In 1962 Pope St. John XXIII called all the bishops and theologians of the world together for a huge meeting in what is known as an Ecumenical council. The purpose of which was to help the Church foster a better relationship with the modern world – not so much to be changed by the world but in order that the Church’s teachings may be better understood. The council was considered pastoral in nature – meaning the documents are meant to lend a greater depth to our faith and guidance in our spiritual lives. One of the outcomes of the council was that the logistics of the Mass were greatly changed … the discipline was changed but not the doctrine of the Eucharist. In fact, the council document concerning the Mass – Sacrosanctum Concilium – explicitly states that: the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian faith.
Today, as we give due reverence to the Eucharist on this the Solemnity of Corpus Christi lets just take a minute to unpack what this means … Source and summit: Source is defined as ‘the origin’. It comes from the Latin ‘surgere’ meaning to rise from … Summit is defined as the highest point or meeting – like the heads of government. Yet this is not a meeting of high ranking politicians, this is a meeting with our God. God is the source, the origin of our Faith and we meet Him here, in Mass, in a very REAL and distinct way. How we live our lives outside the 4 walls of the church RISES up from what we do here … As we take God into our lives – literally ingest Him – He necessarily grows within us. It becomes then, necessary to get it right – to properly engage in worship of our God … because when we get that right, we get life right. When we give Him suitable and appropriate worship that focuses our attention and actions towards Him … meaning our words, singing, posture, gestures and so on… it then necessarily spills over into our everyday lives. Our words, actions, thoughts… the way we treat one another will ultimately then flow from, rise up from, that which we receive in this act of worship.
At the same time, we also need good leadership … we need to be properly led in authentic worship of our Lord. I witnessed this recently. Many of us gathered with Bishop Byrne in the Cathedral last Thursday to pray in reparation for the sins of those who committed heinous abuse against children and to pray for healing for victims. Bishop Byrne led us in prayer before the Eucharist exposed on the altar and concluded with Benediction. To me, it was a moment when the Chief Shepherd of our diocese exercised in the most appropriate way his spiritual fatherhood … He led us to Jesus where we could drink in the Lord’s grace of mercy and healing. This is the type of leadership we need in the Church today. We need young men to rise up from the ashes of a battered diocese and respond to the Lord’s call to be His priests, to lead the people – you and I – in prayer and in authentic worship of our God. Yet, that won’t happen unless we get this right… unless we get worship right …. Because our reverence before the Blessed Sacrament, our proper worship of God in this place, will inevitably lead us to bear witness to Him, to be an example of what it means to be an authentic Catholic… such a witness might just inspire a young man to hear the Lord’s voice.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith … Indeed, in this act of worship, our God rises to life in us.