Eucharist in the Time of Coronavirus
By Fr. Wayne Cavalier, O.P.
During the time of corona, we’ve been forced to different degrees at different times to take a step back from our usual practice of the Mass. This gives us the opportunity perhaps to look more closely at what it is we actually do in the Mass. As a preacher (and a former English teacher), I’ve often used the words that we commonly associate with the eucharist as a point of reflection. It occurs to me that we are so accustomed to the words that we don’t often take time to reflect on their meaning. Doing so can offer a rich source of understanding what it is we really are doing at the Eucharist.
For instance, we casually use the term “communion” to refer to the Eucharist— “are you going to communion,” or “at communion time.”. Of course, the immediate idea is what we learn from catechesis, that by taking the bread and the wine we join ourselves to the sacrifice of Christ. Already, this is a rich and meaningful understanding of the term. Yet, it is not everything. The end that we seek by bringing ourselves into communion with the real presence of Christ is that which God has wanted for us from the beginning of creation: to join us to God’s own life, to have a share in the life of the Trinity, to be in communion with the divine. It is in this context that we understand the wisdom of St. Athanasius who said: “God became human so that we might become God.” That is communion.
How often do we think about the Eucharist as bringing us into union with the divine? This is a free gift that God offers to us, not because we deserve it, but because God loves us. It is what God desires for all of us. And when we say our “amen” to the communion invitation to receive “the body of Christ,” we state our own desire to join ourselves to the divine. That is why we cannot make that declaration “amen”, that is “I believe,” lightly. We are called and challenged to accept the responsibility that comes with such a great gift. There is another word that expresses this quite well in the invitation to pray the Lord’s prayer before we experience communion: “We dare to say, Our Father….” This expresses the gift and the responsibility very efficiently. The gift is that through the reconciling self-giving of Christ, we can know God as “Abba, Father.” The intimacy of that is astounding. And…it comes with the responsibility of recognizing that all who share the right to utter that name for God, that gift of intimacy, are my sisters and brothers. We dare to recognize that in one another, and with that recognition comes responsibility to be sister or brother to one another. With our “amen,” we all share communion.