Monday, May 14, 2007

What do you see?

Recently I was reflecting upon the following statement made by the Holy Father when he opened the Synod on the Eucharist during the Fall of 2005:
The Eucharist might also be considered as a 'lens' with which to constantly examine the face and path of the Church, which Christ founded so that all may know the love of God and find in him the fullness of life... The Eucharist, in fact, is the motor of the whole of the Church's evangelizing action, as the heart is in the human body. Christian communities -- without the Eucharistic celebration, where they are nourished at the dual table of the Word and body of Christ -- would lose their authentic nature: Only in the measure that they are "Eucharistic" can they transmit Christ, and not just ideas or values regardless of how noble or important they are.
When I entered the Church in 1997, I really believed that I had stumbled upon something quite out of the ordinary. I plunged into mysterious depths, deep into the very soul of Christ, the God-man who offers Himself for us, who is made present for us in the holy Eucharist in a true and abiding presence. Yet I was frustrated that my Protestant friends couldn't see what I saw, and I was unable to explain it to them. My Protestant worship, while sincere, seemed blurred by comparison. What I had now encountered was something more clear, something that truly brought everything in my life, and indeed in all of life, into focus -- a real lens. Oddly, as I reflect on it now, I think of that line from Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, in which Louis is asked what he saw after becoming a vampire:
What did you see? No words can describe it. Might as well ask Heaven what it sees. No human can know. The statue seemed to move, but didn't. The world had changed, yet stayed the same.
Yet how easy it is for us to take this for granted! Two years ago, a Dominican priest visited my parish in Santa Barbara and offered Sunday mass. He preached a homily about the importance of not just seeing something, but actually looking at it. And not just looking at it, but looking with it, as a frame for seeing everything around it. He would ask the question, What do you see? Again: What do you see? Again: What do you see?

Well, the point seemed a bit hokey to me at the time, so I brushed it off as he continued on with the mass. Only a few minutes would pass before I truly realized what he was asking us to do. As he held aloft the Precious Body of Our Lord and the Chalice filled with His Blood, before exclaiming, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, he interjected the true and absolute question, What do you see?

Yes, yes, perhaps he should not have improvised at that point during the liturgy, but it seemed so poignant. We are given this extraordinary gift, which is Christ Himself, a gift of inestimable value, which is near impossible to articulate with words. And as Benedict also says, the Eucharist is the heart of the Church and the heart of any Eucharistic community. As such, as it is living, it is also life-giving. It is, as Benedict says, the motor of the whole of the Church's evangelizing action. It is the Eucharist that stands out. It is the Eucharist that makes things clear. Master, to whom shall we go?

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