Skip to comments.Mary and the Eucharist
Posted on 11/17/2010 11:38:55 AM PST by Alex Murphy
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following address was given Aug. 8 at the second Knights of Columbus Eucharistic Congress, which was dedicated to Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. It is on "At the School of Mary, Woman of the Eucharist," the sixth chapter of the encyclical. Ecclesia de Eucharistia can be read in its entirety at the Vatican Web site: www.vatican.va.
In an episode of the old TV show "All in the Family," Archie Bunker, a great contemporary theologian, was having an argument with his son-in-law, Meathead. Archie made one of his anti-Semitic remarks and Meathead immediately reacted by saying, "Archie, remember that Jesus was Jewish." To which Archie retorted: "Yes, but only on his mothers side."
Indeed, Jesus' humanity comes from Mary's humanity. One of the popes wrote the beautiful prayer, Ave Verum Corpus natum de Maria Virgine. "Hail true body (of Christ) born of the Virgin Mary." It was originally to be prayed at the elevation at Mass as people contemplated the host, recalling that the body of Christ we receive in Communion is the same body of Christ that Mary gave to us at Bethlehem.
Often at Christmastime I point out the eucharistic meaning of the occasion. Jesus is born at Bethlehem, which means, "House of Bread." And Jesus is laid in a manger that is the feed box where the flock comes to be fed.
Pope John Paul II has given us the magnificent encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia in which a whole chapter is dedicated to the profound relationship that Mary has with the mystery of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is the mysterium fidei, the mystery of faith that "so greatly transcends our understanding as to call for a sheer abandonment to the word of God," he writes (54.1). At the Visitation, Elizabeth, moved by the Spirit, gives us the first beatitude in the Gospel directed at Mary: "Blessed are you because you believed" (Luke 1:45). Just as Abraham, our father in faith, stands at the opening of the Old Testament, Mary, great woman of faith, stands at the opening of the New Testament.
Saying Yes to Jesus
At the Annunciation, Mary's consent was one of the most important moments in the history of salvation and in the unfolding of the eucharistic mystery. We call that moment her fiat, the first word in a Latin phrase that means "Be it done unto me according to your word." When we say yes to God, we allow his grace to be fruitful, to break into our history. When we say no, his plan is thwarted, the world is deprived of grace and creation is impoverished. What would have happened had Mary said no to Gods invitation? Would we still be awaiting a Messiah?
Pope John Paul has a beautiful paragraph in which he relates Marys fiat to the Amen every believer says when receiving Communion. Mary was asked to believe that the one whom she conceived "through the Holy Spirit" was "the Son of God." In the eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the one whom she conceived is Son of God and son of Mary. We are asked to believe that Jesus is present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine.
John Paul says that Mary anticipated in the mystery of the Incarnation the Churchs eucharistic faith. He writes, "When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a tabernacle in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and voice of Mary" (55.3).
The pope gives us a "re-reading" of the Magnificat in a eucharistic key. The Eucharist like the Canticle of Mary is first and foremost praise and thanksgiving. When Mary exclaims: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior," she already bears Jesus in her womb (like a living tabernacle). She praises God through Jesus, but she also praises him in Jesus and with Jesus. This is itself the true eucharistic attitude. At the same time, Mary recalls the wonders worked by God in salvation history in fulfillment of the promise once made to Abraham and our spiritual ancestors.
She proclaims the wonder that surpasses them all, the redemptive Incarnation. Lastly, the Magnificat reflects the eschatological tension of the Eucharist. Every time the Son of God comes to us in the poverty of the sacramental signs of bread and wine, the seeds of that new history wherein the "mighty are put down from their thrones and those of low degree are exalted," take root in the world. The Magnificat expresses Mary's spirituality, and there is nothing greater than this spirituality for helping us to experience the mystery of the Eucharist.
The Joyful Mysteries
Allow me to share with you some of my personal meditations on the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. These are the mysteries I like to use when I am praying the rosary during a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
The Annunciation to me is the little Christmas, the moment when the Word becomes flesh, takes on a body and becomes Jesus Christ. I associate Mary's fiat with the words of consecration at Mass. As soon as Mary says "Be it done unto me according to thy word," Jesus becomes present. In like manner, when the priest takes the bread and says, "This is my body," Jesus becomes present at the altar.
For the mystery of the Visitation I always associate Mary with the Ark of the Covenant. In the Old Testament God is present to his people whenever the ark is with them. In the ark were the spiritual treasures of Israel, the tablets of the law, Aaron's staff and some of the manna that fed Israel in the desert. In the Book of Chronicles the Israelites take the ark to the house of Obededom, where it remained for three months (1 Chr 13:14). In Luke's Gospel Mary arrives like the Ark of the Covenant carrying Jesus, the new manna, and stayed with Elizabeth for three months (1:56).
As I alluded to earlier, the Third Mystery, the Nativity of Jesus, also has strong eucharistic symbolism beginning with the name Bethle-hem, "House of Bread."
In the Fourth Mystery, the Presentation, Mary and Joseph offer the Son to God the Father. Mary gives the body of Christ to the priestly figure of Simeon who receives Christ, as if in Communion, in his arms.
The Fifth Mystery is the finding of Jesus in the temple. We can always find the true presence of Christ in the tabernacles of our Catholic churches. He is waiting to be discovered and reunited to those who have sought him sorrowing.
'Do Whatever He Tells You'
Pope John Paul opens the chapter on Mary by saying, "In my Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I pointed to the Blessed Virgin Mary as our teacher in contemplating Christ's face, and among the Mysteries of Light I included the institution of the Eucharist. Mary can guide us toward this most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with the Eucharist (53.1).
In repeating what Christ did at the Last Supper we also accept Marys invitation to obey Christ without hesitation: "Do whatever He tells you!" In the Acts of the Apostles we find Mary at the heart of the Christian community helping those disciples to persevere in prayer. The pope affirms that Mary must have been present at the eucharistic celebrations of the first generation of Christians, who were devoted to the Mass which they called : "the breaking of the Bread."
The pope elaborates on the Calvary experience of John, who accepts Mary as his Mother. Accepting Mary as our Mother is a commitment to be conformed to Christ, "putting ourselves at the school of his Mother and allowing her to accompany us" (57.2).
I will close by tying together three things we love as Catholics: the Blessed Mother, the pope and the Eucharist. These aspects of our Church distinguish us from other Christians.
The pope's many journeys have made him present to so many Catholics. Despite personal challenges he keeps exerting himself so that the ministry of Peter can continue in the Church uniting us in our following of Jesus and encouraging us to be faithful to the Gospel entrusted to us.
The Blessed Mother is beloved of our Catholic people. Since the Second Vatican Council the Church has stressed the fact that Mary is not only an intercessor and protectress, she is above all a model of faith and fidelity. In the center of her life is Jesus. She leads us to him and says, "Do whatever he tells you."
It is impossible to conceive of the Church without the Eucharist. The Church springs up around the Eucharist. We gather at the altar and are no longer strangers and rivals; we are brothers. It is to house our eucharistic altars and tabernacles that we build churches and chapels where we can come and be united to the Lord and to our brothers and sisters. The sacrament is the body and blood of the Lord that has come to us through Marys body and through her saying yes to God.
In this encyclical the great features of our Catholic faith intersect: Mary, the Eucharist and the Holy Father. Each is a treasure we cherish. Each is connected to the other and are signs of God's enduring love for his Church and for us who are proud to call ourselves Catholics.
If you cannot reach the article on the KofC homepage, you can reach Google's 11/09/2010 snapshot of it here.
>>>In an episode of the old TV show “All in the Family,” Archie Bunker, a great contemporary theologian, was having an argument with his son-in-law, Meathead. Archie made one of his anti-Semitic remarks and Meathead immediately reacted by saying, “Archie, remember that Jesus was Jewish.” To which Archie retorted: “Yes, but only on his mothers side.”<<<
Now that there is funny.
Bump for later
When that wafer is turned into the true and real body of Christ, does Mary have a true and real presence in that wafer?
None, at least none outright stated in the article.
Alex, great detective work there. The Knights of Columbus believe in the Real Presence—who woulda thunk it.
Yes, in fact, the body that was formed in Mary’s womb is the same body that is on the altar. This is not news to Christianity, except those who have forgotten it.
Very well thought out.
Very well thought out.
It’s Christ’s body, not Mary’s body in the Eucharist, although it would take an extraordinary ignorance of biology not to see an obvious connection there. Particularly since the Holy Spirit has no body to give him, so Christ’s body was physically derived from the body of Mary alone.
And it may be a fine point, but we do not say Christ is present IN the “wafer” after the consecration. Rather, there is no more “wafer”. What is on the altar is 100% Christ and nothing else—the substance of the “wafer” is annihilated entirely and only its accidental characteristics remain.
Ugh..”wafer”. I hate even using that word in this context, it’s so disrespectful. At least call it “bread” if you can’t stoop to saying “Communion”.
This is what I'm curious about. He was part of her body, just as our bodies are part of our parents bodies. If His body is real and true in that wafer, then her presence is in that Eucharist. And when that wafer is changed into His body, her presence is in that wafer too. One-half of the substance of His body; half from the Holy Spirit and half from Mary.
My question is, does the Catholic Church teach its members this, or is this just something that isn't considered by Catholics who believe that Christ is real and present in the Eucharist?
And it may be a fine point, but we do not say Christ is present IN the wafer after the consecration. Rather, there is no more wafer. What is on the altar is 100% Christ and nothing elsethe substance of the wafer is annihilated entirely and only its accidental characteristics remain.
THis does not seem to be an answer. This just explains what is done during the Eucharist. 100% Christ is 50% Mary.
I am no theologian, and perhaps some other FReeper could answer it better.
But we believe the Eucharist is body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Mary had her own soul, so unless we are willing to postulate two souls in it, then no, the Eucharist is not Mary the same way that it is Christ. Also, we adore the Eucharist as God, and Mary is a creature without any divinity whatsoever. If she were in it, we would be guilty of idolatry.
However, I have heard expounded, and the article above touches on it as well, the connection between Mary's body and the body of Christ. He owes His body to her Fiat in a crucial way--there is certainly some mystical connection there, though what it is I can't even begin to say.
If she were in it, we would be guilty of idolatry.
This being one thought.
Well, actually, maybe not, because where would His other 50% come from? There was no human male involved.
But at any rate, we are not just bodies but body-soul combinations, so whatever Mary contributed to the body of Christ, His human soul and divinity certainly did not come from her.
This being one thought.
Eh, what's that? I don't quite follow.
Yes he was quite a theologian:
It ain’t supposed to make sense; it’s faith. Faith is something that you believe that nobody in his right mind would believe. - Archie Bunker
Congratulations - the thread just degenerated. Did you have any (other) ideas that you wanted to offer besides the insulting language?
But at any rate, we are not just bodies but body-soul combinations, so whatever Mary contributed to the body of Christ, His human soul and divinity certainly did not come from her."
The Nicene Fathers explained this nearly 1700 years ago, Claud (I'm not showing off; the Greek is important to an understanding of what happened):
καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν Μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων, Φῶς ἐκ Φωτός, Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί, δι' οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο· τὸν δι' ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου, καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα,
The specific answer to what the Theotokos "added" is this, but only also from the Holy Spirit:
καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου, καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα