Over the past few months, while in isolation, many words have been written and spoken about virtual masses and the ‘real presence’ of the Body and Blood of Christ, while in most instances it has only been the presider at the live-streamed Mass. The Mass is not a spectator experience, it requires our many senses of sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell. I have no doubt we can pray virtually, but I don’t think we can have virtual Eucharist. This real presence needs the celebrant, the community, the Word, and the Body and Blood of Christ.
As I listened to the beautiful hymn Panis Angelicus sung during Mass on Sunday, I remembered the meaning of some of the words:
The angels’ bread becomes the bread of humans (sic),
The body of the Lord will nourish,
The poor and humble servant.
I have no doubt that our virtual Masses and prayers are a lifeline and serve a need in keeping us connected. But as Bishop Bill pointed out in his homily on Sunday, this is now only serving a very small percentage of Catholics. How are we to be a Christ centred church without Mass in its fullest reality? How are we to go out and serve the world? How is the world being nourished? Our Mass is an encounter with our God, and this has become more real to me during this year of drought, fires, a pandemic, isolation, the Black Lives Matter movement and this week, which is National Refugee Week.
During the week, I read an article in the ABC Religion and Ethics Opinion by Catherine Keller titled “I can’t breathe”: The whole Earth echoes the cry for justice.
She wrote of the words of George Floyd while also referring to those words being spoken at a time when people are unable to breathe because of the corona virus and also the environmental devastation of climate change. She referred to the words as a metaforce. “I can’t breathe” is a cry for justice – for humanity and for our earth. There is a moaning and a mourning which will not be silenced. I share with you some of her words:
Being human right now will mean embracing the mattering of black lives along with the living matter of our planet. A growing mass of us must be — may already be — learning to hold the intersections, the planetary connections, in consciousness, the knowing-together that fosters a broad enough coalition, and therefore a deep enough transformation.
I am sure that this is what it means to be the Body and Blood of Christ. We form Christ’s body in the here and now and Christ’s blood flows through us – his veins and arteries. It is we who help humanity and the world to breathe.
At this point, another register of breath appears. Call it spiritual. A lot of us practise yoga, or some sort of mindfulness meditation. We know that breath is not some airy metaphor, but the rhythm of life itself. The aching force of “I can’t breathe” can be felt in the pores of your body right now, with each inhalation, each exhalation. Slow them down. Take them deep. You may practice a yoga of world-solidarity with every breath. And in the Western traditions, there lingers still the Hebrew ruach, the Greek pneuma — both ancient words for “spirit,” which mean first of all “breath.” The old Holy Ghost comes haunting our politics.
It just so happens that the President’s posing with the Bible to sanctify policies of police brutality took place on the day after Pentecost. Pentecost commemorates the moment when, as the Book of Acts tells it, the Holy Spirit as wind blew the disciples out of hiding and into the public to demonstrate. The pneuma, instigating planetary solidarity, breathed into them every known language.
The metaforce of breath inspires and conspires. It can also expire. Is it the “Breath of Life” itself — the very life of the manifold, mattering lives of the Earth — that now echoes the cry, “I can’t breathe”?
Like many of this year’s events which are celebrated as a community, this year National Refugee Week will be celebrated online. I hope you take the time to encounter some of the celebrations that will be provided online, to assist in the theme “Celebrating the Year of Welcome”. I thought the following paragraph from the Refugee Week website linked this week to our understanding of our Mass:
We’re delighted to have joined forces with SBS Food Online for Refugee Week 2020 as part of our ‘share a meal, share a story’ initiative. You’ll be able to watch and cook along with people from refugee backgrounds as they share delicious dishes from their home cuisines and tell us what that dish means to them.
So, the take home message for this week is to share a meal, share a story, make communion real, the body and blood of Christ.
The following is a meditation from La Croix, for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord called Corpus Christi: Our Communion written by Joseph O’Hanlon:
is an embrace of holiness "bringing holiness to completion" (II Corinthians 7:1).
is becoming holy with the holiness of God as the holiness of Jesus takes up residence.
gives home to the Son, a guest who brings to birth peacemakers, sons and daughters of God.
utterly transforms the bread and wine born in the earth of this world to ensure that the bread of earth be transformed into the bread of heaven.
is where the presence of Christ lodges in order to create a heart listening to the pain of the world.
is a temporary residence working to create an eternal home.
is love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness finding an inn of many welcoming rooms.
is an enabling Presence that touches a bleeding woman and cleanses a leper into synagogue.
is a Real Presence, not a Real Absence.
turns scorpions of the mind into calm.
spurs potential into action.
turns strangers into Church.
resurrects disciples into the body of Christ.
is knowing you are loved.