Pope Francis explores the multivalent character of the Eucharist:
44. The sacramental character of faith finds its highest expression in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a precious nourishment for faith: an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of his love, the life-giving gift of himself.
The Eucharist nourishes faith: it is a spiritual meal.
The Eucharist is an encounter with Christ: it is a relationship.
Christ gives himself to us in the Eucharist: it is a sacrifice.
The arguments on these points should end. Better would be an exploration and reflection on these points for individuals and especially faith communities.
In the Eucharist we find the intersection of faith’s two dimensions. On the one hand, there is the dimension of history: the Eucharist is an act of remembrance, a making present of the mystery in which the past, as an event of death and resurrection, demonstrates its ability to open up a future, to foreshadow ultimate fulfilment. The liturgy reminds us of this by its repetition of the word hodie, the “today” of the mysteries of salvation. On the other hand, we also find the dimension which leads from the visible world to the invisible. In the Eucharist we learn to see the heights and depths of reality. The bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ, who becomes present in his passover to the Father: this movement draws us, body and soul, into the movement of all creation towards its fulfilment in God.
This seems very rich and dense to me. My first reflection was the surfacing of the refrain, “Jesus Christ: yesterday, today, forever.”
The Eucharist is also formative for the believer. We do not approach the Sacrament with a full comprehension. Pope Francis suggests the believer–the celebrant of the Eucharist–becomes open to a deeper reality. What would that be? Not just personal fulfillment, but a participation in the movement of all creation to the Father.
Pope Francis’s urging of the Jesuits to pursue ministry and service at the farthest boundaries. Pope John Paul’s urging to set out for deep water. These images, these challenges suggest we are being led into places unfamiliar, exciting, challenging, and maybe a little scary. No worries, I think: the way is illuminated. And we have the Eucharist to nourish us for the journey, do we not?