As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), let’s take a moment to reflect upon communion.
Just as we spend time in lectio divina (sacred reading), or prayer and reflection upon God’s revelation to us through scripture, we are called to prayer and reflection upon how God is revealed to us through the dominant tradition of the church: the Mass.
What is communion at Mass?
As Catholics, our most natural first response to this question would be that it is the receiving of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Let’s explore the many levels of spiritual meaning that go along with that belief.
Communion is a receiving of the most holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is a participation in the body of Christ in the world.
Sharing in the presence of the body of Christ in the consecrated elements prepares us for participation in the holy presence of the body of Christ in the world. Communion is a oneness we share in Christ which, in turn, encompasses the unity we share with all of humanity.
By renewing our commitment to this body of Christ in the world each week at Sunday Mass, we are continually formed and re-formed in the life, love and way of Jesus Christ. Through our sharing in communion, we become the mission of Jesus Christ in the world — as peace makers, instruments of God’s love, proclaimers of God’s glory, vehicles of God’s mercy and compassion, workers in the field of justice.
We who are the church proclaim the presence of the living God to all the world, a presence in the sacrament, and a presence in and through the life of the church.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (No. 10) from the Second Vatican Council states that “the liturgy is the source for achieving in the most effective way possible human sanctification and God’s glorification, the end to which all the Church’s activities are directed.”
Human sanctification and God’s glorification — by our actions, in unity with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we offer ourselves as a means by which the holiness of God is ever-blooming and unfolding in the world.
The words of the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to each participant during the sharing in communion at Mass — “Body of Christ” and “Blood of Christ” — name who we are and to what we are called. Communion is not just a receiving; it is a sharing, an acting, a becoming. It forms us in Eucharistic living.
“If you, therefore, are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying ‘Amen’ to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear ‘The body of Christ’, you reply ‘Amen.’ Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true… Be what you see; receive what you are.” — St. Augustine, Sermon 272
Each time we journey through the cycle of feasts and seasons in our liturgical year, we are called to reflect, remember and renew our lives in the person and mission of Jesus Christ. It is an ever-widening, ever-deepening, ever-rising spiral of life in God, made known to us through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. The preface of the Eucharistic Prayer for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ states:
“Nourishing your faithful by this sacred mystery, you make them holy, so that the human race, bounded by one world, may be enlightened by one faith and united by one bond of charity.”
As the body of Christ, we serve the human race, bounded by one world and united by one bond of charity. As one body in Christ, we cannot choose to ignore moments of hatred, discrimination or divisiveness in our world. Our communion is a call to counter those moments with words and actions that grow the holiness, compassion and love of God.
As Catholics, communion is our life’s journey. It is the greatest challenge of our life on earth. It is not separate from everyday life and work. It is the very center of our existence.
Our baptism was only the beginning of this journey. Sharing in communion at Sunday Mass is the continual unfolding of that journey where we are regularly formed, re-formed and trans-formed as participants in the body of Christ.
With each sharing in communion we are sent further on the journey. “Be what you see. Receive what you are.”