My teenage son asked me the other day, “Dad, why do we have to go to Mass?” My response was short and simple, “So we can receive the Eucharist.” In his typical inquisitive fashion, he pushed further. “So, what’s the Eucharist, and why do we have to receive it?”
Tough but important questions. Ones that caused me to dig deep searching for answers.
St. Augustine says that we receive the Eucharist—the body and blood of Christ—over and over so we can come to believe, we are the Body of Christ. Like a lover becomes one with their mate, God becomes One with our human bodies as we ingest his Divinity. In other words, we become what we eat. We become the Real Presence of Christ’s Infinite Love in the world.
Like manna that God showered on the Israelites as they wandered through the desert, the Eucharist is the bread God showers upon us as we journey through our lives so we can dig deep into our souls and find the spiritual strength and wisdom to be Christ’s hands, feet, and voice of compassion in the world.
So how do we enter into this Mystery? How do we allow the Eucharistic Banquet to come alive for us, so it becomes more than a bland ritual?
Father Robert Rousseau a Blessed Sacrament priest who pioneered the Life in the Eucharist workshops, teaches that participating in the Eucharist is much more than a memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s an active entering into the sacrifice that takes place each time Mass is celebrated. According to Rousseau, these steps allow us to engage in and be continually transformed by the Divine Action of God in the Eucharist:
Naming an Intention. Prior to the beginning of Mass, we name what we desire to place on the altar as our sacrifice. It could be a sense of gratitude we want to offer God for a recent blessing. It could be a character defect we’re working on like being judgmental or critical of ourselves and others. Whatever we identify, after naming it, we place that intention on the altar, and offer it as our sacrifice.
Breaking. As the priest breaks the bread during the Eucharistic prayers, we silently ask God to break whatever it is in us that needs to be broken so we can let go of it and grow into fullness.
Pouring. Then, as the celebrant pours the wine into the cup asking that it become the Blood of Christ, we pour our emotions into the cup asking God to co-mingle our humanity with his Divinity so that we can be continually transformed in love.
Receiving. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we stretch out our hands and come as we are—beggars acknowledging our human hearts and bodies need the Divine Spirit of God to become fully human.
Pondering. Just as Mary must have pondered how God spoke to and led her, we spend a few moments in silence after receiving communion, listening for a word, phrase or metaphor that God might speak to us. Then we hold that word or image in our hearts as a sign of God’s Real Presence in our lives.
By becoming active participants in the Mass, Rousseau says the Eucharist becomes real and intimate for us. It moves beyond ritual and becomes instead a direct experience of what God intended the gift of Easter to be: matter and spirit becoming One in Infinite Love; God’s Divinity entering our humanity so we come to understand that we are the universal Body of Christ.
—brian j plachta