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Practice Eucharistic Moments

We have noted that the taking of the Eucharist brought us to the climax of our Eucharistic Celebration at Mass—mystical communion with Jesus and the Beloved Community. Further, we have stated that this moment requires time to experience Jesus anointing us for greater love and unity with himself and with the Beloved Community.

More Time. However, the present liturgy does not permit time for contemplation when we receive Eucharist. It is very much like pulling into a gas station, getting refueled and leaving immediately. For that reason we miss the opportunity to grow deeply our relationship and union with Jesus and the Beloved Community.

When I asked about this situation, the explanation given was: “The moment after reception of the Eucharist is a captured moment. It is like giving your wife a kiss.” My gut reaction was: that is not the way human love works. Nor is it the way that the spiritual life works. Both require time. There must be a way to extend our Eucharistic Moment.

More Awareness. To throw light on this situation, we need to be aware of both the human and divine dynamics at work here. Let us take the human dynamics. The obvious solutions don’t work. Like returning to the captured moment after the Mass is ended. First, the whole goal of the Mass is the creation of the Beloved Community. To ignore our sisters and brothers at the end of Mass to focus on our own contemplation is to render the Beloved Community a meaningless concept. Rather, it is the time for living our spiritual communion with others—reaching out to others.

Second, anyone who has experienced interruption of a contemplative moment by the ringing of a phone or a doorbell is keenly aware that one’s mental and spiritual immersion in the experience has been broken. And you can’t put a bookmark in a contemplative experience.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that God has created the human person for deeply spiritual, mystical experiences. In Fr. Andrew Greeley’s book, The New Agenda, he describes the new direction that the Church should take in the liturgy in a chapter entitled, “From Sunday Mass to Ecstasy of the Spirit.” He criticizes the liturgical reform for not creating the environment for people to encounter sacred time and experience mystical communion with the personal, mysterious Other. In his opinion, liturgical reform has not responded to this human need.

While I agree that more liturgical reform is needed, I believe that the present liturgy does create the environment for mystical communion. Only you have to discover the core action of the Mass which is greatly camouflaged through the interruption of this action. You must be aware of the liturgy—powered by personal spirituality— moving you from spiritual communion to ritual communion and ultimately to mystical communion.

Once you recognize this erotic movement, you will wonder how you missed it. Attribute it to the Spirit’s conspiracy. No matter how much human effort tried to hide this erotic movement, the Spirit made certain that this erotic movement was embedded in the liturgy. Look for it and you will find it!

Now let us look at the divine dynamics of the situation. The power of the Eucharist that we receive at Mass does not self-destruct with time. Its power to bring us into mystical communion with God the Father, with Jesus, with the Spirit, and with the Beloved Community, continues on. The spirituality of communion teaches us that we need only enter at any time into deeper faith in Jesus to move into this mystical communion. That suggests the possibility of reliving our Eucharistic Moment later.

More Insight. Despite Fr. Greeley’s gloom assessment of liturgical reform, my intuition tells me that most people at Mass experience in varying degrees an encounter with the sacred. Further, we can grow the depth of that encounter. How? First, by growing our insight into Jesus’ revolution of public worship which he launched when he instituted a Love Meal to create the Beloved Community.

Second, by growing our desire for spiritual communion with Jesus and the Beloved Community during Mass. Third, by entering more deeply into the core action of the Mass—the ritual communion centered on offering ourselves as bread and wine, we being consecrated as sacrifice with Jesus, and we becoming Eucharist with Jesus for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.

More Eucharistic Moments. The payoff from deepening our experience of this mystical communion with Jesus and the Beloved Community at Mass will be our ability to recall our Eucharistic Moment later. Our memories will preserve for us the vitality of that experience. What I am suggesting is that we can extend the power of our Eucharistic Moment to lead us to this mystical communion in our other spiritual activities:

  • We can extend our Eucharistic Moment by practicing spiritual communion during our day. For a brief period of time, we can recall our Eucharistic experience at Mass and concentrate on experiencing and growing our desire for communion with Jesus, the Father, the Spirit and the Beloved Community. With Jesus who anoints us for love and unity. With the Father whom Jesus reveals to us and to whom we pray “Our Father.” With the Spirit who invites us to grow in our spiritual life. With the Beloved Community from whom Jesus is inseparable.
  • We can make every meal a Eucharistic meal by making them an exercise in growing our desire for spiritual communion with God and our loved ones. Here is the Grace before meals my family says: “Lord, this food is holy food, because it is your gift to us. May it also be Eucharist for us to unite us with your presence and with one another.”
  • We can extend our Eucharistic Moment through the paraliturgy of the Agape, a ritual Love Meal. Here we celebrate the Beloved Community by drawing on the Eucharistic elements, bread and wine (unconsecrated), and following a prescribed liturgy. In effect, we are recalling our experience of Eucharist at Mass and extending its power to deepen our communion with the members of our Beloved Community. The Agape can help Church groups create the environment for spiritual communion with Jesus and their members. These groups tend to be so intent on immediate goals that they lose sight of their ultimate goal—spiritual communion that enables them to accomplish their immediate goals.
  • We can bring our morning Eucharistic Moment into our centering prayer, prayer without words. I practice centering prayer each day for twenty minutes. As most people, I experience the struggle with distractions to be simply present to the Divine Presence. Before I begin my centering prayer, I recall the sacredness of my morning’s Eucharist, and use the image of the chalice to hold my attention. My silent time becomes a time for mutual self-giving—my Eucharistic God anointing me for greater love and unity with himself and the Beloved Community, with me surrendering to his anointing and growing my desire for spiritual communion. I still have distractions, but it is a more meaningful experience for having extended the Eucharistic Moment to my centering prayer.

Conclusion. Practicing Eucharistic Moments integrates the spirituality of communion into our spiritual lives, highlighting Jesus as the medium for creating communion with God and others. Most importantly, this practice transforms our reception of the Eucharist at Mass from being an isolated event into becoming a Love Force for anointing us for greater love and unity with Jesus and our Beloved Community—during our entire day.

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