This litttle book of 41 short and beautiful reflections for Eucharistic Ministers aims at deepening their commitment to their ministry and their response to the call of the gospel. As quoted from Michael Paul Gallagher SJ:
When we take time to pause and listen to our hearts, in the surprise of silence we find ourselves encountering more than the mystery of our small life. We experience our desire for something more than outer living. I would say that here, so to speak, we run into God.
That is what this book explores for Eucharistic Ministers. But it is also a useful stimulant for anyone searching to develop their faith in all aspects of the Mass and Eucharistic devotion.
Brian Glennon studied Religious Education at the Mount Oliver Institute of Religious Education, Dundalk and Philosophy and Theology at the Gregorian University, Rome. He was a tutor for Eucharistic Ministers training courses in the Dublin diocese for over twenty years. He is currently involved in the ministry of Spiritual Direction with Anamcharadas.
1 Dear Reader
2 The Fullness of Joy is to Behold God in Everything
3 The ‘Holy Mystery’ in you
4 Sunday Eucharist: Why Go?
5 The ‘Holy Mystery’ in Liturgy and Life: The Reign of God!
6 Called to Ministry
7 Are you ‘Suitable’?
8 Two Personal Reflections on what it means to be a Minister of Holy Communion
9 Eucharistic Ministers are the Fruits of the Parish Community
A Little History
10 The Story of the Mass
11 A Covenant: Love and Justice
12 Mass of the Apostles
13 St Justin’s Mass
14 Basilica Mass
15 Medieval Mass
Our Sunday Gathering
17 What Identity has your Gathering for the Eucharist?
18 The Gathering Place
19 Liturgy and Life: Companions
20 The Flow and Rhythm of the Celebration
21 Introductory Rite
22 Liturgy: The Word
24 Liturgy of the Eucharist: Preparations
25 Things Sacred
26 Fruit of the Earth and Work of Human Hands
27 Eucharistic Prayer
28 The Communion Rite
29 The Breaking of Bread
Time to Minister
30 Ministering Holy Communion
31 The Morning After the Night Before
33 Ocular, Verbal and Tactile Contact
34 The Ritual Itself
36 Bless yourself
37 The Mass is Ended, Go in Peace To Love and Serve the Lord
38 Your Parish Eucharist
39 What is Ministry?
40 Ministering as Christ Ministered
41 A Meditation on the Eucharist
80pp. The Columba Press. To purchase this book online, go to www.columba.ie
The Eucharist is at the heart of Christian community. In celebrating the Eucharist, the community recalls how it came into existence, namely through the total self-giving of its founder and leader, the Risen Jesus, whose body was broken and whose blood was poured out for the sake of his brothers and sisters. The community then listens to the command of Jesus: ‘Do this in memory of me’, and goes out with a deepened commitment to follow on that same path of radical self-giving. The community, therefore, brings to the Eucharist the cares, concerns and needs of the community; and the community leaves the Eucharist with a firm commitment to reaching out to meet those needs, no matter the cost.
As the pagans observed the early Christian communities, what astounded them was not so much their prayer life, or their beliefs, but their extraordinary love for one another: ‘See how they love one another’, they said to each other in amazement. Each member of the community therefore has a ministry to love, to care and to share, a ministry of radical solidarity with each other and radical acceptance of those who, in the wider society, feel rejected and unwanted. Participation in the Eucharist, then, is not for those who want a quiet life or those who do not want to leave their comfort zones. In the Eucharist, we celebrate the love story which is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and we commit ourselves to continuing that story in the chapter of our own lives and of our own self-sacrifice.
These reflections for those considering becoming ministers of the Eucharist present both a challenge and an invitation. The challenge is to live what they do: as they distribute the Body of Christ to their community in the church building, they are called also to share themselves with the Body of Christ which is the community. Those who minister at the Eucharist must be a model to their community of self-giving, in imitation of the One at whose altar they serve.
The invitation is to enter into the fullness of joy which is the fruit of love, kindness and compassion. As we open our hearts to include others in our love, we grow more fully human and, therefore, more into the image and likeness of God. It is an invitation to make that leap of faith which defies reason, to discover the fullness of joy that comes from bringing joy to others.
While this book was written as preparatory reflections for ministers of the Eucharist, it will be of immense value to all who wish to deepen their understanding of the Eucharist, and who wish to participate more fully in the Eucharist.
Peter McVerry SJ
It was a great pleasure and honour to be a tutor for over twenty years to those training as Eucharistic Ministers in the Dublin diocese. I would like to thank the many students who participated in the courses for their commitment and sincerity as they faced a new challenge in their lives. These reflections are dedicated to them.
I would like to thank my theology teacher, Fr Enda Lyons DD, who in my younger years fired me with enthusiasm for theology and related topics and has been a good friend ever since. His ‘firing’ has kept me going and this book is one result of it.
I am delighted to offer any royalties that will accrue from the sale of the book to the Peter McVerry Trust. The trust works in the area of homelessness and addiction. As you read this book, I hope you will begin to connect this kind of working for justice with what it means to celebrate the Eucharist.
I welcome your comments at [email protected]
1 DEAR READER
Thank you for taking the time to use this little book of reflections for Eucharistic Ministers. The reflections grew out of my experience of tutoring those on preparation courses for this ministry in the Dublin diocese for over twenty years. They are based on my teaching and notes; however, in this book format I do not have the wonderful facility I had to open the teaching in a dialogue fashion, the cut and thrust of the ‘live’ classroom, the participants seeking clarification and elaboration, and of course adding their own experiences and wisdom.
I would encourage you to use this little book almost entirely as an aid to quiet, reflective time. It is by no means an academic handbook. It is quite simply a series of reflections for those involved in Eucharistic Ministry — either considering the ministry or preparing for it. For those already ministering for some time it might help as a quiet pause, a time to look at how you are ministering. The most important part of these reflections may well be your time spent on considering and mulling over the questions found after each reflection.
I have tried to link ministry and life, liturgy and life throughout the reflections. This comes from my belief that who you are as a person will colour the quality and reverence of your ministry. It is not about a ‘performance’ at the celebration of the Eucharist, unhinged from the rest of your life. Your life can nourish and bless your ministry and, of course, your ministry can nourish and bless your life. As I quote later from Richard Rohr: ‘How we do anything is how we do everything.’
Your ministry ought to become part of your life’s journey. Life’s journey may be experienced as a call to integrity; a call to love and to live for what is good and true. In the prayer after communion you pray: ‘What has passed our lips as food, Lord, may we possess in purity of heart.’ It is this ‘purity of heart’ that opens you up to God’s presence in your life and to a generous response. Unfortunately in today’s world integrity and purity of heart may be absent in our leaders, in church and state. This is all the more reason for you to nurture your ministry with prayerful reflection.
As ‘the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us,’ let us respond generously. Responding to this is building what has traditionally been called the kingdom of God or, more inclusively, the reign of God. The following quote is one way of elaborating on this:
Wherever the human heart is healed, justice gains a foothold, peace holds sway, an ecological habitat is protected, wherever liberation, hope and healing break through, wherever an act of simple kindness is done, a cup of cool water given, a book offered to a child thirsty for learning, there the human and earth community already reflect, in fragments, the visage of the Trinitarian God. Borne by ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’, we become committed to a fruitful future inclusive of all peoples, tribes, and nations, all creatures of the earth. The reign of God gains another foothold in history’ (Johnson, p 224).
May your reflective time be blessed richly and your life and ministry reflect that blessing.
2 ‘THE FULLNESS OF JOY IS TO BEHOLD GOD IN EVERYTHING.’
(Julian of Norwich)
This is the challenge of our Christianity; the invitation to see, recognise and respond to the inherent sacredness that approaches us in our lives, in our communities, in our living and loving, in our doing justice each day. We must remember of course that it is an ‘approach’ that is inherent in our being human, not the preserve of religions or churches. God approaches people in unconditional love, loving kindness and compassion. That becomes the example for us to follow.
Eucharistic ministry belongs in this context and must remain rooted there to be genuine. It is this mystery of the sacred incarnated that is celebrated in the Eucharist; the mystery that I myself am.
If, then, you want to understand the Body of Christ, remember what the apostle says: ‘You are the Body of Christ and member thereof’ (1Cor 12:27). If, then, you are the Body of Christ and his member, it is your mystery which is set forth on the Lord’s table; it is your own mystery that you receive. You say ‘Amen’ to what you are and in saying ‘Amen’ you subscribe to it. For you hear the words: ‘The Body of Christ’ and you answer ‘Amen’. Be members of the Body of Christ, then, so that your ‘Amen’ might be authentic.
The authenticity of your ‘Amen’ and of your Eucharistic ministry will be closely related to your ability to behold God in everything and allow that become the fullness of joy for you. It is in the integration of your understanding and response to the ‘God in everything’ and your understanding and response to being the ‘Body of Christ’ that will authenticate and inspire your Eucharistic ministry just as it authenticates and inspires your baptism and your humanity.
This may sound rather heavy for you as reader. The ‘Body of Christ’ means how we unite ourselves with the work and mission of Jesus — to bring about a world where love, peace, joy, compassion and justice are the order of the day. In your commitment to this work you become the ‘Body of Christ’ — responding to God’s call in everything you do, think and say.
If you are a minister of the Eucharist or considering or preparing for that ministry, then what I have said above becomes part of your prayer and part of your living; you cannot minister the fullness of joy without it being in some way the air you breathe. My experience of tutoring courses over many years has let me in on a big secret — so many of the wonderful people I have had the privilege to work with have this fullness of joy in beholding God in everything, but somehow needed it to be recognised and affirmed for them and then knitted into their understanding and experience of being the ‘Body of Christ’.
Take time out silently to allow the words: ‘The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything,’ to percolate into your mind and heart. What might the consequences of this be for you?
3 THE ‘HOLY MYSTERY’ IN YOU
How do you experience God … is it down to you or up to God? How do you fit God into your world or is that question more correctly put the other way round?
We cannot discover God directly or indirectly as we might find a subatomic particle in the trailings of a cloud chamber. God is not one being who appears alongside other beings that exist, not even if we envision God as the greatest one, or the first, or the last. It is a mistake to think of God as an element within a larger world, or as part of the whole of reality. Holy mystery cannot be situated within our system of co-ordinates but escapes all categories. Hence, to think rightly of God we must give up the drive to intellectual mastery and open up to the Whither of our spirit’s hungry orientation. ‘The concept God is not a grasp of God by which a person masters the mystery; but it is the means by which one lets oneself be grasped by the mystery which is ever present yet ever distant’ (Johnson, p 36).
As we grow spiritually we become more comfortable with allowing ourselves to ‘be grasped’ by God and realise that this is what the fullness of joy is and what the ‘Body of Christ’ is inviting us to experience. Have you ever sensed being grasped by God? How did it feel? Perhaps it was being blown away by a sunset or a piece of music? Maybe it was when you first laid eyes on your daughter / son and held her/him close? Or when you fell in love, your first kiss? Perhaps it is an experience you have each day: as you jump out of bed, greet a new day, pause for a ‘now’ moment in the midst of a busy schedule, share a tear with someone who needs you at that moment or spend a quiet moment of thanks at the end of the day?
As we explore our innermost sacred selves ‘we run into God’. This is really good news — we need never be afraid. It is the ‘letting go and letting God’; something familiar to those whose life journey is accompanied by an addiction of one kind or other. ‘Letting go and letting God’ helps us on the road to recovery, welcoming being ‘grasped by God’ rather than being convinced that I can do it alone. One way for this to happen is to slow down:
Of course our hyperactivity can keep us adrift on the surfaces of ourselves and unable to reach deeper levels of desire. So we need to prepare the way of the Lord, as the gospel says, through attending to our own mystery first. It is never just our own mystery: it is the place where God pitches a tent in our deepest self … Here our spirit can blossom into wonder before the mystery of ourselves … Through such human openings we glimpse the greater mystery of God’s self-giving to us in Christ. When we take time to pause and listen to our hearts, in the surprise of silence we find ourselves encountering more than the mystery of our small life. We experience our desire for something more than outer living. I would say that here, so to speak, we run into God and can become in a sense everyday mystics (Gallagher, pp 47-48).
Open your heart in silence and allow yourself to be grasped by the Holy Mystery … pray for this grace. This is the invitation you extend as a Eucharistic Minister, facilitating the ‘running into God’.
4 SUNDAY EUCHARIST: WHY GO?
In his book, Liturgy Made Simple, Mark Searle poses the question as to why people attend Mass. Is it because they like a particular parish, or they are obliged to attend, or because they find some meaning in it? He suggests that going to the celebration of the Eucharist is a response to an invitation – God calling us together. The initiative is God’s and the response is ours. Nowadays we see people engaged on Sundays in a broad variety of activities and this means that going to church becomes a very definite choice. This choice is part of our lifestyle, in choosing to find meaning and nurture in religion, spirituality, Christianity. In going to church on Sundays we commit ourselves to seeking and responding to the call to be the kingdom of God: ‘to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8).
Thus the coming together of the congregation is a sign and symbol of what God is doing and where his work is going. God’s work in history … is to gather into one the scattered children of God, to overcome divisions, to provide a place for the homeless and the lonely, to give support to those whose burdens are heavy, and to create an oasis of community in the midst of a world painfully divided into the haves and the have-nots. Here, in the congregation of God, we are all to discover our common humanity and to set aside our inequities. The gathering of believers is meant to be the anticipation of the day when God’s kingdom will be established in all its fullness, when there will be no more discrimination on the grounds of sex, race or wealth; when there will be no more hunger and thirst, no more mistrust and mutual violence, no more competitiveness and abuse of power, for all things will be subject to Christ and God will reign over his people in peace and for ever (Searle, pp 212-22).
Spend some reflective time on the previous paragraph. Is this how you see God’s work in history, the coming of God’s reign … what part do you play? The quote above is very aspirational … does it really happen and how?