Eucharist: Superabundance and Thanksgiving

03/04/2010 Comments (1)

One of the curious paradoxes and points of connection between the American tradition and the Catholic Tradition is that our country was founded, in large measure, by the people known as the Puritans, who were not much on things like Mass and what they called “popery”.  Indeed, they came to this country because, in the words of Garrison Keillor, they sought the freedom to be harsher with themselves than English law allowed.  When (a few years after Plymouth Rock) they managed to seize control back in the Mother Country, they promptly killed the King (too Romish, he) and then set about stamping out everything the English regarded as fun, including feasts like “Christmas”.  After a...READ MORE

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Eucharist: Bread and Wine

03/02/2010 Comment

The two elements of the Eucharist are bread and wine—simple gifts laden with enormous symbolic significance reaching right back to the roots, not only of Israel’s revelation, but to our own most elementary animal needs and our own deepest human desires.  They speak to so many things at once: to our fundamental need for food merely in order to survive, to our human hunger for conviviality and the immortal love of a good meal with friends around the table.  They recall our helpless dependence upon God who made this world without us and who shares his bounty with us.  They recall the food scratched from the dirt by the sweat of our brow and the astonishing Providence of God beyond all our...READ MORE

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Eucharist: Gifts of Peace

03/01/2010 Comment

Jesus taught His disciples on the Emmaus Road that the Old Testament was actually about Him.  As Augustine said, the New Covenant is hidden in the Old Covenant and the Old Covenant is only fully revealed in the New.  That’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church is getting at when it tells us:

1333 At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord’s command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: “He took bread. . . .” “He took the cup filled with wine. . . .” The signs of bread...READ MORE

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Eucharist: Holy Mass

02/25/2010 Comments (33)

The Catechism tells us that the Mass is called the Mass “because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.” 

We English speakers may not quite get the force of that due to the crummy translation of the Mass in the American Church—a translation that vitiates the force of the actual words of the liturgy, apparently due to the theory that we are too dim or dumb to cope with it. (Did you ever notice that the same people who say that Americans are bold and independent thinkers who don’t need the Church to guide them in their moral lives are the ones who...READ MORE

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Eucharist: Communion

02/23/2010 Comments (8)

St. Paul tells us, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).  But American piety tends to have a strong isolationist streak.  And the funny thing is: it affects both Protestants and Catholics in their own ways.  The proof of this is that, broadly speaking, there are two ways in which Catholics and Protestants place emphasis on the wrong syllables in this verse and fail to receive its meaning in its fullness.

Catholics are fond of making fun of Evangelical Protestant individualism, with its “Me n’ Jesus” tendency to conceive of the Church...READ MORE

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Eucharist: Blessed Sacrament

02/22/2010 Comment

Scripture often looks both backward and forward.  That’s because Scripture is simultaneously traditional and prophetic.  So, for instance, the entire idea of the Messiah is one which constantly calls us to remember the past as well as look forward to the fact that the Lord is doing something new.

The “looking to the past” part is summed up in Psalm 132:11:

The LORD swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.

This refers to a promise made in the middle of the epic story of King David and recounted in 2 Samuel 7.  In that chronicle, we are told that David, having established his kingdom and his capital city of...READ MORE

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Eucharist: Sacred Mysteries

02/18/2010 Comment

Everybody loves a good mystery.  Teasing out a riddle, figuring out how all the pieces go together: it’s one of the great pleasures of life.  We love being tantalized and confronted with question marks that lead suggestively away into shadows and half-darkness where things don’t quite add up.  To be sure, we don’t like blank confusion.  But we do love it so when some things come to make sense and elusively lead us on with the promise that more things will make sense as we press on.

The reason we respond this way to mystery is because we live in a mysterious world and much of our lives as human beings involves teasing out the Mystery and trying to make sense of it all.  Of course, it...READ MORE

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Eucharist: Divine Liturgy

02/16/2010 Comments (1)

When I first became a believer, it was in the context of a small non-denominational group of Evangelical charismatics who lived on my dorm floor.  I knew from nothing about Christianity when I became a believer, having never attended Church when I was growing up.  My total information pool about the Christian tradition consisted of Sunday school on the Air Force base where I was born (from which the only thing I remembered was the notion I somehow formed that you were not supposed to say Jesus’ Name out loud).  In addition to this, there was A Charlie Brown Christmas, some Bible movies like The Robe and Ben-Hur, a few Chick tracts I picked up at Halloween, and my stab at reading the Bible...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.