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Toward Beloved Community

 

 When Jesus revolutionized public worship by instituting a Eucharistic Celebration—a Love Meal—he did not tell us his End Plan was to create the Beloved Community. Nor how it would come about. Jesus left that work to the human heart and the Spirit who would inspire us.

Inspiration for me came from attending the Eucharistic Celebrations at the churches of the Monastic Order of Jerusalem in Europe. Whenever we are in Paris or Florence or Rome, we have made a point of attending their liturgies. What makes these Eucharistic Celebrations so inspiring? Dressed in white robes, the entire community—priests, sisters and brothers—mount the altar for Vespers followed by Mass. At the Kiss of Peace, they all descend into the congregation to offer the Kiss of Peace with warm smiles and gracious handshakes.

Their Kiss of Peace is not just a ritual gesture. It is intentional! Mind, heart and will are embodied in their intentionality. It says: “We are here to support you. We are here to anoint you. We are here to release the Spirit’s gifts to you.” Their demonstration should inspire us to a vision of the Beloved Community. For the Beloved Community to come about, our Kiss of Peace must first of all be intentional, not just a ritual gesture.

Wounded Community. Our Kiss of Peace must be the outward expression of our awareness that our community of sisters and brothers whom we meet at our Eucharistic Celebrations is a wounded community, and we must be moved by compassion for one another.

Compassion awakens our hearts to the fact that the Mass is not a private devotion, but a Love Meal. A Love Meal where Jesus invites us to consume bread and wine, Jesus’ Body and all the members of his Body, and where we will be consumed into Mystical Union. With this awareness, our Kiss of Peace becomes meaningful. And Jesus’ End Plan to create the Beloved Community begins to evolve.

Let us look at life’s reality. Every one carries a cross. No one escapes. In our midst at Mass, there are those who are fighting cancer or some other deadly disease or addiction or loneliness or depression. Those who are struggling with relationships—separation or divorce, unresolved issues, children who find growing up difficult. Or families with special children.

Besides, we are born into the human condition of alienation from God, alienation from anyone who is different from us, alienation from ourselves due to heartless minds. The list is endless and it is real. For these people, our Kiss of Peace says: “Whatever your cross, we support you in your suffering.” Then the Beloved Community is in the process of becoming!

Challenged Community. Do you feel challenged by your presence at Mass? We must be deeply aware of the challenge in our Eucharistic Celebrations. Jesus challenges us to pour ourselves out into his Love Meal. His Love Meal is a challenge to create the Beloved Community.

Unfortunately, the Church has taken the challenge out of our Eucharistic Celebrations. It has transformed Jesus’ Love Meal into a church service. Just follow the ritual and you are home free—no challenges. But Jesus’ Love Meal is a challenge to surrender ourselves intentionally into union with Jesus and our sisters and brothers.

Look at how challenging the core actions of our Eucharistic Celebrations are and grasp their dynamic, erotic invitations to union. When we offer up our gifts of bread and wine—symbols of our lives—together with the celebrant, we must intentionally act out our desire for spiritual communion with Jesus and our sisters and brothers. When the celebrant consecrates our gifts of bread and wine, we must intentionally be consecrated for sacrifice. At Communion time, we must intentionally receive Jesus and our sisters and brothers as bread and wine, as they receive us as bread and wine.

We must ritually act out our desire for union with Jesus and the Beloved Community. When we offer our Kiss of Peace, we are saying: “We desire Mystical Union with you and we hope you desire the same!” Then the Beloved Community begins to take shape.

Empowered Community.  Are you aware that our Eucharistic Celebrations are occasions of empowerment for you? The same Spirit who transforms bread and wine into the Body of Christ at the Consecration anoints us, empowers us. The empowerment is ours for the asking. No credentials required. No skills needed. Just heartfelt desire and awareness that the Spirit seeks to empower us.

Our work is to surrender to union with the Spirit, to yield to personal transformation by the Spirit. Focusing on one area of our personal woundedness makes the transformation process more real to us. For example, our intolerance of others who are different from us.

Just as Jesus revolutionized public worship, he also revolutionized anointing of individuals. Empowerment comes no longer through prophets, but directly through the Holy Spirit. Now the Spirit anoints all who participate intentionally in his Love Meal for self-transformation and to empower others.

Christian communities cannot become the Beloved Community without each of us experiencing self-transformation.  But again, we must intentionally seek it. When we offer our Kiss of Peace, we are saying: “We are anointed and we anoint you. We release to you the Spirit’s gifts of love, hope and faith to bless and support you. Please reciprocate.” Then our community is on its way to becoming the Beloved Community.

Conclusion. Creating the Beloved Community will be the ultimate witness to Jesus’ authenticity and on-going presence and power in the world. For our part, it will take awareness and intentionality.

Awareness that our Christian community is a wounded community and our intentionality to be compassion to our sisters and brothers. Awareness that our Christian community is a challenged community and our intentionality to surrender into union with Jesus and our sisters and brothers. Awareness that our Christian community is an empowered community and our intentionality to surrender to the Spirit’s empowerment to transform ourselves and to empower our sisters and brothers for self-transformation and Mystical Union.

Love Encounter

 

Jesus’ Love Meal—our Eucharistic Celebrations—is a Love Encounter. A Love Encounter with the Father, who is the Source of All Love. A Love Encounter with Jesus, who is Love in Action. A Love Encounter with the Spirit of Love, who anoints us to live a life of love. In short, Jesus’ Love Meal is a Love Encounter with the Trinity of Love.

And profoundly, a Love Encounter with ourselves and the Beloved Community, our sisters and brothers!

Unfortunately, the Church has transformed Jesus’ Love Meal into a Church service—a ritual of words and practices centered on the celebrant, who is only the presider.  So, we have to make Jesus’ Love Meal come alive for ourselves. How? By embracing the three stages of the Love Encounter during our Eucharistic Celebrations. The three stages form a dynamic process that moves us to authentic self-love, to surrender of self into union with God and our sisters and brothers, and to spiritual empowerment to empower ourselves and others.

Encountering Love’s Source. To all appearances, at his baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus  had a God-experience: Jesus encountered the Father, the Source of All Love. And so must we, or at least desire to do so—to enter fully into Jesus’ Love Meal. But let us first look at Jesus’ experience to draw out some clues for our own encounter.

In Mt 3: v. 16-17, we read: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he (John the Baptist) saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him. Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Of course, Jesus was sinless and did not require baptism. But after his God-experience, Jesus was transformed into a person of great power and authority.

Scripture scholars have suggested that Jesus needed the Father’s expression of love to confirm his identity and mission. In light of that interpretation, I can identify with Jesus’ God-experience. This Gospel passage has helped me appreciate my own God-experience of many years ago.

My “baptism in the Jordan” took place on a weekend retreat. I came to it with much negative baggage—pockets of self-hate buried deep in my subconscious. In the first meditation of the day on the masks we wear, I saw them march across the stage of my imagination. Unbeknownst to me, the Spirit had already come down on me. This revelation stirred my anger toward myself. I vowed never to live my life that way again.

When I came up out of the water of my reflection, I felt the Source of All Love radiating out of my gut. It was as if God, the Father, was saying to me: “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” My Creator loved me. I was lovable. I could love others. I could love! Great joy burst within me.

Discovering that we are created by the Source of All Love for a life of love is the most fundamental struggle of our spiritual life. This discovery must be experiential, not a head trip. It establishes our true self-love based on our relationship with the Source of All Love, not on the narcissistic love of self. Without authentic self-love, we can neither love ourselves nor God nor our spouses nor others.

This experience of authentic self-love is a divine gift, a gift that we must constantly seek. Before we enter Jesus’ Love Meal, let us pray in an attitude of powerlessness and surrender for this gift in such words as: “Father, Source of All Love, let me encounter you. Make me aware of my union with you. Only you can gift me with true self-love. I can’t do it for myself. Let me surrender to your Spirit’s invitation to true self-love. Let me totally enter into Jesus’ Love Meal.”

Encountering Love’s Action. The historical Jesus was both Love in Action and a man of great wisdom. When he planned to leave us, he must have seriously pondered what would be his final legacy to us. Consider the problem he faced and his creative solution. The myth of the Garden of Eden reveals the threefold problem of humanity that we have all inherited. By their disobedience of God’s command, our first parents had alienated themselves from God. Problem No. 1: They had lost their natural union with God.

Problem No. 2: They had alienated themselves from one another: “…they realized that they were naked.” Their loving union had become an alienating subject-object relationship. Thus, all human relationships would be impacted.

And Problem No. 3:  Union of heart and mind that had been the glory of their personhood had become a lifetime of self-alienation with computer-like minds isolated from hearts. Jesus’ creative solution was to solve the problem of alienation in all its forms by bringing us into union through love. For this purpose, he established his Love Meal, our Eucharistic Celebrations.

Lived fully, Jesus’ Love Meal can heal us of our alienation toward God, self and others. How? By encountering the Risen Jesus who is Love in Action. To do so, we must identify with him as the loving Celebrant at the altar. The priest is just a stand-in for Jesus. We must be fully present with a caring heart and an attentive mind to the core actions of the liturgy. They are Jesus’ invitations to the Love Encounter:

  • Jesus invites us to offer up ourselves in union with him. When we offer what sustains our life—our food and drink symbolized by bread and wine—we are offering up our lives. Let us also enter deeply into Jesus’ self-offering by encountering briefly his passion and death—visualizing his crown of thorns, his flesh torn by whips,  nails hammered into his hands and feet, the lance piercing his side. Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary has made eternal the fire of Calvary that creates the crucible of his love to transform us.
  • Jesus invites us to be consecrated with him for sacrifice. As the priest consecrates our gifts of bread and wine, we all become the bread and wine. A double transubstantiation takes place—for Jesus and ourselves. Jesus has immersed us in a life of union with our sisters and brothers.
  • Lastly, Jesus invites us to be consumed with him by our sisters and brothers. Lovers experience being consumed in the act of love.  Surrender is key. We lovingly pray: “Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” Jesus’ Love Meal has brought us into union as all love meals do. The Beloved Community with our sisters and brothers is being built up. Jesus anoints us for greater love and union with one another by gifting us with the Spirit of Love.

Encountering Spirit of Love.  Each time we receive Eucharist at our Love Meal, let us imagine that Sunday night in Jerusalem when the disciples were gathered behind locked doors for fear of persecution. Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is what the Risen Jesus is telling us each time we receive Eucharist! Let us respond with prayer and surrendered hearts to the Spirit of Love’s invitations to union when we receive Eucharist:

  • Union with God. Let us pray for greater union with the Father, the Source of All Love. We need to call upon the Spirit of Love, God’s own life of Love, to dispel our alienation toward the Father and awaken our hearts to greater union. For it is the Spirit who is the life-giving agent of all our creativity, all our inspiration, all our love’s aspirations. Who invites us constantly to greater love, hope and faith. Let us daily strive to hear and feel our Father’s words to us: “You are my beloved son (daughter) in whom I am well pleased.”
  • Union with Others. Let us pray for greater union with our sisters and brothers. Let us ask the Spirit to weaken our deep-seated alienation toward others, the effect of Original Sin. Let us pray that the Spirit will anoint us to live a life of compassion to our sisters and brothers—being fully present to them, with a caring heart and an attentive mind. To be sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to them. To be channels of love, hope and faith to them to awaken their love, hope and faith.
  • Union with Self. Let us pray for greater union within ourselves, without which we cannot love God or others. That the Spirit free us of heartless minds so that we might truly see and understand, that we may see others as subjects, not objects. the divine in all creation. That the Spirit restore union of heart and mind within us that had been the glory of our personhood before self-alienation resulted from Original Sin.

Conclusion. The historical Jesus’ creative solution for the problem of alienation and the resulting loss of our union with God, others and ourselves was his Love Meal. It is at our Eucharistic Celebrations that the Risen Jesus anoints us with the Spirit of Love to bring us back to the Garden of Eden where our first parents experienced the Original Blessings of union with God, others, themselves and creation.

What an incredible, wonderful solution to Paradise Lost! A Love Meal that is a Love Encounter with the Source of All Love, with Love in Action and with the Spirit of Love—to bring us into union with the Trinity of Love, with ourselves and our sisters and brothers!

Jesus knew that only transformed people could transform others. That only transformed people could build the Beloved Community. That only transformed communities could transform the world—the ultimate witness of Jesus’ authenticity and power. An incredible End Plan!

Radical Surrender

In my imagination, I heard the Eucharistic Minister offering me Eucharist say: “Consume and be consumed. Be anointed and anoint others.” How beautifully those words express the dynamics of our Eucharistic experience. For our Eucharistic Celebration is Jesus’ Love Meal, and like all love meals it is an invitation to radical surrender into union. That is what the Mass is all about.

The term, “Consume and be consumed,” signifies—radical surrender. But to whom? Our Eucharistic Celebrations are a twofold invitation to radical surrender—first to the Crucified Jesus and finally to the Mystical Christ who incorporates all our sisters and brothers.

Consuming the Crucified. Before we consume, we must consume. Before we consume Eucharist, we must surrender to the Crucified Jesus. The Crucified Jesus is the most dramatic expression of Divine Love. In a moment of time, the Eternal and Infinite Being emptied Himself and took on the form of a vulnerable human being who experienced suffering and death—for us. It is the fire of Calvary that fires up the power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Yet, the Crucified Jesus gets little more than an honorable mention at Mass.

We must experience radical surrender to the Crucified Lover. It is not Jesus’ wounds that we love. It is his love that we love. It is his desire to bring us into communion with the Trinity of Love that we love—to unite us with our Father who is the fountainhead of infinite love, to unite us with the Spirit of Love who is agent of all human creativity, all human inspiration, all human love’s aspirations. It is Jesus’ eros to unite us with him in one Mystical Body that we love.

Before we consume Eucharist, we must consume the Crucified Jesus. We must radically surrender to the Crucified Jesus. It is our love responding to Jesus’ love that creates the crucible of love that transforms us and prepares us for union with the Mystical Christ.

Consuming the Mystical. We no longer have the historical Jesus with us. But we have the Risen Jesus, who is now the Mystical Christ, in whom we are all incorporated. When the priest raises the host and wine at the Consecration, he is lifting up the Mystical Christ who includes all of us to be sacrificed. Sisters and brothers are co-mingled in the bread of the hosts and in the wine of the chalice. We are made Eucharist for sisters and brothers to consume the Mystical Christ and one another as bread and wine.

But how do we enter into this deeply mystical experience? It is not easy. It is like stirring the ocean. By contrast, the Crucified Jesus is tangible. We can witness Jesus’ passion and death in our imagination. It is more difficult with the Mystical Christ. Yet, union with the Mystical Christ is essential for achieving Jesus’ End Plan of creating the Beloved Community

What can we do? We can use what is tangible at our Eucharistic reception, and we can use our imagination and, most important, our desire for union. What is impossible for our rational minds does not hold back our hearts from leaping beyond the finite. We want to feel the flow of unitive energy with the Mystical Christ and our sisters and brothers. Of course, it is the Spirit’s gift to give us this consolation, but we should make the effort.

What is tangible at our Eucharistic reception is the priest or Eucharistic Minister. Think of this person as the presider for Jesus, the role of the priest throughout the Eucharistic Celebration and now extended to Eucharistic Ministers. Whoever offers us Eucharist, he or she is inviting us to consume the Mystical Christ and to be consumed by him. We need to approach this person in a relational way. At this moment we begin our surrender into union with the Mystical Christ.

Desire is our most creative force and we should use our desire to prepare our hearts for Eucharistic reception. My prayer of desire is: “Jesus, anoint us for greater love and unity. Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” Receiving from the cup, I embrace the cup with two hands—an act of desire.

Another way of awakening our hearts to surrender to the Mystical Christ is to use our imagination. Simply imagine the Eucharistic Minister saying as the Eucharist is offered: “Consume and be consumed. Be anointed and anoint others.” Repeat the words to yourself. With the Spirit’s inspiration, these words can stir our desire for surrender into union with the Mystical Christ and our sisters and brothers.

Paradox of Surrender. We should not be surprised by the paradox that exists at the heart of our Eucharistic Celebrations. By radically surrendering to the Crucified Jesus and to the Mystical Christ at our Eucharistic Celebrations we are brought into Mystical Union. It is in Mystical Union that we are transformed and empowered.

Surrender is empowerment! The article, All Are Anointed, emphasized that at our Eucharistic Celebrations we are anointed in two ways. First, for our personal transformation that is necessary if we are to bring about the Beloved Community. Second, for empowering us to empower others to greater love, hope and faith.

Radical surrender to the Crucified Jesus unleashes the power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Radical surrender at our Eucharistic reception to the Mystical Christ, who includes all our sisters and brothers, brings us to the summit and fulfillment of our Eucharistic experience!

Finally, appreciation for Eucharist evolves, as our spiritual lives evolve. Jesus did not give us a manual to teach us the significance of his Love Meal. He did give us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, who guides us as individuals to embrace this Love Encounter in our personal way. The Spirit inspires us through our hearts that have experienced surrender into union in our daily lives. We need awareness, desire and discernment to respond. Jesus is counting on the Spirit and our hearts to bring about the Beloved Community through celebrating his Love Meal.

All Are Annointed

In the Old Testament, we read of prophets singling out individuals like David and anointing them—empowering them to perform their Divine Mission. I believe that Jesus revolutionized the way God empowers individuals, just as he revolutionized public worship. And there is a connection between the two that has been overlooked.

During Jesus’ time, the Paschal Lamb could only be slain in public worship in the Temple at Jerusalem. Jesus revolutionized public worship by creating a celebration in a Eucharistic Community, centered on a Love Meal, wherever Jesus’ followers come together. Likewise, Jesus revolutionized anointing of individuals by empowering ALL of his followers, and not through the medium of prophets, but directly through the Holy Spirit. Where? At the celebrations of Jesus’ Love Meal.

Unfortunately, the significance of Jesus’ Love Meal has largely been ignored. Despite the fact that the Vatican ll Council declared the Eucharist to be the “source and summit of Christian life.” The reality of our Eucharistic Celebrations is that we are all invited to be anointed. The empowerment is ours for the asking. No credentials required. No skills needed. Just heartfelt desire and awareness of the powers at work. The invitation is offered at Jesus’ Love Meal in at least two ways:

  • Anointing for personal transformation to help bring about the Beloved Community; and
  • Anointing for us to empower others to greater love, hope and faith.

Anointed for Transformation. Through the gift of his Love Meal, Jesus became the ultimate and eternal source for bringing us to wholeness and holiness. It is at the Consecration of the bread and wine that what are symbols of our lives become our consecrated selves along with Jesus. We are made sacred for the sacrifice!

Not in one shot. That is what life is all about. It is a process. Our personal transformation is the work of the Spirit within us. Our work is to surrender to union with the Spirit, to yield to transformation by the Spirit—especially during our Eucharistic Celebrations. Focusing on one area of our personal woundedness makes the transformation process more real to us.

Personal transformation is a process that requires our ardent desire, a desire that we are not even capable of awakening. During our Eucharistic Celebrations we need to pray that the Spirit will open up our hearts to desire personal transformation.

Besides desire, our personal transformation process requires our deep awareness of what is taking place. At our Eucharistic Celebrations we celebrate Jesus’ crucifixion and death. We must enter deeply, if only briefly, into these historical events with all our hearts and imaginations.

Remembrance of Jesus’ demonstrated love becomes the channel of love that unites us with the Trinity of Love. The psychic fire of this Trinitarian Love is the agent of change, but it requires the environment of a committed union to blaze up. Our immersion in this Mystical Union creates the Divine crucible of love. Our hunger to be plunged into this Divine crucible starts the process of our transformation.

Anointed for Empowerment. Elsewhere we have written that the Eucharist offers us a Life Vision. A vision that prompts us to identify with Jesus who led a life of empowering others and bringing others into deeper union with God, themselves, others, life, reality.  But the Eucharist is more than a Life Vision. Reception of Eucharist is an anointing, an empowerment to live Jesus’ Life Vision.

When we eat the bread and drink the wine of Eucharist, we receive Jesus and our sisters and brothers, and they receive  us. Through this Mystical Union we are anointed to become empowerers of each other. Again, our immersion in this Mystical Union is the environment for empowerment. Of course, this empowerment process depends on our awareness of and desire for what is taking place. During Eucharistic Celebrations, pray for this anointing to become channels of love, hope and faith to our sisters and brothers to awaken their love, hope and faith.

Choose Anointing. We are all anointed at our Eucharistic Celebrations. We are all chosen if we so choose. Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM states that it is the “very experience of being chosen that somehow empowers us…. To allow yourself to be chosen is to be chosen. God chooses and then uses whom he has chosen, and their useability comes from their willingness to allow themselves to be chosen in the first place.” Choose to be anointed at Eucharistic Celebrations for personal transformation and for the capacity to empower others!

Agape: Love Meal

 

Prayer for Spiritual Communion

Jesus, invite me to your Love Meal

At this Eucharistic Celebration in my heart.

Lead me to spiritual communion with you

And with my sisters and brothers.

Help me to put myself at your disposal

To awaken my heart for union.

 

Jesus, let me join you at the Last Supper.

There you prepared your heart for self-sacrifice

By washing the feet of your disciples

And drying them with a towel at your waist.

Would that I could wash their feet

To arouse my heart for self-sacrifice.

 

Jesus, I offer you my food and drink,

This bread and wine, symbol of my life.

Symbol of my desire to join you in sacrifice.

Symbol of my desire to enter into communion

With the Trinity of Love through your crucifixion,

Creating the fiery crucible of Divine Love.

 

Jesus, they crowned your head with thorns.

They beat your body with iron-studded

Whips to tear your flesh. They pounded nails

Through your hands to a wooden cross.

They nailed your feet to its vertical post.

They pierced your side with a lance.

 

Jesus, it is not your wounds that I love.

It is your love that I love.

It is your desire that I love—to bring me

Into communion with the Trinity of Love.

It is your eros that I love—to unite me

With you in one Mystical Body.

 

Jesus, make me one with you in sacrifice.

With your presence and love, consecrate

My gifts of bread and wine, my very self.

Fire up your crucible of Divine Love

With Calvary’s fire. Plunge me in and forge

And seal me in spiritual communion.

 

Jesus, co-mingle me with yourself

And my sisters and brothers in the bread

Of the hosts and in the wine of the chalice.

Anoint me for greater love and unity.

Make me Eucharist for sisters and brothers

To receive me as bread and wine.

 

Jesus, bring me into spiritual communion

With you and my sisters and brothers.

In your crucible of love, melt down

My intolerance of others’differences with me

And from me. Let my spiritual communion

Help create the Beloved Community!

Amen.

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.)

All is Communion

To accomplish Jesus’ goal of creating Christian Community, the Beloved Community through the medium of the Mass, we need to bring to bear a deep spirituality on the ritual of the Mass, as described in the article, The Mass As Medium. But above all, we need to keep Jesus’ goal in our consciousness throughout the Mass. We can achieve this awareness by expanding our perception of Holy Communion.

We are accustomed to thinking of Holy Communion as the reception of Eucharist taking place at one point in the Mass.In reality, the entire liturgy of the Mass can be perceived and experienced as “Holy Communion.” That is, if our intentionality of creating the Beloved Community is foremost in our minds and hearts throughout the Mass—from beginning to end.

Of course, the manner of experiencing “Holy Communion” at the various parts of the liturgy will differ. Let us break down the concept of “Holy Communion” into three different types of experiences. They are spiritual communion, ritual communion and actual communion. All are experiences of desire for the solidarity and union with the Beloved Community through Jesus that the term “Holy Communion” implies.

Spiritual Communion. The term “spiritual communion” signifies an experience of desiring communion, union with God or others or both. I first heard this term when I was in the Jesuit novitiate many years ago. In the morning we attended daily Mass and received Holy Communion. In the early afternoon, we filed into the chapel to experience “spiritual communion.” For a brief period of time, we would concentrate on experiencing and growing our desire for union with Jesus in the Eucharist.

How can we apply this term to the Mass? Before liturgy begins, we can remind ourselves of Jesus’ goal for the Mass, and attempt to experience and grow our desire for spiritual communion with the Beloved Community. During the early part of the Mass, creating the Beloved Community can become our motivation for seeking personal transformation when we hear Scripture and sermon. Our enhanced motivation grows our desire for spiritual communion with the Beloved Community.

Our awareness of the Beloved Community gives added meaning to our Prayers of Petition. When we pray for those who are sick, unemployed, suffering from natural disasters and others, we are praying for members of the Beloved Community with whom we want to experience spiritual communion. And when we recall friends and relatives who have passed away, we desire and experience spiritual communion with them as living members of the Beloved Community.

Ritual Communion. I am indebted to Joseph Campbell, the author of books on mythology for pointing out the symbolism behind the dance. He explained that the dance is a symbol of intimate love, and a way to act out ritually the relationship. From his concept I have created the term “ritual communion.” By that, I mean that we are ritually acting out our desire for spiritual communion with the Beloved Community. We are all familiar with liturgical dance at Mass. What I am suggesting is that the entire liturgy of the Mass is in fact a “liturgical dance.”

When we offer up our gifts of bread and wine together with the celebrant, we are ritually acting out our desire for spiritual communion with Jesus and the Beloved Community. For the bread and wine symbolize the offering of our lives. Through this ritual we prepare our hearts to join Jesus in his sacrifice for the Beloved Community. Truly the liturgical dance has begun.

When the celebrant consecrates our gifts of bread and wine, we are ritually acting out our desire for spiritual communion with Jesus and the Beloved Community. For he offers up the Risen Jesus and us as members of the Body of Christ. With Jesus, we too are sacrificed for our sisters and brothers in the Beloved Community. The liturgical dance has moved swiftly.

When we receive the Body of Christ and our sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ receive us as bread to eat and wine to drink, we are ritually acting out our desire for spiritual communion with the Beloved Community. For Jesus makes us Eucharist with him, and he grounds our communal solidarity on his real presence in the Eucharist. His presence consecrates us for union and anoints us for unity. The liturgical dance has ended dramatically.

Actual Communion. While spiritual communion seeks to grow our desire for union with the Beloved Community, and ritual communion seeks to act out our desire for union through symbol and ritual, in actual communion we carry out our desire for union by becoming communion to others. The Kiss of Peace is a demonstration of our desire for union with the Beloved Community. Further, the way we greet and relate to others after Mass actualizes our desire for union with the Beloved Community.

As we leave the church, we sense that the Mass has impacted our life vision, our perceptions of God, ourselves, others, life and creation. We want to be more self-giving, more desirous of communion with all.

All is communion. Expanding our perception of “Holy Communion” has transformed the entire liturgy of the Mass into a quest for creating the Beloved Community. And it has kept Jesus’ goal foremost in our minds and hearts.

Conclusion. Jesus revolutionized a thousand years of public worship when he transformed it from a bloody slaughter of animals into a love meal to create the Beloved Community. Unfortunately, it is a revolution that has not been realized—except briefly in the early Church. Most Christians are not even aware of Jesus’ revolution and of the Mass as a love meal. Yet, the reality is that the Mass is a love meal.

We have offered up ourselves to the Beloved Community by offering bread and wine. We have consecrated our offering of ourselves in bread and wine by uniting with Jesus’ sacrifice for the Beloved Community. We have been consumed as bread and wine with Jesus by our Beloved Community and we have received our sisters and brothers in our Eucharistic meal. It is this love meal that could revolutionize the Church and empower us to extend the Beloved Community to all society.

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

 

Mass as Medium

Is the Mass a drama or a medium? Certainly, it is the dramatization of our faith in Jesus. But is it more? Is it not the medium for fulfilling Jesus’ goal of creating the Christian Community, the Beloved Community?

Jesus revolutionized public worship. He changed it from a ritual performed exclusively by and for priests and levites, centered around a bloody sacrifice of animals, exclusively in the temple at Jerusalem—to a celebration in a Eucharistic Community, centered around a love meal, wherever Jesus’ followers come together.

Moreover, Jesus gave us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Not as we love ourselves, but as Jesus loved us. Jesus would not have given us this new commandment without giving us the means for accomplishing it. The Mass is, or should be, the medium for accomplishing Jesus’ goal of creating the Beloved Community.

Perceiving the Mass in this way opens us up to its spiritual potential. Naturally, when we join in the celebration of Mass, we enter into the ritual as individuals. But given the right intentionality and interior disposition, when we leave Mass, we could leave as members of the Beloved Community. A good sign? When we find ourselves being carried beyond ourselves to reach out to others, we know that we have fulfilled Jesus’ goal.

Of course, the Beloved Community doesn’t happen automatically. We must bring deep spirituality to bear on the ritual of the Mass. What kind of spirituality? A spirituality focused on personal transformation. Transformation from negative attitudes and behaviors. Transformation into becoming agents of the Spirit, beauty and new life for others as Jesus was. Without personal transformation as our goal, we will not possess the right intentionality to create the Beloved Community. The two are intimately connected.

Follow the Drama. At the level of drama, the Mass’ liturgical ritual takes us through Jesus’ Incarnation, his life of teaching on earth, his death, resurrection and incorporation of us into his Risen Body. Now let’s look at the Mass as if it were a drama with a number of movements or themes that represent different approaches of spirituality—all built on the basic liturgical movement that we are all familiar with.

For the sake of clarity, these different spiritual movements will be described as separate spiritualities, but in practice we will weave them in and out of the Mass ritual. We will move from one to the other as the Spirit guides us. Our intentionality remains the same —the creation of the Beloved Community through self-transformation.

Embrace Mystery. Before Mass, let us enter the first movement of spirituality. Here we ponder the great mystery of the infinite love of God dramatized in the Mass. We ask the Spirit to help us fathom the mind of God just a little as to why the Infinite Being should want relationship with us.

For a moment, contemplate the Infinite Being taking on finite form at Jesus’ Incarnation. How incredible! How wonderful! The Infinite Being living our finite lives to teach us how to live. How incredible! How wonderful! The Infinite Being dying the  death of a finite being! How incredible! How wonderful! The Infinite Being becoming finite material, our bread and wine in Eucharist. How incredible!  How wonderful!

We can understand why Fr. Henri Nouwen described this demonstration of Divine Love as God’s descending way of love. Let this incredible mystery capture our full presence, hearts and minds as we enter into the celebration of the Mass.

Seek Conversion.  As the Mass begins, we enter into the second movement of spirituality. We ask ourselves: Do we need to ask for forgiveness? What does God want us to change in our lives? Is it our attitudes toward God, others, ourselves, life, reality? It focuses on the metanoia process—Invitation, Surrender, Empowerment and Union, described elsewhere in this Program.

Mary is the exemplar of this process. The Spirit invited her to be the mother of Jesus. She surrendered to the Spirit’s invitation. She was empowered by the Spirit. She was united with Jesus.

For us we seek to find the Spirit’s invitation for self-transformation in the Scripture readings and sermon. We may not always discern it. More important are our openness and desire to find the invitation. When we do discern the Spirit’s invitation for transformation, we should follow Mary’s example at the Annunciation: Surrender to the Spirit’s invitation. That is our gift at the Offertory.

At the Consecration, we are both priest and victim with Jesus, sacrificing whatever prevents us from saying “Yes” to the Spirit’s invitation. We pray for the Spirit’s empowerment to accept and live the invitation. In receiving Holy Communion, we embrace the Spirit’s invitation to self-transformation. Our personal transformation leads us to greater union with God and opens us up to greater union with the Beloved Community.

Engage the Jesus Process. While the second movement of spirituality concentrates primarily on self-transformation with the Spirit’s help, the third movement focuses on Jesus doing the transformation from within us through the Jesus Process, an article in this Program.

By “Jesus Process”, we mean that the Risen Christ has preserved the historical Jesus’ life experiences, and has created through them a power source at the center of our personhood. It is from this inner power source that the Risen Christ gifts us with the Spirit’s gifts. That’s the Jesus Process. We need to engage the power of the Jesus Process within us and surrender to its dynamics.

Our prayer: “Jesus, be the center who transforms us from the inside out through your Spirit’s gifts of greater love, hope and faith.” Our desire here is to connect with Jesus and unleash the Spirit’s gifts. This spirituality focuses on Jesus powering our lives to carry on his on-going Incarnation that we might become sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to our sisters and brothers, and create the Beloved Community.

So we must surrender to the Jesus in the Jesus Process within us when we listen to Scripture and sermon.  We might pray: “Jesus, be the center who enlightens us through your Holy Spirit.”

At the Offertory, we surrender to Jesus in the Jesus Process within us when we recall Jesus at the Last Supper preparing his heart for self-giving by washing the feet of the Apostles. We know that we too must prepare our hearts for self-giving to join Jesus’ self-giving at the Consecration. So we offer up bread and wine as symbols of our lives, and pray that this offering will prepare our hearts for sacrifice in union with Jesus and life in the Beloved Community.

At the Consecration, when the priest offers up the Consecrated Bread and Wine, he offers the Risen Jesus and us as members of the Body of Christ. We must surrender to the Jesus in the Jesus Process within us as he takes us down the descending way of Divine Love with him to make us share in the sacrifice of the Mass. With Jesus, we too are sacrificed for our sisters and brothers. We must ask the Risen Jesus for the Spirit’s power to live our self-gift to God and others in the Beloved Community.

At Holy Communion, we must surrender to the Jesus in the Jesus Process within as he takes us down the descending way of Divine Love with him to make us Eucharist with him. We receive the Body of Christ and our sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ receive us as bread to eat and wine to drink, uniting us all in solidarity to become the Eucharistic community, the Beloved Community. 

Conclusion. The ritual of the Mass is at the heart of our faith. For it is a dramatization of our Christian beliefs. The challenge is to enter deeply into that drama to create the Beloved Community. However, we celebrate it in the context of public worship. As necessary as that must be, the problem is that public worship orients us toward the external action of the Mass.

To engage in spirituality that recreates us to create the Beloved Community, we must re-orient our experience of the Mass by taking a contemplative approach to it. We must bring to bear our spirituality—our wonder at the mystery we celebrate, our intentionality for self-transformation, our surrender to Jesus in the Jesus Process who brings about our transformation from the inside out. Only then will we be able to experience the Mass as the medium for accomplishing Jesus’ goal of creating the Beloved Community.

Signs of the Beloved Community in the process of becoming are seen in the way we offer the Kiss of Peace and the way we greet and relate to one another after Mass. But the truly Beloved Community does not turn in on itself. Rather, it radiates out the Spirit of Jesus to the larger community of society.

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

Celebrating Ongoing Incarnation

What does the celebration of the Mass mean to you? Is it simply a religious ritual? Or an edifying experience? Or even a communal experience that makes you a member of the Catholic club? Today, we believe that Christ is risen and now and present, offering us a whole new perception and experience of the Mass. We experience Christ’s ongoing Incarnation at a fever pitch in the Mass.

The Mass is the celebration of the Risen Christ’s ongoing Incarnation, His ongoing transformation of people, His ongoing empowerment of people, His ongoing unifying of people into a community─the unique actions that He performed during His lifetime. At Mass, we experience greater union with Christ by performing those same unique actions of Christ and at the same time we incarnate Christ more deeply.

Invitation. How does the Risen Christ transform us at Mass? Through Scripture.  Not primarily as a source of religious information, but as an “encounter causer”, explains Fr. John Walsh, M.M. in Integral Justice. The Gospel stories are empowered by the Risen Christ, who is not limited by time or geography, to bring about new encounters of love with Jesus and others. The Jesus of history acts as Encounter Causer in the present to invite us to metanoia, change of mind, heart and will through Scripture.

When we hear the Scripture readings and sermon, we have to ask ourselves: “What element of my life vision needs change? My attitude toward God, myself, others, life?” We have to ask Christ what He wants of us, so that we can bring about our own ongoing incarnation of Christ. We have to say with all the sincerity we can muster: “Lord, make my day. Change my vision!” In this way, we are inviting the Divine Inviter, performing the same, unique action of Jesus. Our own ongoing incarnation of Christ begins.

Surrender. At Mass, we present gifts of bread and wine, symbols of our lives. But for the transformation process to take place, we must be willing to sacrifice that which prevents us from becoming the Christ that we are already. Jesus’ words heard earlier ring in our ears. Surrendering to Christ’s invitation to change requires sacrifice, and it is important to recognize what has to be sacrificed. For example, if Christ asks us for greater humility, we may need to sacrifice our pride, Again, like Jesus, we are performing His unique action of Self-sacrifice, turning over our lives to God. Our own ongoing incarnation of Christ quickens.

      Empowerment. At the consecration, empowerment comes through total self-sacrifice. But first the sacrifice. It is as if we are saying, “Not just the change You are asking of me in Scripture, I will give up my whole life.” For it is our life, time, energy and resources that we are offering up in Jesus’ memory. We are both priest and victim as was Christ. Further, through His ongoing Incarnation, we have been gathered up to become the Body of Christ. When we offer up Christ’s sacrifice, we offer up ourselves.

The coin of sacrifice has another side, empowerment. The Risen Christ’s presence enables the Spirit to empower bread and wine with Jesus’ full personhood, immersing us in a living engagement with the person of Jesus. We are in touch with His power, too.  Here we must ask for the empowerment to bring about our own ongoing incarnation,

Union. Holy communion is holy challenge. Reception means that we are saying “Yes” to Christ’s invitation to our personal metanoia. At the same time, we are saying “Yes” to the Risen Christ melding of us into union with Him and into union with others, especially those in need of justice, the marginal people of the world. Ultimately at Mass, with the whole community, immediate and worldwide, we incarnate the Body of Christ!