I blog about food. I’ve come to appreciate the “traditional foods” approach to eating and embrace the philosophy that says that if a food’s been around a few thousand years, it should probably be in our diets. If it’s younger than 100 years, it doesn’t belong on our tables.
Sometimes it feels like filling my kitchen with real food is the primary goal of my life, but physical food can only nourish and sustain my body on this earth. We need food for the journey, something to sustain and nourish our souls in this life and beyond. Long before I discovered Nourishing Traditions, I embraced a nourishing, traditional food that’s been around about 2,000 years. I believe it’s the ultimate REAL food.
The night before Jesus died, He took bread in His Sacred hands, blessed it, and said, “This is my body. Do this in memory of me.” And likewise, He took the cup, gave thanks and said, “This is my blood, given for you. Do this in memory of me.” Jesus redefined “food” that night. He changed simple bread and wine into a gift of self.
Some people call this scene communion. Some people call it myth. Catholics call it Eucharist, the ultimate sacrifice of the God-man for all humanity. He gave His life for us. And then He humbled Himself even further, beyond the supreme humiliation of a crook’s death on a Cross, and became our food.
The Ultimate. Nourishing. Traditional. Real. Food.
Oh, how blessed I am to be able to attend daily Mass once a week! I like to make a habit of going to the school Mass, because my son likes the jazzy music. (He used to dance in the aisles when he was 18-24 mos. and became sort of a legend.) I can think of nothing better to do with my time than offer the prayers of the church, receive Jesus into my body and teach my children proper commitment and reverence for the Eucharist.
- Unite your prayers with those of the Church. When the gifts are brought to the altar, flex your imagination muscle and place yourself, your humble failings, and your intentions for the Mass there also. I literally imagine a smaller version of my brother, for example, being placed on the altar. I ask the Lord to bless and consecrate him and the others I’m praying for as the priest consecrates the bread and wine.When the priest lifts up the bread and the cup as an offering to God, I visualize my intentions being lifted up right along with them. There is no better time to pray than when celebrating Eucharist and in the presence of the Body of Christ. I tend to focus on souls and salvation at this time, and I rely on mental imagery to keep me focused on something that looks and sounds the same every week, but is radically new each time in its significance.
- Acknowledge Jesus as King. When the priest lifts up the consecrated host immediately after praying, “This is my Body…do this in memory of Me,” we are to gaze upon the Body of our Lord with all the reverence we can muster. I work to conquer my easily distracted nature more at this moment than any other in the entire week. I focus on the gazing, the reverence, and I say in my head: “My Lord and my God!” It’s a prayer of recognition of what I’ve just witnessed…bread becoming Jesus.When my children are near, I also discreetly whisper, “There’s Jesus!” to them. My father always used to straighten us up and say, “This is the most important part of the Mass.” It’s important to draw children’s attention to that fact starting early.
- Prepare your soul to receive Jesus. It is no small responsibility to be the bearer of Christ in this world. The word “Christian”, literally translated, means “Christ-bearer.” When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we literally become His hands, His feet, His mouth for our world. Are you ready for the weight of that task?Most days, I am keenly aware of how weak, how broken, how unworthy I am. None of us are worthy of the gift of Jesus’s Body and Blood, but God grants us the grace to receive Him. It is on our shoulders, however, to prepare the best we can.Just as I tell my kids to “go potty and wash your hands” before eating a meal with our family, it should be our habit to “wash clean” our souls before consuming our Lord. Ideally, we would participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation immediately before every Mass. Not many of us have that opportunity.A good substitute is when we bless ourselves with holy water upon entering the Church. We are not only reminded of our Baptismal promises, but we are cleansed of venial sin and prepared for Mass.I guarantee you I sin in between walking in the doors and receiving Jesus. My dad taught me a great habit that I keep to this day: after praying, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the Word and I shall be healed,” with the community right before communion, I use the empty space as I wait for my turn to pray an Act of Contrition. I bring my failings before the Lord, ask for His mercy, and promise to sin no more. When I receive Him moments later, I have prepared a holy place for Him to dwell.
I am fortunate to be able to serve as a Eucharistic Minister in my parish, which means I have the great responsibility of carrying Jesus to my community. I help the priest serve the Body and Blood of Christ to the people in the pews, much like a server in a fancy restaurant takes the work of the chef out to the customers. Here are some of the great lessons I’ve learned while holding Jesus in my hands and sharing Him with others:
- Jesus is truly present. When we serve Jesus to our parish, we say, “The Body of Christ. The Blood of Christ.” Far from being a repetitive phrase, I am reminded with every word that I am holding Jesus’s Body. I am sharing my Lord with another person.
- Jesus knows everyone’s name. He loves everyone equally. That is why, although it seems kind and personal to say someone’s name when serving them Eucharist, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist are not supposed to.
- We are what we eat. We say it when we’re talking table food, and it is as true if not more so when it comes to the Eucharist. When we consume our Lord’s Body, we become members of the Body of Christ. When we carry Jesus within us, we are expected to act as Jesus would on the outside. This is the reason, not exclusivity or pride, that non-Catholics are not invited to receive the Eucharist. How can you become part of the Body of Christ when you aren’t a member of His Church? How can you receive when you don’t believe? It is not to keep people out that we do this, but to make it mean something for those who are “in”.
- We are called to carry Jesus to the world. When we walk away from the communion line, we carry Jesus within us. We are His hands in the world, His feet, His mouth to minister to a godless culture. We become the Body of Christ when we consume the Body of Christ. We must – must! – remember this and live it as we leave our parishes and go out into the world. We carry Jesus. Let us behave as if we are worthy of His presence.
The following are some habits I have when I serve Eucharist. They’re not anything I’ve been taught, not Church teachings by any means, but they show how important I think the Eucharist is and how I try to share that with others:
- I value touch. I make sure that my hand touches the other person as I lay Jesus’s Body in their hand. When I was a server in a restaurant, I tried not to touch anyone’s food but often utilized a quick touch on the arm to connect as humans with my customers. How much more so does touch make a difference when serving the Body of our Lord?
- I use eye contact. I make it a point to look every person in the eye, deeply. I see so many different emotions there, from joy to sorrow to indifference. I try to communicate the magnitude of what we’re doing with my eyes. I’m serious to match my tone of voice saying, “The Body of Christ,” yet I often purposely put a smile in my eyes to communicate the joy we ought to feel, that we are chosen to receive Christ in the Eucharist. Since I don’t say the names of people I know personally, I can tell them, “Hello!” with my eyes.
- I pray for the communicants. Not so much in words, even in-the-head words, but more in a groaning of the spirit as St. Paul teaches in Romans, I pray for the people receiving Jesus in my line. I ask God to change their lives by this Eucharist. I ask Him to enter into them and make them holy. I beg Him that they would believe they are truly receiving a miracle, the Body and Blood of Christ.
- In my weakness, sometimes I judge. I notice the low-cut shirts or the funny-shaped nose, or I silently condemn the jeans-clad teenager or the screaming toddler before I can even censor my thoughts. My mind drifts to how cute those earrings are or how many kids that family has. *sigh* I thank the Lord that He forgives me in my weakness, and I yank my thoughts back to the task at hand: serving Jesus, literally.
My friend Jenny at Heart of a Mother has an incredible reflection on our attitudes for Mass on Sundays.