The Light of the World - by HUNT, William Holman - from Keble College, Oxford . . . . . The Second Vatican Council's "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" begins by stating a Truth, Professed-by all Christians, "Christ is the Light of Humanity".
And I will give to thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.
And whatsoever thou shalt Bind upon Earth, it shall be Bound also in Heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt Loose upon Earth, it shall be Loosed also in Heaven.
(Matthew 16:19, Douay Rheims Bible)
Jesus taught this new 'Way of Acting', by-means-of a very Powerful Example. The Individuals who follow Christ - and that includes us, no-less-than the Original Twelve (12) - will 'Share' His Friendship, and even 'Share' His Power. But, only if we are Willing to-'Share' His Fate. The Cross is the 'Supreme Sign' of Christ's Love for us, and our Willingness to 'Embrace' the Cross, is the 'Supreme Sign' of our Love for Christ.
The Cross and the Eucharist
We can find countless-ways to 'Embrace' the Cross, of course, but the Eucharist, which our Catechism reminds us, is the 'Principal Liturgical Prayer' that identifies Christ's Church, is the Action by-which the Cross is made most-clearly Visible. The importance-of the Eucharist in our Liturgical Life, and its 'Centrality' to our Identity as Christ's Family, deserves further Reflection.
Let us begin by observing that the Cross is an Eternal (∞) Event. Its Power reaches Backward-and-Forward, and its Memorial Character makes the Cross present-to us, whenever we gather to Share Christ's Body and Blood.
The Value of Memory
As we commonly Understand it, Memory is a Passive Faculty, something to be 'Jogged', when necessary, and a Pale Reflection of a Reality. In our Everyday Life, Memory is decidedly Second-rate, something we put up with, when the Real Thing - whatever that may be - is Unavailable.
This is not at all what God meant, when He told Moses, "This Day shall be for you a Memorial Day ..." and gave Instructions for a Memorial Feast (Exodus 12:14). It is likewise not what Jesus had in Mind, when He told His Disciples to Eat and Drink in His Memory (1 Corinthians 23-25). For Moses, for Jesus, for us, His Church, Memory is an 'Active Faculty', that enables us to Experience an Event, as if we were there, when it Originally Occurred.
The Drama of Memory
Aristotle said that Tragic Drama, 'Purged' an Audience through Pity and Terror. By watching a Dramatization of the Great Events of their History, the Greeks were to be so Caught-up in the Drama, that they actually became a Part - not of the Play on the Stage, but of the Events the Play remembered.
We are Properly Reluctant to think of our Worship as Drama, because we have Mislaid our Sense of Drama, as Worship. In a Triumph of Miniaturization, we have reduced-Drama to the Sensational Series, we can see at any Hour, on Television. Drama, so called, becomes a way to Pass-the-Time. It Beguiles, it Distracts, it Fills in Gaps, in the conversation. Above all, it Entertains. But, because they so-seldom Inspire Awe, most of our Dramas cannot be said to 'Purge'.
But all that changes at the Mass, which calls us to Cast-aside our Passive Attitudes about Memory, and Embrace the Drama of the Eucharistic Liturgy that defines us. What we do at Mass, is more than a Ritual Act - it is a Moral Act that makes us a Part-of our Salvation History. When we consume the Consecrated Bread-and-Wine, Transformed-into the Body and Blood of Christ, we open a Window onto Eternity (∞), and stand at the Foot-of the Cross.
Every other Food we Eat is changed, to-become Part-of-us. The Eucharist is 'Unique'. "When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup" we become, What we-Eat, the Body of Christ, given to the World, and given to one-another. The Eucharist that Identifies the Church, draws us to Christ - and it also thrusts us into one another's arms. At the Last Supper, when Jesus washed His Disciples' feet, His Words charge 'Mortal Actions' with 'Immortal Value'. "As I have done, so you also must do" (John 13:12) "in Memory". The Imperative in Christ's Words is very important. These Words are an ' Order': to be for the World, what Christ, by Sharing-in our Mortality, is for us.
Transformed with Courage
The Acts of the Apostles describes the Fear and Sorrow that Fell-upon the Disciples, after Jesus' Ascension. We, who have the Advantage-of Knowing how this Chapter of our Salvation History will End, know that those Anxious-Days were Transformed-by the Triumphant-Outpouring of God's Spirit at Pentecost. One feature of that First Pentecost (Acts 2:4), was the Apostles' ability to "speak in other Tongues, as the Spirit gave them Utterance". This Gift, enabled the Apostles to Proclaim the Gospel to Individuals, who would not otherwise have been able to Understand their Message.
Saint Thomas Aquinas remarks this was a Remedy for "... the Diversity of Tongues ... brought upon the Nations ... as Punishment for Human Pride" (Genesis 11:1-9). It was also the beginning-of the Church as an Assembly of all Peoples, by which Christ Calls every Nation, to become a Part-of His Body.
Transformed to Give Life
In his Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul speaks of God's "Purpose, which He set forth in Christ, as a Plan for the Fullness of Time, to Unite all things in Him, things in-Heaven and things of-Earth" (Ephesians 1:10). This 'Purpose' and 'Plan' are revealed-in the Church, which enjoys Relations-with God as 'Intimate', Saint Paul continues, as the 'Union-of Spouses in Marriage' (Ephesians 5:32).
The old "Exhortation before Marriage" reminded couples that, in Marriage, God "... Gave to Man a Share in the Greatest Work of Creation, the Work of the Continuation of the Human Race". Our Union with God, in the Church, is meant to be Equally Fruitful. What God has begun on Earth, in our midst, and Employing our Talents, "must be further extended until it has been Brought to Perfection, in Him, at the End of Time" (CCC-782).
Mary, Our Model
To be the Means, by which God's Kingdom becomes a Reality on Earth, is a Daunting Challenge. We may be grateful, then, that we have the Mother of Christ as our Example. Pope John Paul II said "the 'Marian' dimension of the Church precedes the 'Petrine'" (CCC, 972). By this, the Catechism tells us, he meant that Mary "goes before us in all the Holiness that is the Church's Mystery, as 'the Bride without Spot or Wrinkle' ". Friends of the Rosary Confraternity will find Inspiration in the Pontiff's Teaching that, Mary's Memories-of Christ, Treasured-in her Heart - the Value-of Memory once again! - "were to be the ‘Rosary' which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her Earthly Life".
The Gospel presents a very Clear Picture of Mary's Words and Actions, and the Evangelists are careful to present Mary in a way that always allows us to Identify ourselves with her. This is so we can find ourselves, wherever we encounter Mary in the Scriptures. As "Mother of Church" Mary invites us to listen to God's Word, as she did, and, like her, to allow the Word to take Flesh and Blood within us, so that we - the Church - can 'Present' the Saving Face of Christ to the World.
- End, Nature of the Church -