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Posted by on Jun 25, 2011

Realities and Wonders Beyond Our Comprehension – The Feasts of The Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi

The mystery of the Holy Trinity is at the core of our faith as Christians. God is one undivided unity. Yet God is also Father (Mother/Parent), the incarnate Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit – all united as one in being and each separate in identity.

Early Church writers spoke of the Trinity in terms of perichoresis, a mutual indwelling and interpenetration of being shared by the members of the Trinity. The word itself comes from Greek roots meaning around and to contain. In some ways it’s akin to a dance in which the dancers and the dance are one. None can be separated from each other because their essence is one, yet each has an individual role and part in the whole.

We experience God as Trinity in our lives. God as parent brings all things into being through love overflowing and keeps us safely in existence – never forgetting us. God our brother Jesus who has shared the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of human life is truly one of us – 100% human. God the Holy Spirit of love gives us courage to live in love and words to speak of what we have experienced of divine life and love. God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the greatest fan each of us will ever have – always hopeful and encouraging us as we forge ahead through life’s challenges.

Following Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Christ. One mystery following on another. How can simple bread and wine be the body and blood of the Lord? Yet that is what Jesus told us he was giving us – his own flesh and blood to eat, as divine food to strengthen us on our journey as we travel back to union with the Trinity. One of our prayers tells us that we become what we eat. As we share in the divine meal, we share in the life of the Trinity and are drawn ever closer into it.

What a gift!

The wonder of all this struck me as I reflected on an experience I had with my young grandson last week. We were at Disneyland on the last day of a trip with my Girl Scout troop. The girls graduated from high school this year and this was our last major outing.

The park was closing early in preparation for a “Grad Night” for local high school seniors, so despite having a young child along, we were there for the fireworks and final show. It was a show with light, water and music telling of a dream Mikey Mouse was having, complete with ominous music and threatening villains. Could Mickey triumph over the evil that threatened by using the power of imagination? Of course he could and did. The show ended with great joy and happy, triumphant music.

What fascinated me was watching our little boy. He quickly lost interest in watching the story and we moved off into a nearby area where there was a short wrought iron fence (about 36 inches tall). As the music, lights and story blared around us, he quite happily climbed up on the bottom cross-piece of the fence and made his way sideways, holding on to the top rail, from one end of the fence to the other. Then he jumped down, clapped his hands, climbed back up onto the fence and went back to his original starting place. He did this through the entire performance – at least four or five trips back and forth along the fence. He’d have continued doing it all night had we allowed it!

I had been concerned that the ominous, scary music, the tone of voice of the villains, the colors of the threatening sections of the show would frighten him. Had he been a few years older, they would have. However, at his young age, he had no negative associations with any of those cues. What we considered scary music was the same to him as the triumphal music or a sweet ballad. The lights that flickered and changed from peaceful pastels to discordant, multi-colored, dark or flaring reddish-orange bursts of color meant nothing to him.  It was all just background to what he was exploring. He was having a wonderful time on the fence.

In thinking about his reaction, I find myself wondering how much we are like this young child – totally enthralled with our own activities in our own little worlds and totally missing the wonder of the dance going on all around us. We live and move and have our being within the loving presence and reality of God, yet we don’t notice most of the time.

I pray that as the coming weeks unfold, I will be ever more aware of the divine presence – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – enveloping me and all of us in the great dance of being. In the words of Jesse Manibusan’s song, “Open my eyes, Lord. Help me to see your face … Help me to hear your voice … Help me to love like you… Help me to love.”

I send the same wish to all who read these words. May the blessings of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend on you and remain with you forever. Amen.

 

 

 

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Posted by on Jun 14, 2009

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam. offered some interesting thoughts about the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (AKA Corpus Christi) today in his homily and his blog. He has graciously agreed to allow me to share them in a post for this feast.

The Inner Meaning

During this time of year when there are so many of our rites of passage taking place––weddings, graduations, ordinations (even birthdays)––it’s interesting to take a look at the purpose of ritual. Anthropologically speaking, a ritual is a way of expressing and passing on our understanding of reality or of an experience to someone else. So, for instance, a graduation is not about a piece of paper and a cap and gown: it’s weightier, it’s heavy; that’s why tears flow from the eyes of parents as they see their child graduate or get married. The ritual is trying to carry all those memories and meanings, and summarize them in a single gesture: an exchange of rings, the laying on of hands, a birthday card, an embrace, throwing a shovelful of dirt on a coffin: all these rituals mean more than they mean, they carry an almost indescribable load of treasures.

In the Roman rite we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ this week, and it’s safe to ask what Jesus was trying to convey to his disciples when he performed this rather odd ritual––not just breaking the bread and passing out the cup, but claiming that it was his very self. What exactly was he asking them to remember when they did it over and over again? I thought of five things, which certainly don’t exhaust the list of possible meanings.

1. First of all, this gesture looks backward and forward at Jesus’own life. Backward in that Jesus’ whole life had been spent being broken and passed out; his whole life had been dedicated to feeding those around him: taking care of their bodily needs through healing and feeding; and also feeding and healing them in a real way with the Wisdom of God, this incredible good news of God’s undying boundless care for every single hair on the head of very single human being from the greatest to––especially––the least. This ritual also looked ahead to the next day when Jesus allowed his body to be broken like bread and his blood poured out like wine––to say that it’s alright: you can survive even this, your real self cannot be annihilated, but like a seed that falls into the earth and dies it will yield a rich harvest of resurrection life.

2. This ritual symbolized––again what Jesus’ whole life symbolized––that Divine Love gives itself to humanity––that’s what God is like! The Divine is present, really present: divine love is offering itself to the world in this ritual meal.

3. This ritual also conveyed (and conveys) that this Divine Mystery is present everywhere, in creation, “in the earth and its produce.” Unfortunately the kind of hosts we use and our ornate chalices can actually hide the fact that this is actually wheat and grapes, real food: “which earth had given,” as we say, “fruit of the earth.” I think that this conveys that all matter is meant to be brought into right relationship with God, and that all matter can reveal and be a vehicle for the Grace of God. St Irenaeus wrote,

    “This is why he took a part of creation, gave thanks and said: This is my body. In the same way he declared that the cup, an element of the same creation as ourselves, was his blood: he taught them that this was the new sacrifice of the new covenant.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies)

But we add a line to the prayer over the gifts: it’s not just what ”the earth has given,” or “the fruit of the earth”; it’s also the work of human hands. There is a beautiful prayer of Teihard de Chardin:

    I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar––
    And on it I will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world…
    I will place on the paten the harvest to be won by labor. . .
    Into my chalice I will pour all the sap which is to be pressed out this day from the Earth’s fruits.

So, the fruit of the earth and the work of our hands all become vehicles for God’s grace, all is meant to be brought into right relationship with God.

4. This ritual is also meant to convey to us that God wants us to participate in the work of creation, and in divinity itself. That’s why we pray that incredible prayer, “by the mystery of the water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who came to share in our humanity.”

5. And how do we participate? Well, that’s the last thing I want to mention that this ritual is trying to convey (though we could go on and on): it conveys that this divine mystery is especially present whenever and wherever human beings meet and share together, that God is present in every gesture of unselfish love, in every occasion of someone laying down their life for another. That’s why we read the story of the washing of the feet before we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

The Hebrews didn’t need another ritual, another sacrifice; we don’t need another ritual; and God certainly didn’t and doesn’t either. The prophets leading up to Jesus kept telling the people how God was sick of their sacrifices and rituals! Jesus himself quotes the prophet Hosea twice saying: “Go and learn the meaning of these words, ‘It is love that I desire, not sacrifice. Knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.’”

The church, and this ritual, has no other purpose but to communicate and convey and reveal that––the love and knowledge of God that is hidden in the heart of creation and poured into the center of every human being as our very source and our ground. This is what we will be judged on as a church, as individuals, as communities and as a whole: not the forms of our rituals and doctrines, but by the reality of the love and knowledge of God that we manifest.

Bede Griffiths wrote that: “All myth and ritual, all doctrine and sacrament, is but a means to awaken our souls to this hidden mystery, to allow the divine presence to make itself known.”

So: as we participate in this ritual, as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and/or when we gaze at the reserved Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle or in a monstrance, let’s remember how weighty it is, how much it carries and conveys. And let’s especially pray that it would awaken us to the mystery of the knowledge of God, and the love of God that is poured into our hearts, so that we might make it manifest in our world, so that we might be the body and blood of Christ––that we might be broken and poured out for the sake of the world as Jesus was.

cyprian
14 june 09

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