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Got Bread? Some thoughts on the Eucharist.

I am sharing this post here today, but it was written for my personal blog, which is called, There Will be Bread, which is published at the Times Union.

Well, you would think that bread would be found here… after all, the name of the blog clearly states that “there will be bread.” That is no accident of course, as I am take the Eucharist very seriously, I believe that the bread is the body… wait, I mean that the Bread is the Body. It is all about the Eucharist for me, and about living eucharistically. So here we are on this day when we as Church celebrate The Body and Blood of Christ, with lots to talk about.

The other day I read a column about good preaching, in the Wall Street Journal, of all places. Go figure. It was entitled, “The Hunt for the Good Sermon,” and was written by John Wilson. This is not a post about good preaching, but I was struck by something that Wilson said. Well, Wilson was actually quoting Shane Claiborne, an activist Christian and founder of “The Simple Way,” an inner city ministry in Philadelphia.

Consider the alleged exodus of young people from the church. “We won’t lose students because we didn’t entertain them,” said the dreadlocked Philadelphia activist and preacher Shane Claiborne on Twitter. “We will lose them because we haven’t given the FULL gospel.” Mr. Claiborne’s comment made me think of another gifted preacher, Jesus, who also met with a mixed reception. “From that moment,” we read in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel—after Jesus said that “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you“—”many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.”

Eat my body, drink my blood. People leave. I get that. Do we really consider what it is that happens every time we receive the Eucharist? If we truly did – and I include myself in this, and I’d like to at least think I consider it deeply – we would probably fall down. Or leave. Or both.

In any case, it is exactly why I cannot leave the Church, even in the worst moments. What would sustain me? I cannot imagine not being a part of a truly Eucharistic church. This is not Catholic exceptionalism talking, it is just the truth as I understand it.

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I am a Eucharistic Minister at my parish. In some parishes this is called Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, or Minister of Holy Communion. Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist is the term used in Canon law. What we call ourselves is one thing, who we are and what we do is another.

When I first considered becoming an EM, I felt unsure. I liked the idea of serving, but I was afraid, and I felt unworthy. Then the priest who invited me to think about this ministry asked me a question… “If you are not worthy to serve, are you worthy to receive? And just who is worthy anyway?” Christ offered himself, none of us are worthy, but we are all called to the table by the One who sacrificed his body and blood for us. He heals us, we become worthy.

At first I would only serve as a cup minister, but then I began to see how foolish this was, and I was also not practicing good Eucharistic theology. The wine is not “lesser” than, the wine is the Precious Blood of Christ! There is such misunderstanding about the Sacrament, where the wine, the Precious Blood, can seem like an aside. No, we do not have to take the wine, but we should not allow that to lull us into poor theology. The species are One – they are Christ the Lord.

In any event, considering the matter of worthiness a bit further, we are wise to remember the words of St. Augustine – “we are what we have received.” This reminds me of the dynamism of receiving and giving. If we are what we have received, we must continue to pour ourselves out in Christ… Yet at the same time we must continue to receive Christ. One way of being cannot exist without the other.

The Eucharist is about receptivity – but it is not just about “taking,” or “receiving.” In a culture that enshrines accomplishment, the Eucharist is completely antithetical to accomplishment… again, it is not about worthiness. We are all called to participate in this richest most lavish gift. However, we must also know how to give, in order to receive. Again, the dynamism is clear, if we choose to live that way – and God asks us to live that way in Jesus’ name.

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That leads me to ask myself… What do I believe about the Eucharist? Real presence rolls off the tongue nicely enough, but do I really believe that? It is easy – for me anyway – to lose track

It is during the Mass ,at the consecration, that we see what it means to be bread and wine: the host and the wine are a Person! A living Person! St Paul in the letter to the Philippians writes:

“All beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2, 10-11).

At Communion we must remember this, and also we must remember that we have in our hands the Creator of heaven and earth! We have Jesus our Lord, in our hands! We are reminded of what His life was meant for, and what began on the night that he was betrayed in the garden.

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Good Eucharistic theology is about offering ourselves, and about receiving Christ. It is not a private sacrament, where it is simply about Jesus and me. It is about all of us, it is about all of us, and as Catholics, that means all of us. Now that may be harder to live with than flesh and blood in our mouths.

So I will close with a quote from an article that I once read by Garrett Kiezer“…one of the things that I’ve always found beautiful about the sacrament of the bread is the way one has to stop talking in order to communicate.”

With that, I am silent…

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2 Responses

  1. [...] nothing to muse about! I spent most of the weekend working on writing projects. Yesterday I posted some thoughts about the Eucharist, so if you haven’t read that, have a [...]

  2. [...] nothing to muse about! I spent most of the weekend working on writing projects. Yesterday I posted some thoughts about the Eucharist, so if you haven’t read that, have a [...]

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