Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Advent: Eucharist as Christ Truly Present

Welcome to part two of our reflections in preparation for Advent. This time we look at Eucharist as Christ truly present through the writings and prayers of St Francis of Assisi.
‘Let everyone be stuck with fear, let the whole world tremble and let the Heavens exalt , when Christ, the Son of the Living God is Present on the altar in the hands of a Priest. O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!’ (Letter to the entire Order, 26-27).
Francis revered the role of the Priest, not for the sake of elevating the person of the Priest above others but, because of the Priests role in making Christ truly present. For Francis this was a great mystery of faith and he saw it as a great honour for those called to serve as Priests.
Francis experienced, in a very real and palpable way, the presence of God in all of Creation, his spirit soared as he contemplated the great gift of life and as he contemplated the face of God in all he met. But in the Eucharist, he recognised the real presence of Christ, the presence that consoles, transforms and heals.
In his Letter to the Clergy, Francis clearly states the need for those ministering at the Altar to do so with utmost respect and reverence. To minister knowing that it IS Christ, truly present before them. He admonishes those who treat the Body and Blood of Christ ‘illicitly’ meaning they do not afford Christ present in the Eucharist due respect and care. He writes ‘whenever the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ has been illicitly placed, let it be removed from there and placed in a precious place and locked away’ (Letter to the Clergy, 11-12). Such was Francis awareness of, and respect for, Christ truly present in the Eucharist.
As we continue to journey this pilgrim route together, let us reflect on how we reverence Christ truly present in the Eucharist. Are we in tune with the great mystery of the Eucharist or has it become mechanical for us? Do we take time to realise that in the Eucharist we meet the living Christ, who lives in us as we live in Him? Do we see the celebration of the Eucharist through eyes of faith being the blessed who do not see yet still believe?
Let us pray for each other, that this time together may be one of renewal in which our eyes of faith are opened and our sight strengthened, so we may see Christ truly present and with reverence bow to the King of Kings, in adoration, petition, praise and thanksgiving.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Advent: An experience of Eucharist

Advent is fast approaching and with it signifies the end of the Year of Faith. It is a great time of year to look back on our faith journey over the last twelve months as well as to prepare well for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Eucharistic is essential to our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. It is Eucharistic which binds us together as one family, one body with Christ as the head. The Year of Faith saw many initiatives in parishes around the country and the World to reignite the flame of faith in us all, however, this was just the beginning. It was a time which allowed us to focus on our faith and what it means to us as individuals and as a community. The Year of Faith brought us a new Pope who from his first words has been a living embodiment of faith, faith in action. It is up to us, within our Faith Communities, to fuel and fan this flame of faith.

To help us reflect and to plan. I am republishing a series of reflections on St. Francis and the Eucharist, that we produced for the IEC. The first of these is 'Eucharist as a continual self emptying'. Each reflection is accompanied by a question to help guide us to greater 'communion with Christ and with one another' so that we have the opportunity to 'become what we receive'.

Part 1: Eucharist as a continual self-emptying

‘The Most High Father made know from heaven, through his Holy Angel Gabriel, this Word of the Father – so worthy, so holy and glorious – in the womb of the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, from whose womb He received the flesh of our humanity and frailty. Though He was rich, He wished, together with the Most Blessed Virgin, His mother, to choose poverty in the world beyond all else’ (Later Admonition, 2-6).
For Francis, the self-emptying act of God, the very act of taking on the weakness of humanity and, in turn, making it strong, was central to both his view of Eucharist and of how he orientated his own life. Ilia Delio OFS writes in his book The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective that, ‘Incarnation means that God takes on flesh. Jesus is the Word made flesh, a Word from which we could read the ultimate nature of God and of human nature itself’ (Delia, 2005, Pg 38). He continues that ‘the mystery of the Incarnation is that God bends down to meet us wherever we are. God is [both] Most High and most intimately related to us’ (Delia, 2005, Pg 52).
For Francis, Eucharist is a process of continual self-emptying. The first emptying occurred when the word became flesh, this continued in Christ’s choice to live a poor life of embodied humanness, it culminated in the Crucifixion and continues for us in the Eucharist, which makes Christ ‘s offering and self-sacrifice really and truly present to us each day.
As we begin our journey in faith, with Christ, along the pilgrim path towards Advent and Christmas, I pray that we may be granted the Grace to allow us to empty ourselves, making room in our hearts and lives for Christ; however He may present Himself to us.

Let us ask ourselves: How do I experience Christs self-emptying in my daily life?

Br. Martin OFM Cap.