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May 9, 2024
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May 9, 2024

Paul and the Eucharist (Part 2)

By Msgr Michael de Verteuil, Chair, Liturgical Commission

1 Corinthians 10:16–17

“The cup of blessings which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? As there is one bread, so we, though many, are one body, for we all share in the one bread.”

In this passage Paul tells us that when we come into communion with the Bread and Wine we come into communion with Jesus and with all who receive.

For Paul, “the Eucharistic table is the place of union” (Fr Francis J Moloney SDB). We are accustomed to knowing we receive the Lord when we receive Communion, but do we recognise who else we are coming into communion with?

As Fr Jerome Murphy-O’Connor OP put it, there are “vertical and horizontal implications” to receiving Communion. We can’t have only Jesus when we receive Communion—we have our brothers and sisters too. The Mass itself reminds us of this.

For example, in Eucharistic Prayer II we pray, ‘that partaking in the Body and Blood of Christ we may be brought together into one by the Holy Spirit.’ In Eucharistic Prayer III we pray, ‘Grant that all who are nourished by his Body and Blood and filled with the Holy Spirit may become one body, one spirit in Christ.’

This body, Fr Murphy-O’Connor said, which is brought into being, is the physical presence of Christ in the world. This Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ helps form the Body of Christ and its continued nourishment to carry on the mission of being the presence of Christ in the world.

Understand this—as we receive Communion, we deepen our relationship with the Lord, and we are formed into the Body of Christ and fed with this spiritual food to continue His work. We do not receive Communion just for ourselves but to become one body, one spirit in Christ.

Part of the problem we face is that for so long the emphasis has been placed on the aspect of Communion in Christ that we have lost sight of the other aspect of Communion—that is, with one another.

But if we do this, we lose sight of the nature and purpose of our Eucharistic celebration—the remembrance of the Body and Blood poured out for all, the becoming one body, one spirit in Christ. Thus, there can be no divisions among us: racial, class, financial, no bad talking one another or not being on speaking terms with others in the community. In Paul’s teaching on the Eucharist, there can be none of that.

In these two passages (this one, and 1 Cor 11:17–24 discussed in last week’s issue), Paul reminds us of the importance of unity among us and care for one another that must be the hallmark of every community and its celebration of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist demands it. Our remembrance of the broken Body of the Lord and His Blood poured out demands it.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash