The Lived Eucharist
I have been reflecting on the Eucharist throughout this year trying better to grasp this ancient ritual of remembrance. As it is the first Sunday of September, I will participate in this mystery with my church. Once again, I will add a few words on this practice, why we as a church still do it. I don’t have the theology, history, meaning, and understanding of this practice nailed. There is still for me to discover, embrace, and appreciate. Only a beginning, don’t take this reflections as comprehensive or definitive, but an opening gambit.
Jesus for us the food of truth and love speaks of the gift of his life assuring us that whoever eats this bread will live forever (John 6:51). This “eternal life” begins in us even now stretching on and on, thanks to the transformation as consequence of the Eucharist: the one who feeds on me will live (John 6:57). The words of Jesus makes us realize how the mystery “believed” and “celebrated” contains an innate power and presence providing new life within us. By receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the consecrated bread and wine, we become sharers in divine life in an ever more conscious way. We can apply Saint Augustine’s words, in his Confessions. Stressing the mysterious nature of this food, Augustine imagines the Lord saying to him: “I am the food of grown men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall be changed into me.” We are mysteriously transformed by the Eucharistic food. In some way, the Eucharist makes us the people of God the body of Christ; we are to take this identity out into the world. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself drawing us into himself.
The Eucharist is the moment in which the church as a body gathers to remember the words and actions of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Sharing a meal as one people is a symbol and proof of the Kingdom of God among us. Paul’s exhortation to the Romans in this regard is a concise description of how the Eucharist makes our whole life a spiritual worship pleasing to God: I urge you in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1). With these words, worship is a total offering of self, offering of our entire being to the will of God made in communion with the whole Church. Paul’s insistence on the offering of our bodies emphasizes the concrete human reality of a worship that is anything, but disincarnate. We are to render our entire self, all of our heart and soul and mind—everything is to be aligned with the will of God through Jesus.
We are to incarnate the Eucharist in our daily life. We cannot say to have truly partaken of the bread and wine unless in and through this practice we become more and more the people of God.
Jesus washed the feet of his followers, he told them to go and do likewise. It’s easy to see the way that we are to live out the Eucharist, but what is hard is the doing. We know by the reading of the gospels how we are to behave, it’s the doing that trips us up. That is why we need community. Service is defined and strengthened best in and with others in community. Every disciple of Christ is called to go out and to live a life of the Eucharist in loving one another. We do both small and big things to express the love and grace of God. This Christ-like service is not meant just to look good to others, but because we really care because we are grateful for all we have been blessed with. We don’t love to earn reward, but to express the reward that is already our in Christ Jesus.
The living of the Eucharist takes many forms, all are necessary for the proper attitude of reverence. Worship is loving others. Worship is doing the will of God. As we more and more revere the Lord in the Eucharist, we should grow in our esteem for one another. You can’t have one without the other. God loved us first in accepting this love we learn to love each other and as we show love to our brothers and sisters we love God.
There cannot be real celebration of the Eucharist without living out the Eucharist. If the living is lacking, that attitude of being ready to wash the feet of the other, then the faith in the real presence of worship will inevitably faint, because faith is incomplete without the living that always accompany it. Showing, extending, and expressing the love and grace of God lavished on us to others is a key ingredient to real worship of God.
This is why we need to repeat this practice. To do it regularly, to remember and continue to remember who Jesus is and what Jesus has done and is doing in and for us helps us to better and deeper live Christian.
This is Norman C. Habel in his Unknown Book:
“When God gets through to you
In the sacrament of bread and wine
In some cool, uncanny way,
Then they should be a sign
As sharp as any Jeremiah saw
That God is still at work today
And that I will come again
To dine with you
And offer you
A vision of tomorrow.”