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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Liturgy of the Eucharist

If the Liturgy of the Word is taken from the old synagogue service, the Liturgy of the Eucharist replaces the sacrifices that were conducted in the Temple of Jerusalem.  However, those oblations are merely ghosts or shadows of the sacrifice of Jesus that makes possible genuine atonement and reconciliation. The priest will imitate the pattern followed by Jesus at the Last Supper.  Indeed, this re-actualization makes present both the Lord’s reformed Seder (transitioning from the old to the new covenant) and the saving mystery of Calvary’s immolation.  One with the high priest Christ, four actions by the celebrant are made timeless and given an efficacy that only those with faith can appreciate.

1. Jesus took bread and the wine;

2. Jesus gave thanks;

3. Jesus broke bread; and

4. Jesus gave it to them.  

We must become what we receive.  We must be taken, blessed, broken and given.  We must be tabernacles for the presence of Christ.  We must (by grace) become the Eucharist we share, a bread broken for others.  We discern in these four simple actions the ultimate meaning that too many fail to fathom. This is the source for our dedication and strength in bringing healing and peace to a wounded world. This is the mystery that motivates every act of Christian charity and distinguishes it from the good works of well-meaning but often misdirected secular humanists. The public outreach of social workers only superficially resembles Christian service and sacrifice. Our focus remains upon almighty God even as we pour ourselves out as a libation for the world around us.

Over the span of two thousand years many accidentals have come and gone in surrounding and adorning the sacramental mystery.  While the saving action of Christ is complete in its effects, the human accidentals of song, gesture and language are liable to human invention and the changing whims of culture. This is realized in the many rites by which the Eucharist is conducted. No liturgy is absolutely perfect in execution. Indeed, while moving in beauty, the accidentals that should enhance or magnify the mystery we celebrate can inadvertently divert, distance or even conceal the core reality of the sacrament behind that which is extraneous. The fathers of the Second Vatican Council wanted to reform the liturgy so that there might be a more immediate understanding of what we are doing and a fuller participation in worship. We come together not as voyeurs looking for entertainment but to join with our priest in making an offering to the heavenly Father. Not everyone may be pleased with the results, but both the old and the new form of the liturgy constitute the Mass at which Christ is priest and victim.  Any diminution or slander of the sacramental reality and effects of either form is a sinful blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and an arrogant repudiation of the Church’s jurisdiction over her own rites.

We read in the CONSTITUTION ON THE SACRED LITURGY:

10. Nevertheless 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.

21. In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it. / In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.

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