The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Feast of Corpus Christi - 2nd June, 2013


On the Channel 4 programme Ready, Steady, Cook the chefs always seem to be able to make the most interesting of dishes out of any combination of ingredients provided by the participants.  The underlying philosophy of the programme seems to be that it is always possible to make a meal, no matter how limited the ingredients seem to be.
 
When the little boy presented himself with his few fish and his bread it must have seemed to all those present that this would be one of those cases when even the most gifted would be beaten.  The problem this time would not be the ingredients, it would be the amount of people who were to eat; and these people were going to eat because they were hungry, not because they fancied a quick snack.
 
The very ordinariness of eating belies its vital nature.  While people in our western society often describe themselves as starving, they really have no idea what it means to be actually starving.  To be starving is to clutch at any crumb of food as being the difference between life and death.  The saving nature of food is something that is often forgotten in a society where basic human needs are guaranteed.
 
When I was young and didn’t want to eat my dinner my mother used to remind me that many people in Africa would be glad to eat vegetables but that, really, meant nothing to me.  It meant nothing to me because I have never, in fact, been truly starving.
 
Today’s feast, Corpus Christi, as it used to be called, is all about food.  The Eucharist, the gathering point for Christians since the beginning, is at the heart of this feast. The church makes the Eucharist, but the Eucharist also makes the church.  
 
It has become normal to think of the Eucharist as being a meal even though our grandparents would probably have been more used to thinking of it as being a sacrifice. However, in the context of a community that is not familiar with hunger, Eucharist can come to be seen as just another meal – one among many. This is something that Christians must be careful to avoid if they are to be faithful to the mandate of the Lord to “do this in memory of me”.  This is not just one meal among many. This is the meal that is the difference between being nourished and starving.  Being nourished by both the word and the body of Christ which brings the believer into communion with Christ and with those with whom they have shared this meal.  
 
This is far from the starvation which would result from being out of communion. To claim to be a Christian and not to be in communion with Christ and with other Christians is an empty claim.  It is so because the life of Christ can only be communicated by the one who has this life in them.
 
It has become not unusual to hear people speaking of Eucharist as being any positive act, or any level of interaction between Christians.  While these things may, arguably, be considered to be eucharistic in that they reflect the sharing that has its source in the Eucharist.  It is not, however, the same thing as what is commonly referred to as Eucharist.  In fact, to allow the word Eucharist to be used in this way is to reduce the most sublime expression of Christian community to a banality that reduces it to interpersonal relations. It is to reduce Eucharist to being just one meal among many.
 
It is here that Christians need to be aware of what they are doing when they celebrate Eucharist.  They are not just recalling a meal that Jesus once held with his disciples.  They are invoking the Holy Spirit and making present the very life of Christ itself; and by this communion the gathering of believers is transformed from being a group of people with something in common to the presence of Christ in our world.  The Christus Totus  (Total or Complete Christ)that Augustine spoke of is speaking about this reality – the body of Christ (the church) united with its head (Christ) in service of God’s people.
 
Possidius




Article posted on 27th of May 2013

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