Lauda Sion: Eucharistic Gratitude

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
June 14, 2020

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Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, and on this solemn feast, we pray with the ancient sequence Lauda Sion.

This laudatory prayer was written by St.Thomas Aquinas around 1264, at the request of Pope Urban IV for a new Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi. St. Thomas also wrote four more magnificent hymns for the feast: Pange Lingua, Sacris solemniis, Adoro Te Devote, and Verbum supernum prodiens which are all prayed during the Divine Office.

Lauda Sion repeatedly affirms our belief in Christ’s Presence in the consecrated Bread and Wine. In lovely, poetic meter, the Sequence presents erudite theology in accessible, memorable form. It is an amazing work of art and pedagogy!

After reading through the entire piece, we might choose one or two verses which resound with our personal Eucharistic devotion. In these times when many of us find our liturgical participation limited, the words of this Sequence are particularly poignant.

These verses from the beginning and end of the Sequence are some of my favorites. The various English translations are masterful, but never capture the complete essence of the Latin which I have therefore included here.

Special theme for glad thanksgiving
Is the quick’ning and the living
Bread today before you set:
From his hands of old partaken,
As we know, by faith unshaken,
Where the Twelve at supper met.

Laudis thema speciális,
Panis vivus et vitális,
Hódie propónitur.
Quem in sacræ mensa cœnæ,

Turbæ fratrum duodénæ
Datum non ambígitur


Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,
Jesu, of your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.
You who all things can and know,
Who on earth such food bestow,
Grant us with your saints, though lowest,
Where the heav’nly feast you show,
Fellow heirs and guests to be. Amen. Alleluia.

Bone pastor, panis vere,
Jesu, nostri miserére:
Tu nos pasce, nos tuére:
Tu nos bona fac vidére
In terra vivéntium.
Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales:
Qui nos pascis hic mortáles:
Tuos ibi commensáles,
Cohærédes et sodáles,
Fac sanctórum cívium. Amen. Alleluia.


MusicEcce Panis Angelorum – sung at the Papal Mass in Namugongo, Uganda.  The site is an open-air shrine to the Ugandan Martyrs, forty-five Christians burned alive in the 1880s on the orders of the king who feared the growing influence of Christianity.

This rendition of the hymn is the one I love from novitiate days. Though the video is shaky, it is wonderful to hear these African sisters and brothers singing with such obvious joy and devotion, in a language and with a faith that we can all share.

Twelve Who Loved

Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle

May 14, 2020

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12

Today, in Mercy, Acts relates the story of Matthias and his inclusion as one of the Twelve. But besides Matthias, there was another man considered just as worthy of appointment, Justus. The lot did not fall on him and we never hear of him again.

So if there were two equally good men why didn’t they just widen the circle to thirteen Apostles?


This appointment of the twelfth apostle reflects the importance of the number twelve throughout Scripture. It is a number which signifies perfection, heritage, and strength.

Jacob 12
Jacob Blessing His Twelve Sons – T. Daziel (c.1893)

The Book of Genesis states there were twelve sons of Jacob and those twelve sons formed the twelve tribes of Israel. The New Testament tells us that Jesus had twelve apostles. According to the Book of Revelation, the kingdom of God has twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. 

So Matthias, the Twelfth, brought the circle of Apostles to wholeness.


JofCross
In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that he chooses us all to be his friends. It is a friendship built on imitation of him, proven by keeping his commandments. His commandments are clear:

          • Love God.
          • Love others as I have loved you.

Every day, by prayer and reflective living, we deepen in our love for God and neighbor. We learn Love within the revelation of our own lives.

joy

Jesus tells us that if we love like that our joy will be complete. May we be blessed by that holy joy.

Meditation: Instead of music today, a lovely meditation for those of us missing the celebration of Eucharist: No Longer Do I Call You Servants

A Shocking Gift

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

May 1, 2020

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Dali
Institution of the Eucharist: Salvador Dali

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel is serious business. In it, Jesus reveals the lynchpin of our sacramental faith.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.

It is a stark and shocking statement. The listening Jews “quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?’.”

Down through the ages, struggling believers have grappled with the same question. Or, perhaps less preferable, complacent believers have never even considered it.

I think Jesus wanted us to consider it, absorb it, be changed by it, live within it, because “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.”


Among the Christian denominations there is a range of interpretations of this teaching. 

Wikipedia has a very good summary. Click to read it.


As Catholics, we believe that Christ is truly and fully present in Eucharist and that, by Communion, becomes fully present in us, the Church.

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”. This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. This is the faith from which generations of Christians down the ages have lived.
(ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, Encyclical of John Paul II)


For me, it is a truth only appreciated when approached with more than the mind. It must be apprehended with the heart and soul. God so loves us in the person of Jesus Christ that God chooses to be eternally present with us, and in us, through the gift of Eucharist.

Praying with this truth over the years has led me to read authors like Edward Schillebeeckx (Christ the sacrament of the encounter with God), Diarmuid O’Murchu (Quantum Theology), and Pierre Teilhard De Chardin (Hymn of the Universe).

deChardin


But I will tell you that every time I receive the Eucharist, I let this little hymn play in my heart, one I learned for my First Holy Communion. It still unites my heart to my desired faith.

Music: Jesus, Jesus, Come to Me – sung by the Daughters of Mary
( I know the album art is not classic, but I can still believe I’m one of those little kids climbing into Jesus’s lap🤗. I think most of us are a mix of both unsophisticated and erudite theologies, so I hope you can enjoy this musical selection.)

Divine Inheritance

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church

April 29, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us the sense of Jesus claiming his inheritance  from the Father. He makes it clear that the Father’s Will is the Redemption of all Creation. This is the divine charge given to Jesus. This is his mission.

Jn6_37


Jesus continues to use the symbol of bread to teach the forming community. 

Bread sustains life.
God’s Word is eternal life.

Sharing bread is an act of community.
In the Body of Christ, we are made One with God
and with one another.

Bread can stale and disintegrate.
Within the Body of Christ, we become eternal
and will be raised up unto the Last Day.


These are such BIG thoughts, amazing teachings. I always wonder how simple shepherds, fishermen and housekeepers were supposed to understand! I wonder how we, in our human limitations, could begin to comprehend the infinitely loving design of God revealed in Jesus Christ!


Today, as we celebrate the feast of the great Saint Catherine of Siena, we can learn from her spiritual wisdom. Without formal education, she grew by grace into a Doctor of the Church.

Siena


She was born Catherine Benincasa on March 25, 1347, in Siena, Italy, and was a twin, the 24th child of 25. She only lived to the age of 33, dying of a stroke in Rome in 1380. Catherine of Siena, often referred to as “great Kate,” is well known for her expressive life of prayer shared in three major sources of writings: over 400 letters, 26 prayers, and The Dialogue of Divine Providence, which she referred to as “the book,” written in the format of a conversation between herself and God. She was noted for her style of learning, not acquired from formal education and degrees, but gained from an interior wisdom that came from lived experiences and a mystical life of prayer. ( https://www.hprweb.com/2020/02/the-trinitarian-theology-of-the-eucharist-according-to-st-catherine-of-siena/)


Here are two selections from Catherine’s extensive writings which reveal her ever-deepening relationship with God through the gift of the Bread of Life.


Eternal God, Eternal Trinity, You have made the Blood of Christ so precious through His sharing in your Divine Nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for You. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When You fill my soul I have an ever-greater hunger, and I grow more famished for Your Light. I desire above all to see You, the true Light, as you really are.


St. Catherine of Siena, Prayer 12, V 124–157

And by the light of most holy faith
I shall contemplate myself in you.
And I shall clothe myself in your eternal will,
And by this light I shall come to know
That you, eternal Trinity,
Are table
And food
And waiter for us.

You, eternal Father,
Are the table
That offers us as food
The Lamb, your only-begotten Son.

He is the most exquisite of foods for us,
Both in his teaching,
Which nourishes us in your will,
And in the sacrament
That we receive in Holy Communion,
Which feeds and strengthens us
While we are pilgrim travelers in this life.

And the Holy Spirit
Is indeed a waiter for us,
For he serves us this teaching
By enlightening our mind’s eye with it
And inspiring us to follow it.
And he serves us charity for our neighbors
And hunger to have as food
Souls
And the salvation of the whole world
For the Father’s honor

So we see that souls enlightened in you,
True light,
Never let a moment pass
Without eating this exquisite food
For your honor.

Music:  Ave Verum Corpus – words attributed to 14th century Pope Innocent VI, melody to Mozart, sung by King’s College Choir

Hail, true body
Ave, ave verum Corpus 

Born of the Virgin Mary;
Natum de Maria Virgine

Truly offered,
Vere passum, immolatum 

In the cross for man
In cruce pro homine

Whose side
Cujus latus perforatum 

Water and blood
Fluxit aqua et sanguine

May we taste
Esto nobis praegustatum 

Time of death
Mortis in examine 

The time of death
In mortis examine

Holy Thursday 2020

Holy Thursday 

April 9, 2020

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Eucharist

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the gift of Eucharist, the real and enduring Presence of Christ in  the world.

It is both ironic and instructive that on this “Corona” Holy Thursday, we are quarantined from the sacred Bread and Wine. 

Today, as supper time falls slowly from east to west over the Earth, so will a palpable sadness that pandemic keeps us from physical communion with Christ and the believing community.

There will instead flow a great surge of virtual communion as we join an irrepressible wave of faith. The evening skies will echo with the precious words that, despite circumstances, gather us from whatever distances prevent us:

Jesus took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

Our Gospel reminds us of something which seems even more important this year – there are two equally significant dimensions to a full understanding of Eucharist:

  • the Body and Blood we share at Mass
  • the sacrificial service we live daily among the People of God
    who are the living Body of Christ for us.

In these times of stark loss and need, that second dimension sustains us.

foot

Eucharist is offered when we wash the feet of our sisters and brothers:

  • by the medical and support personnel who tend and comfort the sick, who feed them, clean for them, pray for them
  • by the sick themselves who endure in faith and hope 
  • by those who strive to keep others well
  • by those who serve our essential needs for sustenance and safety
  • by those who pray for the healing, courage and restoration of all Creation 
  • by each one of us as we turn from self toward the good of the whole

As Jesus leans to wash the feet of his disciples, so may we lean in service over our suffering world. Jesus asks us:

Do you realize what I, your Lord and Master, have done for you?

Not fully, Lord, but we are learning a new depth of understanding.

bowl

The realization rises like a slow dawn over the shadows of our selfishness. It is a sunrise which continues throughout our lives. Please help us to rise with You no matter how the darkness weighs on us.

Like the fragile bread and fluid wine which hide your Omnipotent Presence, may we become holy nourishment and joy for one another – a true and living memorial to your infinite act of love for us.

Music: Pange Lingua – Chant of the Mystics.
Written by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century
English lyrics below

 

Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory,
Of His Flesh, the mystery sing;
Of the Blood, all price exceeding,
Shed by our Immortal King,
Destined, for the world’s redemption,
From a noble Womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
Born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
Stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
Then He closed in solemn order
Wondrously His Life of woe.

On the night of that Last Supper,
Seated with His chosen band,
He, the Paschal Victim eating,
First fulfils the Law’s command;
Then as Food to all his brethren
Gives Himself with His own Hand.

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
By His Word to Flesh He turns;
Wine into His Blood He changes:
What though sense no change discerns.
Only be the heart in earnest,
Faith her lesson quickly learns.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo, the sacred Host we hail,
Lo, o’er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail:
Faith for all defects supplying,
When the feeble senses fail.

To the Everlasting Father
And the Son who comes on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Amen.

At the Table of Mercy

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

September 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew. The Gospel chosen for the day is Matthew’s own account of his call and the subsequent event lodged in his memory – the first meal he shared with Jesus.

tissot
The Meal in the House of Matthew by James Tissot from the Brooklyn Museum

Apparently Matthew’s house was a do-drop-in kind of house. Matthew’s friends easily gathered at the meal. Even the Pharisees got a view of his table. 

I doubt that Matthew did the cooking. Perhaps his wife or mother, though never mentioned, were the true authors of his hospitality. She may have been that type of cook who lifts the sweet and savory scent of spices into the air, capturing in their welcome all who pass by.

Mt9_10 table

Jesus settles in to that welcome as do his table companions – disciples, tax collectors and sinners. They seem comfortable in their shared humanity. But today, with Jesus, they are invited to the perfection of that humanity in his abundant grace. They too receive a call this day.

We know only how some of these guests responded to this amazing invitation in their lives.

  • Matthew became an apostle and a saint.
  • The Pharisees retreated to their self-protective criticisms and condemnations.

How the others embraced or rejected this graceful moment is left unspoken.

With every Eucharistic moment of our lives, Jesus invites us to humanity’s table – a table transformed by his becoming one of us. His presence changes us all from sinners, tax collectors, or however else we are categorized. With Jesus, we are simply God’s children, fed and replenished by mercy, changed by a sacred invitation.

May we be aware of our “eucharists ” today, every encounter with another human being. The table may or may not be visible in the everyday circumstances around which we gather. Jesus will not be visible either – unless we have the eyes to see him in ourselves and those with whom we share life.

Music:  Come to the Table – Sidewalk Prophets

In Mercy Broken

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

May 10, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, John gives us the core teaching of the Eucharist. 

Jn6_56 eucharist

For many, it is a hard teaching. How can Jesus give us his flesh and blood to nourish us? How can mere bread and wine embody this gift?

Have you ever been profoundly hungry? For most of us, probably not in a physical sense. But what about your heart and soul?

Have you ever longed to be loved, understood, accepted, or valued?

Have you ever felt famished for peace, rest, comfort, security, or solitude?

Have you ever longed to be delivered from gnawing anxiety, depression, fear, sorrow or loneliness?

Jesus recognizes all our hungers. He desires to enfold them in his Healing Mercy. He unites us to himself in the sacred reality of Eucharist, made visible to us in bread and wine.

In Eucharist , these fruits of the earth are not simply symbols pointing to another reality. By the power of God, they become sacraments embodying the reality themselves.

This mystery is one that must be embraced by the heart and soul, not one only to be analyzed by the mind. By opening the deep hungers of our spirit to the healing presence of Christ in Eucharist, we will be fed in ways we could never have imagined. In Mercy, we will become sources of nourishment for the broken world around us.

Music: Bread of the World in Mercy Broken – Reginald Heber

 

The Unfathomable Gift

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the crowd demands a sign from Jesus “that they may believe” in him. They refer to their ancestral memory of when God sent manna to their forebears in the desert – a miracle that restored their faith.

bread of life

But although Jesus worked many wonders, he was not sent simply to be a “wonder worker”. The faith of the New Creation was not to be built on miracles but on sacrificial love.

Jesus tells the assembled crowd:

“ My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven

and gives life to the world.”

He is talking about himself, the ultimate gift of God, feeding not just the body but the spirit – giving new life to all Creation.

The sacrament of the Eucharist embraces this mystery and extends it through the ages. Embodied in the Sacred Bread, this mystery is also incarnated in the People of God as they believe, hope and love God’s Presence into the world.

As with all sacred mysteries, we cannot simply choose to believe as a rational act. This faith is not willed by us, but rather gifted to us, as Jesus says:

“ You cannot come to Me
unless the Father draw you.”

The crowd gathered around Jesus in today’s Gospel is asking  him for a sign before they will believe. Let us instead ask God for the grace  to open our hearts undemandingly to the deep gift of faith God wishes to give us.

Music: Bread of Heaven – Jessie Manibusan  (Lyrics below)

Bread of heaven, Savior broken,
cup of life outpoured;
we your people thirst and hunger.
Come renew us, Lord;
come renew us, Lord.

From the mountain, blessing spoken
where we came to pray;
with the simple truth before us:
love them in my name;
love them in my name.

From the garden dark with sorrow,
from the tears you wept,
bloomed the flower of salvation:
new life born of death,
new life born of death.

From the hill where love was lifted
on the heavy wood,
flow the blood and streams of mercy
where your Mother stood,
where your Mother stood.

From the tomb that could not hold you
in the dark of night,
broke that morning of redemption,
raising us to life,
raising us to life.

We Are the Body of Christ

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

     Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus tells us that we are his Body. How do we keep faith with this when the Body strains against its own parts? How do we look beyond human frailty to the vision of Christ?

No one can deny that the Church struggles with its peace and unity. The current reality of the Catholic Church is fraught with abuse, division and threatened schism. And these things are nothing new. Church history reads like a novel laced with intrigue, power plays, and gratuitous violence.

How are we to reconcile these realities with Jesus’ pronouncement in today’s Gospel?

I think we do so by acknowledging 

  • that the Living Church has not yet sifted out the chaff from the wheat
  • that the Body of Christ is still being crucified
  • that our discipleship consists in sharing the continuing act of redemption with Jesus

We strengthen ourselves for this sacred participation by our faithfulness to the Gospel, by our quest for meaningful Eucharist, and by our reverence for Christ’s presence in all Creation.

Pierre de Chardin saw the Body of Christ in cosmic terms which open our understanding and challenge us to an evolution of grace. He says:

“ No, the Body of Christ must be understood boldly, as it was seen and loved by St. John, St. Paul, and the Fathers. It forms in nature a world which is new, an organism moving and alive in which we are all united physically, biologically….

It is first by the Incarnation and next by the Eucharist that Christ organizes us for Himself and imposes Himself upon us.  Although He has come above all for souls, uniquely for souls, He could not join them together and bring them life without assuming and animating along with them all the rest of the world. By His Incarnation, He inserted Himself not just into humanity but into the universe which supports humanity, and He did so not simply as another connected element, but with the dignity and function of a directing principle, of a Center toward which everything converges in harmony and Love.”
(de Chardin: La Vie Cosmique)

Music: Song of the Body of Christ ~ David Haas

Live in Love

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081218.cfm

Eph 5_1 live in love

Today, in Mercy, our readings capture the essence of life in God through Christ.

The first reading from Kings tells how Elijah, after eating the food God had provided him, was able to endure the long journey to God’s mountain.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus makes clear that no one makes that journey into the heart of God unless God calls us. But Jesus says that the invitation is given to all who believe. He says that, just as with Elijah, the Father gives us food – Jesus himself – the bread of life.

The second reading from Ephesians says that we have already “been sealed for the day of redemption through the Holy Spirit.” Paul says that, given this amazing gift, we have only one job:

So be imitators of God, as beloved children,
and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

We are so accustomed to hearing these astounding passages that we may miss how astounding they really are. But Macrina Wiederkehr says:

When Jesus’ words begin to sound naive to our 21st century minds, let us look through the words, in between the words, underneath for a deeper truth.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the great Jesuit mystical theologian, upon reading these passages,saw the mystery of the Body of Christ. He saw our call to be the heart of Christ in the world. He saw Christ’s promise to become one with us in Eucharist. He saw that, through this Infinite Love played out in our ordinary lives, God continues to redeem Creation.

In each soul,
God loves and partly saves the whole world
which that soul sums up
in an incommunicable and particular way.
~ The Divine Milieu ~

Music: Quintessence – Spencer Brewer

May this lovely instrumental piece help take us to a deeply prayerful place as we contemplate God’s gift in Jesus.