The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, is always a gift which helps us not only to celebrate the Eucharist but also to remind us that God is always with us. In thinking of this feast I remembered one of the recent times I went to the Seminary with a group of friends who are good Catholics and go to church twice a week. They were stunned over the beauty of the Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament that we had in a medium sized chapel one Sunday night, which the Seminary has every week. It is true the monstrance was shimmering, the candles and flowers were simple and profound, and the linen altar cloth with the embroidered fringes, the singing and the silence, and the prayers, all of this made a huge impression on us. So many of them said, ‘Why had I not seen this before?
This helped me to see how few people know of this treasure of the Blessed Sacrament and how it can be adored in Exposition and in Benediction, something that many believed the Church discouraged as a result of the Second Vatican Council. So for this feast I would like to stress this aspect of the Eucharist: worship or adoration. And it is good for us to reflect on them together.
First of all, the Council did not penalize or discourage this dimension of the Eucharist. True, in the renewal, the Church simplified the Eucharist and went back to the practice of the early Church, but never did she dampen adoration, or Benediction, or anything related. However, there was a lack of practice and any catechesis on adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in many churches and this has had an impact on the spiritual life of the faithful. When our teachings concentrate solely on the moment of the Mass, this reduces the meaning of the constant presence of Christ in our midst, a presence that is tangible, close, in our homes, a ‘beating heart’ in our towns and cities, as Pope Benedict XVI said in his Corpus Christi homily in 2012. This Sacrament of Christ’s Charity ought to permeate the whole of a Christians’ daily life.
It is wrong to set adoration against celebration as if they were competing. The opposite is true: by a deeper worship of the Sacrament provides the ‘context’ where the community can celebrate the Eucharist well, when it is accompanied and followed by an inner attitude of faith and adoration. This is the main reason why so many Catholics are not sure what to do in the second part of the Mass, some still kneel with their rosaries unaware of what is happening before them, and not participating in an active way.
An encounter with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is only fully brought about when the community can recognize that in the Sacrament he dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, and after the Mass he stays with us with a silent presence, and intercedes for us with the Father.
How many vigils with young people during World Youth Days helped them to prepare for the celebration of the Eucharist the next day so that their hearts were more open to the message of the Pope? How many thousands of young people have heard the calling of God as a priest or a religious sister at these events? A prolonged silence before the Lord in the Sacrament helps one discern the call of God, and is one of the most genuine experiences of being a Christian, accompanied by the celebration of the Eucharist, listening to the Word, singing and receiving the Bread of Life together.
Communion and contemplation go together, they cannot be separated. If there is to be communion with another other person I must know him, be able to be in silence with him, to listen to him and to look at him lovingly, and so with Christ. When there is true communion, real friendship I can address the words of the psalm (Psalm 116: 16-17) to the Lord: “I am your servant, the son of your handmaid, you have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.”
Let us make an effort to recover the sacredness of the Eucharist that has been lost in the past forty or fifty years. It is true that the action and presence of Christ is paramount, and not the sacred rites, but that should not take away the sacredness of what we are doing. Christ as the mediator of the New Covenant does not take away the sacred rites but fulfills them; he starts a new way of worship where the temple is no longer necessary. Thanks to Christ the sacred is truer and more intense, and more demanding. Christ wants not ritual worship but a pure heart and a real change of life. He doesn’t use the blood of animals but comes to make a covenant with his own blood that we renew and live again in every Mass.
The lack of the sacred impoverishes us, especially the youth. Imagine a family who has no religious rituals in the home. They no longer go to Sunday Mass, they omit grace before dinner or any meal, they seldom eat together, kids go to bed with their gadgets and not with a prayer or the blessing from the father or mother. Their spiritual life would be flattened out and the awareness of the community would be weakened, and other gods (sports, video games, and worse things) has a free reign in their house.
Let us remember that on the night before he died Christ instituted the Memorial of his Passover, his passing from death to life, our passing from fear or anxiety or some type of slavery, into freedom and eternal life. He replaced the ancient sacrifices with himself and told the Apostles to do this in memory of Him. Let us go to celebrate the Eucharist every week with the intention to adore him as the center of our life.