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Mystical Communion

We have called the Christian Community the Beloved Community. We have even stated that Jesus’ goal was to create the Beloved Community through the medium of the Eucharistic Celebration. Have we indulged in rhetoric or are we dealing with a rich spiritual insight? What I have come to realize is that we have merely pointed toward a very deep spiritual reality.

In our expanded concept of “Holy Communion,” we created a model with three different types of experiences during the liturgy of the Mass—spiritual communion, ritual communion and actual communion. Of the three, ritual communion captures the core action of the Eucharistic Celebration. At Mass we act out ritually our desire for spiritual communion with Jesus and the Beloved Community—by offering ourselves as bread and wine, by consecrating with Jesus our bread and wine and thus ourselves, and by becoming Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.

What is the deep spiritual reality before us? Ritual communion at Mass culminates in mystical communion: We are brought into mystical communion with God the Father. We are brought into mystical communion with Jesus. We are brought into mystical communion with our sisters and brothers in the Beloved Community.

This is Jesus’ goal in creating the Love Meal that we celebrate at Mass. Perhaps substituting in our minds the term “Love Meal” for the word “Mass”, a nondescript term, would help our intentionality. At least, before Mass begins, let us focus our intentionality to enter into this experience of mystical communion. Taking our cue from the Evangelist John, we will see that mystical communion flows from mystical union.

Mystical Union.  For the Beloved Community to exist, grow and flourish, we in that community must participate in the love life of God. We must enter into this mystical union. For it is this mystical union that drives us to become community, to become the Beloved Community.

How do we enter into mystical union with God? Through union with Jesus who is the medium for entering into the life of the Trinity. “Jesus desires to bring his disciples into his own interior life, into the kind of relationship that is his from eternity as the Son with the Father,” writes biblical scholar Gerard Rosse in his book, The Spirituality of Communion, a study of John’s Gospel and First Letter.

So how do we enter into union with Jesus? It is through our ever deepening love, hope and faith in Jesus that we enter into mystical union with Jesus and thus with the Trinity. In John’s Gospel, Jesus describes himself as the vine and us as the branches. The sap that flows between Jesus the vine and us the branches is the love life of the Trinity.

Now, a strengthening of our relationship with Jesus can occur at any time and under any circumstance. However, the Mass offers us a unique opportunity. For it is at Mass that we are focused on celebrating all of Jesus’ life, his earthly life and his resurrected life. Further, we enjoy the support of a faith community in our efforts to achieve mystical union with Jesus.

Most importantly, we enter into the love life of God when we receive Jesus in Eucharist atMass.With the taking of Eucharist, we experience the climax of our search for mystical union with Jesus and our sisters and brothers. Mystical communion flows from that union. It is a time for growing in love of Jesus for the gift of his presence in Eucharist. It is a time for allowing Jesus to anoint us for greater love and unity with our sisters and brothers in the Beloved Community, perhaps in wordless surrender.

Communal Union. In 1 John 4:7-10 the evangelist makes it clear that mystical union with God is dependent on us loving one another:

Beloved, let us love one another,

for love is from God

and whoever loves is begotten by God

and knows God.

Whoever does not love has not known God,

For God is love.

This reading stresses the nature and origin of the divine love life in our hearts that stirs our love for others. Rosse comments: “John presents the necessity of loving our sisters and our brothers not only as a response to the commandment of God but also as a natural necessity, since love comes from God and has its roots in God….The divine love that is given to us is the hidden spring that takes hold of the entire person and places it in a state of love, thus defining the believer as ‘one who loves.’”

Now, we can grow in love of others at any time in our daily relationships. However, the Mass offers us a unique opportunity. When we perceive the Mass as a Love Meal, its ritual focuses our intentionality on expanding our capacity to love others. When we appreciate that the Love Meal was instituted by Jesus, we understand what Jesus intended—the creation of the Beloved Community. Clearly, the ritual communion of the Mass culminates in a ritual of love. There has been a strange silence on this subject.

Beloved Community’s Witness. We carry on the work of evangelization by proclaiming the Good News to others. But more basic than that is this: we evangelize the world by our very being—our being the Beloved Community.

Rosse writes: “In their mutual love the disciples (the Beloved Community) make visible the divine reality within which they live, and they reveal the divine Love to the world to which they are sent. By living in fraternal love, which is the sign of unity, the community continues the work of Jesus in the world of human beings. By its mutual love the united community continues down the centuries the revelatory role that had first been that of Jesus. This kind of interpersonal relationship can arouse faith and bring the world to see in the proclamation of Jesus his profound truth as the one sent by God and therefore his oneness with the Father, which reveals God’s love for humanity, a love made present in the community of believers.”

In the final analysis, only Divine Intelligence could have conceived of a Love Meal to create a Beloved Community as the medium for accomplishing Jesus’ mission. And only Divine Power can carry out this Divine Plan. Our task is to cooperate with God’s intentions and work to give birth to the Beloved Community, and extend the Beloved Community to the entire world.

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