing process. As celebrant, Jesus actualizes the actions of the priest who is the presider—one who stands in for Jesus. In fact, Jesus is the leader of an erotic dance at our Eucharistic Celebrations!

Why an “erotic dance”? Dance symbolizes intimate union between a man and a woman, a way of acting out ritually their desire for union. Jesus’ movements, centered on a Love Meal, aim at bringing about a Mystical Union of sisters and brothers to create the Beloved Community. Like the beat in  Ravel’s Bolero, Jesus’ movements become progressively more intense.  Catch the erotic nature of Jesus’ movements:

  1. Jesus invites us to join him in offering ourselves when the priest offers our food and drink, bread and wine. Our bread and wine are symbols of our life. We are offering our lives along with Jesus.
  2. Jesus consecrates us for sacrifice with him by uniting our sacrifice with his sacrifice when the priest consecrates our bread and wine. Note: the Jesus at the Love Meal is no longer the historical Jesus, but the Risen Jesus who includes all of us. We, together with Jesus, are being consecrated for sacrifice.
  3. Jesus anoints us, empowers us, for love and unity by making us Eucharist with him for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine. This erotic dance culminates in our Mystical Union with Jesus and with our sisters and brothers. The Beloved Community is in the process of becoming! We are on our way to accomplishing Jesus’ End Plan.

However, we have to be aware of the dynamics of Jesus’ movements. Why have we been so unaware of the erotic nature of our Eucharistic Celebrations? Jesus takes us through just three movements. But the three movements are separated in the course of the liturgy to such an extent that we miss the connection between them. They appear to be separate, isolated, unrelated events in the liturgy.

To see their connection, it would be helpful to mentally condense all that takes place during the liturgy, eliminating all but the core movements as described above. The core movements comprise the erotic dance intended to create the Beloved Community!

Think of a couple ritually acting out their desire for intimate union through dance. But other partners keep cutting in and destroying the experience they wish to create. In our analogy, all the prayers that intervene between the core movements of Jesus are like so many intruders into Jesus’ erotic dance, interfering with our experience.

Eucharist as Communal Act of Love. The disconnect between the three core movements of our Love Meal hinders us spiritually and emotionally from entering deeply into our Eucharistic Celebration. As a result, we tend to simply attend a church service, rather than engage in a Communal Act of Love. Only by bringing to bear a heightened spirituality to our Love Meal can we engage in a Communal Act of Love.

As in any love relationship, we move through different phases of desire to bring us into communion with Jesus and our sisters and brothers:

  1. Spiritual Communion—Right from the beginning of Mass, we awaken our desire for communion with Jesus, and with our sisters and brothers. With Jesus, because he is the medium of communion with God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Beloved Community. With our sisters and brothers, because we want to bring about Jesus’ End Plan of the Beloved Community.
  2. Ritual Communion—When we join Jesus in the core movements of the Love Meal, we act out our desire for communion with Jesus and our community. Jesus inviting us to offer ourselves through our bread and wine. Jesus consecrating us for sacrifice. Jesus empowering us, anointing us for greater love and unity.
  3. Mystical Communion—When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus anoints us, empowers us, for love and unity by making us Eucharist with him for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine. The Ritual Communion phase has culminated in Mystical Communion with Jesus, God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Beloved Community. Our desire for union has been fulfilled!
  4. Actual Communion—During and after Mass, we carry out our desire for   communion with Jesus and others. Our Kiss of Peace is our first demonstration.

Eucharist as Calvary’s Fire. Another striking disconnect is between Calvary and Jesus’ daily sacrifice at Mass. Jesus saved us once and for all times on Calvary. What then is Jesus’ sacrifice at daily Mass? It is important to recall at the Consecration that Jesus fires us up with the same infinite love he expressed on Calvary and forges us and seals us in Mystical Union. His sacrifice empowers us to grow in love and desire for unity that we might enter into communion with one another to create the Beloved Community. It is only when we understand Jesus’ End Plan that we see this connection between Calvary and our Eucharistic Celebrations.

When we consider humanity’s cruelty to one another—Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, wars, we are reminded of an episode in the Gospels. Jesus’ disciples could not heal a person. So they ask Jesus why they couldn’t heal. Jesus replies that that some healings take prayer and fasting. Applying that wisdom to Jesus’ daily sacrifice at Mass, we can say that it takes that kind of divine power to heal the woundedness of humanity to bring about the Beloved Community.

Eucharist as Our Sacrifice. We have emphasized that we, along with Jesus, are being sacrificed at our Eucharistic Celebrations. Our sacrifice is twofold: ritualistic and personal. First, ritualistic. With each movement of Jesus’ erotic dance, we progressively enter more deeply into self-sacrifice. When Jesus invites us to offer ourselves through our bread and wine, and we pray that Jesus will prepare our hearts for self-giving, we respond to Jesus’ erotic dance. When Jesus consecrates us for sacrifice, and we pray that Jesus will make us one with him in sacrifice, we strongly express our desire for self-sacrifice. When Jesus anoints us for greater love and unity, and we pray that Jesus will make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine, we sacrifice ourselves into Mystical Union.

However, our self-sacrifice is not complete without personal transformation! Transformation from negative attitudes and behaviors. Transformation into becoming agents of the Spirit, beauty and new life for others as Jesus was. Without a desire for personal transformation, we will not possess the right intentionality to do the hard work to create the Beloved Community. The two are intimately connected.

Very simply, our sacrifice is to free ourselves of whatever blocks us from bringing about the Beloved Community. My personal block is intolerance of others who differ with me and are different from me. This negative attitude gets in the way of creating the Beloved Community. But I am working on it.

Think of our Mystical Union with Jesus and the Beloved Community as the crucible for our transformation. It is the crucible in which the Spirit melts away our faults a little at a time, creates greater solidarity among us and grows our awareness of our global community.

Eucharist as Living Spirituality. The power of the Eucharist extends beyond our reception at Mass. It does not self-destruct with time. Its power to bring us into mystical union with God the Father, with Jesus, with the Spirit, and with the Beloved Community continues based on one condition. We must connect with our Eucharistic Moment—the time of our reception—with faith and love. This practice transforms our reception of the Eucharist at Mass from being an isolated event into becoming a Love Force that anoints us for love and unity with Jesus and the Beloved Community—during our entire day:

  • By practicing Spiritual Communion during our day. For a brief period of time, we can recall our Eucharistic experience at Mass and concentrate on growing our desire for communion. With Jesus, who anoints us for love and unity. With the Father, whom Jesus reveals to us as the source of infinite love. With the Spirit, who kindles in our hearts the fire of love and desire.  And with the Beloved Community, from whom Jesus is inseparable.
  • By recalling our Eucharistic Moment to commune with God in creation.
  • By making every meal a Eucharistic meal, an exercise in growing our desire for communion with God and our loved ones.
  • By bringing our Eucharistic Moment into our prayer life.

Eucharist as Life Vision. As his last gift to us, Jesus chose to become Eucharist which we celebrate during the Love Meal at Mass. Jesus gave us the gift that empowers us to live lives of love and unity with others. This is what Eucharist is all about—empowerment for love and union. But note: in giving us the Eucharist, Jesus gave us a new way to live our lives.

Jesus presents us with a whole new life vision. A life vision based on us being Eucharist, not just at the time of receiving Communion, but in the way we live our relationships with others. Just as Jesus led a life of empowering others during his life on earth and continues now in our Eucharistic Celebrations, we are called to empower others and bring others into deeper union with God, themselves, others, life, reality. We must become Eucharist to others, empowerers of others. What a rich Life Vision!

Conclusion. A new vision of the Eucharist is needed. Seeing it as an erotic dance led by Jesus. Seeing it as a Communal Act of Love. Seeing it as the core spirituality that fills our day. Seeing it as a Life Vision for relating to others. This new vision of the Eucharist will empower us to bring about Jesus’ End Plan for the Beloved Community—the ultimate witness to his authenticity.

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