Review

I began this year writing about the Church as a sign of hope in the world precisely because she is a sort of sacrament of intimate unity with God and the unity of the whole human race. (cf. Lumen Gentium 1) As a sacrament the Church is a sign of hope precisely as a visible institution in this world, bound together by the bonds of the same faith, the same sacraments, and the same government.

As a visible reality the Church is in the hands of sinful men who are capable of distorting the faith, abusing the sacraments, and also abusing the power of governance that was entrusted to them as a service of the whole body of the faithful, not for personal self-aggrandizement. Nevertheless as a sort of sacrament, the Church remains an instrument in the hands of the Lord, working through his Holy Spirit for the sanctification of men.

Further the hope the Church offers is not peace on earth, but eternal life in Jesus Christ. Her focus is always, in the first place, upon God. While the Church has always engaged in outstanding works of charity on behalf of men in their innumerable needs, it is above all by leading men to God that she helps to improve human life upon earth.

The Church is then most herself not in the soup kitchen, but when she is engaged in offering worship to God through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, “the source and summit of the Christian life.” (LG 11) If the Church is the sacrament of intimate unity with God and the unity of mankind, it is above all through the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, that we enter into union with God and are bound together in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This means that in order to become ‘missionary disciples’ we must first become ‘Eucharistic disciples’, we must let our life be transformed by the Bread of Life.

For this reason over the past several months I have written about the meaning of full, active, and conscious participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I have written about how, in order to live this participation, we must seek instruction from the word of God.  I wrote about the healing we need to remove the impediments to our participation. Before the final healing in the resurrection of the body; there is healing that takes place through the forgiveness of sins; the healing that takes place through the practice of faith and the life of virtue; and the sort of healing that often needs to take place so that a person is able to embrace the faith and follow Christ.

I wrote about how we seek instruction and healing outside of the Mass, but also who we travel the path of instruction and healing within the very rite of the Mass. All of this needs to lead us to seek to live as Jesus lived in the first place by uniting ourselves to his self-offering, his sacrifice, upon the Cross, in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Sacrifice is so central and so forgotten in the life of the Church today that I have written at length about the sacrifice of the Mass, which is the sacrifice of Jesus, and our union with it.

Once again, at the moment of the consecration at the Mass the people can offer themselves as victim by slaying their own egoism, as it were, and placing it on the altar with the Lamb of God. This is the key to full, active, and conscious participation in the Mass. At the moment of the consecration we should join Mary, the Mother of God, St. John, and St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross, saying ‘amen’ to all that Jesus has done for love of us, and offering ourselves, without reserve or condition, to him, and through him to the Father.

All of this is how we prepare ourselves for the supreme participation in the Eucharist, the reception of holy communion. To receive holy communion is to receive the Lamb of God, the fruit of the sacrifice, the sacrificial meal. Only when we learn first to offer ourselves through, with, and in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, will we truly learn to nourish ourselves with the Bread of Life in holy communion.

We can legitimately receive the outward sacrament under either from, as the Body of Christ, or as the Blood of Christ, but in truth, interiorly, we can never separate communion from the Body or from the Blood, because we never separate communion from the sacrifice. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you do not have life in you. (Jn 6:53)

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus says: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me. (Rev 3:20) We open the door when we unite ourselves to Jesus’ sacrifice. Then under one form or both, we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and so remain in him and he in us, feeding us with the life that he has from the Father. (cf. Jn 6:56-57, 14:20, 15:5)

 

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.