Thought for the Day – 8 October:
The Eucharist — The Mystery Of Our Christ, by Karl Rahner (extract)
What happens when we celebrate the Eucharist? The simple answer is: the Lord’s Supper which He celebrated at the beginning of His passion becomes present among us and for us. If we are to understand this central element of our faith we must reflect on what happened at the Lord’s Supper and we must ponder what it means when it is said that this meal becomes present among us and for us.
………..And thus He says: “Take this body which is given for you, drink this blood poured out for you.” And through the power of His creative word which changes the subsoils of reality, He makes Himself exist in the form of bread and wine, the everyday sign of loving unity with His disciples, so that all of this – His sacrificed reality for their salvation – becomes manifest and manifestly operative; it truly belongs to them and enters into the centre of their being.
“Take, eat; this is my body. Drink. . . for this is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for all.” They take and they are taken. Taken by the redeeming power of obedience and of love of the Lord, taken by His death which gives birth to life out of its dreadful void, encircled by the grace of God which, with the incomprehensible and consuming holiness of God, unites. They are embraced by love which joins them to each other, not destructively but –redemptively, enveloped by a love which unites them in an experience where otherwise each would die painfully in himself alone in his ultimate solitude. And by eating the dish of God’s mercy, they anticipate the eternal meal when God, no longer in Earthly symbols but in the accomplishment of His revealed glory, makes Himself into the eternal meal of the redeemed. And while they eat thus, they look for the day when the Lord will be entirely with them, the day on which He “will come again” (as they say). And the new and eternal covenant which has been bequeathed to them is celebrated as is their free acceptance of it. These are given in the power of this bread which unites them with the Lord who is the covenant and joins them one to another in the beginning of eternal life.
The Lord’s Supper becomes His presence among us and for us in the church’s celebration of the Eucharist. The church fulfills the fundamental order of the Lord: “Do this (what He Himself had done on the night He was betrayed) in remembrance of me.” The church does what the Lord had done, with the words which He Himself spoke when He gave His body and His blood in the form of bread and wine to His disciples as a pledge of eternal life. The church celebrates the Anamnesis, the “remembrance” of the meal that instituted the new covenant. The church recalls what once happened but does not bring about a repetition of the actual event which happened once and for all on Calvary. Rather, what happened then enters into our place and our time and acquires presence and redemptive power within our own being.
This is possible (if we may so try to understand the miracle of God) because the Lord’s Supper is not an event of the past. The free decision of absolute obedience and unconditional, unreserved love constitutes one of those moments of history in which a temporality becomes the definitive, the enduring and the eternal, not just a moment in which something evaporates into the void of the past. The elements of freedom and spirit always signify the birth of the eternal; in this context, what is temporal passes into time but also attains eternal validity by virtue of the pure essence of the decision itself by a spiritual person. This applies in an utterly unique way to the event of the Last Supper. What happened there as event once and for all is. It is. It is taken up in the eternity of God, it has passed over into the state of perfection in which is becomes permanence in the midst of time. For the Lord in this meal has wrought something that endures forever since His voluntary deeds come from the infinite primal grounds of the eternal Word of God itself and are a spiritual-human reality, like the creative words of Genesis.
He has wrought the “new” and thus the final covenant, as He Himself says.