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Charisms of the Eucharist 

During these times when belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is frequently threatened or misunderstood, it is important to have great saintly priests and religious to refresh our spiritual understanding.  This is especially so during Pope John Paul II’s proclamation of a special Year of the Eucharist.  More recently, he penned the apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine (Stay with us, Lord) to further emphasize its importance. 

The Holy Father speaks of the many dimensions of the Eucharist, “a mystery of light!”[1]  First there is the spiritual and actual meal that unifies us in truth.  Then he says this meal has a “profoundly and primarily sacrificial meaning.”  Finally, there is an eschatological aspect that “impels us toward the future, when Christ will come again at the end of history.”  Most important of all is Christ’s “real” presence, “the perfect fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to remain with us until the end of the world (Mt 28:20).”  Our priests and religious may open up vistas and perspectives of the Eucharist by their unique presentation.  This can illumine our appreciation and understanding of the sacrament.     

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.  It is “the fount and apex of the whole human life” (Lumen Gentium 10).  We must make every effort to embody this truth in our liturgy and worship.  In our experience, there have been particular priests and religious who enable us to appreciate, envision and promote our “Eucharistic amazement” and “give us a lively awareness of Christ’s presence.”  They all possess a particular charism, a supernatural faculty for expressing their deep and profound reverence for the sacrament.

 The first charism has been expressed by a particularly holy, young priest who initially created a stir.  His spiritual gift could be stated as The Charism of Extreme Reverence.  At the consecration, he elevates the host, then the cup for a prolonged period of time while pondering the power of transubstantiation. One certainly has sufficient time to say, “My Lord and my God…Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ my Lord.”  Initially, one feels uncomfortable with the duration of this worshipping gesture.  With time and understanding, it becomes a compelling endowment.  The priest in persona Christi, comes into spiritual communion with Christ.  At a particular church, thrice rung bells accompany this consecration, which further emphasizes the sanctity of the moment.   Perhaps our children need to be versed in mentally reciting their belief at this time, rather than staring into a thoughtless void. 

The second charism has been expressed by an especially intense, young priest who was very dynamic.  His spiritual gift could be stated as The Charism of Focused Perception of the Triune God.  Throughout the Eucharistic prayer, his eyes are lifted, almost ecstatically, heavenward.  It is apparent that he is in communion with God, not merely with the People of God.  Rather than playing to the congregation, he seems to draw each of us heavenward in an act of communal worship.  It is as if he simulates ad orientum (facing east), while celebrating ad or versus populum (facing the people).  The Jesuit, Father Fessio expressed this as a traditional cosmic and eschatological symbolism. 

The third charism has been expressed by a musically and vocally gifted, newly ordained priest who was very tender and attentive.  His spiritual gift could be called The Charism of Melodic Transcendence.  During the consecration, he beautifully chants, a cappella, the consecration prayers for the Body and Blood, and then reverently elevates each species.  Again, the sanctity of his expression enfolds one into the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

A fourth charism has been observed in a young priest who is very modest and unassuming.  His spiritual gift could be called The Charism of Humble Thoughtfulness.  Throughout the Mass, this priest frequently has eyes downcast at the times when humility seems appropriate.  In addition, he frequently pauses to allow time to ponder what is occurring during the liturgy, rather than rushing through each element.  Many times his demeanor is unhurried and his presentation refined.  His whole expression has a constituent of deliberate reflection on the holiness of the occasion. 

A final charism has been observed in religious orders, most particularly the often-joyful sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s order.  This spiritual virtue might be The Charism of Humble Reverence and Unworthiness.  After the consecration of each species, the nuns in unison bow from the waist, nearly touching their heads to the floor, while the priest genuflects at the altar.  There is sufficient time to mentally say, “Jesus, I adore you and I love you…Jesus, I trust in you.”  Seeing this reverence always has a profound effect on most observers.  At EWTN, the Franciscan servers usually execute prostration from the epiclesis through the end of the consecration.  Prostration or humble bowing seems appropriate at the epiclesis, since it is at this time that the priest calls down the power of the Holy Spirit to effect the consecration.  At no other time than the sacrament of Confirmation is the Holy Spirit so substantially and spiritually present amidst us, as at the epiclesis.  What better time to be particularly reverent?  Certainly, we are all temples of the Holy Spirit, when in a state of grace.  But when He makes a personal appearance on behalf of the priest and all of us, we certainly owe absolute latria (the worship and honor due God).  We may want to respond quietly, “Holy Spirit sanctify us!  Pour down Your grace, gifts and fruits on Your People of God gathered here before You.”  

Certainly many of you have observed special charisms in your priests and religious.  These are only a small sample of the ways in which they can bring us to Christ by their spiritual affinity to Him.   

God sometimes speaks to us in a “still, small voice.”  Oftentimes, our priests and religious express the Eucharist in a still, small voice.  “The Holy Eucharist unites Heaven and Earth”.[2]  We respond by joining the choirs of saints and angels in Heaven singing, “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts.  Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.  Hosanna in the highest!” 

Penned for Thanksgiving Day
November 25, 2004
In thanks to Our Lady of Victory
Nicholas E. Barreca, M.D.
President, Dothan Serra Club

[1] Undocumented quotes are from Pope John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine.

[2] Francis Cardinal Arinze’s address at the Eucharistic Congress in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on September 25, 2004.

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