Reflecting on his understanding of Teilhard de Chardin, Tom’s examination of the different aspects of the Eucharist draws us into the mystery of the hidden presence and purpose of God, revealed in the context of the whole of Jesus’ life so that we come into communion with Christ as part of the body, not as single disciples. August 2006 (1100words)
The Eucharist: Overture and Four Movements
OVERTURE We offer you, Lord, in our strong and sensitive hands Today this bread, This plough and plod, soft coaxing, collecting The mixing and moulding, dull rumbling of trucks Till the crates are all named for those countless lands From our proud, proud hands, O Lord, accept this bread. We offer you, Lord, in our soil-cracked, our swollen hands Today this wine This fall, this crush, the strain, the pain O crumbling collapsing of flesh and the fierce fast The dizzy dash of the blood of those distant lands From our weary, weary hearts, O Lord; accept this wine. Then give into our hands Christ’s flesh To melt and merge with the soil and the stones, And give our hearts Christ’s blood To seep through the sweat when the world groans That our earth may grow through its brightest blackest parts A sight well pleasing to the lord of lands. (John F. Deane)
And four movements:
1. EUCHARIST - SHARING
Eucharist, gratitude of heart starts for most of us
as fair-weather thankers
all things bright and beautiful
count your blessings, dear
always look on the bright side
and often encouraged by liturgy
we say: all your actions show your wisdom and love.
We do not need to stand in Auschwitz to cry out:
Lord why are you silent? Where are you?
From the centre of a contemplative heart,
vulnerable to the malign powers of our world,
to our communion with the innocent suffering of people
and to our complicit part in injustice and violence,
Lord, why are you silent?
In Teilhard’s reflection on the prophet Elijah
the prophet journeys into the desert where ‘the presence’
swirls him out of the desert to confront him.
Elijah falls to his knees awestruck
but the voice challenges him
“Stand up Son of Man and fight me.
If you do not fight me, you will not know me.”
If in our dread, and anger, and bewilderment
we do not fight God
God remains but a projection of our own fair-weather dreams.
If we do not fight God with Job
we cannot truly know the Song of Songs.
If we take the bread of human creativity
but not the wine of affliction poured out in the sand,
we cannot truly know what the Lord meant:
All shall be well, and all manner of thing…
The Eucharist of Easter resurrection reveals
that the Son of Man was glorified
at three o’clock on Good Friday.
and his body is broken, and his blood is poured out
to this day.
2. EPICLESIS - CONSECRATION
In the Epiclesis-Consecration we are present to God’s Spirit
incorporating matter into the divine milieu
memories of Tohu-and-Bohu, of Adam, of Mary’s womb.
God’s embodiment in the stuff of our world, our lives
not his Spirit poured into earthenware vessels
(must we not beware of spirituality?)
by the power of the Spirit
this bread, this wine, become the locally focussed presence
of the crucified glorified Christ
now pervading the whole of our world
this bread, this wine, the sacramentally localised
pledge and promise of the new creation
god divinising in Christ the realities of our world
in all its agonies and ecstasies; its weal and its woe.
God makes known to us his hidden purpose
to be effected when the time is ripe
that all in heaven and all on earth
will be brought together in Christ
and God shall be all in all.
Truly the ‘mysterium fidei’, mystery of faith-knowing,
giving us a reading of human history
barely comprehensible in our modern secular world.
But the mystery is carried in the liturgy
and in such a way as to speak new things in new contexts
in our contemporary context
when ecological, environmental and demographic awareness
easily leading to foreboding
or tempt us to escapist spirituality
the extreme modesty of God
choosing to dis-appear into bread and wine
surely calls us away from the hubris
of so much modern progress
into a divine modesty in human endeavours.
3. ANAMNESIS - REMEMBRANCE
We call to mind and make our whole selves present to
the Passover of Christ living on in his risen person.
But do we, in Eucharistic prayers and the Creed,
so isolate the defining hour of his end story
from the context of his life which gave it meaning,
do we convey the idea that it was God’s will
that his Son be sacrificed?
That the God who had vividly taught Abraham
both in the case of Isaac and Ishmael
that he is not a God who requires the killing of offspring in his name
that the God who Jesus had spent his life introducing people to as their Abba father who initiates compassion
that in the end story that same God wills his Son’s sacrificial death.
We need to see Christ’s ‘kairos’ hour in the context of his life
the context of the crisis created
by the incarnation of God’s holiness into human affairs –
not a crisis between saints & sinners, or virtue & vice
not a crisis sorting out grain from chaff
but a crisis above all for those with vested interests
in God’s gifts of wealth, learning and power.
It is God’s greatest gifts, when they coagulate into ‘the powers’
and have become their own kingdoms
which became, and become, impervious to God.
Not least when exercised in his name.
That was surely the context, the life journey,
which gave meaning to his free, non-violent,
unilateral decision at the end.
After the Ascension when the embryonic church
sought to make up the quota of twelve
it had to be one who had made the journey with Christ.
We too cannot proclaim the crucified one in any other context.
It was not the will of God that His Son should die
It was the will of God, in union with Jesus’ inner will,
that he should see through to the end
what he had lived for.
Thus was the Son of Man glorified.
4. KOINONIA – COMMUNION
The Body of Christ: Amen. The Blood of Christ: Amen.
Nor surely the individual Amen
of the single disciple of Christ
But the deeply personal Amen
incorporated into the faith of the church community.
A personal Amen to realise and become
the one whom we consume,
to realise and become the sacrament
of the prevenient divine milieu
ever prevenient for the risen Christ says today
as he said to the women
‘Tell them I go before you.’
Amen to the sacrament of the one who goes before
that we may be where he is
in the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of people
and especially the poor and afflicted.
A foolish, reckless ‘Amen’ of abandonment
To God’s Holy Spirit
To be freed from the confines of the false ego
And domestic idols of wealth, power a& learning
To be incorporated as a member of the divine milieu.
Only in losing self independence do we discover
that ‘unity differentiates’
not in isolation but integration
for ‘unity differentiates.’
If at the heart-core of my being
I am the image of the ‘other’
I become truly myself
in becoming as the other.
- unity differentiates.
If as an earthling I am born out of
the long evolution story of the earth
I become truly myself
as a member of the whole.
- unity differentiates.
Amen – Crucified and Risen Lord
in whom God shall be all in all.
In our hands, the hands of all of us, the world and life are placed like a host, ready to be charged with the divine influence … with a real presence of the Incarnate Word. The mystery will be accomplished … but only on condition that we know in faith that this has the power to become for us the action – that is the prolongation of the body of Christ. If we believe then everything is illuminated and takes shape for us: chance is seen to be order, success assumes incorruptible plenitude, suffering becomes a visit and a caress of God. But if we hesitate the rock remains dry, the sky dark, the waters treacherous. And we may hear the words of the master: O ye of little faith, why have ye doubted? Lord, help my unbelief. Ah, you know it yourself Lord, having borne the anguish of it as a man. On certain days the world seems a terrifying thing – huge, blind, brutal. It buffets us about, drags us along, and kills with utter indifference. Heroically, it may truly be said, people have contrived to create a more or less habitable zone of light and warmth in the midst of the great, cold, black waters – a zone where people have eyes to see, hands to help, and hearts to love. But how precarious it is! At any moment the vast horrible thing may break in – the thing we try to forget is always there, separated from us by a flimsy partition: fire, pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral forces – these callously sweep away in one moment what we had laboriously built up and beautified with such intelligence and love. Since my human dignity, O God, forbids me to close my eyes to this – like an animal or child – that I may not succumb to the temptation to curse the universe and him who made it, teach me to adore it by seeing you concealed within. O Lord, repeat to me the great liberating word, the words which both reveal and activate: This is my body ... it is I, do not be afraid. The things that fill us with dread, the dread you knew in the garden, are in the end only the species or appearance, the matter of one and the same sacrament. We have only to recognise in faith. (Teilhard de Chardin, ‘The Milieu Divine’ slightly adapted)