The Everything of God and the Everything of each person
Three drops of wine and one drop of water in cupped hands; the moving experience of Vietnamese Cardinal, Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, as he celebrated the Eucharist secretly in his prison cell. There is hardly a better image to convey so vividly the meaning of the Eucharist, pronounced by the Second Vatican Council as "the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed, whilst at the same time the source from which all her power flows.' (SC 10).
The Eucharist is the All contained in infinite smallness: the Everything of God and the everything of the Church, all that she is and what she is called 'to do'; it even holds the secret of the fulfilment of every human person and the edification of society. It is the point of arrival when Jesus' life reached its climax, when he gave His All, and the point of departure from which the miracle of unity, prefigured at Pentecost, burst forth at the heart of the young Church; the unity of different peoples, languages and cultures.
We have dedicated this month's edition of Gen's to this Everything. To help us speak about such an inexhaustible reality - no words will ever be enough - you will see that we have taken a slightly different approach to the usual format. In place of many experiences and testimonies from around the world, we have included a greater number of articles under the headings of 'spirituality, reflection, and going into depth' that lead to meditation and contemplation. However, you will still find an experience of life in action!
For if there is one thing we must strive for it is to translate these vast horizons into pastoral life, and there are still many steps to take if we do not wish to undermine the full extent of the social, anthropological and even environmental implications and potential to be found in Eucharist.
We will point to just a few ways in which we might go ahead
For example, before our understanding of the sacraments, must come our understanding of that other living presence of Jesus which is to be found in His Word. Indeed, the Fathers of the Church speak of two 'altars' - the Word and the Eucharist and the Second Vatican Council wished to highlight this. As far as the order of catechesis goes, experiencing what it means to live the Word must come first.
We must highlight the social consequences that the Eucharist achieves, not simply as expressed in doctrine, but in concrete action. If we return to the origins of Christian Traditions recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (cf 2,42-47; 4, 32-35), the Eucharistic celebration did not simply end with the Blessing, but overflowed into fraternal communion (agape) and the service of those suffering or in need. We should be careful not to over spiritualize or clericalize the Eucharist, but know how to penetrate beyond the sacred and ritual elements to discover the profoundly lay dimension of the Eucharist, and all that it has to offer humanly and socially in the context of our daily lives. It means opening up areas of human life such as economics and politics, which apparently have nothing to do with spirituality or sacraments, to the possibility of that surplus that can only come from God, and which reaches us through the Eucharist when we live it in all its fullness.
We must also take into account the cosmic dimension of the Eucharist; it can shed light on the ecological challenges we face. It’s not by chance that both Pope Francis and the ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, two prominent figures in today's ecclesial landscape, come together on this point.
We mustn’t think that Eucharistic practices belong solely to those who are ordained, or to lay catechists and ministers of the Eucharist. They belong to the whole people of God, immersed and active in situations of everyday life, dealing with the most broken and wounded of human society. It would be beneficial to rediscover the profoundly lay dimension of the common priesthood in which all those who have been baptised share.
This is what we hope to bring you in the following pages, with the help and support of all our readers who are not simply at the receiving end but co-authors with us, - perhaps another 'social' effect of the Eucharist.
It is a question of treading and re-treading in the footsteps of the Second Vatican Council, beginning with a deeper understanding of the Liturgy as the living participation of God's People in the Paschal Mystery; going on to explore and gain a new understanding of the Church as the dynamism of communion that proceeds from the life of the Three Divine Persons; and, finally coming home to Jesus's New Commandment of love, which animates and renews all realities: the " fundamental law of human perfection, and therefore of the world's transformation " (GS 38)