EUCHARIST, LIVING TRADITION

Created: Friday, 17 October 2014 Last Updated: Friday, 17 October 2014

EUCHARIST, LIVING TRADITION


1. The present catechesis facilitates a revision of the Eucharistic celebration, the meeting of the community. When Saint Paul writes to the community of Corinth, he is worried about the good order in the assembly or meeting, but in what does the good order consist?, is it the rite execution according to the rules or, rather, the transmission of the living tradition coming from the Lord?
2. To solve the question, it is necessary to go back to the sources. In the last supper, Jesus says: Do this in my memory (1 Co 11, 23 – 25; Mc 14, 22-24; Mt 26, 26-28; Lk 22, 14-20). But, what does Jesus do? Jesus has supper with his disciples (Jn 13, 1-2), he celebrates the Passover (Lk 22, 15), the feast of the unleavened bread (Lk 22, 1). Nothing is said about formulas. Jesus blesses, he gives thanks. According to Lucas and Paul, he simply give thanks. That is the meaning of Eucharist, thanksgiving
3. The Jewish Passover is a supper with readings and psalms. For instance, the narration of the Exodus and the Psalms (see Mk 14, 26). The unleavened bread (like the bitter herbs) is symbol of the past difficulties, the bread of those persecuted, the bread that was necessary to carry and to cook before it could ferment. It is said so in the Passover Jewish ritual: “Here is the bread of misery that our ancestors have eaten in Egypt, let anyone in need come to celebrate the Passover”. The Passover celebrates the Exodus´ experience like present: the living God, who acts in history, opens a path of liberation. The believer will lift up the coup of salvation (Ps 116; Lk 22, 20). In the Passover frame, everyone narrates his story and altogether they celebrate the shared history. The Eucharist, celebrated in the primitive Church the first day of the week or day of the Lord (Acts 20, 7; Rev 1, 10), is from the first moment separated from the Jewish Passover.
4. In the last supper Jesus celebrates his pass from this world to the Father (Jn 13, 1). God passes saving in the Passover of Jesus who is not abandoned in the death (Ps 16), but who is present alive between us, specially in the meeting of the community. The true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not something automatic, magic or routine. It is always God´s gift. So that, we ask to the Father (invocation) to make alive the words of Jesus in the last supper. The Eucharist is memorial of what Jesus made.
5. The first day of the week (Lk 24, 1. 13), the disciples of Emaus acknowledge Jesus as he breaks the bread (24, 35). The fraction of the bread is the most ancient name of the Eucharist. The expression describes not only the fact of breaking the bread, but the whole meal. Christ´s presence in the Eucharist converts the meeting of the community in the supper of the Lord: “the first day of the week, while we were together for the fraction of the bread, Paul who should leave the next day, was chatting with them and he prolonged the talk until midnight… he broke the bread and he ate; he afterwards talked for a long time, until dawn” (Acts 20, 7-11)
6. Paul prolonged the chat until midnight. Really, homily means conversation. It is not sermon and monologue, but dialogue and conversation in the meeting of the community after listening God´s word. That is why Paul says: “All of you could prophesy, one by one, for the instruction and encouragement of all” (1 Co 14, 31). Justin, in the middle of the second century, indicates us how is the word listened in the community of Rome: “While time allows the memories of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read” (Apology I, 67). The Vatican Council II instils the need to promote “the full participation, conscious and active” of the Christian people (SC 14)
7. Like the homily, the prayer of the faithful is open to the participation of everybody. We can revise if that prayer has a relationship with the listened word; if the prayer (like the listening of God´s word) has a relationship with what we are living, with the personal, social or ecclesial events; we can revise if our prayer is catholic, id est, universal; if our prayer is invocation, thanksgiving, request; if we pray without many words (Mt 6, 7), in the spirit of Jesus (Lk 11, 2-4); if we accomplish what the psalm says: Thanks to the Lord, plead his name, proclaim his great deeds to the people (Ps 105)
8. Paul writes to the Corinthians about the good order in the assemblies. He is worried about the disorder: “Your gatherings are not for the better but for the worse. First, as I have heard, when you gather together, there are divisions among you and I partly believe it. There may have to be different groups among you, so that it be comes clear who among you are genuine”, “your gatherings are no longer the Supper of the Lord, for each one eats at once his own food and while one is hungry, the other is getting drunk. Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or perhaps you despise the Church of God and desire to humiliate those who have nothing?” (1 Co 11, 17 – 22). “So then, brothers, when you gather for a meal, wait for one another 34 and, if someone is hungry, let him eat in his own house. In this way you will not gather for your common condemnation. The other instructions I shall give when I go there.” (11, 33-34)
9. Paul has received a tradition that comes from the Lord: “the Lord Jesus, on the night that he was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying: this is my body which is broken for you; do this in memory of me. In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, he said: this cup is the new Covenant in my blood. When ever you drink it, do it in memory of me. So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes”. (11, 23-26). Until he comes back, when?, At the end of history?. No, already now. It is another aspect of Jesus´ Passover mystery. He leaves, but he comes back: “A little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (Jn 14, 19). Paul lives it in his own body: “At any moment we carry in our person the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in us.” (2 Co 4, 10)
10. It is fundamental to discern the body of the Lord, id est, his presence: “if anyone eats of the bread or drinks from the cup of the Lord unworthily, he sins against the body and blood of the Lord. Let each one, then, examine himself… Other wise, he eats and drinks his own condemnation in not recognizing the Body. This is the reason why so many among you are sick and weak and several have died.” (1 Co 11, 27-30)
11. But, how can we discern the body of Christ? In first place, “nobody may say: Jesus is the Lord! but in the holy spirit” (12, 3). This supposed, Paul says: “You are the body of Christ, and his members each one on his part” (12, 27). Christ acts through each member of the community: “There is diversity of gifts, but the Spirit is the same. There is diversity of ministries, but the Lord is the same. There is diversity of works, but the same God works in all.” (12,4), “as the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ.” (12, 12). In the Didache, a work written in Syria in the second half of the first century, the broken bread, before disperse, and the assembled community are compared: “As this broken bread was disperse on the mountains and assembled it was made one, in the same manner your Church from the edges of the earth will be assembled” (num. 9)
12. The Eucharist is the meeting of the community. It is not a pure legal compliance, it is an experience of grace. The Gospel is accomplished: You not only shall accomplish the Saturday (Dt 5, 12-15), but you will be fed with the bread of life (Jn 6, 35 – 51), that feeds the community. Among the diverse ways of the presence of Christ in the Church, says the Council, his presence in the Eucharist constitutes a special presence (SC 7).The community is “the body of Christ”. It is not a partial meeting, but a total one. In it we resort “to the apostles´ teaching, to the communion, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers”, to the “signals”, to the “property sharing” (Acts 2, 42-47). In it is the function of “tying and untying” (Mt 18, 18)
13. The most important charisma is the fraternal love: “If I could speak all the human and angelic tongues, but had no love,  If I gave everything I had to the poor, and even give up my body to be burned, if I am without love, it would be of no value to me. Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Co 13, 18)
14. In conclusion, “when you gather, each of you can take part with a song, a teaching, or a revelation, but let all this build up the Church.” (14, 26). “God is not a God of confusion but of peace”, “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (14, 33.40). One remark: the references to the woman’s  submission, to the veil (11, 3-5), to the silence of the women in the assemblies (14, 34) look like later interpolations, carried out (besides) by Paul’s adversaries. Paul’s message is this: “There is not any more neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither man nor woman” (Ga 3, 28)
* Dialogue: Revision about the Eucharist. What does Jesus do? What do we do?