Posted by: Fr Chris | April 9, 2020

Eucharist, Priesthood, and Me

Today is Holy Thursday – we commemorate two major Sacraments: the Most Holy Eucharist, instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper, and priesthood. No priests = No Holy Communion.

We live now in a time where the vast majority of Catholics are cut off from the Eucharist, on this the day on which it was first created by Christ. For many, this is the first time in their lives that churches were closed, and that Mass/ Divine Liturgy disappeared. Early Christians risked their lives to attend Sunday Mass/ Liturgy in the Roman and Persian Empires when persecutions raged. They told their persecutors that they could not live without the Holy Eucharist. Deacons and designated laity would carry the Holy Eucharist to their homes so that they could partake of It during the week, or deliver It to the sick and prisoners. According to Pope Damasus, Saint Tarcisius was killed by pagans in the last great persecution while carrying Holy Communion – he died rather than give up that most precious treasure, and was buried in the Roman catacombs.

Tarsitius -figure in the altar of the church of S_ Lorenzo fuori le mura in Rome

St Tarcisius, still holding the Eucharist in Its container 

When we say that the Church has gone into the catacombs, it is a reference to the belief that the Roman Christians worshipped in the underground cemeteries that lie beneath Rome’s streets. Those of us in North America and Western Europe have lived with access to Holy Communion whenever we want. And pretty much everyone who is at a Mass/ Liturgy will receive Communion, even though many don’t believe it is the Body and Blood of Christ but just a symbol. For those who thought it was just a nice thing to do and for those who knew that receiving Communion means receiving Christ Himself, being deprived of this Sacrament is a great sorrow. And maybe those who thought it’s just a symbol now realize after being deprived of It, that there is indeed something more.

When Jesus said, Eat, this is My Body, the word He used was basar. That means he said to the astonished disciples: Eat of this, My entire Personhood, Everything that I AM. Some symbol! Christ gives us not only His Body, but all that He Is, Divine and Human, together in one unique Person. The apostles must have been stunned. Now they understood His teaching from John’s Gospel, chapter 6.

And His Blood? That is the chalice sealing the new covenant with us. The Old Covenant was sealed in the blood of the animals sacrificed by Abram, on the day that God called him Abraham. Now it is sealed in Jesus’ Blood, the Blood on the Crucifix, the Blood He received from the Virgin Mary, the Blood that gushed out from His pierced Heart when the centurion tore open His side with a lance. This holy Blood, this Most Precious Blood, is the life-giving Blood of the Lord.

mass rocks | Roaringwater Journal

Guards come to warn the priest and congregation during Penal Times in Ireland of approaching soldiers

English and Welsh Catholics were persecuted for centuries: the Mass was banned, devotions forbidden, relics and statues burned. Yet when emancipation came in 1850 there was a flourishing Catholic community still centered on the Mass. The same held true for Scottish Catholics in the  Highlands, and the Irish suffering under the Penal Laws.

Fr John's Trip to Vietnam: La Vang February 18, 2011

Our Lady consoles Vietnamese Catholics at La Vang, 1798

Japanese Catholics lived without a priesthood or Eucharist for 200 years, but kept the Faith intact. Catholics scattered around the USSR might have Holy Communion only a couple of times a year, but remained firm in their Faith. Prisoners in the Soviet Gulag doing forced labor would fast all day long so as to receive a tiny piece of the Consecrated Bread from a priest-prisoner in the evening, Bread consecrated when the priest offered Mass lying flat on his bunk, or in a corner of a mine lit by one lone candle. The Catholics of China suffered imprisonment, slave labor, torture and exile, but did not give up. They may very well be going that route once again. People in all of these places took enormous risks in sheltering a priest, but they did so out of hunger for Jesus.

Jānis Mendriks - Wikipedia

Grave of Father Janis Mendriks, killed at Vorkuta in 1953 while ministering to Gulag prisoners

Perhaps this forced abstinence will help people to understand the power of what happens on Catholic and Orthodox altars. I hope so – most American Catholics don’t go to church regularly, and many of those who do, fail to accept that this is JESUS HIMSELF Who descends into the gifts on every altar.

An Icon of the Kingdom of God: The Integrated Expression of all the Liturgical Arts – Part 12 ...

He pours out Himself constantly, be it pope, patriarch, or parish priest who recites those words: Take, eat This is My Body; Drink of this, all of you. Christ Jesus WANTS us. Christ DESIRES us. Christ wishes to COME and LIVE within us.

May our hunger for Him increase, our love for Him never die, our connection to His Church remain firm, no matter what. And may this pandemic be brought to an end, so that those who have been patiently waiting for Him will have this opportunity once again.

 


Responses

  1. Thank you Fr. Chris. Reading your blog has quickly become one of my favorite things to do. Especially now.

    Sent from my iPhone

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