There are moments and experiences in life that lift our sights beyond the immediate. This is true for all of us, lay, consecrated religious, and ordained. It might be witnessing the birth of a long-awaited child or standing beside the bed of a fellow believer completing his or her journey home to God. It might be sharing a glass of wine and dinner with a good friend or listening to powerful preaching or sacred music at Mass. It might be gazing at the splendor of the Grand Canyon or watching a glorious sunset over the ocean or a peaceful lake after a long day of ministry. All of these are hints of something outside life’s temporalities, the eternal.
The Eucharist is that for us as well. The eschatological dimension of the sacrament can easily be overlooked in our rightful focus on the memorial of the Lord’s death and its saving effects in our lives as committed disciples amid the challenges of the day.
Pope Francis has spoken and written quite extensively about the Eucharist in this light. In his Angelus message at the Vatican on August 19, 2018, the Holy Father said that the Eucharist is where Christians find “that which feeds us and quenches our thirst today and for eternity. Every time that we participate in the Holy Mass, we hasten heaven on earth in a certain sense because from the Eucharistic food — the body and blood of Christ — we learn what eternal life is.”
The apostle Paul exhorts: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:1-2). Again, quoting Pope Francis: “Happiness and eternity of life depend on our capacity for making the evangelical love we received in the Eucharist fruitful.”
An image might help. In Phil Alden Robinson’s 1989 adaptation of W. P. Kinsella’s classic novel about family and baseball, Field of Dreams, there is a dramatic scene where an aged man, weary from life’s battles, steps over the foul line onto the playing field of his youth and is transformed into a wide-eyed athlete filled with dreams of baseball immortality. Similarly, the Eucharist transports us not only back to the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, but forward to its fulfillment in the heavenly banquet of the Lamb recounted in the Book of Revelation. Dr. Scott Hahn, the noted speaker and apologist, confesses that it was this insight into Catholic worship that led to his conversion.
Capuchin Raniero Cantalamessa, longtime Preacher to the Papal Household, states that the Eucharist is “the sacrament that reveals to us, pilgrims on earth, the Christian meaning of life” and, “like the manna, . . . nourishes those who are journeying toward the Promised Land.” It “reminds the Christian constantly that he is a ‘pilgrim and a stranger’ in this world; that his life is an exodus.” The Eucharistic bread “sustains us during the whole of our journey in this life.”
Anthony Schueller, SSS
In This Issue
January and February are months where we often find ourselves contemplating the passage of time. We look forward with hope as a new calendar year begins, and we also recall the nature of passing things with the approach of the Lenten season. The theme of time, so beautifully portrayed in Nicora Gangi’s cover painting entitled, “The Time is Soon,” unifies many of our articles in this issue. John Thomas Lane, SSS begins a series in our Pastoral Liturgy column exploring the deeper meaning of the Liturgy of the Hours. John Zupez, SJ ponders eternity and the fruits of our work in time. While Michael DeSanctis explores how a young, un-churched generation encounters historic sacred spaces. These in addition to Dennis Billy CSsR’s examination of Flannery O’Connor’s eucharistic theology and Lisa Marie Betz’s thoughtful scripture reflections mark the unfolding of the liturgical year.