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Crucible of Love

At our Eucharistic Celebrations, Jesus dances us into Mystical Union—with himself and with our sisters and our brothers. When we receive Eucharist, we not only receive Jesus but each other. We all become the bread and wine. We all become the Love Meal. We all become the Body of Christ. We all are united in Mystical Union.

In fact, Mystical Union is the goal of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Let me repeat: Mystical Unionis the goal. BUT NOT THE END. While union is a transcending, joyful experience, our Mystical Union is not just a feel-good experience. MysticalUnion is about our personal transformation. MysticalUnion is immersion in the crucible of Jesus’ love. There we are gradually transformed. Jesus’ divine plan is to transform our wounded humanity into the Beloved Community through Mystical Union.

Environment for Fire. Why a crucible of love? A crucible is a melting pot that refines metals at high temperatures. Love’s psychic fire is the agent of change but it requires the environment of a committed union to blaze up. Committed unions are the crucibles of love. Given that environment, love melts down our intolerance of others’ differences from us and with us. It diminishes our alienation from others, our indifference to others, our fear of others, and all that separates us from others.

Ideally, all unions, all deep relationships, human and divine, are crucibles of love where we as persons are transformed. Marital unions are crucibles of love. For those not committed to a personal relationship, the spiritual life is the crucible of love. Mystical Unions through our Eucharistic Celebrations are crucibles of love. When the pathological enters our union, marital unions become contests for control. Spiritual lives become arid, rigid adherence to religious practices. Eucharistic Celebrations become mere attendance at church services.

The transforming power of our unions should not surprise us. Fr. Teihard de Chardin states, that the more one is in union with another, the more one becomes one’s self, because it is the self that is the very basis of union. What is the significance of this psychological reality?

Our capacity to love, usually locked up within our hearts, is unleashed through our unions. It is fear that paralyzes our power to love. We only feel free to become fully ourselves in the environment of our love relationships. Of course, we cannot demand or manipulate our significant other to change. We can only be environment for growth.

Jesus knew the human heart. He knew that we human beings must evolve from our False Self to our True Self. That’s why he created the Love Meal to bring us into Mystical Union with himself and our sisters and brothers. To be free to love! To be open to creating the Beloved Community, the ultimate witness of Jesus’ authenticity and power.

Divine Fire. The connection between love and transformation has been missed for far too long. This disconnect may well account for our impoverished appreciation of love. Love has been romanticized, sentimentalized, sensationalized, minimized, commercialized. But love is the psychic fire that transforms our lives.

Look at what Holy Scripture reveals about love. In the Song of Songs, we read: “The flash of love is the flash of fire. Its flame is the flame of Yahweh himself.” In 1 John 4:16 we are told: “God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them.” Love is fire! Love is divine. In our Mystical Unions through Eucharistic Celebrations we experience that divine fire. No wonder that Fr. Chardin states: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Look how human experience confirms Scripture’s revelation. Two thousand years ago, the Roman historian, Plutarch, in “Dialogues of Love” recognized the power of love to bring about personal transformation in marital union:  “Physical pleasure with a spouse is the seed of friendship and the participation in great mysteries. Though the physical pleasure is brief, from it grows day by day respect and grace, affection and faithfulness.” Unions are an immersion in the crucible of love that transforms us.

Fire of Jesus’ Love.  With these reflections in mind, let us focus on how Jesus’ crucible of love is formed during our Eucharistic Celebrations. It begins with a deep encounter with Jesus. And nothing connects us more intensely with Jesus than prayerful, though brief, reflection on his passion and death.

By so doing, we unleash within ourselves the dynamic process of the Risen Christ, who dwells within us, gifting us with his Spirit who pours the love of God into our hearts.  At Mass, let us awaken our hearts for our Crucified Lover during the offering of our gifts, bread and wine, symbols of our lives, symbols of our desire to be sacrificed with him.

Nor should we dwell solely on Jesus’ physical sufferings. Let us ask ourselves the same question thatSt. Augustine raised: “What is the beauty we see in Christ?….The Crucified limbs? The pierced side? Or the love? When we hear that he suffered for us, what do we love? The love is loved.” We love his desire to lift us all up. We love his eros to be one with us. By loving Jesus back, we enter into union with Jesus. The crucible of Jesus’ love is formed in that love relationship.

Fire of Consecration. At the Consecration, we plunge deeper into the crucible of Jesus’ love. We pray: “Jesus, make us one with you in sacrifice. With your presence and love, consecrate our gifts of bread and wine, our very selves.” Jesus uses our gifts to unite himself with us. What was symbol becomes reality. What was ordinary bread and wine becomes Jesus’ dwelling place. And he takes us along with him for the sacrifice. We are consecrated with him.

In the Consecration process, the fire of Calvary becomes the fire on our altar.  The fire of Jesus’ love is expressed for us once again. That is the fire ablaze in the crucible of Jesus’ love. Here Jesus fires us up, forges us and seals us into union with himself and with our sisters and brothers. Mystical Union has begun!

Fire of Eucharist. When we receive Eucharist, we reach the climax of Jesus dancing us into Mystical Union. We plunge still deeper into the crucible of Jesus’ love. As we approach the altar to receive, we pray: “Jesus, anoint us for greater love and unity. Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” It is the time for the fire of Mystical Union to transform us. What can we do to help the process?

First, realize that when we receive Eucharist, we enter into a great mystery. The Spirit is at work within us. We enter into sacred time. Value this time!

Second, be aware that personal transformation is a difficult task. Our feelings of otherness from others alienates us from others. We shield ourselves from others with our desire for privacy. We project our individuality to protect us from others. Yet Jesus is calling us to create the Beloved Community.

So, pray intensely that the fire of Mystical Union will transform us from our intolerance of others and whatever separates us from others, that the Spirit will deepen our solidarity with the Beloved Community, and that the Spirit will move us beyond our local community to an awareness of our sisters and brothers all over the globe.

Third, cooperate with the Spirit at work within us. We must empty ourselves psychologically to allow room for the Spirit. How? By surrendering ourselves to the Spirit, by gifting ourselves to the Spirit, by putting ourselves at the disposal of the Spirit, by yielding ourselves to the Spirit. Using words like these awakens our hearts to be open to the work of the Spirit in our transformation.

Lastly, let us take the time to empty ourselves of all thoughts and words. Let us simply arouse our desire for the Spirit to anoint us for greater love and unity. The Spirit knows what we need to be transformed.

Conclusion. Some time ago, acting as Eucharistic Minister I served the chalice. For a moment I gazed intensely into the chalice, watching the wine swirl in the golden cup. I experienced the Spirit commingling me with Jesus and my sisters and brothers. I experienced Mystical Union but I stopped there. Now I have come to see the chalice symbolizing the crucible of Jesus’ love. Mystical Union is immersion in the crucible of Jesus’ love. Mystical Union is all about personal transformation!

Fr. Chardin writes: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” Let me paraphrase his statement: “Man will have discovered that love is divine fire.”  Our unions, human and divine, are crucibles of divine fire!

(See Hymn, Dance of the Mass, which focuses on Jesus’ Love Meal under Music on the masthead.)