Thursday, May 18, 2006

Musings on the Body of Christ


In these last days of the Easter Season, I've been reflecting on the Body of Christ.

Catholics believe Christ to be with us in four ways during a Mass.

Christ is present in the Word, as proclaimed by the priest or deacon. The priest or deacon (or on occasion a presiding Bishop) reads from the Gospels during every Mass. Lay people are not permitted this privilege during a celebration of the Mass, although they may read from other parts of Sacred Scripture.

Which Gospel is read at a particular Mass is not at the discretion of the presider or the lector. The Gospel for a particular Sunday or Weekday Mass is given in the Lectionary. This ensures that the faithful are exposed to the entire of the Gospels, not just those which may be favoured by a particular presider or lector.

Christ is also present in the assembled Faithful. We are the Body of Christ...the Mystical Body. This body includes the deceased faithful, both those believed (or known, in the case of canonized Saints)to be in Heaven and those still being prepared for Heaven's glory in Purgatory. It also included the Pope and Bishops in union with him, as the Magisterium of the Church Christ founded. We recognize Christ Himself as the head of this Mystical Body. We are the members: hands, feet, eyes, etc. to do God's continued work on earth.

At times during the Mass, Christ is also present in a particular way in the Priest. If one listens carefully to the prayers of the Mass, one can notice a difference in the person speaking. Sometimes the Priest will speak as part of the assembled Faithful, but sometimes he also speaks as Christ. During the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the priest repeats the words Jesus spoke to his disciples "Take this, all of you and eat (drink) This is my body, (blood) which will be given up for you". We believe that God, through the priest, becomes present during the Eucharist, under the appearance of bread or wine. Jesus is present again, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. We are participating the sacrifice of Calvary. We are following Jesus' command to his followers in Scripture.

We are greatly gifted and privileged to be given such a gift from God! The bread of Angels becomes the Bread of Man!

In the past number of years (I suppose that rightly or wrongly, many would blame Vatican II again for this!) the language of the Mass has been changed and weakened. So many Catholics of this day and age would not have heard the phrase "bread of Angels". We talk about mass...instead of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or even just Holy Mass.

A couple of years ago, I was looking through a hymnal which is predominantly made up of traditional Catholic hymns. In the Latin version of one hymn, I thought I saw the word for pelican. I couldn't imagine what a pelican had to do with the Mass.

There is another tradition which has been dropped from the common Catholic lexicon...that of the pelican. The story goes that a pelican who is unable to provide for her nestlings will pierce her own breast with her beak and feed her blood to her babies. The Church in former times held the pelican up as a symbol for Christ!

Something else that has happened, is that many involved in Liturgy (the public prayer of the Church...simply put: Holy Mass) have been working hard to de-emphasise the role of Holy Eucharist and have tried to place it on par with the Word. The altar (of sacrifice) becomes a table (for that cozy shared meal. Hmmm. Lunch with God!). Of course Jesus himself refers to the meal...but anyone can make a meal. Only God can rise from the dead to make himself present to us in the a meal that lasts for all eternity.

Now, I firmly believe that in traditional practice in the Church, the Word does not tend to be given the respect and veneration that is due it. But is it possible that Christ present in the Word can be of the import of Christ present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist? I believe not. There is too much that my humaness can take as distraction from the Word...the quality of the proclaimer, the particular words spoken, how well I am able to focus at a given time. But the Eucharist is self contained. Once it is confected it is what it is: Jesus. There is no way that can be detracted from.

During Easter, we've been celebrating God dying for us and rising again so that we may join him in Paradise. He did not leave us. He told us he wouldn't do that. We meet with him in a mystical and wonderful way every time we attend Holy Mass!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow J,
Alot of substance there. Alot to think about! Great blog keep it up!