minoxidil side effects

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.

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.)

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.)