“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” ~ (Luke 1:46-55 – The Magnificat)
We who are called, whether religious or secular, know only too well the draw deep within the core of our beings to serve our God, as well as our sisters and brothers who surround us each moment of our lives. It is one of the many reasons we become servants, but there is one reason which surpasses all others – the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist. I am not referencing our hourly celebrations or private devotions, although those are equally important, I am instead referencing how we extend that celebration throughout every moment of our lives and with those we encounter from day to day.
There are varied thoughts on the Divine presence within the Celebration of the Eucharist. Many believe in the very real and tangible presence of Jesus within the consecration of the Body and Blood – transubstantiation – a literal transformation of not only the bread and wine on the altar, but of ourselves as we receive. There are also others who believe the transformation is symbolic of a celebration dedicated thousands of years ago in a small upper room during the high Jewish celebration of Passover – consubstantiation. With both we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of our Lord through anamnesis, a shared memorial or memory, of the meal shared with the Apostles. Despite their differences, there remains one crucial unifying factor – transformation through our Divine Savior and Christ, Jesus.
There is, however, something we need to remember and bring to the forefront of our minds every moment of every day. When receiving the Eucharist and because of our belief in the real transformation, whether real or symbolic, we bring into ourselves that Divine presence. We are in essence coming together with and absorbing the grace and beauty of our God, through our Lord.
There is something else we need to remember – the Eucharistic celebration is not something arbitrarily tacked on to the end of our celebrations. It is the center and core focus of our spirituality, as well as an expression of our call as Christians and of our faith as Catholics. Without the Eucharist in our lives we are pitiable creatures lost in a desert: that or we are in this solely for the power associated with our positions; either way we are lost.
What drew me to the priesthood as a child was the deep internal draw to the real presence of our God alive within the celebration of the Eucharist. I was inseparable from the sacraments and would hide from my parents under the protection altar when it was time to go home. When I was old enough I joined the ranks of altar servers and gradually worked my way up to sacristan. I was ready to enter a high school seminary, complete with recommendations and even a scholarship, but our God sets before us paths which, if we walk them and allow ourselves to be transformed by them, ultimately teach us about ourselves and how we fit in with the world. So it was for me, but I never lost my love for the Eucharist.
It wasn’t until my 30’s that I found myself faced with the opportunity of a lifetime. My diocese at that time offered me a chance to follow my passion of service. I have since followed my heart and renew myself within the Holy celebration and sacrifice of the Eucharist. For me the mystagogia of our faith lies within that brief moment of time when we experience the fullest love and devotion. That moment of sublime ecstasy must be shared with those we encounter from day to day, moment to moment. The beauty within the celebration is revealed only AFTER the celebration has been incorporated into our own “one in being with the Father” through Jesus.
“Our spiritual life will grow and our apostolates will flourish, on one condition: that we center our lives on the Eucharist. Why? Because the Eucharist is Jesus Christ living on earth, in our midst, today.” ~ Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
If we, as servants, cannot bring ourselves to the celebration, then perhaps we need to reexamine and reflect on why we have become servants in the first place. We, as both servants and leaders, must return to our core calling within the Teachings of our Lord Jesus, the Christ. Our lives and worship center on becoming one Body of Christ and so our focus must again return to that central figure and reason for our existence. We have been granted the greatest gift humankind could receive – love. Through love we were granted forgiveness of our sins and welcome into the Kingdom of God. To those we serve – help us to never lose sight of our central focus. Remind us to continue wandering our paths of sacred service. Remind us that we need you too and that we are first and foremost servants of the Eucharist we profess to love – in all people – through Christ our Lord, Amen.
The Rev. Father Kenneth Nelan is the pastor of the Sacred Wandering Pastoral Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He is also the celebrant of the Sunday Mass broadcast on Facebook.