The ringing is getting closer.
We shall find out today
Yesterday on the Third Sunday of Easter God blessed us with Easter joy by giving us the scripture passage of the disciples meeting Christ on his Resurrection Day at a town called Emmaus. The Gospel account definitely is a reference to the Eucharist — recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Along with this we have the teaching of the risen Lord about the necessity of going to the scriptures and learning from them about the suffering and rising of God’s Messiah. So the Lord Jesus joined together the word of God and the sharing in his Body and Blood. He has taught us in our day to do the same. This becomes evident from the strong practice of recent years, at the insistence of the Church, that our celebration of Mass must include both word and Sacrament as one act of worship — this is the Easter way. So in our study of the Mass during this time of the pandemic we have been faced with not having the Eucharist celebrated in Church but have had a “virtual Mass” by Internet or TV without Communion but at least hearing the word of God (including a homily). I have tried to show that in this God is revealing to us in a deeper fashion the great Mystery of the whole Mass, word and Sacrament, so that we are able to return to the Mass in Church we will appreciate it more and draw life from him all the more.
So today, knowing that the word of God and the going to Communion are one action of worship and grace, we want to ask ourselves 1) which of the two — word or Sacrament — is more important, and 2) how are the two related because the Easter Christ put the two together.
Let us start with the second question first.
First of all, our faith teaches us that Christ is really present in both. See earlier in these articles that Christ is really present throughout the entire Mass. It is really the same Christ who speaks his saving word to us and who bids us take and eat…take and drink — just as he did at the Last Supper and at Emmaus. He opens the scriptures and breaks the bread as the Eucharist Prayers for Various Occasions now says explicitly. In our worship there is a definite flow of the sacred action from word to Sacrament.
Both, too, are nourishment. In the famous sixth Chapter of John’s Gospel (which the Church reads during Easter time) Jesus feeds the multitude and calls himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35). So when Jesus says at every Mass take and eat…take and drink he is calling us to consume him, the Word made flesh, and so live his life right here on the earth. I think sometimes that we have so narrowed our understanding of the Eucharist to the changing of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ that we forget the rest of it — eat and drink. We have to accept Christ into our hearts — that is the commandment do this in memory of me. The word of God is to be eaten, consumed — this is what listening to the word of God means. This is what Christ refers to in the sixth Chapter of John’s Gospel. What comes to mind is the unforgettable words of Isaiah long ago, using the banquet imagery:
Yet just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
but shall do what pleases me,
achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
God’s word is bread, to be eaten, to nourish our hearts with Christ himself so that we live Christ and worship the Father by doing so. This is Eucharist. We become what we eat.
Thirdly, God’s pattern of revealing to us who he is and what he wants is word and deed. This is basic to God’s way. Christ follows this at Emmaus and in the Mass. Word and deed interact — the word explains what God is doing and the mystery therein; the deeds (works of God) reinforce the teaching and confirm the realities of what is spoken of in the word (what God says). The Eucharist in its totality is both what Christ says and what Christ does — he speaks and acts. Our participation at Mass includes our words and actions. So when we say that we are going to Mass and going to Communion our presence there is not just listening to the word of God nor just receiving Communion. It is the combined act of worshiping God through word and Sacrament. The fullness cannot be achieved digitally or virtually by electronic means.
So the word of God becomes Eucharist. Upon our return to the celebration of Mass with the Church we must enter into the word and enter in the eating and drinking of Christ, the Word made flesh.
This is a topic for the future.