Category Archives: Parish Newsletters

Parish newsletters

Kepah ~ Parish Newsletter 16

Why Go to Mass ?

 By

Bishop Michael Evans

A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.

No. 12

 

‘Ite, missa est’

 The Eucharist is called the Mass (Missa) because it ‘concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful into the world, so that they may fulfil God’s will in their daily lives’ (n. 1332). We leave the celebration as people sent by Christ to bring him to others, and in a sense to be him for others. We receive the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist in order to be together the sacramental presence of Christ in the world. At the end of each Mass, Jesus says to us, ‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you’ (Jn 20:21; cf. 17:18). The celebration of Mass may be ended, but we ‘go in peace to love and to serve the Lord’.

A service to others

We do not come to Mass purely for our own spiritual benefit, or even for that of our particular parish community. We celebrate the Eucharist for the salvation of the human race, for both the living and the dead, and making the effort to take part in the Mass is a service to others. Through our simple celebrations of the Eucharist, the saving power of Christ’s sacrifice radiates out to ‘advance the peace and salvation of the world’ (Eucharistic Prayer 3).

Coming to Mass is also one of the most important ways in which we bear witness to Christ before the world. Simply by being there together at the Eucharist, professing and celebrating our faith, we stand up for what we believe. In past centuries, Catholics have been put to death because they insisted on risking everything to take part in the Mass in times of persecution. For young people who have just been confirmed, for others who simply do not have the time or health to be actively involved in all kinds of Church activities and ministries, and indeed for every Catholic, the most public way to witness to our faith is to celebrate the Eucharist together, especially on Sundays. There are some, even friends and family, who will think it strange, even laughable, and for many young people today the decision to come to Mass demands a courage not unlike that of the martyrs. But there is no greater sign of life in a parish than to see young people at Mass together.

 

 

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Kepah ~ Parish Newsletter 15

Why Go to Mass ?

 By

Bishop Michael Evans

A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.

No. 11

 

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Communion with one another

Eucharistic Prayer 2 asks that ‘all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit’, and that we may grow together in love. By receiving together the body of Christ, we become together the body of Christ, the Church.

Do we see deepening communion between the members of our Eucharistic communities as a central purpose of the Eucharist? How does that affect the way we celebrate? The Catholic Church understands the Eucharist as ‘properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church’ (n. 1395), and this is the main reason why we cannot normally share Eucharistic communion with other Christians. But how much effort do we as Catholic put into being full communion with each other – full communion of faith and love even in our own parish community?

It is at the Eucharist that we are most truly Christ’s Body. The Eucharist is the supreme expression of the nature and mission of the Church. It is at Mass that we see what the Church is all about, and everything else we do as Christ’s Church flows from the leads back to the celebration of Mass. What does the way your particular parish celebrates the Eucharist reveal about the kind of Christian community you are?

The Catechism sees the pain of division between Christians, experienced with particular intensity when we cannot share Eucharistic communion together, as spurring us on to more urgent prayer for complete unity (n. 1398). There are established norms for ‘Eucharistic hospitality’ with other Christians under special circumstances. This is easier with the Eastern Orthodox Churches whose ordained ministry and celebration of the Eucharist are accepted as valid by the Catholic Church, but there are also particular occasions when other Christians who have a Catholic faith in the Eucharist may receive communion from a Catholic minister (n. 1399f; cf. Code of Canon Law, 844.4; Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, 122-136, 159-160).

 

Communion with the poor and oppressed

 

The Catechism situates the Eucharist firmly in the real world. The Eucharist commits us to the poor: ‘To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognise Christ in the poorest, his brethren’ (n. 1397). It is not enough to recognise the real presence of Christ in the ‘breaking of bread’, to reverence him in the Blessed Sacrament; we are only truly Eucharistic people if our reception of Christ leads us to recognise and reverence his presence in the broken lives of those around us, and to seek real communion with those in need. We are called to balance our prayerful adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament with our loving service of Christ in those with whom he personally identifies: ‘Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me… Whatever you fail to do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you fail to do to me’ (Mt 25:40, 45). Any parish which has true adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament will be a parish actively dedicated to loving service of the poor and oppressed at home and overseas – the homeless and rejected, the sick and the sad. The deeply Eucharistic person will be the one, for example, who reaches out in welcome to the person with AIDS, seeking – with Christ – not to condemn but to share that person’s life.

In the Eucharist, we are united with the suffering of Christ, not only on his cross but in those people being ‘crucified’ today. If the Eucharist is the living memorial of Christ’s Cross, we must stand at the foot of the cross of the poor and oppressed, sharing their suffering and acting in love for their deliverance: ‘In the Eucharist, the Church is, as it were, at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ’ (n. 1370).

 

 

 

 

Kepah ~ Parish Newsletter 14

Why Go to Mass ?

 By

Bishop Michael Evans

A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.

No. 10

 

Communion with Christ

We receive Holy Communion above all in order to grow closer to Jesus Christ (n. 1391), sharing his life and deepening our friendship with him (n. 1395).

The celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ himself through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us (n. 1382).

Sometimes people stop going to Mass because they say that they ‘get nothing out of it’. This often means that they have not come away with their hearts uplifted, with great feelings of spiritual nourishment. They blame boring celebration, tedious preaching, uninspiring music, lack of a sense of community, hypocrisy, unsympathetic priests. These are sometimes valid criticisms, and priests and people have a responsibility to put all of their gifts and talents into the greatest thing they do together – celebrating the Eucharist. But flaws and failings in our way of celebrating the Mass are no good reason for opting out. The Eucharist is as vital to our spiritual life as ordinary food is to out physical and mental life: ‘What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life’ (n. 1392). We would be foolish to give up eating and drinking simply because most meals were uninspiring.

Christ offers us himself in the Eucharist, and that regular feeding on Christ is as vital to our spiritual journey as the daily diet of manna (far from inspiring fodder, however much it came ‘from heaven’) was to the forty-year desert journey of God’s chosen people. Christ is our life, and without him we die.

The Last Supper was the last of many meals that Jesus ate with his friends. They were accustomed to being with him at table, listening to him, breaking bread with him, sharing their lives with him. Once they knew that he was risen from the dead, alive with them in a new way, it was natural that they should want to continue this intimate meals with their Lord. When we come to Mass, to the Lord’s Supper – we join the apostles, the saints throughout the ages, and the Church throughout the world to be together with our risen Lord, to listen to his Word, to share his life given for us to open our lives to his presence.

 

Communion with one another

The Eucharist also leads to unity with one another in Christ, the unity of the Body of Christ:

Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body – the Church. Communion renews, strengthens and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism (n. 1396).

Communion with Christ in his sacrifice and communion with one another go hand in hand, as St. Paul clearly taught:

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Cor 10:16-17).

 

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Kepah ~ Parish Newsletter 13

Why Go to Mass ?

 By

Bishop Michael Evans

A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.

No. 09

 

Christ the Priest

The Eucharist is the heart of the life of the priest, and it is in presiding at the Eucharist that the special ministry of priests is most evident (n. 1142). At the Eucharist the priest does not replace an absent of Christ; he is the sacramental sign and instrument of the presence of Christ as our Head and Shepherd:

At its head is Christ himself, the principle agent of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration (n. 1348).

This is important. When we come to Mass, the One who invites us, gathers us together, presides over us, teaches, nourishes and blesses us, is Christ himself. He does this in a special way through the visible priest, and it is obviously the ideal that the priest himself should be a good sign and instrument of Christ – a friendly and welcoming person, a good preacher, a true shepherd who knows and cares for his flock. No priest is perfect; every priest is a sinner and has his faults and weaknesses. If your priest does not match up to the ideal, and the celebration of the Mass is not as you might like, that is no good reason not to take part in that Mass. The risen Lord himself is there inviting us to be part of his community, to play our part in the celebration, to listen to his Word, to share in his saving sacrifice, to receive his gift of himself, to be sent forth into the world in his name. The sacrament of ordination guarantees that when a priest presides at the Eucharist, Christ invisibly presides through him. Everything we say about the Eucharist is possible only because Christ himself is there among us, powerfully at work.

 

The Mass of all Ages

 The history of the Mass is a fascinating subject, and one we cannot pursue here. There have been all kinds of changes down through the centuries, not just in our own time, but the substance of the Eucharist has not changed (n. 1345-7, 1356). The Eucharist of the first Christians, the Eucharist described by St. Justin and St. Hippolytus in the second and third centuries, the Eucharist of the Middle Ages and that laid down after the Council of Trent, the Eucharist as renewed by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council and celebrated today; each is the same Mass of all Ages, the same Eucharist of Jesus Christ.’

The Catechism points out that the Eucharist today has the same basic movement as the Easter meal which the risen Jesus ate with his disciples after his encounter with them on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13—35):

Walking with them he explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table ‘he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them’ (n. 1347).

 

 

Kepah ~ Parish Newsletter 12

Why Go to Mass ?

 By

Bishop Michael Evans

A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.

No. 08

 

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Historical thought

Great Catholic thinkers such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas strongly affirmed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but in a way which highlighted the sacramental nature of that presence and which avoided any crudely materialistic understanding. Some extreme realists in St. Thomas’ day were shocked by his interpretation, and his teaching is still rather challenging and disturbing for some Catholics today, both those who undermine Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and those who hold on to an ‘ultra-realist’ view. His language of ‘substance’ and ‘accidents’ is not easy for us to grasp, but it enables us to insist on the real presence of Jesus through a change in the deepest reality of bread and wine while avoiding any crude identification of that presence with what we handle with our senses. The idea of ‘sacrament’ is vital: it involves a distinction – but not a separation – between the visible sign (what we see, touch and taste) and the invisible reality we receive (the whole Christ). This saves us from the pitfall of thinking that whatever is done to what we handle is actually being done to the risen Lord himself. The Catechism reminds us that the whole Christ is present in the Eucharistic elements, but ‘in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ’ (n. 1377).

Reception and Adoration

We are urged to receive communion each time we come to Mass (n. 1388). Christ is sacramentally present both under the form of bread and under the form of wine, and therefore we receive ‘all the fruit of Eucharistic grace’ by communion under the form of bread alone. The Catechism reminds us, however, that ‘the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of Eucharistic meal appears more clearly’ (n. 1390).

Whatever way we receive communion, it is Christ himself that we receive, and it is important that we prepare ourselves for so holy a moment. The one hour’s fast before receiving communion – hardly a great inconvenience – helps us to think about the meaning of what we are to do. Simple thing like: what we wear, how we participate, are meant to express ‘the respect, solemnity and joy’ of the Eucharist. What matters most, however, is our inward preparation, allowing our hearts, minds and lives to be purified, renewed and opened to the presence of Christ.

Catholics express their faith in the Eucharistic presence of Christ by signs of adoration such as genuflecting or bowing deeply. This special presence of Christ begins at the consecration and lasts as long as the Eucharistic elements (n. 1377). This is why Catholics worship the Lord present under the sacramental signs, not only during the Mass itself but also afterwards. Christ gives us his sacramental presence as one of the ways in which he is with us, even to the end of time (Mt 28.20): he waits for us in this sacrament of love, inviting us to meet him in adoration:

In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love (n. 1380).

 

Kepah ~ Parish Newsletter 11

Why Go to Mass ?

 By

Bishop Michael Evans

A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.

No. 07

 

Through faith not the senses

 The whole living Christ is present in this sacrament in a way that can be grasped only by faith, not by our senses (n. 1381). The Catholic Church insists on three points here: the whole Christ is really and truly present (it is not just a ‘spiritual’ presence), but it is a presence ‘in the manner of a substance’ (something beyond the senses, ‘metaphysical’) and it is a sacramental presence (the presence of an invisible reality through a visible sign). These three points must be held together.

As the Catechism puts it, ‘Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real and substantial manner: his Body and Blood, with his soul and divinity’ (n. 1413). This substantial presence of the risen and glorified Lord is there for us ‘under the consecrated species’. Those species of bread and wine (their ‘accidents’, appearances, form: in other words, what our senses can grasp) are the sacramental sign, the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ of Christ’s presence; they are not themselves that presence, as obviously ‘the appearances of bread and wine’ cannot possibly actually be ‘the substance of the risen Christ’. But when we receive the consecrated bread and wine, the only ‘substance’ (or profound reality) that we receive is that of Christ himself.

Pope Paul VI reminded us in his encyclical letter Mysterium Fidei that as a result of God’s transforming work in the Eucharist, the species of bread and wine take on a new meaning, ‘for they are no longer common bread and common drink, but rather the sign of something sacred and the sign of spiritual food’ (art. 46). They take on this new significance because they now contain and make present a new reality: ‘For beneath these appearances there is no longer what was there before, but something quite different’: in other words, instead of the ‘substance’ of bread and wine, there is now the ‘substance’ of Christ, whole and entire.

Historical thought

Throughout history there have been two extreme and opposing tendencies in Eucharistic thought. One view so stresses the distinction between the visible sign (the form, species or ‘accidents’ of bread and wine) and the invisible reality it signifies (the very presence of Christ) that the two are seen as separate, with no guarantee that when we receive the sacramental sign we also receive the Body and Blood of Christ. This view does not take seriously enough the real presence of the whole Christ in the Eucharist, and often talks of simply the power or the spirit of Jesus being present in some way.

The other view (sometimes called ‘ultra-realism’) so strongly emphasises the real presence of Christ that the visible sign and the invisible ‘substance’ of Christ become identified, with the unacceptable implication that whatever we do to the consecrated bread and wine – breaking, chewing, dropping, spilling, digesting – we do to Christ himself. This view takes seriously enough neither the substantial (beyond the senses) nature of Christ’s presence, nor the central idea of sacrament (the invisible through the visible).

 

 

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Kepah ~ Parish Newsletter 10

Why Go to Mass ?

 By

Bishop Michael Evans

A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.

No. 06

 

New meaning, new value

Although far from adequate on its own as an understanding of God’s transforming work in the Eucharist, the giving of new meaning and value is an important aspect of the Spirit’s work in the celebration. At the Last Supper Jesus ‘gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup’ (n. 1334), and ‘gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning’ (n.1340). People come to Mass seeking meaning for their lives, and a sense of value and worth for themselves. The Eucharist gives new meaning, and value to God’s creation and to the people: ‘the lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value’ (n. 1368).

In Eucharistic Prayer 2, we ask the Father to make us worthy, but we also thank him ‘for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you’. In the early Church, standing was the Christian way to pray. To be allowed to stand in God’s presence was a sign that God looked on us as his own sons and daughters. Nothing can affirm our dignity and value more strongly than taking part in the Eucharist and hearing what God says to us about ourselves.

 The presence of Christ

The risen Christ is truly present in his Church in many ways: in the Scriptures, in the Church’s prayer and worship ‘where two or three are gathered in my name’ (Mt 18:20) and in the poor, the sick and the imprisoned (Mt 25:31-46), in the sacraments and in his ministers. But he is present most especially and in a unique way under the Eucharist species, the consecrated bread and wine: here in the Blessed Sacrament, ‘the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’ (n. 1374).

We believe this simply because Jesus says of the bread and wine: ‘This is my body’, ‘This is my blood’ (Mk 14:22-24). The risen Christ continues to say these words today through the ministry of his priests. Jesus himself is our bread of life (Jn 6:48). Take time to reflect prayerfully on the following passages from the New Testament: 1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:17-34; Jn 6:22-69; Lk 24:13-35.

Traditional Catholic theology distinguishes carefully between the ‘accidents’ or appearances of a thing (what our senses can grasp) and its ‘substance’, its ultimate reality. Although the appearances of bread and wine remain after the consecration, the deepest reality (or ‘substance’) of Christ’s body and blood become present by the conversion of the deepest reality (or ‘substance’) of the bread and wine, a change usually referred to as ‘transubstantiation’:

by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood (n. 1376).

This conversion of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of

Christ happens ‘in a way surpassing understanding’ (n. 1333). The Catechism highlights the role of the Holy Spirit as the one who ‘makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist’ (n. 737). The Western Church’s focus on Christ’s words of institution or consecration (‘This is my Body’, ‘This is my Blood’) and the Eastern Church’s focus on the invocation of the Holy Spirit (the epiclesis) are woven together in the Catechism’s repeated teaching that the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood ‘by the words of institution and the invocation of the Spirit’ (nn. 1333, 1353, 1357, 1375). By the power of the Spirit and the words of Christ, Christ himself is ‘really and mysteriously made present’ (n. 1357).