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Source and summit of the life of the Church


The Eucharist, continued:

The Eucharist is famously called the “source and summit of the life of the Church” (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, §11; Pius XII, Mediator Dei, §201; John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, §3). As the sacrifice of Calvary and the Real Presence of the Savior, it is the source of the life of the Church, which is Christ’s Body. As the means of our union with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, it is the summit of that life of grace.

The Church is most fully itself in the celebration of the Eucharist. Here the unity of God’s people is signified and brought about. We are sent forth from the Eucharistic assembly to bring that life of Christ into our homes, families, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools ¼ in every place and aspect of human life.

Jesus has united the whole of the human family and the whole of the human condition to himself in the Incarnation. So his command to “Do this in memory of Me” (Luke 22:19) can also be thought of as a mission for each of us. He tells us to imitate his selfless, sacrificial loving service to one another. When he washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, he told them clearly:

“As I have done, so must you do. … Once you know all these things, blest will you be if you put them into practice” (John 13:15.17).

In every parish community, then, the altar is a kind of center of the life of the Church in that community. From the altar we receive the grace we need to allow the life of Christ the Servant and Redeemer to work in every facet of our lives. To the altar we bring ourselves – our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and fears – and offer them to the Father along with the Son as members of his Body.

There are many foreshadowings of this supreme gift in the Scriptures. These sacred writings are the Word of God, telling us the history of salvation. It is a history of covenants between God and humanity, as he gradually prepares a people to share his divine life. Each of these covenants has a promise, a sign, and a condition on our part. All of this history is important as it interprets Jesus’ words at the Last Supper: “This is the new covenant in my blood; do this in memory of me.”

In creation, the covenant was with all humanity, through Adam and Eve. Its promise was life. Its sign was the food (Ministry & Life Perspectives Continued) they were to eat. The condition on the part of our first ancestors was that they were not to eat of the

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 1-3).

After the Fall (the rejection of the life of grace at the beginning of human history, recounted in Genesis 3), a new covenant was made with Noah.

The promise was that God would not devastate the earth by flood again. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow. Our condition was to avoid violence and murder, respecting the gift of life from God (Genesis 9:1-17).

As sin increased, God chose a people for himself through Abraham, to whom he promised land, a long life, and many descendants. This people was not chosen to the exclusion of the rest of the human family. Rather, they were to be representatives of the human family who, by their fidelity to the covenant, were to be a light to all nations (Isaiah 42:6). The sign of this covenant with Israel was circumcision; the condition therefore was that all the males among the people must be circumcised (Genesis 17). [to be continued …]

Fr. Tom


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