Friday, March 25, 2011

The Prodigal Son by Edward John Poynter.

Be Perfect
as Your Heavenly Father
is Perfect: Eucharistic Anamnesis
Informing the Redemptoristine Charism

Reading for Saturday, March 26, 2011
Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

It has been said that Jesus is the revelation of the Father. So we ask, “And what does he reveal?” Today’s readings give ample evidence of a particular divine skill set. The Father does not persist in anger. The Father delights in clemency. The Father is compassionate, kind and faithful. But the penultimate skill highlighted by the prophet Micah, spoken of in Psalm 103 and illustrated in the Gospel of Luke by Jesus the storyteller – in all of these the overarching skill is that of forgivness. I am not good at this. Anger and resentment cling to me like a wet sheet. I can’t seem to extricate myself from the tangle and all the while I get chilled to the bone, and frozen in my heart. So I am particularly chastened by the last words of Jesus’ affecting parable, “My son, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost and is found.” If this is how I am to become, if this is what it means to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”, I tend to think that I don’t stand a chance.

St. Alphonsus would remind us that we can best conform ourselves to this model of divine forgiveness by means of meditative prayer, participation in the Eucharist and the effort to persevere. Today I would like to focus on the Eucharist which ‘cultivates’ us, loosening the soil of our ingrained habits and thinking, making it possible for grace to flow in and, like a great tsunami, dislodge our default responses of anger and resentment.

How does this happen? The Eucharistic Prayer itself informs and sheds light on the mystical nature of what it is to be a “living memory” of Jesus as expressed by Maria Celeste. And at the same time  it transforms us into that very person whom we remember during the Consecration of the Mass. It is in considering what the memorial of the Mass is – what Eucharistic anamnesis is – that we can shed light on the Eucharist reality.

At the consecration of the Mass not only is the Body and Blood of Jesus made present under the appearance of bread and wine but Jesus and all of the Paschal Mystery are also made present and active among us in this very moment. We are not merely remembering Jesus’ life and sacrifice on the cross. Those events are rendered as living and actively working their redemptive power for the world at this time.

So often during her post-communion meditations Jesus revealed himself to Maria Celeste She wrote:

“One morning after Holy Communion I heard in the very center of my Soul these words of the Credo pronounced: ‘One in being with the Father, through whom all things were made’ -so that filled to overflowing with Divine Gifts, it seemed to me that the Divine Essence was in Lord Jesus Christ…gave me His Divine Heart…in place of my own…I seemed to enter into a new life of love, a life in God.

This passage speaks of a transformation that is not merely an imitative overlay but a participation in the substance, the very essence of Jesus. And it is not static participation just for one moment. It propels her “into a new life of love, a life in God”. In this human participation Jesus, his Paschal Mystery, his work of redemption is made present and active in our time. Gradually these mystical experiences revealed to Maria Celeste the necessity of remembering always, of living a life of remembering, a life of one-ness with Jesus Christ so as to become Christ.

Just as the anamnetic character of the Eucharistic meal was buried over time by layers of theological argumentation concerning the consecratory elements of the Mass, Celeste’s concept of “living memory” suffered from obscurity for over two hundred years. In the 20th century each became the object of a kind of archaeological dig, treasures to be unearthed in the tectonic shifts powered by the Second Vatican Council. We can now appreciate hoe the anamnetic character of the Eucharistic banquet is deeply rooted in ancient Hebrew liturgical tradition. To say that the last supper was merely a commemoration of the Passover event would have been meaningless to the Jewish mind. Jewish scholars tell us that to commemorate and remember is in the Jewish tradition never a mere remembering but always implies a look toward the future and a making present again in real time.

In our Eucharist we call to mind the person and events of our salvation in such a way that we render them living and active in our time. The “we” plural pronoun is operative here. In the various Eucharistic Prayers appear these words:

"We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you."

"We offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice."

"Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy so that they may become the body and blood of your son, our Lord Jesus Christ."

By this collective effort and offering Jesus becomes uniquely present in the consecrated bread and wine but also actively, powerfully present in our time with and among us. In each Eucharistic Prayer the epiclesis invokes the power of the Holy Spirit, the agent of consecration. “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts and make them holy.” We ask that the elements be transformed. But if we place our own selves on the table of the altar we can ask that we too may be may become holy and be transformed into the mystery that we celebrate, the mystery of the sacrament of remembrance. It is in this offering, in this remembering that we become what is being remembered. In this is our one hope for transformation. This is the way of our transformation into the “living memory” of Jesus who reveals the Father and issues the invitation to “be perfect as your heaven Father is perfect. This is the transformative union that makes it possible for us to forgive as we have been forgiven.

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