by Cullen Schippe
As a lad (well over half a century ago)…
I loved Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The sanctuary clouded with incense, the jingling bells, the familiar Latin melodies, the priest holding high the magnificent monstrance: All came together for a moment of adoration that I considered the pinnacle of Eucharistic devotion.
Yet, as time went on, I realized that should I nestle all my Eucharistic spirituality into moments like those, I would be having the same reaction the disciples had on the mount of the Transfiguration. After their awesome vision, those disciples were prohibited from building tents and spending their days in adoration. Instead they were sent down the mountain.
I learned that giving in to the temptation to stay on my personal Mount Tabor put me at risk of missing (as Paul Harvey used to say) “the rest of the story.”
To understand the rest of the story, look at the traits of grateful and gracious people. As you measure yourself against these traits, you will see how grateful and gracious you are and how these traits are essential elements of a Eucharistic spirituality.
A sense of self: Gracious and grateful people know who they are. And because they know who they are, they are wonderful recipients of gifts. They are comfortable with gifts freely given.
Community: Gracious people understand that those who gather together are stronger than individuals on their own. In the bank of community, the grateful and the gracious are depositors as well as withdrawers. They appreciate the wonder of all that is found in community.
Listening: Grateful people listen. One way to develop a sense of gratitude is in attentiveness to others, to God, and to nature. It is hard to sense graciousness in someone who is always too busy or who does all the talking. A good listener shows the ability to accept and receive from others.
Memory: If your attitude is that people are gifts, you begin to remember details about those gifts. When you remember, you respond all over again. Memory provides the fuel that keeps people responding to one another. The gracious and grateful person keeps a mental note of the good that is done.
Sharing: Grateful people are generous people. Because they have been given so much, they are certain that it is an act of gratitude to give to others without counting the cost. This sharing is not the balance-sheet giving that comes into play during social gift exchanges. Rather, gracious people look at hearts not price tags. Their sharing is not for personal recognition. It is driven by a freehanded generosity.
Willing service: Gracious and grateful people are people who serve. Gracious service comes from a sense of solidarity and a simple recognition of need. Jesus described such as the whole criterion for judgment—food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothes for the naked, visits for those who are lonely and sick.
At the Sunday Eucharist, the whole assembly celebrates the traits exhibited by gracious and grateful people the world over. The elements of the Mass reflect those very attitudes.
The next time you participate at Mass, be aware of how these elements are used to structure the Eucharist celebration. Notice how the Eucharist celebrates and fosters a sense of identity as the People of God. The celebrant gathers the community in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The assembly listens to the Word of God and those who hear the Word of God experience their lives in the Word and the Word in their lives. The Eucharistic Prayer remembers all the gifts God has given—especially the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ—and it makes that gift present.
Jesus’ words at the Last Supper are clear: “Do this in memory of me.” At Mass, we offer the gifts of bread and wine and share in a communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. And finally, we are all sent out to love and serve the Lord in all we do.
Adoration is the core of a Eucharistic spirituality to be sure. Yet, adoration needs the rest of the story. It needs to be joined to a gracious and grateful way of life.
Cullen Schippe has been in Catholic publishing for over 40 years and currently serves as Vice-President of Religious Education for the Peter Li Education Group. He co-authored (with Chuck Stetson) and served as general editor of The Bible and Its Influence (BLP Publishing, 2005). E-mail Cullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, January 2011.
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