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Our Participation in the Eucharist

Posted on: 1 Dec, 2014

Modified on: 1 Dec, 2014

By Fr. Linus Kujur, S.J.

Our Participation in the Eucharist

1. Theme of the Reflection
We are here to understand "Our Participation in the Eucharist" and I shall do so from the liturgical point of view. Therefore it would be appropriate to determine the perspective to know more about the subject.
2. What is Liturgy?
Liturgy is a 'Christian Public Worship'. There are various forms of "worship", such as, sacraments, sacramental, Liturgy of the Hours, Blessings and Devotions. All these together are known as Liturgy or Ritual in the ordinary sense. Among all these forms the Eucharist is the most important Sacrament. [1]
Liturgy is "public" by nature. This means that wherever two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus, they can have liturgy. In a more strict sense liturgy is "an action of the people of God", who perform the act through and with their Representative (Minister). Thus every liturgical celebration has a Minister or a leader.
It is a worship of the Christian Community; that is of the baptized in the name of Jesus and who live their faith as reconciled community.
This when we speak about Eucharist, all these concepts are presupposed; that is Eucharist is to be celebrated by a ‘Believing Community’ with its Representative.
[ In a broad sense, Christian Religion is a Mystery of Faith, which we profess in the Apostles’ Creed and celebrated that in the Liturgy and live accordingly through our Consecrated life. By these we enter into the personal relationship with God and one another as a human person with our total personality; mind-heart-body.]
3. What is Eucharist?
When Jesus was having the Last Supper with His disciples; He took bread, gave thanks to the Father, broke and gave that to the disciples and said "Do this in memory of me." That was the beginning of the 'Breaking [2] of the bread' or of 'Giving Thanks'. By doing so Jesus offered Himself for the remission of sins; thus it is known also as a Sacrifice. Jesus wished this to be a new Covenant, therefore it has become a sign of unity between God and Christians and among the believers in Christ themselves. Because of these realities it is known by various names,; such as Breaking of the Bread, Memorial, Lord’s Supper, Eucharist and Sacrifice.
4. Participation
Participation in the Eucharist is emerging from the very nature of liturgy. It is also the wish of Jesus, that ‘the apostles do it’ in His memory. In other words, the very definition of Liturgy and the context of the Eucharist, invite us to take part in the Eucharist.
When the scholars learned that ‘Liturgy belongs to the people’, they suggested that the faithful take active participation in the sacred mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church. [ND1208]
Because of this understanding of Liturgy the Order of the Mass is written in a dialogue form, so that when ‘God speaks the people can respond’. Similarly, ‘Liturgical Books’ are re-edited for different Representatives or Ministers to take active role.
In fact, the word PARTICIPATION does not seem to express the role of the Congregation (believers assembles for the Liturgy), a new word is suggested today; CELEBRATION. According to St. Peter Christians are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that they may proclaim his mighty deeds [cf. 1 Pt. 2,9]. In this concept one of the Congregation is a Chief or MAIN CELEBRANT.
5. THE PREPARATION OF THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
The celebration of Eucharist presupposes "the existence of a Believing Community" , which gathers together to thank the Lord for all his goodness and especially for saving her and making her his own. In other words, unless the individuals are baptized and form a community, one cannot think of the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus the gathering of the people of God is the Condition or Presupposition for the celebration of the Holy Mass. The Church therefore gathers and calls people to faith through their different activities and prepares them for the Eucharistic celebration. This preparation can be divided in two parts:
5.1 Remote Preparation
a) Building up the Faith Community
b) Fostering Sacramental Life of the faithful
c) Liturgical Catechesis
d) Formation of Personnel or Ministers
5.2 Immediate Preparation
a) Formation of a Committee at all levels
b) Taking Decisions in Common
c) Providing Facilities
d) Distribution of Responsibilities for Ministers with descriptions
6. CELEBRATION OF THE EUCHARIST
The celebration of Eucharist is the actualization of the command of Jesus, “Do this in memory of me”. Following the wish of Jesus the Church COMMEMORATES what Jesus Christ has done for her; that how He has saved her through his Passion, Death and Resurrection. This she does in two ways: a) Re-calling and b) Re-acting.
6.1 Re-calling the whole history of salvation. This is the first part of Eucharist, which is known as the Liturgy of the Word. The structure of the Recalling comes to us from the synagogue service; Reading from the OT, Responsorial Psalm, NT and the Homily. It ends with the profession the Apostles’ Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful.
To make the recalling meaningful, a Lectionary is prepared after the Second Vatican Council. It s very rich presentation of the whole History of Salvation, especially the life of Jesus from birth to death in the course of the Liturgical Year. For the ordinary faithful, the whole history is read in the course of three years; A –B –C. Those who can frequent the Mass daily the reading is completed every two years. The collection for the Poor is part of the concern of the Church.
6.2 Re-acting what Jesus did to save us. This is the second part of the Eucharist, known as the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The structure of this part of the celebration is guided by the very acts which were done by Jesus. Thus we too actually Take the bread and wine, Give thanks to God the Father,, Break the bread and Give that to the faithful. Taking the bread is in fact the Preparation of the Gifts, Giving thanks is the Eucharistic Prayer, Breaking is done during the Communion Rite and finally Giving is the distribution of the consecrated bread to the congregation.
6.3 What comes before the Liturgy of the Word is a part of Welcome and at the end of the Eucharist is Farewell, as it is done in any human social gathering. Following these concepts of Memorial and Human Gathering, the Order of the Holy Mass is conceived
7. ACTIVE ROLES IN THE LITURGY
7.0 Sacristans
7.1 Receptionists
7.2 Master of Ceremonies
7.3 Choir Masters
7.4 Acolytes (Deacons)
7.5 Readers
8. TAKING EUCHARIST HOME
At the end of the Eucharist, we are sent to love and serve the Lord. The Sacrifice is offered to us and we are reconciled with God and one another. Our community is renewed both by Word and ‘Sacrament. We are expected to live that in various forms:
8.1 Other Liturgical Prayer draw their source from the Eucharist and are nourished by it.
8.2 Our Apostolate prepare people to enter into the mystery of faith and are nourished by it.
8.3 Our life of Consecration is strengthened and sustained by the Eucharist.
In fact, the Eucharist (Communion) was taken to those who could not comet to the celebration for any reason. It was a PRASAD for them. In our cultural sentiments, it can be called a SANDESH.
Adoration was not the original purpose, but the ‘real presence’ of the Lord in the Eucharistic Species has done great good to the religious communities as well as the faithful in the course of time. The experience of spiritual blessings received by the individuals, justifies this act of the Church.