Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Celebrating the Holy Eucharist

The Eucharist, according to consistent Church teaching and specifically the words of the Second Vatican Council, is the “source and summit” of the life and mission of the Church. It is the fountain of God’s grace and the reality toward which the prayer and work of the whole Church is directed. Above all things on earth and in the Church, the Eucharist is the most significant reality this side of Heaven.
It goes without saying, therefore, that the Eucharist is the most important experience we have each week, as we attend Sunday Mass. The Mass is an experience of the Sacred Liturgy – the Church’s public prayer. Our English word liturgy is derived from the Greek word leitourgia, meaning “work on behalf of the people.” In the city-states of ancient Greece, the celebrations marking important events in the lives of royal families involved the undertaking of some work for the good of people, e.g. the building of bridges or roads. In the context of the Church, the liturgy is the work of God on behalf of His people, in which we participate (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1069ff). The Mass is not our work, nor is it anyone’s personal property, nor does it originate from our creativity. It is God’s work and is entrusted to the Church to safeguard and to celebrate with fidelity and reverence.
Jesus is the true celebrant of the Mass, and He is active in the celebration of the Liturgy. Jesus is present and active as the people gather for worship; in His minister, the priest; in the proclamation of His Word; and, above all, substantially present in the Eucharist (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II).
The Mass is both a sacrifice in which Jesus – who is both priest and victim – offers Himself, and a banquet at which we are fed by Him. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a new sacrifice, like the constant offerings of animals we read about in the Old Testament. Rather, it is a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. When we come to Mass, we receive the same broken Body and the same poured-out of the same Jesus who died on the Cross for our salvation. In the Mass, Jesus empties Himself and gives Himself for us. We are thus drawn into the mystery of the Passion and we experience the unconditional love of the Cross.
Primarily, three things happen when we come to Mass. First of all, the Mass is an act of worship. Obviously, we are in the presence of Jesus in the Mass. It is only natural that we pause to praise and adore Jesus, our Savior, who gives Himself to us in the Eucharist. As Pope Benedict recently recalled in a speech given at the Vatican, adoration is essential throughout the Mass, for as Saint Augustine said about the Eucharist, “Before one eats [the Body of Jesus], he must first adore.” At the four times in the Mass when the priest elevates the Host and/or Chalice, it is natural to look at Jesus, to recognize what a gift we have in the Eucharist, and to pray quietly. The experience of adoration that is begun in the Mass continues in Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass.
Second, we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. The Eucharist is not a “thing,” nor is it a one-time event that happened only at the Last Supper. The Eucharist is not a static reality. It is a living reality. The Eucharist is an encounter between persons: between human persons and the divine person Jesus Christ. Communion, therefore, is a moment of intimate love and union between us and Jesus Christ. “Common-union” exists as well with all the baptized throughout the world and down through the centuries who have shared together in the Eucharist, as well as with the saints in Heaven, who are united with Jesus forever in perfect love.
Third, we take Jesus, whom we have received, into our daily lives. The Eucharist is not a self-centered reality. We are compelled by the powerful love of Jesus not to keep Him to ourselves, but to share Him with everyone we encounter. The Eucharist is in one sense personal, as we receive Jesus and become one with Him. It is also communal, as we receive Him together and are called to bring His love and truth into the world.
The mystery of the Eucharist is huge! These few reflections only scratch the surface of a mystery that offers food for a lifetime of prayer and reflection. The Easter Season is traditionally a time of “mystogogy,” focused on studying the sacraments. This is an important opportunity for all of us to deepen our understanding of the Eucharist. I recommend the following for reading: Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council; Mysterium Fidei (The Mystery of Faith), encyclical of Pope Paul VI; Mane Nobiscum, Domine (Stay With Us, Lord), letter of Pope John Paul II; Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity), letter of Pope Benedict XVI; Seven Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn; and Celebrating the Holy Eucharist by Francis Cardinal Arinze.
In this Easter Season, we rejoice in the abundance of grace given to us by Jesus in the Eucharist, and we pledge our lives to Him whom we adore and receive, striving daily to bring His love to the world!

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