Reflection on Corpus Christi: 14th June 2020

Celebrating Eucharist

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) was a Jesuit palaeontologist and mystic whose work brings science and religion together. For him, all beings and all creation “complete the Body of Christ.” In his travels and research as palaeontologist he often found himself without the means to celebrate the Eucharist in its traditional form. His fundamental vision of Christ as ‘All-in-everything’ inspired his ritual which he called the Mass on the World. “I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar. I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself.” His Liturgy of the Word is his contemplation and praise of God’s presence in all people and in all creation. He celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Offertory, Consecration and Communion) by “making the whole earth my altar and on it I will offer God all the labours and sufferings of the world. This bread, our toil; this wine, our pain, representing the solidarity of all human kind and all beings, and the earth itself.” For Teilhard, the desired Consecration is already there. “I firmly believe that everything around me is the body and blood of the Word. That is why, in our prayer at the altar, we ask that the consecration (transformation) may be brought about for (and in) us. From Offertory and Consecration there follows Communion. Consciousness (awareness) must and does yield to the truth of things, sees more clearly the ‘single life’ that enlivens all things.” Teilhard’s daily celebration of Mass was an openness and surrender to a growing awareness of Christ already present in all things.

During the past few months we have found ourselves without the means to celebrate our traditional weekly Mass. We have had to find some other ways of keeping alive that which nourishes and transforms us – and perhaps ask ourselves, “What does nourish us and open us to being transformed?” Have we said with Teilhard, “I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar. I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself.” What is ‘the real’ for us? For Richard Rohr it is “finding Christ in the body (in the material world), in the blood (in the suffering of the world). Little by little this transforms us into Christ. That’s what church is all about! That’s its only mission. That’s our only task. And because it’s too good to be true, too big to be possible, we take it in little doses. We hope that we will be humble enough, open enough, ready enough, empty enough to believe it.”

Reflection on Corpus Christi: 23 June 2019

Do this in memory of me

When we read the words in today’s second reading: “Do this in memorial of me”, we may think of a memorial service, something that commemorates a person or an event of the past. We think well of it and then we go on with our lives. In Jewish religion, to do something ‘in memory of’ is to move into deep memory. That is what happens when we pray. Surface memory is where we mainly live our lives consciously remembering the many significant people and events in our lives. If we create our identity, our meaning, our purpose from that tiny memory, we will almost always be unsatisfied. We are never going to be able to feel deep enough, wonderful enough, big enough, connected enough.

Most of us feel that we are all on our own. In today’s gospel the disciples wanted to send the people out on their own to take care of their own food. Jesus’ response was to create a new understanding of connectedness, of abundance, of ‘enoughness’, of more than ‘enoughness’- as we see in the twelve baskets left over. In taking a little bit of food and feeding everybody with it, Jesus is symbolising his invitation to a universal meal, an invitation into a universal community, friendship and unity. This is an image of the Eucharist: a meal which takes us out of our tiny world where we never feel that there is enough and gives our little lives universal and eternal meaning. The Eucharist seeks to connect our joy and suffering with all the joys and suffering since the beginning of time. That’s what it means to do something in deep memory with God. Our circles of connectedness are ever-widening. Our little tiny lives are connected with something bigger, something that matters, something eternal. Suddenly our ordinary little lives have transcendent and universal meaning. Whether we realise it or not, that is the yearning within each one of us.

To eat of the bread and drink of the cup is to consciously acknowledge our oneness, our connectedness to all that was, is and will be. Every true celebration of Eucharist is a deep memory experience of who we are in Christ, in whom we all live and move and have our being.

Adapted from Richard Rohr