My first article for 2019 is already in the Bread Broken and Shared editor’s hands and discusses the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the remainder of the year I would like to focus on the Eucharist and Christian unity which may be more helpful to the readers of the Province Newsletter. My efforts over a number of years has focused on ecumenical articles and dialogues and authors and leaders in the field. This first article reflects on communion, a subject that is at the heart of the spirituality of St. Peter Julian Eymard as well as ecumenical spirituality.
Communion with God
The Scriptures reveal that God created us in his image and likeness. We have a soul, mind and heart which makes it possible for us to receive God’s communication, which presumes communion, i.e. that we can respond to God’s word and person. The Father (Abba) is the God who created the universe including the world in which we live, and move and have our being. We are his creation along with the planets, stars and galaxies that have existed for millions of years.
When we worship God, we are not groveling in fear of someone about whom we know nothing. Human beings have received messages from God from the beginning of time. The story of Adam and Eve is the beginning of our history. God is our Father, not simply our creator. We are his children. God is in our souls and bodies. We are the temple of the Spirit and members of the Body of Christ Jesus.
Adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and prayer fill every aspect the Eucharist. St. Peter Julian in his long retreat at Rome (1865) found that the essence of the Eucharist is communion with Christ whether in celebration of the Eucharist, reception of the sacrament, or prayer in the presence of the exposed sacrament.
Living our Communion
Pope Francis in his encyclicals emphasizes that we must live our faith. Our values and actions and decisions require that we live in Christ. We must share our lives with the world and people around us. As Pope Francis points out in Evangelii Gaudium, the more we share life in Christ, the more we must share that life with others (EG #10). It is not only about us. It is about God, and about Jesus Christ, who calls us his friends (Jn 15:15).
When I was a delegate for the Faith and Order Commission of the U.S. National Council of Churches, I stated that not all Christian Churches “have” the Eucharist. My colleagues challenged me: “Name one Church that does not have the Eucharist”. Eventually, I realized that the hunger we have for the Eucharist is something that is common to all Christians. The Eucharist may be different in many ways from the Eucharist we celebrate, but there is some aspect of the Last Supper that they incorporate into their worship.
My ecumenical journey began around 1965, over fifty years ago. I have learned in my journey, that there is much we can learn each day about communion in God with Christ. This includes learning from other Christians, who have the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ and God the Father. The Catholic Church, for the most part, recognizes their baptism. Many Christians share the sacrament of marriage with their spouse, they may have shared the Eucharist at their wedding or at their children’s First Communion. We pray that the Lord will grant us continued progress toward “full communion” of all Christians (see SSS Rule of Life #34).