Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 16, 2008
The Eucharist transforms us into the Body of Christ
And the Eucharist calls for faith, says Archbishop Pettipas
"Love for one another has always been and continues to be the single greatest sign to the world of Christ's presence,"
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
One of the great spiritual challenges is to recognize Christ's presence among us, says Archbishop Gerard Pettipas.
"Love for one another has always been and continues to be the single greatest sign to the world of Christ's presence," the archbishop of Grouard-McLennan said June 6 at the annual provincial convention of the Catholic Women's League.
The same can be said of Christ in the Eucharist, which can only be understood by people of faith. "Those without faith can't get it."
A powerful question
Not long ago, a parishioner from Sexsmith asked Pettipas if there was evidence from outside the Christian Scriptures that Jesus Christ even lived. "How do we know that he wasn't just a creation of the early apostles?" the parishioner asked.
"Not a bad question," Pettipas thought. "As an event, the historical Jesus belongs to Palestine 2,000 years ago. The Christ of our faith is the Son of God who continues to live in the Church up to our own day by the power of the Holy Spirit," he said. "The evidence of the latter is witnessed by the love we have for one another."
Pettipas spoke on Embracing Christ in the Eucharist at the June 5-8 convention.
In the first few centuries after the Pentecost event, what convinced multitudes of the genuineness of the Christian faith was the love that Jesus' followers had for one another.
A primary challenge of our faith is to recognize Jesus Christ, Pettipas told about 200 convention delegates from across Alberta.
"One of the great spiritual challenges we face is the recognition of Christ present among us. Do we sense the presence of the Other as we rub shoulders with others? We often miss it."
The same can be said of Christ in the Eucharist, the archbishop said. "The document on the liturgy that came out of the Second Vatican Council speaks of four ways in which Christ is present in the celebration of the Eucharist.
"He is present in the assembly, the gathering of Christian faithful; he is present in the words of Scripture that are proclaimed; he is present in the priest, the one who has been ordained and commissioned to gather the community in prayer as under one head; and in a very mysterious way he is present in the bread and wine - humble elements that become his body and blood."
In early Christian theology the elements of bread and wine were known as "the mystical presence because it was mystical, hidden, veiled under elements that seemed to conceal the presence of Jesus, which could only be perceived with the eyes of faith," noted Pettipas.
"The presence of Christ in the body of Christians gathered at church was felt to be the real presence because there were real live persons who can be seen and touched."
Over the years, however, theology reversed these two so that "now we refer to the Eucharistic elements as the real or true presence and the Church as the mystical body of Christ. In either event the presence of Christ is veiled; it's hidden. The Eucharist calls for faith; those without faith don't get it. "In the Byzantine liturgy, the congregation at one point declares, 'I will not share this mystery with the unbeliever (because) the unbeliever does not get it.'"
The believer, however, acknowledges and accepts life is filled with mystery and the Eucharist is among its greatest.
"Concerning food and drink in general we have often heard people say, 'You become what you eat.' Nowhere is this as true as it is in the Eucharist," the archbishop said.
"In fact, it is not at all true of ordinary food (because) if you eat a carrot you do not become a carrot. The carrot becomes you. In the Eucharist, on the other hand, it is indeed us who become what we consume - the Body of Christ. Our identity and our characteristics are taken up in Christ and we are transformed as the bread and wine have themselves been transformed."