When Peter Julian Eymard made the difficult decision to leave the Society of Mary in 1856, one of the things he brought with him to the work of founding two religious congregations dedicated to the Eucharist was an enduring love for Mary, the mother of the Lord. Eymard’s affection for Mary was shaped in his childhood by visits to the shrine of Notre Dame du Laus near his home, intensified in his teenage years when his mother died and he asked Mary to be his spiritual guide and protector, and deepened during almost two decades of ministry as a Marist.
In Marist spirituality, the frame of reference for understanding Mary as a model of discipleship is Nazareth and the nexus of relationships in the Holy Family. The society’s charism was encapsulated by its founder, Father Jean Claude Colin ― whom Father Eymard knew well and worked closely beside ― in the phrase “hidden and as it were unknown in the midst of the world.”
In living out his eucharistic vocation, Father Eymard searched for a new locus for understanding Mary. He found it in the Cenacle, as he wrote in 1865: “How she has led me by the hand, all by herself to the priesthood! And then to the Most Blessed Sacrament! From Nazareth, Jesus went to the Cenacle, and Mary there made her dwelling.” Earlier, he told the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament: “It is the life of Mary in the Cenacle which should be the model and the consolation of your life. Honor this life of Mary in the eucharistic Cenacle.”
The Cenacle is where Jesus shared a final meal with his friends and instituted the memorial of his saving death. It is the place of intimacy, as we read in John 14-17, where the Lord poured out his heart and soul and prayed for his disciples. It is from the upper room that the apostles emerged on the day of Pentecost to inaugurate their mission to the ends of the earth.
Memorial. Intimacy. Mission. The icon of the Cenacle tells us as much about the Apostle of the Eucharist’s grasp of the eucharistic mystery as it does about his love for Mary.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the last of the conciliar documents to be highlighted in our yearlong series on The Eucharistic Vision of Vatican II, states: “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the church is directed; at the same time, it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s Supper” (10).
In this Issue
Gil Ostdiek, OFM, and Susan Wood, SCL, offer distinct yet complementary perspectives on Sacrosanctum Concilium, promulgated on December 4, 1963. Each is worthy of careful reading and prayerful reflection. Both authors help us appreciate the central place of the Eucharist in the life, mission, mysticism, and self-understanding of the church.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy opens on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception this year and continues through the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe in 2016. Carmelite Sister Mary Grace Melcher has accepted our invitation to write two intercessions and a concluding prayer on the themes of mercy and the Eucharist for the Sunday and solemnity Universal Prayers this year. These can be added to those you write and pray. The Pastoral Liturgy column will return with our next issue.
Cebu in the Philippines will host the 51st International Eucharistic Congress January 24-31, 2016. Vittore Boccardi, SSS, introduces us to the history of the IEC movement, the congress theme and program, and how these gatherings have changed to reflect current pastoral and social realities.
Anthony Schueller, SSS
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