I Am the Bread of Life

Carmel Bulletin, 5 August 2018

The usual semicontinuous reading of Mark’s gospel during Ordinary Time in Year B is always put on hold at this point of the year while we listen to chapter 6 from John.  John chooses not to repeat the recount of the Last Supper that we see in the other gospels.  Instead, John the chapter 6 reflection on the Eucharist that begins with the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.

The connection of this event with Jesus’ teaching that he is the bread of life reminds us that the Eucharist is a meal.  Like the miraculous feedings of the gospels, the Eucharist is for us food and drink given to us by God.  It is both thanksgiving and nourishment for those who follow Christ.  It shows us that there is no limit to God’s giving – we will all receive what we need, with plenty to spare.

Jesus also explains to the people, however, that the manna their ancestors ate, however, did not give eternal life.  Eternal life is the gift offered to us through the death and resurrection of Christ.  Sharing in the Eucharist, therefore, is also to share in the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus ends the sacrifices of the Old Testament by offering the one new and eternal sacrifice of his own body and blood.

14 - Anointing of Altar 3
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv anoints our new altar at its dedication, 17 December 2017

The design of our new altar seeks to reflect both the twofold nature of our Eucharistic celebration.  The shape makes it recognisable as a table; a table which the entire community of the baptised are called to gather around to feast at the meal that leads us to the heavenly banquet.  Its stone fabrication alludes to the sacrificial altars of the past, and communicates to us that the altar represents Christ himself, who sacrificed his own life for the redemption of all humankind.

16/9/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Participation

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The constitution spoke strongly about the importance of participation.  Participation in the liturgy was described not as something desirable or preferred, but as the right and duty of every baptised Christian.  The constitution called for everyone to be led to this “full, conscious and active participation”.  Participation in the liturgy was the goal to be “the aim to be considered before all else” when reforming and promoting the liturgy.

The constitution also strongly called for people to be provided proper formation and study in liturgy, so that they could participate in celebrations as fully, consciously and actively as possible.

The Eucharistic Prayer celebrated at Mass according to pre-Vatican II ritesThis was a significant change in thought for many in the Church at the time, who often believed that the liturgy was the almost exclusive duty of the priest.  In fact, the liturgy belongs to the entire Church, with each member of the Church participating in their own way.  It unites us together as the Body of Christ.  Every liturgical celebration is a public act of Christ and his Church, and is never to be considered a private function.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ – It’s Arrived!

Yesterday I finally received my copy of the DVD catechetical resource Become One Body One Spirit in Christ from the supplier I ordered it from months ago – but it’s not their fault (I’ll get to that later)!

I’ve had a quick look so far, following from a brief partial preview back in February.  I need to use it more before I could make an informed evaluation of the resource, but I can certainly make two comments so far:

  1. This resource is not just about informing people about the “new missal”, but provides a much broader catechesis on the celebration of the Eucharist
  2. There wasn’t a resource like this available when the missal was first translated into the vernacular after Vatican II, so to have one now is a good thing, especially when it’s so inexpensive ($32.95 AUD)
  3. This resource looks, and is professional.  Just that in itself is likely to make people take notice of what it has to say.  When I saw the preview from Fraynework (the producers of the resource for ICEL), and spoke to the staff afterwards, one of them made the comment that the reason the Sisters of Mercy established Fraynework was “to produce resources for the Church which were better than a photocopied sheet”.  They have certainly done that.

So what has taken ICEL (the International Committee on English in the Liturgy) so long to release this resource?  The release date has been dependent on receiving the final approval of the missal text from the Vatican (or more specifically, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments).  This resource not only includes many of the words of the revised Order of Mass, but also recordings of them being both recited and sung.  A lot of work needs to take place, therefore, to make sure the resource is faithful to the new texts.

Let’s hope what’s in the resource matches the texts the various English-speaking countries will eventually receive from the Vatican for publication.  It’s been a long process, and credit must go to the many people who have shown great patience to get the revision of the missal, and the creation of this resource – to this point.

10/7/10 – Actuosa Participatio

At present, we are exploring the liturgical principles which underpin our work in the Church Renewal Process.  Having considered the liturgical presences of Christ, we now consider the second principle, namely:

Actuosa participatio

The Second Vatican Council called for all members of the Church to be led to full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy (see article 14).  It reflected a desire for us to reclaim the sense that we all celebrate the liturgy as one body in Christ.  It reflected a desire for us to reclaim the understanding that Christ is made present not just in the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine and the priest, but also in the proclaimed Word of God and the entire assembly that gathers to celebrate.

The Second Vatican Council not only called for full, conscious and active participation, but also insisted that it was our right and duty as baptised Catholics.  We should not be denied the opportunity to experience the liturgy as the centre of our lives.

The phrase “active participation”, however, has been the subject of debate over more recent years.  It is not simply about outward actions that people can see, or about everybody “doing something” during the Mass.  Active participation, rather, leads to a deep engagement in the paschal mystery that we celebrate; the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We don’t simply just observe the liturgy taking place.  Through our singing, reciting of responses and prayers, our gestures, silent prayer, and attitude towards the celebration, we are transformed, and our faith and relationship with God deepens.

Finally, the transformation that full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy brings about should make a difference to our lives outside of the four walls of the church as well as within them.  Not only is the liturgy the summit of our lives, but also its source; it nourishes, sustains and inspires us to go out (as we are reminded by the priest each week) “in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

4/7/10 – The Liturgical Presences of Christ

At present, we are exploring the liturgical principles which underpin our work in the Church Renewal Process.  Having considered how the whole body of Christ celebrates the liturgy, we now consider the second principle, namely:

The liturgical presences of Christ

Hopefully we all agree that Christ is present in the Eucharist.  When I make that statement, some people will hear “Eucharist” and immediately think of the consecrated bread and wine which, during Mass, become the Body and Blood of Christ.  In this case, Christ is present in the Eucharist.

Yet since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, we have also come to understand the term “Eucharist” to mean the Mass itself.  Using the word Eucharist in this way, we then are saying that Christ is present in the entire celebration of the Mass, not just communion.  Is this statement equally true?

The bishops of the Second Vatican Council (see article 7) referred back to the teaching of the Council of Trent, as well as to the gospels themselves, to remind us that while Christ is made present especially through Holy Communion, this is not the only way.  When we celebrate the Mass, Christ is also made present through the liturgical assembly; the entire community gathered together to pray and celebrate.  Christ is made present also through the priest who leads the assembly and celebrates the Mass in Jesus’ name.  Christ is also made present to us at Mass through the proclamation of the Word.  This was quite a shift in understanding for us as a Catholic community who, before then, were very much focused on the sacramental actions the priest performed during Mass.

So it is through all that we say and do together as a worshipping community that Christ is made present within us and amongst us during the celebration of the Eucharist.