Sacraments

The Eucharist: “The Living Centre of the Universe”

‘It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. Indeed the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love: “Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world”. The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration: in the bread of the Eucharist, “creation is projected towards divinization, towards the holy wedding feast, towards unification with the Creator himself”. Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.’
Pope Francis, Laudato Si n. 236

The Eucharist, cannibals, zombies and fresh food

At adoration this evening, I had some strange reflections on the Eucharist…

Every now and then, Catholics get told that eating Jesus’ Body and drinking His Blood makes us cannibals. But this is to seriously misunderstand. When cannibals eat human flesh and drink human blood, they’re consuming a dead person… It’s something violent. But the Holy Eucharist isn’t Jesus’ dead body; it’s His resurrected Body. Jesus in the Eucharist is far more alive than you and me.

In comparison with Jesus (especially after His resurrection), we’re hardly even half-alive. And so it is the less-alive, consuming the more-alive… like zombies. Except with zombies again, those they eat are killed/made into zombies in the process. Again, it is violent. But with Jesus, eating Him brings us to life, and makes us into Him. In zombies’ eating, death conquers life, but in the Eucharist, the eating of Christ’s resurrected Body, life conquers death.

When we eat normal food, the more fresh it is, the better it is for us. This is because everything we eat is dead, but the more fresh it is, the more its life remains with it, and the more we can take from its life. The act of eating something requires it to die, in order that it might be given away. So with the Eucharist, we are given Jesus’ Body, because He gave His life on the cross, and yet His Body is most truly alive, because He is the Resurrection and the Life, and His death is true life. So Jesus’ Body is the very best food, because despite being food, and therefore having to die, It is most truly alive, and therefore the very freshest and best food you’ll ever eat.

What do you think? Maybe I should just focus better during adoration…

God bless you!

…Jesus-Host is perfect love for me…

‘At the [Youth 2000] Walsingham retreat, at the communion for the Sunday mass, I realised in a powerful way how incredibly Jesus loves me in the Eucharist. Realising how he’s there, completely, in perfect love for me, giving me all of himself, hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was shaking and crying with love as I received Jesus, and I wanted only to accept him entirely, to love him perfectly and give myself entirely to him.

‘I know God’s love more deeply, and it’s changing me.`

This is how I expressed what God showed me in Walsingham, of how He loves me. It was an incredible experience, and it’s stuck with me.

The fact that Jesus-Host gives me all of Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity, in their entirety, for me to eat, is incredible. Whatever image of closeness and intimacy we might enjoy, does not even compare. If we like to visualise Jesus’ closeness to us, by imagining Him hugging us, or holding us like children, we are wrong not for imagining too much, but because the truth is so much more!

I saw that Jesus-Host is perfect love for me, and I wanted to become perfect love for Him. Jesus-Host gives Himself to me perfectly, body, blood, soul and divinity, and I offered Him my body, my blood, my soul, and His place of divinity in me, that I usurped by sin.

As I looked at Jesus-Host, tasted Him, digested Him, I knew that I was beholding and experiencing, and digesting, absolute love. He is what absolute love looks like, tastes like, feels like.

After communion, I remained a little while in front of Jesus in the monstrance, and prayed St. Therese’s ‘Act of Oblation to Merciful Love’. I had also prayed this during the night/early morning at adoration (there was perpetual adoration :D). I really recommend making this beautiful and powerful act.

y2k

Youth 2000 retreat, with Jesus on display above the “burning bush”

 

The whole retreat was incredible. It had brilliant worship, incredible speakers and workshops, great people all around, and best of all, Jesus was there, in the Eucharist and in the people surrounding me. Youth 2000 is really incredible, and I strongly recommend you to go on one of their retreats. This was my first, but I want another already.

God bless you, and praised be Jesus Christ!

 

Lent and baptism

‘In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.’
Mark 1:9-10 (emphasis mine)

Recently, these words, ‘torn apart’ rang a bell for me, and I realised this moment is linked to the moment when Jesus died,

‘And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.’
Mark 15:38

In these two moments, God’s presence is released into the world in a new and irrevocable way. The Kingdom of Heaven is bursting out.

We should also link Jesus’ baptism to when the Israelites were submerged in the Reed Sea, and passed through to freedom from Egypt. Then they came to their 40 years Lent in the desert. Then they were baptised again, passing through the river Jordan to enter the Promised Land. They were entering the Kingdom of God.

Baptism liberates from sin, and is a being buried with and raised in Christ. So the Israelites must be washed, surrendering to the Lord, and receiving from Him their life and salvation. Then they go through the wilderness living off of the bread from heaven, to be humbled, and learn their dependence on God: ‘that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’ In this time, they go on dying to themselves, learning to live off of God. Then they must once more be baptised in the Jordan to enter their promised rest. I believe this second baptism is death: Jesus’ death on the cross and our deaths in him.

Lent is living out our baptism. For Noah and his family, their baptism and lent were simultaneous. We die to self to live in Christ each day, taking up our crosses and following him to death and resurrection. Then at the end of lent, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and enter, purified by this time of death, into the new life he has opened up for us. On Easter day, Catechumens are baptised, to show that we are baptised into the resurrected life, opened up to us by the saviour.

By baptism into Christ we are liberated. Our death is offered to God, and we are given divine life. By lent, we enter more deeply into our own death, weakness, and sin, in order to more consciously and thoroughly offer it to God, and receive in these His grace. We are made ready to enter anew into the Kingdom of God, and particularly for our final entry at the hour of our death.

Lent is exactly what the Church needs, because it’s exactly what the world needs the Church to be: God’s people dying to self, dying to the world and its futile ways, and living the life of the resurrection in Christ. We desperately need to be submerged in the spirit of Lent, so that we may be saturated with the mystery of Easter Sunday.

God bless you!

The bread of God

“For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:33

“He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 8:3

“And the Word became flesh…”
John 1:14

And it all becomes clear! At least, it suddenly seemed clear to me.

The bread of life is both the words of scripture, the words of Jesus himself, and also, the very flesh of Jesus, by which we have life. Both Scripture and Eucharist.

And the bread that Jesus gives us to eat, is not mere flesh, since Jesus was according to the flesh born of Mary, without any pre-existent flesh coming down from heaven. Yet, we most truly eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood in the Holy Eucharist, because “the Word became flesh”. The Word did not inhabit flesh, but became flesh, for our life.

As the people of Israel lived by the manna from heaven and the commandments of the Lord, which both come “from the mouth of the Lord” (Young’s Literal Translation says “every produce”, rather than “every word”, and I suspect this is a better translation [though what do my suspicions count?]), so the Church lives upon the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Gospel, received within the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Please pray for unity in the Church and for miracles of unity amongst all Christians.

God bless you.

The Quran and Jesus

[This is the very first thing I’ve noted, in my recently begun (casual) study of Islam. I’ve started it because Islam is extremely important in the world today, and dialogue with Islam seems ever more important, especially in times of conflict in the Muslim world. Please, correct me to the best of your ability where I’ve misunderstood. Thank you]

I was recently given a free English translation of the Quran, and a few leaflets about Islam. Here is the first thing I have learned (and it seems to me, it may be the most important thing for a Christian to learn about Islam):

The Muslim’s Quran is more analogous to the Christian’s Jesus than to the Christian’s scriptures. In the introduction to the Quran I was given (something feels wrong about saying “my Quran”…), it says,

‘Moreover, it is the actual words of Allah — not created, but revealed by Him through the angel Gabriel to a human messenger, Muhammed…

What does one discover when he understands the meanings of the Qur’an? The answers to this question can be classified in four main categories:

1. That he can know his Creator as He has described Himself

2. …

4. How he should relate to all things — to Allah by worship and obedience, to his fellow man by…

This divine message was revealed to confirm and renew the relationship between man and his Creator and to reinstate the sincere and correct worship of the one true God…

It was “not created” that really grabbed my attention.

Much as we believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal, uncreated, Word of God, so Muslims believe that the Quran is the uncreated words of Allah. As Christ’s birth was proclaimed by the angel Gabriel, and given through Mary, so Muslim’s believe the Quran came through Gabriel, and was given to Muhammed to give to the world. We believe that in Christ, we can know God as He reveals Himself; similarly, Islam teaches that through the Quran, we can know God as He described Himself. As Jesus himself reveals how we should relate to all things, so Muslims believe about the Quran. As Jesus was sent to renew and confirm the relationship between God and man, so Muslims consider the Quran.

So, theologically at least, Christianity and Islam shouldn’t be compared Jesus against Muhammed, or the Quran against the Bible, but Jesus to the Quran, Muhammed to the prophets or apostles (or maybe even Mary), and the Bible to the Hadith. And certain practices, such as reciting the Quran in Arabic, even when it is not understood, should not be looked down upon with condescension, and considered as oppression or superstitious religious nonsense, but as practically (in Christian terms) sacramental; encountering a divine and unfathomable mystery in a simple, strange, and humble manner.

I would also like to point out at this point, that when, in recent years, some fundamentalist preachers threatened to burn Qurans, it was less like if Muslims had threatened to burn Bibles (sad as damaged Bibles are), than like when satanists threatened to desecrate Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist.

Of course, I must make it clear that (to my knowledge) no Muslim claims that the Quran is consubstantial with God. So the analogue is close, but not quite. But, I think it may still be, to Muslims, the Holiest thing on earth.

One thing I see that must be appealing about this view of the Quran, is the direct, ready access it gives to God’s words and divine mystery. Any Muslim can hold it in their hands, and relate with Allah according to the words He gave them to relate to Him with. If Christian’s had the Bible alone, we would (at least, theoretically) be further from God, than Muslims are from Allah. But, thank God, through the the Church, the very Body and spouse of Christ, and through the sacraments and the sacramental life, we are thoroughly immersed in the mystery of God’s own Trinitarian life.

As a final note, here’s the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.841:

The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

Pax Christi, Shalom aleichem, and Salaam alaikum!

The Continual Touch of Jesus

lumen-fidei-cover-montage

‘The Church, like every family, passes on to her children the whole store of her memories. But how does this come about in a way that nothing is lost, but rather everything in the patrimony of faith comes to be more deeply understood? It is through the apostolic Tradition preserved in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy a living contact with the foundational memory. What was handed down by the apostles — as the Second Vatican Council states — “comprises everything that serves to make the people of God live their lives in holiness and increase their faith. In this way the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes”.

‘Faith, in fact, needs a setting in which it can be witnessed to and communicated, a means which is suitable and proportionate to what is communicated. For transmitting a purely doctrinal content, an idea might suffice, or perhaps a book, or the repetition of a spoken message. But what is communicated in the Church, what is handed down in her living Tradition, is the new light born of an encounter with the true God, a light which touches us at the core of our being and engages our minds, wills and emotions, opening us to relationships lived in communion. There is a special means for passing down this fullness, a means capable of engaging the entire person, body and spirit, interior life and relationships with others. It is the sacraments, celebrated in the Church’s liturgy. The sacraments communicate an incarnate memory, linked to the times and places of our lives, linked to all our senses; in them the whole person is engaged as a member of a living subject and part of a network of communitarian relationships. While the sacraments are indeed sacraments of faith, it can also be said that faith itself possesses a sacramental structure. The awakening of faith is linked to the dawning of a new sacramental sense in our lives as human beings and as Christians, in which visible and material realities are seen to point beyond themselves to the mystery of the eternal.’
Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith) n.40

The Church, with its magisterium and sacraments, doesn’t keep us at arms length from the revelation of Jesus Christ, but brings us into direct, personal contact with him!

The good news isn’t something to be read in the papers, analysed, discussed, accepted and set aside, but a person, our Lord Jesus Christ, to encounter in his fullness, more intimately than we encounter anyone else in the world. But more than two thousand years after his birth, how are we meant to encounter him? Is it only through speaking to him in prayer, and reading about him in the scriptures? No disrespect to prayer and Bible study, but wouldn’t this make him a bit of cell-phone-saviour? A saviour you’ve never met “in person”, but have spoken with long distance. Of course, long distance relationships are wonderful, but the dream is always to be closer, more intimately with our Beloved.

Thank God for His Church and His holy sacraments! By these means (and more), Jesus Christ is always readily present to us, to teach, guide, cleanse, heal, forgive, strengthen, nourish, enlighten, refresh, rejuvenate, correct, sustain, and redeem us. He has not left us orphans, but is with us always, even until the end. The resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is with us, body and blood, soul and divinity, at all times.

Sola scriptura is a bit like refusing to listen to the king’s ambassador, because you read his (authorised) biography, and he can call or write you himself. The king has an ambassador, because he wishes to have a personal, authorised, representative with you, so that you can know his thoughts on all matters. The ambassador has lived with the king his whole life, and was there from the beginning. The king’s ambassador does not distance you from the king, but reveals him to you more perfectly. As a matter of fact, the king’s ambassador is also his wife.

And to stay away from the sacraments is a bit like a person in love, preferring to just speak over the phone (and it is tough to listen and easy to get distracted while on the phone).

In our life in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, we are members of the one believing subject, present throughout all of Christ’s mysteries. We are part of the body of believers, present throughout Jesus’ ministry, in the Upper Room at Pentecost, and who all of the epistles are addressed to. We are living in the realities of the Bible! As I wrote here, about my first time visiting mass,

I remember noticing, that I had a wonderful feeling throughout, after the fear passed, that I had only ever had while reading the Bible. It almost felt like I was in the Bible.

God bless you in abundance!

P.S. If you haven’t yet read Lumen Fidei, do. Here’s a link. It’s so good. I suspect it’s especially wonderful in part because it’s the product of not just one Pope, but two.

This changes everything

On good Friday, it seemed that for all that Jesus was, he was just a man. He had given sight to the blind, and healed the lame, and preached the good news to the poor and raised the dead, but was still just a man, and suffered and died like the rest. He cast out demons, walked on water, taught with authority, was transfigured on the mountain, and was the messiah, the Son of God, but at the end of the day, he was but a fragile, mortal man, destined for the grave.

Sunday changed that. Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. He suffered pain, defeat, and death, as one human in common with us all, and he rose victorious. It was by his weak, mortal flesh, that God entered our greatest battle, and defeated it from the inside. Out of love He joined us in our darkest hour, and by His love He illuminated and broke the darkness of death.

And he was one of us. A human rose from the dead. And not only one of us, but the one who promised we could live in him, and he in us. The night before he was killed, he took bread and wine, and gave us his body and blood, for our food; that we may abide in him, and he in us; that as he lives by the Father, we may live by him. This is the one who left death in the past.

All history, all humanity, all life is changed forever. Death is not final; Love is. God is victorious. Every moment of life, is illuminated by the hope of the resurrection, and we live liberated from death. When death is overturned, what could hope to be left unchanged?

Christianity is no mere religion, no mere philosophy, no mere way of life. These are footnotes of life, and particular systems of living. They are no more than after-thoughts and add-ons. But Christianity fills, permeates, enlightens and enlivens all of life. Emmanuel: God is with us; this is my body, which is given for you; Christ is risen. Christianity is life transformed and fulfilled by accepting God’s offer of Himself.

Happy Easter, and may God bless you