June 10, 2012
The feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus (Corpus Christi) brings back memories from a distant past of processions and first Holy Communions and innocence.
When Sister Frances was preparing us for our first Communion she said that our souls would be shining bright when we received Jesus and when the day arrived it was this brightness that I was looking out for. I watched the children ahead of me kneeling at the altar rails and I looked at the soles of their shoes to see the brightness shine there, not knowing the difference between soul and sole!
Of course there was no brightness to be seen but I adjusted to this by saying to myself that there must be something else, another soul. And when my turn to kneel came I closed my eyes, put out my tongue, received Jesus and saw the brightness at the back of my eyelids. It's been normal ever since for me to experience the brightness that comes with Holy Communion.
Sally Read expresses it well for me "The effects of Communion may be well known by those who have received it. But is there really a way to describe the ordering of the heart, the internal embrace that occurs when we actually eat Christ's flesh and blood?...There is no way I know of being closer to God. And there is no more powerful prayer." (Poet Sally Read, Real Presence in THE TABLET 2 JUNE 2012)
Over the past week the Irish Times has run a series on the healing and renewal of the Catholic Church. Two pieces caught my attention. One was the testimony of an 11 year old Lorcan who made his Confirmation this year. He says, "On Sundays I go to Mass with my family. I like going up to Communion. The priest says we all have to look out for each other. I don’t find it hard to understand how the wine becomes blood, because Jesus did that at the Last Supper."
The second piece was an opinion poll which revealed that only 24 percent of Catholics believe in Transubstantiation. If I were asked as a child, if Lorcan were asked, if many believing Catholics were asked, it is doubtful if many would know what Transubstantiation is but we understand at some level of our being that we receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
It takes a child to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus himself said "I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children..." and "unless you repent and become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."
The uncluttered, simple soul of the child has a way of knowing that transcends the ordinary intellectual way of knowing that we tend to develop as adults and if we are to connect with the mystery of Jesus in the eucharist then we need to connect with the child within us who does understand. If there is to be renewal in the Church then we have to make this connection with our own child and with Jesus.
Trust is central to this experience of faith. Lorcan trusts what Jesus did at the Last Supper, so he has no problem accepting that the wine becomes blood. I believe in the Eucharist because I trust Jesus completely. I accept that, as God, he can do all things and when he says "this is my body" I accept. This is what I receive.
There is something else in Lorcan's testimony that is simply expressed, a sentence in the middle of what he says about Mass and Communion - "...we all have to look out for each other." And that too is central to the mystery of the Eucharist, the reality of Christ Jesus living in us.
We can receive out of habit, not knowing what is really taking place. It would be good for us to come to communion deliberately and afterwards close our eyes and experience the brightness of Jesus within, a brightness to be taken with us as we go on our way and in all our relationships.