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.