This weekend, the Church in Australia celebrates the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It takes on particular significance this year, given that our weekly celebration of the Eucharist has been put on hold due to coronavirus restrictions. Reflecting on this experience gives us an opportunity to more deeply appreciate what we’ve missed:
The Eucharist is who Jesus is, and who we are
In one of his renowned sermons, St Augustine taught that in receiving the Eucharist, we say “Amen” to that which we are. In today’s second reading, St Paul tells the Corinthians that the Body of Christ is not only the communion we receive (as amazing as that is), but the communion that we form – the united Body of Christ that is the people of God. We, like the communion that we receive, are a living and tangible sign of Christ’s presence in the world. And so we must gather.
The Eucharist is both something we receive, and something we do
Each of the sacraments – Eucharist included – makes God’s grace a reality through symbols that we can see, touch, taste, smell and hear. Yet for that to happen, the Church community must offer and use these symbols to give thanks and worship to God. There are legitimate times and reasons that communion may be given outside Mass (such as when taking communion to the sick and housebound, or when a priest is not available to celebrate Sunday Mass). But it is participation in the liturgy itself that is the source and summit of our Christian lives. It is only by celebrating the Eucharist that we may be offered the humbling and loving opportunity to welcome Christ into our lives through his own body and blood. And so we must celebrate.
The Eucharist nourishes and sustains us for mission
The word Mass is actually only used in the texts of the Mass – at the dismissal. Why? Because the Latin word missae (from where Mass and dismissal originate) means to go; to be sent out. It is a reminder that we only gather and celebrate so we may go out and be the face of God to the world. Participation in the Mass brings with it the obligation to lovingly serve those in need around us. In recent months, that has even meant going without the Eucharist in order to protect our brothers and sisters, particularly those most vulnerable.
And so, as we begin again to celebrate and receive the Eucharist, we must continue to live the mission of Christ.