When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are always receiving and doing more than the eye can see or the mind grasps. All the actions and prayers of the liturgy are at the surface level of what is going on. They are there to take us beyond themselves. They are signs, loaded signs indeed, but still signs whose purpose is to help us go beyond them. It is no accident that we use bread or wine, that we celebrate at an altar or table – all of these give us directions into the Mystery that is more than we can see or hear or touch.
These signs have been given to us as the means by which the invisible Lord keeps in touch with us, enters into communication and communion with us. It is important to understand them precisely because they give us a direction on the Mystery which is more than we can take in.
That Mystery is communion with Christ. It is given to us in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is our communion with the Risen Lord who is with us always and who in this action which he gave us to do “in memory of him” comes to us again and draws us further and more deeply into communion with him. In its very simple ordinary way, it is a foretaste of heaven where the first letter of St John tells us “we shall be like him for we shall see him as he really is” (I Jn 3:2).
To be in communion with the Risen Lord is to be in communion with the Father through Christ and with him and in him and to receive again the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables this wonderful mystery of communion.
We are not going to Mass just to satisfy an obligation or even to please God but to receive the gift of communion with Christ and through him with the Father, the One who gives life to all things through the Spirit.
To go to Mass is to let the things we do and the things we say take us beyond themselves into this Mystery which the eye cannot see or the ear hear, which the minds of human beings cannot even conceive.
As we enter into the celebration of the Eucharist, we are called to be aware of this deeper dimension of what we are doing and to let ourselves enter into it. We need to listen to the words and engage in the actions and gradually let them take us beyond themselves and ourselves into communion with the Lord.
By Fr Frank O’Loughlin
Image: Supper at Emmaus by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in 1601 (oil on canvas, National Gallery, London).