The Readings for the 14th Saturday, Tempus per Annum
Memorial of St. John of Cologne, OP, & Companions, martyrs
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.Isaiah 6:6
DURING THE LITURGIES OF St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great (in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches) communion is distributed using a spoon. It is served directly to the communicant by the priest as one might feed a child at table. This has been their tradition since the 9th century and, at some later point, this image from Isaiah was seen as a typological parallel. This writer has heard priests say to communicants, “this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” It’s a beautiful symbol of how the Eucharist moves us away from sin (¶1393) and it also continues the liturgical parallels in this chapter: the “Holy Holy Holy” of the Angels is sung in Mass and most of the Eastern rites. This has been part of the Eucharistic liturgy since the late 1st of early 2nd century! It all arises in this vision of Isaiah.
But on this Saturday (Shabbat Shalom!) I want to call our attention to the next thing that happens after the typology of the Eucharist is received and Isaiah’s sins are absolved: God calls and Isaiah begs to be sent.
There is a way in which the Eucharist, making us ever more part of the Body of Christ, involves us ever more and more in the mission of Christ: in the being-sent-ness of Christ who was sent out from the Father to redeem the world. He, in turn, sends us out to do the same work.
To willingly and worthily participate in the Eucharist is to find oneself purified for mission. That may be in the Church basement feeding the poor or on the streets preaching the Gospel, or it may mean in China (etc) but the Eucharist is never food for couch potatoes. It is always Viaticum: food for the journey.
Preaching at my parish for the Ordination of priests in the Dominican Order, Bishop Robert Barron said what God does to the bread at the Eucharist – He Takes, Blesses, Breaks, and Gives it – God also does to the priest. A priest is taken, blessed, broken, and given to the Church.
Let’s take that one step further: God also does it to us and after we have been broken on the altar, he calls us to give ourselves away in love.
Who will go?