Living the Mass in Everyday life: Part 2

- ..called to close fellowship with Christ -

Paul Otsuka Yoshinao, Bishop of Kyoto


@Happy New Year! This year let us, once again, gall united as oneh in Kyoto Diocese, in the words of the gospel gput out into the deeph. Last year, using the theme gLiving the Mass in Everyday Lifeh, we began to reflect on the life of faith concentrating on the Mass as the most fundamental means of promoting Collaborative ministry for mission. I would like to use this same gLiving the Mass in Everyday Lifeh as this yearfs theme. As a supporting theme I have chosen gccalled into close fellowship with Christh (1 Cor. 1:9). This is to show that we who receive in faith the mystery of Eucharistia (Blessed Sacrament) (1) should live out, in geveryday lifeh, the grace of being called into close fellowship with Christ.

1. gThe Year of the Eucharisth

@Pope John-Paul II, in issuing his first encyclical letter of the new millennium, gThe Eucharist which gives life to the Churchh, dedicated to the mystery of eucharistia (Blessed Sacrament), is calling all Christians as they gput out into the deeph to take part in the new evangelization, constantly to renew their experience of the mystery of eucharistia (Blessed Sacrament).

@This year the whole Catholic Church is taking part in a gSpecial Year of the Eucharisth proclaimed by the Holy Father. The gYear of the Eucharisth began with the 48th Eucharistic Congress on the theme gThe Eucharist: Light and Life of the New Centuryh held in Guadalajara, Mexico, from October 10~17 last year and will end with the Synod (meeting of representative bishops from all over the world) on the theme gThe Mystery of the Eucharist ? Source and Summit of the Churchfs Life and Missionh to be held at the Vatican from October 2~29 this year. I would like us, the Christians of Kyoto Diocese, spend this gYear of the Eucharisth productively by getting to grips with the theme gLiving the Mass in Everyday Lifeh.

@I would like every parish, block and regional pastoral council to carry out some suitable activity to mark the gYear of the Eucharisth. I will also be carrying out an episcopal visitation of each block: let us think and pray together about this matter.

2. The Sacraments and Everyday Life

@Although sacraments assist the life of faith they cannot replace it. The gEveryday lifeh part of the theme gLiving the Mass in Everyday Lifeh is meant to emphasize the importance of approaching the sacraments from the position of living out the faith in our everyday lives. The Catholic liturgical act (worship) is not the kind of greligious observanceh which requires severe spiritual discipline or asceticism. The purpose of sacramental acts in the liturgy is to bring about inner change which occurs when we have gfellowship with the risen Christh. Taking part in the Mass, the liturgy of the eucharistia ? the Blessed Sacrament, is an act of faith but it cannot be said that by going to Mass we are living the faith in its entirety.

@We can say that esacramentf is the intermediary which brings together emy ordinary selff and ethe mystery of Christfs Passoverf. What must we do if we want to transcend space and time and come into contact with the events of Christfs death and resurrection which took place 2000 years ago? Thinking like this we can understand why our Lord Jesus himself instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist when he said, gDo this in memory of meh. From our human position we cannot effectively approach the mystery of Christfs Passover. It was Jesus himself who devised for us this way of getting close to him. The invitation to gTake this and eat ith is right there before us. In receiving the sacrament we can, by means of a tangible symbol come into contact with the mystery of Christ. So, although we cannot see him, we can have gfellowship with Christ our saviourh. In the Mass we use the tangible symbols of bread and wine. As well as the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, we need to know and deepen our understanding of the symbols in all seven sacraments.

3. Three Dimensions of the Eucharist: Christfs Sacrifice, Real Presence and Fellowship.

@When we place the consecrated eBread and Winef before us we can, by faith, proclaim, gThis is the sacred Body and Blood of Christh. Our understanding of the Eucharist is an essential tenet of the Faith, something grasped intuitively and also something which is given to us directly when we take part in the liturgy (worship). Our Lord, who offers himself in sacrifice, reveals himself through fellowship and unity with us.

@In this Pastoral Letter, then, I would like to examine three dimensions of the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist (Cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 61) - Christfs Sacrifice, the Real Presence, and Fellowship ? and to meditate on the supporting theme of gLiving the Mass in Everyday Life: Part IIh, g..called to close fellowship with Christh. These three dimensions are the principal concepts which constitute the true nature of the Eucharist, and, furthermore, can be used to explain one another. They lead us towards becoming the eChurch of Love and Servicef, the eChurch which lives by the Spirit of Christf, the eChurch working for Fellowshipf.

4. The Holy Mass: Fellowship through Sacrifice

‡@@The Sacrifice of Christfs Atonement

@In carrying out the Sacred Festival of the Mass the Church celebrates eChristfs Passoverf. The Eucharist is the memorial of eChristfs Passoverf and the sacramental offering of Christfs unique sacrifice. Bread which we can eat and wine which we can drink re-present Christ who gave himself as a perfect sacrificial victim. Jesus offered this sacrifice, for the salvation of all people, on the cross. Ever since, the Church has made this sacrifice of atonement present for every age.

@At the Last Supper when Jesus stated clearly, eThis is my body which is given upf and, eThis is my blood which is poured outf he is clearly referring to his own death. Christfs instruction to, eDo this in memory of mef does not simply mean that there should be repeated meals to commemorate him but rather, gYou must constantly carry out anew this offering which represents my death: this will be a memorial for meh. Because the Eucharist calls to mind, makes present now Christfs work of atonement on the cross and imparts the fruits of that sacrifice it is a sacrifice of love which brings about fellowship.

‡A@The Churchfs Spiritual Sacrifice of Love

@Christfs role as saviour was none other than being the Son who receives all things including himself, from the Father. The offering of Christ was Love; an offering of the Fatherfs love he had received. In this way God received glory by the Son who receives everything from Him. This is because Godfs glory consists in giving himself in love.

@The Church at the same time both receives and offers up this Christ. The fact that a Christian has fellowship with Christ means that he or she becomes ea sacrificial offeringf. In this way the Eucharist is also the Churchfs sacrifice. The Church does not simply accept something, it is only by participating that it receives. Because of this Saint Paul writes, gOffer your bodies as a living sacrifice, pleasing and acceptable to Godh (Rom 12:1). If we do this the daily life (praise, suffering, prayer, work), faith and service of the Church and of ourselves as Christians is united with the Mass which Christ offers. Life itself must, therefore, even more than the liturgy, become the sacrificial offering.

‡B@A Loving (Serving) Church

@Reflecting on the Eucharist sacrifice teaches us that we are trying to become ea loving, serving Churchf; a Church whose members joyfully acknowledge the gifts that we, together with Christ, have received from the Father and use those gifts to serve their brothers and sisters. We love, first of all, those with whom we gather around the same Eucharistic table. Then the Eucharistic community must take care to extend its love to help anyone at all. In order to promote Collaborative Ministry for Mission we need, more than anything else, to become a more loving community and, by serving one another as brothers and sisters, to offer up our own Church community as a spiritual sacrifice.

5. The Holy Mass: a celebration of the gReal presence of Christh in this world

‡@@The Real Presence: Christ giving Himself

@The eJoy of Salvationf which God promises is gbeing with the Lord foreverh (1 Thess. 4:17). The sacrifice of Jesus in the Mass is not simply a re-presentation, it is an ever-present reality. Through the priestfs prayer invoking the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) and the words of consecration the risen Christ is really present under the forms of bread and wine. This eReal Presencef is not a static kind of presence but a dynamic activity by which Christ egives himselff. Christ is really present to us first of all in his death but he is also present for us in his resurrection. The disciples, gwere filled with joy at seeing the Lordh (John 20:20). This was because they saw Jesus, who bore the wounds of having offered himself to the Father on the cross, glorified. The risen Lord comes to where we are and opens his heart to us, turns his eyes to us with love and forgiveness and He accepts us. In the same way that Jesus said gWhoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that personh (John 6:56), the real presence in the Eucharist is a process of self-giving and mutual acceptance by Jesus and the recipient.

‡A@Preparation to Meet the Risen Lord

@The disciples celebrated the Eucharist by greeting the risen Lord, whom they encountered in a vibrant way, and by breaking bread gwith glad and sincere heartsh (Acts 2:46). We might say that Christ rose from the dead in order to meet with the Church in the bread and wine we prepare on the altar and which through the working of the Holy Spirit becomes Christ Himself really present. This is because, for us in this world, the resurrection of Christ is a esecond comingf, that is to say both the future coming of Christ and the real presence of the Lord now. Since the days of the early Church Eucharistic faith has been nourished by the conviction that the risen Lord is really present in the Church community. As a matter of course this conviction required preparation to meet the Lord who comes to meet us in the Eucharist. gEveryone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread and drink from the cuph (1 Cor. 11:28). This means repentance.

‡B@A Church which lives through the Spirit of Christ

@Fellowship associated with the real presence is celebrated in the interaction of the meeting between the eLord who is to comef and ewe who repentf. Furthermore, the Church itself can become the real presence of Christ in this world. Even though we recognize that the Mass is the communityfs fraternal meal, however, it is not a fraternal meal only for the communityfs fellowship with Christ. When the Church is closed in on itself the sacrament is still imperfectly interactive; Christians gathered together by themselves cannot become the leaven of love. If, in the Churchfs apostolic work and all its activities, not least the Collaborative Ministry for Mission which we are getting to grips with, we underrate the real presence of the Lord then it means Christ is not likely to be present. Meditating on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist teaches us that we must truly become ea Church which lives through the Spirit of Christf.

‡C@The Real Presence of Jesus among the Poor

@We who receive Eucharist do not, simply by doing so, become tabernacles of the Blessed Sacrament. We do, however, become a symbol of our Lordfs real presence when we respond to the invitation gTake and eath by effectively eLiving the Mass in everyday lifef. The proclamation of faith which we receive before the altar of Christ is concerned with how we witness to faith, practically, in our everyday lives. It involves offering ourselves, together with Christ, as a sacrifice. Precisely, this means gserving the poor and sufferingh. To receive worthily Christfs Body and Blood given up for us we have to acknowledge Christfs presence among our brethren the poorest of the poor. The Lord Jesus says, gThis is my Bodyh. The same Lord identified himself with gthe poor, the least of my brethrenh (Matt. 25:40, 45). This is effectively the establishment of a esymbol of Christfs real presencef in the midst of the poor. eThe real presence of Christ among the poorf and ethe real presence of Christ in the Eucharistf are inseparable.

6. The Eucharist: a sacrament of Fellowship

‡@@The Fellowship of the Shared Table, communion

@We can say that, at the Last Supper, Jesus gave to his disciples a sacrifice of fellowship (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Taking part in this sacrifice, eating and drinking the ebread and winef, is a celebration. This is ecommuniof. We use this term to refer to a part of the Mass in which we receive the sacrament, the communion: in fact it refers to fellowship, the deepest dimension of what the Eucharist brings about. Ecclesiastical communio (fellowship) is celebrating Christfs Passover together. As I said before precisely because the Eucharist is both sacrifice and real presence it is enacted in the context of the shared table. The purpose of the invitation gTake and Eath is to create fellowship and unity.

‡A@The Church, the Body of Christ

@People who receive the Eucharist and create fellowship join themselves to Christ. By means of the Eucharist, his own body, Christ binds all believers into a single body, his Church. The Church is, therefore, the Body of Christ and we can also say that the Church is fellowship with Jesus. g..the bread which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? As there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body for we share in the one loafh (1 Cor. 10:16-17). gThe Church is not simply gathered around Christ, she is united in His body: in Him.h (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 798)

‡B@The Unity and Bonds of Mutual Love between Christians

@Because everyone who receives the Eucharist is bound more closely to Christ, it gives rise to the unity of all believers Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1396). The fellowship of the Eucharist not only strengthens the incorporation of the Christian into the Church which was realized at baptism it also deepens the mutual bonds of love and unity between Christians as parts of the Body of Christ.

@In 2003 I chose the theme eLetfs experience a community of faithf; once again I ask you to deepen your understanding of the ecommunity of faithf by reflecting on the Eucharist.

‡C@A Church of Fellowship: the Spirituality of Collaborative Ministry for Mission
@The fellowship in the Eucharistic is not simply the esharing of gracef. The grace we receive is perfected by the love and service we give by responding to it. This is not something we do arbitrarily on our own as individuals; we must work together as a community. Even though there is only one body of Christ, it is because its parts are many and varied that we need to work together as a community. gIn the building up of the Church there is a flourishing variety of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to His own richness and the needs of ministries, distributes His different gifts for the welfare of the Churchh (Lumen Gentium, Vatican II: Constitution on the Church, 7) . Our reflection on fellowship in the Eucharist shows the way for us to become more of a Church built on fellowship. Collaborative Ministry for Mission means that Priests, Religious and Laity, each according to their own vocation, work together to carry out the Churchfs apostolic work. This is the spirit of Collaborative Ministry for Mission.

7. Praying together with Mary before Christ

‡@@Eucharistic Worship

@Entering into fellowship with eucharistia, the Blessed Sacrament, involves prayer. This is because the Eucharist is the ereal presence of prayerf in this world. The Father raised Christ from the dead, established him as a temple and gcalled us to deep fellowship with His Sonh (1 Cor. 1:9). Worship of the Eucharist apart from the Mass, especially visits to the Blessed Sacrament, are an important act of faith by which we can come into contact with the real presence of our Lord. (Cf. gReception of the Eucharist outside Mass and Eucharistic Worshiph). Rather than the Christian going to visit the Eucharist it is our Lord who, by constantly renewing his real presence among his community on earth, welcomes us. The Eucharist, at the heart of the Christianfs prayer, teaches us that prayer is about receiving something but also about fellowship.

@When the Church prays before Christ and expresses the needs of the Church and world it is not that God does not know these things but rather that the Church itself is opening its heart to hear the word of the Lord. The Lord is always there to answer every need. The real presence of the Lord is a way for almighty God to intervene in the affairs of this world.

‡A@Mary: Woman of the Eucharist

@Mary eWoman of the Eucharist (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 53), who conceived the Son of God, prepared for us a way for the risen Jesus and us to meet in the Eucharist and leads us along it. Let us pray with her before Him until the hunger and thirst of our hearts be ever more deeply satisfied and we shall be contented.

‡B@Prayer for World Peace

@Finally, letfs continue this year to pray for world peace during the Mass. Last year I designated the small chapel in the cathedral, dedicated to eOur Lady of Miyakof, as a place of prayer for peace. The pope makes the appeal, gWherever there is the possibility for peace there is also the obligation to make peaceh. Always, after the Lordfs Prayer in the Mass, we offer a special prayer for Peace. We, who are opposed to war, must pray to Christ, the Lord of Peace, and ask him to teach us what we must do in the face of hostility and dissension. The Mass itself is the greatest prayer for peace we can make. I pray that the entire human family, without exception eccalled to deep fellowship with Christf may be eunited as onef and all people live together in solidarity.

1/1/2005, Solemnity of the Mother of God

(1)@The term Eucharistia (Blessed Sacrament).

@In the early Church the gathering on the eLordfs Dayf for the commemoration of the Last Supper was called eucharistia. (The Greek word means thankfulness or gratitude). This eucharistia is often given in English as eBlessed Sacramentf. This word gives the impression of something static whereas ethanksgivingf is a dynamic concept. The Mass is also called the eLiturgy of Thanksgivingf. Thanksgiving in this context is broadened to include the ideas of commemorating, taking part in the Lordfs Supper, a new covenant, offering, worship etc. In order to include the meaning of both eThanksgivingf and eBlessed Sacramentf I have used the word eeucharistiaf followed by (Blessed Sacrament).
(In the English translation when the word eEucharistf is used it should be read as equivalent to eeucharsitia (Blessed Sacrament)f.)