What would life be like without memories?
One of the most enjoyable experiences that I have in the evening time of my life, is catching up with old friends. Whether it is over a cup of coffee in a Café, or being invited to celebrate the Eucharist with fellow Religious Sisters and Brothers, or being with long standing family friends; it is a bit like time standing still…well at least for a moment. Faces speak thousands of words just at a glance. Memories of past experiences flood through the mind at a great rate. The appreciation of the moment, by saying, ‘it is so good to see you’ says it all! But it says even more! Very quickly we begin conversations with…’remember when……’ at that, faces light up; we know that we are on the same page, and whatever happened yester year is made present right now, and we smile! A real presence is happening!
In our houses, if we did not have memorabilia in the form of Pictures, nick knacks, ornaments, our Homes would be an empty box, devoid of character, life and memory. Often if we go overseas, or for a holiday in our own country, we buy something small to give to our precious loved ones upon our return, as a memory that they had been included, thought of and treasured even while we were away. By giving them a small gift, it is a way of saying that you are part of my living memory. Let’s hang on to that phrase, because we will re visit it a bit later on.
Now, with the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, most of the above plays a very important part, not only in understanding the Feast, but cherishing this Celebration as a vital part of our human condition and a pivotal aspect for our spirituality, faith development and mission.
Let’s get some clues from the Readings for today’s Feast. In the first Reading from the Old Testament. The Book of Deuteronomy, Masses says to the people….’Remember how the lord our God let you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you….he fed you with manna…’ We need to RE MEMBER! So often, it is only when we re member does the present make sense! ‘Moses goes on to say a little further down in the passage, ‘Do not forget that Lord your God brought you out of the land of Egypt….’ It is also in our human nature to forget! We need to be reminded of past events, so that we can get the ‘present’ in perspective! It is a bit like driving a Car…..we have the power to move on, we look through the windscreen to navigate where we are going, but we need the rear vision mirrors to keep us on track. Biblical speaking and thinking, we need to see the whole picture not only in 3D but surround sound as well. Nothing can be understood in isolation……everything is connected. That does not mean that we have to consciously re think the whole gamut of Salvation History before we make a decision; no, again it is like driving a car; we have learned the rules of the road, we have become accustomed to handling the mechanics of the car……all of this becomes part of us. The same applies with Salvation History, when all of that has become part of us through our DNA and learned experience, we are in a good position to answer the response to the ongoing question, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’
Let’s briefly have a look at some other important elements which are all connected for a wholesome understanding of The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Let’s look at Bread! This was part of the main diet of the people of old, just as it is for most of us. But, the Biblical understanding of Bread was far wider than just some lovely hot Bread rolls! God’s Word was seen as Bread! God’s Word needed to be digested, so that we can become part of its vitality. The Manna in the desert, was seen and understood as God’s benevolence being shared with his people to fill their hunger; but not just their bodily hunger, their spiritual hunger as well. Notice that Moses said earlier on as I quoted that Humility is a necessary quality for understanding God’s loving kindness to His people. Humility is linked with poverty of spirit, a desired attribute of the Anawim…the poor of the Lord, the faithful few, of us – the Living Body of Christ.
Let’s look at Blood! In Old and New Testament times, Blood was understood as – LIFE ITSELF! If a person’s blood came out of their body during a battle, that person’s life was running out and death was the next step. Blood being painted on the door posts of the Hebrew Houses at the time of the Exodus, was symbolic of LIFE within the household, and that family was spared. So, blood was a symbol of life!
As we come together to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we are as a world-wide community recognising the boundless benevolence of our God in sharing the life giving presence of His Son in the Eucharist, His Word and People. As we honour and ritualise our celebration of this wonderful action of re memberance, it must be done sensitively and thoughtfully, and with a real sense of balance. It is so easy for superstition practices to creep in, or get carried away in piety which then misses the point of the Celebration. In our Adoration of the Eucharist, it must not commence and end at the Eucharist in the Monstrance! Mystically, we must see through the Eucharistic presence of Christ, to his living presence within His people. The more ornate the Monstrance, does not increase the presence of, nor the efficacy in our adoration. A Simple Monstrance, supported by the number of Candles which we would use for the celebration of the Eucharist; keep it all in perspective. There is an impulsive urge among people to be extravagant in their adornment of the Eucharistic presence; if that is commensurate with the adornment and reverence that we have for our sisters and brothers, well and good, but if not…..it is purely a distraction. I worry from time to time that for some people the Eucharistic Host is more like a lucky charm, or a Holy Tablet! We must always have a sense of balance in these things, because as human beings we seem to have a propensity to desire to be ‘in charge’ of Holy things, of God! It is a bit like the image of the Golden Calf in the Old Testament……that kind of superstition often just sits under the surface of our quest for spiritual things. To be honest and fair, some of the Church hierarchy push the superstition button out of their own quest for power. Food for thought!
The second reading today from St.Paul, hits the nail on the head by saying that we all form the Body of Christ as we are in one loaf!
In the Gospel today, the Johannine version of the Good News, in its reflection on the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith, see Jesus as the I AM….the Word made Flesh, the I AM WHO AM of the Old Testament. Jesus is the new Manna, giving life to God’s people. We are called to partake of that ‘new life’ in the Eucharist. That new life is continually offered in the Word which is food, and God’s people who are the living Body of Christ.
I would like to end up with the words from a beautiful Song, sung by John Michael Talbot, attributed to St.Theresa.
Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through He looks compassion on this world, yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world.
YOURS ARE THE HANDS, YOURS ARE THE FEET, YOURS ARE THE EYES, YOU ARE HIS BODY.
Christ has no Body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks, compassion on this world. Christ has no Body now on earth but yours.
Fr Kevin Walsh
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