After a more difficult section with no little chiding from the Holy Father, we turn to a topic close to his heart, and indeed, to the hearts of hundreds of millions of Catholics. Chapter Six is entitled, “At the School of Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist.”
Let’s read the first of six numbered sections of this chapter:
53. If we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church. In my Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I pointed to the Blessed Virgin Mary as our teacher in contemplating Christ’s face, and among the mysteries of light I included the institution of the Eucharist. (Cf. No. 21) Mary can guide us towards this most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with it.
At first glance, the Gospel is silent on this subject. The account of the institution of the Eucharist on the night of Holy Thursday makes no mention of Mary. Yet we know that she was present among the Apostles who prayed “with one accord” (cf. Acts 1:14) in the first community which gathered after the Ascension in expectation of Pentecost. Certainly Mary must have been present at the Eucharistic celebrations of the first generation of Christians, who were devoted to “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42).
We cannot rule out the presence of Mary at the Last Supper. Remember that “disciples” were sent to acquire the room and prepare the ritual in the synoptic Gospels, not apostles. It seems unlikely that Jesus would break so completely from the Passover tradition to exclude families from a home celebration. I do not think John Paul II is off base to draw Mary into the apostolic origins of the Eucharist. Even if not historically verifiable, it does provide a suitable reflection for today’s believers.
But in addition to her sharing in the Eucharistic banquet, an indirect picture of Mary’s relationship with the Eucharist can be had, beginning with her interior disposition. Mary is a “woman of the Eucharist” in her whole life. The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery.
I think this role of Mary has much to say to us, and is a possible feminist inroad into a deeper, fuller understanding of the sacraments.
What do you think?