We continue with the theme of Sunday as the “day of the Church” with a close look at “The Sunday Eucharist.” On one hand, the Mass is the Mass, whenever it is celebrated. Pope John Paul II quotes himself in another apostolic letter to remind is that the Eucharist is an epiphany, a revelation, of the Church. Especially when the bishop leads the celebration. For most lay people in Christian history, this is more a theoretical point. Even today, it remains a principle, as the bishop is seen as the “hired gun” to confer Confirmation. If you were to ask most Catholics, the bishop would be seen not as the “most powerful” minister of the Eucharist, but as the minister of Confirmation.
34. It is true that, in itself, the Sunday Eucharist is no different from the Eucharist celebrated on other days, nor can it be separated from liturgical and sacramental life as a whole. By its very nature, the Eucharist is an epiphany of the Church;(Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus (4 December 1988), 9: AAS 81 (1989), 905-906) and this is most powerfully expressed when the diocesan community gathers in prayer with its Pastor: “The Church appears with special clarity when the holy People of God, all of them, are actively and fully sharing in the same liturgical celebrations — especially when it is the same Eucharist — sharing one prayer at one altar, at which the Bishop is presiding, surrounded by his presbyters and his ministers”.(Sacrosanctum Concilium 41; Christus Dominus 15) This relationship with the Bishop and with the entire Church community is inherent in every Eucharistic celebration, even when the Bishop does not preside, regardless of the day of the week on which it is celebrated. The mention of the Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer is the indication of this.
Mentioning the bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer: again, a rather minor point in the minds of most lay people.
But because of its special solemnity and the obligatory presence of the community, and because it is celebrated “on the day when Christ conquered death and gave us a share in his immortal life”,(These are the words of the Embolism, formulated in this or similar ways in some of the Eucharistic Prayers of the different languages. They stress powerfully the “Paschal” character of Sunday) the Sunday Eucharist expresses with greater emphasis its inherent ecclesial dimension. It becomes the paradigm for other Eucharistic celebrations. Each community, gathering all its members for the “breaking of the bread”, becomes the place where the mystery of the Church is concretely made present. In celebrating the Eucharist, the community opens itself to communion with the universal Church,(Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Aspects of the Church as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 11-14:AAS 85 (1993), 844-847) imploring the Father to “remember the Church throughout the world” and make her grow in the unity of all the faithful with the Pope and with the Pastors of the particular Churches, until love is brought to perfection.
And to be sure, I’m not at all disputing the theological point or the metaphorical importance of what John Paul II is writing here. I’m merely suggesting that what the Church offers as a public witness in this regard is rather weak given the gravity of the mystery involved. Perhaps smaller dioceses and bishops mixing with ordinary people would communicate the mystery more effectively. Until then, the priest remains the ordinary minister of the Eucharist in the mainstream experience of believers. At best, the bishop honors a special occasion. And the universal Church is not terribly relevant as things are confected now.