Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Stay close to the Eucharist"

Anon asked the following questions:

“Fr. Greg- You’ve talked countless times about “staying close to the Eucharist.” I’ve never really asked you about that statement. The Eucharist is Christ, so why not say, “Stay close to Christ?” I’m unclear what you mean- are you saying to go to Mass and Adoration? Maybe I’m being obtuse, but some clarity on what exactly it means to “stay close to the Eucharist” would be helpful.”

Thanks for the question, Anon. The main reason that I say “stay close to the Eucharist” is that it’s much more specific and concrete than “stay close to Christ”. You’ve probably noticed that I like to focus on specific, concrete aspects of our faith in my homilies. These aspects have always engaged me much more than general, abstract ones (although I do love my philosophy!). Especially in a world that has become highly visual-oriented, I find it necessary to speak in terms that give people concrete images as often as possible.

“Staying close to Jesus” is a beautiful concept. It is our way of living as Christians that takes on so many forms and meanings. When it comes to their prayer lives, I have heard many people - young and old - express this exact desire so many times. “I just need to stay close to Jesus” they will say when admitting that their prayer lives have been lacking. Catholics do have a general desire to stay close to our Lord. Unfortunately, it stays more in their desires than in their wills. Put another way, it remains an abstract thought and not a concrete reality.

One of my main jobs as a priest is to inform people of specifically how to stay close to Jesus. In homilies, I have made mention of many ways to do this in prayer and service. In private conversations with people (who have expressed their desire to stay close to Jesus), I give them concrete ideas for good habits they can develop (praying to Jesus from their hearts throughout the day, meditating on Scripture daily, praying the rosary, reading the lives of the saints, etc.).

Now, I dwell on the Eucharist so much because it is Christ in the flesh. God on Earth! Yes, Jesus is spiritually present everywhere but sin. We can talk to him in our rooms, in the kitchen, on the subway, etc., and those can be powerful moments of grace. But, in the Eucharist, He is REALLY present – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. To pray in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is to be in the presence of the Master. Praying in the presence of the Eucharist is much more efficacious and fruitful because a) we make more of an effort to be with Him, and b) there is more actual grace available. Also, while he is invisibly present in the world, he is visibly present in the Eucharist. Seeing Christ in the Eucharist (through the eyes of faith) is for many people what it was for Thomas seeing his wounds – he believed because he had seen (in fact, we whisper at the consecration at Mass what he said at that moment, “my Lord and my God”).

Finally (although there is much more I could say), I say “stay close to the Eucharist” in the same way I would say “stay close to your parents” or “stay close to your friends”. People know what it means to be close to others – as in, “I am close to my mother”. They know that it means to be in regular contact with others – spending time with them, getting to know them more and more, doing things for them, etc. We often measure our closeness to others by these concrete acts. So, when I say “stay close to the Eucharist”, I mean do these concrete acts – spend time with Him (Adoration), get to know him more and more (meditation and contemplation), do things for Him (going out of your way to visit Him)…go to be with Him regularly. Be in relation-ship with Him! Jesus himself speaks of the fecundity of staying close to Him in the Eucharist: “whoever remains in me and I in Him will be much fruit”.


At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate the distinction between a spiritual and physical presence. I don’t always connect with the spiritual presence of Christ, so the physical presence is important to me. Often, I come and sit by myself before the tabernacle. When I come, sometimes I have several prayers to offer, but sometimes I have very little or nothing to say. I kind of don’t think that matters as much as my actually being there. I read a metaphor that I think fits- that time is like taking a tea bag and putting it in boiling water. The water becomes infused with the tea and becomes something new. The longer you let it seep, the stronger the tea becomes.

At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

I have seen it suggested that, rather than speaking of a spiritual or a physical presence, we should speak of Jesus' sacramental presence in the Eucharist, "sacramental" being a third kind of existence unique to the sacraments.

The problem with saying Jesus is "physically" present in the Eucharist is that it means something quite different from when we say anyone else is physically present. Physics involves size and mass, and the Eucharist is not the Body of Christ in terms of size and mass, but in terms of substance.

There is, certainly, a physical aspect to the Eucharist, which is implied by the term "sacramental presence," since a sacrament is a kind of physical sign.

"Sacramental" also implies the temporal aspect of the Eucharist, which ties the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross to the specific Mass at which specific pieces of bread become the Body of Christ, and also ties both past and present to the future eternal banquet. (The union of Calvary with the present and with eternity is common to all the sacraments.)

The Catechism calls the Real Presence a "substantial presence," which is a precise way to put it, but somewhat more technical than devotional.

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Physics involves size and mass, and the Eucharist is not the Body of Christ in terms of size and mass, but in terms of substance."

Great way of putting it. I suspect an explanation on this level will help the many that stand in murky waters in terms of the Eucharist.


At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that Thomas' seeing Jesus' wounds is comparable to our seeing Jesus in the Eucharist. The wounds shown to Thomas were exactly that -- physical wounds. But the host does not look like a person. So it truly takes faith to believe in the Real Presence. Thomas, on the other hand, had an easier task. During Communion at Mass, I feel like a mere onlooker because it brings no special experience to me whatsoever. I really do it because not doing it would send a message to my kids that I do not believe, which could dampen their belief.

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay- the "sacramental presence." When I can touch, see, feel and taste something, I consider it a physical encounter- but I understand what you are saying.

Btw, for you Super Bowl watchers, remember the ad that was linked here earlier that showed a fetus and spoke to Obama’s potential? NBC rejected it as an ad to be shown during the Super Bowl.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger fran said...

Where there's a (God's )will, there's a way.

The makers of the "Life. Imagaine the Potential," video are now hoping to have it aired during the State of the Union address, or during the Oscars.

In the words of one of its creators:

'No matter what it's going to run...maybe not the Super Bowl. But that's in God's hands - we propose and He disposes."


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