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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.

Jesus’ Transformation

In the early 1900’s, the psychologist William James wrote “Variety of Religious Experiences”, the classic study of everyday “mystical” experiences. He recounts the transforming moments in people’s lives when they discovered deeply the presence of the divine in their lives and the impact such peak experiences had on them. They were found to be a relatively common experience among common people. Simply a surprising gift given without any concern for merit or learning.

Might not we suppose that Jesus, being the most human of human beings, must also have experienced such a peak experience that became a transforming moment in his life? I believe so. Therefore, I want to share the transforming moment in my life and attempt to draw parallel insights about Jesus.

In My Life. My transforming experience took place on a weekend retreat. I had brought to the retreat a lot of psychological baggage. On the first morning of the weekend, the presentation dwelt on our “persona”, the masks that we wear to hide our true selves so we can project a public self of self-esteem and confidence. During my meditation on this subject, I saw clearly the pockets of self-hate in my life as if they were on stage.

I became angry with myself that I had allowed so much self-hate to operate in my subconscious. I swore that I would never let that happen again. And suddenly I broke out into ecstatic joy. At that moment, I knew beyond doubt that love was at the heart of reality, Whom I called God, that all creation was lovable, that I was lovable. Instantly, my life vision was transformed—the way I saw myself, God, others, life, creation.

In Jesus’ Life. As Jesus studied the Scriptures to learn about God’s relationship with Israel and, more importantly, to learn about his mission and destiny, what must he have felt when he read the words of the prophet Isaiah 50:60 describing the obedience of the Lord’s servant? “I bared my back to those who beat me. I did not stop them when they insulted me, when they pulled out the hairs of my beard and spit in my face.”

Jesus was no dummy. He realized that those words applied to him and that he would become the suffering servant of God. Might Jesus have wondered to himself: “Is God a God of vengeance? Am I to be the victim of God’s wrath?”

I believe that it was only through deep contemplative prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit that Jesus came to discover God as Compassion Who loved all beings and creation with unconditional love. What the Old Testament did not reveal to Jesus, his contemplative prayer did. It was at that point in Jesus’ life that he must have come to know beyond doubt that God was love, that all creation was lovable, and that he was the beloved Son of God. In that moment, Jesus experienced transformation.

More than ever before, in that special moment Jesus began to enjoy the unique experience of intimate closeness to God—the Abba experience, the experience of God as a compassionate Father. Perhaps too it was at that moment of transformation that Jesus decided to quit the quiet, private life ofNazarethand embark on his public life and divine mission.

Transformation’s Effects. Transforming experiences are empowering, because they are a kind of a death/resurrection experience—moving one from self-hate to self-love, from self-ignorance to self-knowledge, from fear of God to deep faith in God as Jesus experienced.

Transforming experiences are vision changing experiences. When I returned from my transforming experience, I saw people as persons. My attitude toward women changed dramatically. They were persons, not sex objects. I was aware that all persons experience the pain of being human, as I had, and deserved my compassion. Likewise, Jesus too had experienced the pain of being human and his newly acquired solidarity with God created solidarity for him with all persons. The driving force behind his mission would become compassion for others: he would liberate them from all forms of oppression.

Transforming experiences open our eyes to creation. When I returned from my transforming experience, I was moved by a deep eros for creation. I wanted to touch the leaves of trees. I wanted to feel the essences of things, such as trying to feel the essence of water that was real but could not be grasped. I can easily imagine Jesus at night marveling at the moonbeams shimmering on the Sea of Galilee, or being filled with wonder at the mighty olive trees.

This erotic awareness of nature soon became an awareness of the gift dimension of creation and life. Through this discovery of the gift dimension of creation I experienced creation reverberating with God’s presence, love and attention. Creation gave me the gift of God’s presence. I felt that I was surrounded by God’s love in creation. Likewise, from human experience we can deduce that Jesus must have experienced the presence, the beauty and the wisdom of God in creation.

Transformation and Spiritual Life. What is the nature of transforming experiences?  When we discover that Love is at the heart of reality, we discover that Love Center that resides within us at the core of our personhood and Who radiates out the energies of love through the pathways of our minds, hearts and wills, and makes everything lovable to us—we are lovable, others are lovable, creation is lovable.

For a short but ecstatic period of time, I felt driven by my Love Center, Divine Eros. I believe that Jesus experienced this kind of transformation, only he was able to hold onto it and to live fully a life of love. However, I have come to believe that such transforming experiences are not just one-time episodes in our lives to be enjoyed for a brief time.  Rather, they can happen many times and each time they once again disclose to us the  depths of our spiritual reality and set a goal for our spiritual lives.

It is as if each day our love capacity falls to the default position of our self-centeredness, and we must raise ourselves to God-centeredness. Each day, we must recreate ourselves from the inside out; we must connect with our center, our Love Center. Each day we must rediscover our Love Center at the core of our personhoods and let it radiate out through our minds, hearts and wills. Each day we must re-experience our transformation.

 

 

Embracing the Embrace

Often it is difficult to understand the full meaning of our deep spiritual experiences. Simply having such experiences does not exhaust their meaning. We may even need an outsider to explain their significance to us. Such was my experience in discovering a fuller understanding of the practice of compassion.

In the article,  Spirituality of Compassion, I shared my first experience of the practice of compassion which took place at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Staring at the famous painting of the Mona Lisa, I wondered to myself: “Being as exhausted as I am from jet lag, how can I enter into the beauty of this painting?”

No sooner had I asked that question, when I got the answer: “You must be fully present to it with a caring heart and an attentive mind so as to “receive” the presence and beauty of this masterpiece. You must make a gift of yourself to the painting to receive its gift.” It worked! I began to see in the painting what I had not seen before and feel what I had not felt before.

I called this exercise of mind, heart and will the “practice of compassion,” literally feeling deeply with. I have applied this practice to appreciating the arts, such as art, sculpture, music and dance; handling difficult human relationships; enjoying the beauty of nature; and deeply experiencing spiritual practices such as attending Mass and centering prayer. But only recently did I come to understand more fully the inner dynamics of compassionate experiences:

1. Spiritual Union. The practice of compassion is a way to experience spiritual union with God, others, self, nature, the arts. It took my Jewish podiatrist to point that out to me. We had been talking about our travel experiences, and I shared with him my experience at the Louvre Museum. He immediately responded: “Michael Jackson said that at times when he is dancing, he experiences oneness with the divine presence.” My doctor turned to me and said: “You experienced union with, oneness with that painting.”

He had given me a wonderful insight into my joyful experience at the Louvre Museum and into the practice of compassion. In my moments of compassionate living, I had experienced a fuller experience of the object of my focus. But I did not think of it as spiritual union. I looked upon the practice as simply a technique for concentrating the full energies of my mind and heart on the object of my encounter. Now I discovered that it was the way to spiritual union.

2. Total Surrender. Compassionate experiences demand a total investment of our mind, heart and will in the object of our attention. We must be fully engaged. An image that helps me to grasp this dynamic is that of the embrace. In a physical embrace we give ourselves fully as a gift to the other. In a similar manner, we must embrace spiritually whatever it is we wish to encounter compassionately.

Further, compassionate experiences are present-moment experiences. We tend to live in the past or in the future. But to live compassionately, we must enter into the present moment and be fully present. The present moment is the door to spiritual consciousness and spiritual union.

3. Centering Out.  Compassionate experiences involve a “centering out” to the object of our encounter. Admittedly, that is an oxymoron, a contradiction of terms. However, the Spirit works in dialectics and paradoxes.

True, we must first center down within ourselves, before we can center out. We must first connect with our center, the Divine Love Center at the core of our being. The usual procedure is to breathe deeply from our gut, inhaling and exhaling rhythmically, to become fully present to ourselves in a gentle and loving way. We might consider this step as being compassionate to ourselves. We are embracing ourselves.

But the action does not stop there. That exercise prepares us to center out—to another person, the beauty of nature, a work of art, whatever. We then focus compassionately on what we wish to encounter in a gentle and loving way in an effort to experience spiritual union.

Spiritual writers tell us that when we reach the center of our being, we are more intimately at home with ourselves, more intimately united with others, more intimately united with God. Note that experiencing the core of our being becomes a source of dynamic energy that flows out spontaneously beyond the boundaries of ourselves to others. So we center down to center out.

4. Mystical Union. Scripture tells us that God is Compassion. No one can define God. That said, however, if we think of God as Compassion in the sense we are using it here, we open ourselves to a rich experience. Then, God is the Being, Who is infinitely present in all beings and creation, with infinite love and infinite attention. Using our image of the embrace, we further describe God as Compassion Who embraces all beings and creation in a compassionate embrace.

In our practice of centering prayer, I believe there is a danger in isolating God from all that He embraces. The result is a focus on a I-God relationship. That belittles God Who pervades all beings and all creation. To get our arms around God in his totality, we must embrace all that God embraces. So, we center down to center out compassionately to embrace God in his compassionate embrace of all beings and creation, and we attempt to embrace all creation in a compassionate embrace. That is the ultimate meaning of Embracing the Embrace!

In so doing, we enter into mystical union with God Who is Compassion and with all creation. Now our intentionality for our centering prayer has become targeted. We want to center down and out to embrace God compassionately as well as all beings and all creation, as the God of Compassion does.

5. Mystical Gratefulness. In his book, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, Brother David Steindl-Rast tells us that gratefulness is the way to a life of fullness. When we make it our basic life attitude, he writes, “our eyes are opened to that surprise character of the world around us,” and we wake up from taking things for granted. “Gratuitousness burst in on us, the gratuitousness of all there is. When this happens, our spontaneous response is surprise.”  And wonder and joy!

One of the fruits of mystical union with the God of Compassion is gratefulness. For example, on a walk when we center down to center out compassionately to embrace God’s embrace of creation through his sustaining presence, love and attention, we see as if for the first time. This mystical union has wakened us up. We see the diversity of trees around us with their diversity of leaves, the play of sunlight penetrating them and the shadows they create, and we sense God’s presence in them. And we know that all is gratuitous, all is surprise, all is gift. And we are on the way to gratefulness, a life of joyful fullness.

We should not be surprised that the practice of compassion should lead us to mystical union and gratefulness. For by its very nature, the practice of compassion is gifting ourselves to God or others or creation—the gift of the Holy Spirit working in us.

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.)

 

New Vision of Eucharist

The Eucharist extends beyond all boundaries. Beyond ritual. Beyond liturgy. Beyond religious practice. Beyond any one theology or any one spirituality. The Eucharist is the power source of our growth in holiness. The power source of our capacity to love. The power source for creating the Beloved Community. The power source that is at the core of all spiritualities, because it is the ultimate expression of union—and that is what spirituality is all about.

Eucharist as Revolution. The first insight we need to grasp is that Jesus did something revolutionary when he instituted a Love Meal at the center of public worship. For a thousand years, as long as the Temple in Jerusalem existed, priests and Levites in private Temple quarters carried out a bloody sacrifice of animals for public worship. It was big business for the transportation and “hotel” industries, but especially for the business of the Temple.

The Pascal lamb could only be slain in the Temple at Jerusalem. The religiously observant in Rome, in Alexandria,Egypt, in Galilee, wherever there was a Jewish community, had to come to Jerusalem for public worship. At one Passover, 256,500 lambs were slain, with an estimated two and a half million persons in attendance, according to H.V. Morton’s book, In the Footsteps of the Master.

Jesus changed all that. He changed totally religion, spirituality and public worship. He transformed public worship from a ritual performed exclusively by priests and levites, centered on a bloody sacrifice of animals and exclusively in the Temple at Jerusalem, to what? A celebration in a Eucharistic Community, centered on a Love Meal, wherever Jesus’ followers come together. That was revolutionary!

With that one act of instituting a Love Meal at the center of public worship, Jesus  transformed our entire idea of God. From a Divine Being who primarily wants worship to a Being who primarily wants communion with and relationship with all his creatures and creation. As the Eucharistic Power Source, Jesus became the ultimate and eternal source of holiness and union for all humanity. God’s glory became a people fully alive through Jesus and united in him. God’s glory became the Beloved Community. Jesus changed our whole concept of religion!

Jesus gave us a clue as to what was coming when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. She said: “My Samaritan ancestors worshiped God on this mountain, but you Jews say thatJerusalemis the place where we should worship God.” Jesus replied: “Believe me, woman, the time will come when people will not worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem….when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as He really is.” Jesus had revolution in mind!

Eucharist as Jesus’ End Plan. Jesus made our Eucharistic Celebrations the medium for fulfilling his End Plan of creating Christian community, the Beloved Community. Jesus had given us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Not as we love ourselves, but as Jesus loves us. Reason tells us that Jesus would not have given us a new commandment without giving us the means for living it. Our Eucharistic Celebrations are the medium for creating the Beloved Community—Jesus’goal.

In his book, The Spirituality of Communion, a study of John’s Gospel and First Letter, biblical scholar Gerard Rosse throws more light on Jesus’ End Plan: “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.”

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. Creation of the Beloved Community is the ultimate witness to the presence and power of Jesus 2,000 years ago and today.

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.

Eucharist as Beloved Community.  Gerard Rosse elaborates on the nature of the Beloved Community: “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.’”

Jesus based his End Plan on this spiritual reality. Our Eucharistic Celebrations flow from that same hidden spring that unites us with God and the Beloved Community.

Eucharist as Love Dance. Jesus is the center and power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Jesus is the center and power source of our Love Meal celebrated in the context of the liturgy of the Mass. Today we must be deeply aware that the Last Supper, initiated in time 2,000 years ago, lasts and lasts, goes on and on at every Mass—with Jesus still the celebrant. It is not a single event, but an ongoing process. As celebrant, Jesus actualizes the actions of the priest who is the presider—one who stands in for Jesus. In fact, Jesus is the leader of the love dance at our Eucharistic Celebrations!

Why a “love dance”? Dance symbolizes intimate union between a man and a woman, a way of acting out ritually their desire for union. Jesus’ movements, centered on a Love Meal, aim at bringing about a Mystical Union of sisters and brothers to create the Beloved Community. Catch the love force in Jesus’ movements:

  1. Jesus invites us to join him in offering ourselves when the priest offers our food and drink, bread and wine. Our bread and wine are symbols of our life. We are offering our lives along with Jesus.
  2. Jesus consecrates us for sacrifice with him by uniting our sacrifice with his sacrifice when the priest consecrates our bread and wine. Note: the Jesus at the Love Meal is no longer the historical Jesus, but the Risen Jesus who includes all of us. We, together with Jesus, are being sacrificed.
  3. Jesus anoints us, empowers us, for love and unity by making us Eucharist with him for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine. This love dance culminates in our Mystical Union with Jesus and our sisters and brothers. The Beloved Community is in the process of becoming! We are on our way to accomplishing Jesus’ End Plan.

However, we have to be aware of the dynamics of Jesus’ movements. Why have we been so unaware of Jesus’ love dance in our Eucharistic Celebrations? Jesus takes us through just three movements. But the three movements are separated in the course of the liturgy to such an extent that we miss the connection between them. They appear to be separate, isolated, unrelated events in the liturgy.

To see their connection, it would be helpful to mentally condense all that takes place during the liturgy, eliminating all but the core movements as described above. The core movements comprise Jesus’ love dance intended to create the Beloved Community!

Think of a couple ritually acting out their desire for intimate union through dance. But other partners keep cutting in and destroying the experience they wish to create. Using our analogy, we see all the prayers that intervene between the core movements of Jesus as so many intruders into Jesus’ love dance—interfering with our experience.

Eucharist as Communal Act of Love. The disconnect between the three core movements of our Love Meal hinders us spiritually and emotionally from entering deeply into our Eucharistic Celebration. As a result, we tend to simply attend a church service, rather than engage in a Communal Act of Love. Only by bringing to bear a heightened spirituality to our Love Meal can we engage in a Communal Act of Love.

As in any love relationship, we move through different phases of desire to bring us into communion with Jesus and our sisters and brothers:

  1. Spiritual Communion—Right from the beginning of Mass, we awaken our desire for communion with Jesus, and with our sisters and brothers. With Jesus, because he is the medium of communion with God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Beloved Community. With our sisters and brothers, because we want to bring about Jesus’ End Plan of the Beloved Community.
  2. Ritual Communion—When we join Jesus in the core movements of the Love Meal, we act out our desire for communion with Jesus and our community. Jesus inviting us to offer ourselves through our bread and wine. Jesus consecrating us for sacrifice. Jesus empowering us, anointing us for greater love and unity.
  3. Mystical Communion—When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus anoints us, empowers us, for love and unity by making us Eucharist with him for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine. The Ritual Communion phase has culminated in Mystical Communion with Jesus, God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Beloved Community. Our desire for union has been fulfilled!
  4. Actual Communion—During and after Mass, we carry out our desire for   communion with Jesus and others. Our Kiss of Peace is our first demonstration.

Eucharist as Calvary’s Fire. Another striking disconnect is between Calvary and Jesus’ daily sacrifice at Mass. Jesus saved us once and for all times on Calvary. What then is Jesus’ sacrifice at daily Mass? It is important to recall at the Consecration that Jesus fires us up with the same infinite love he expressed on Calvary and forges us and seals us in Mystical Union. His sacrifice empowers us to grow in love and desire for unity that we might enter into communion with one another to create the Beloved Community. It is only when we understand Jesus’ End Plan that we see this connection between Calvary and our Eucharistic Celebrations.

When we consider humanity’s cruelty to one another—Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, wars, we are reminded of an episode in the Gospels. Jesus’ disciples could not heal a person. So they ask Jesus why they couldn’t heal. Jesus replies that that some healings take prayer and fasting. Applying that wisdom to Jesus’ daily sacrifice at Mass, we can say that it takes that kind of divine power to heal the woundedness of humanity to bring about the Beloved Community.

Eucharist as Our Sacrifice. We have emphasized that we, along with Jesus, are being sacrificed. But what is our sacrifice? 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 a desire for personal transformation, we will not possess the right intentionality to do the hard work to create the Beloved Community. The two are intimately connected.

Very simply, our sacrifice is to free ourselves of whatever blocks us from bringing about the Beloved Community. My personal block is intolerance of others who differ with me and are different from me. This negative attitude gets in the way of creating the Beloved Community. But I am working on it.

Eucharist as Living Spirituality. The power of the Eucharist extends beyond our reception atMass. It does not self-destruct with time. Its power to bring us into mystical union with God the Father, with Jesus, with the Spirit, and with the Beloved Community continues based on one condition. We must connect with our Eucharistic Moment—the time of our reception—with faith and love. This practice transforms our reception of the Eucharist at Mass from being an isolated event into becoming a Love Force that anoints us for love and unity with Jesus and the Beloved Community—during our entire day:

  • By practicing Spiritual Communion during our day. For a brief period of time, we can recall our Eucharistic experience at Mass and concentrate on growing our desire for communion. With Jesus, who anoints us for love and unity. With the Father, whom Jesus reveals to us as the source of infinite love. With the Spirit, who kindles in our hearts the fire of love and desire.  And with the Beloved Community, from whom Jesus is inseparable.
  • By recalling our Eucharistic Moment to commune with God in creation.
  • By making every meal a Eucharistic meal, an exercise in growing our desire for communion with God and our loved ones.
  • By bringing our Eucharistic Moment into our prayer life.

Eucharist as Life Vision. As his last gift to us, Jesus chose to become Eucharist which we celebrate during the Love Meal at Mass. Jesus gave us the gift that empowers us to live lives of love and unity with others. This is what Eucharist is all about—empowerment for love and union. But note: in giving us the Eucharist, Jesus gave us a new way to live our lives.

Jesus presents us with a whole new life vision. A life vision based on us being Eucharist, not just at the time of receiving Communion, but in the way we live our relationships with others. Just as Jesus led a life of empowering others during his life on earth and continues now in our Eucharistic Celebrations, we are called to empower others and bring others into deeper union with God, themselves, others, life, reality. We must become Eucharist to others, empowerers of others. What a rich Life Vision!

Conclusion. A new vision of the Eucharist is needed. Seeing it as a love dance led by Jesus. Seeing it as a Communal Act of Love. Seeing it as the core spirituality that fills our day. Seeing it as a Life Vision for relating to others. This new vision of the Eucharist will empower us to bring about Jesus’ End Plan for the Beloved Community—the ultimate witness to his authenticity.

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

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.)

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.)