Eucharist as School, Project, Plan

We share an excerpt from the very fine address by Steve Janco, “Common Ground, Common Purpose, Common Good,” delivered at the recent NPM convention in Detroit on July 14. Watch for the full address in an upcoming issue of Pastoral Music.

(L)iturgy is never an end in itself. … At the conclusion of every liturgy, we are sent beyond our church doors—back to our communities, back to our families, back to everyday life—to love and serve the Lord. …  Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship no. 9 suggests that

charity, justice, and evangelization are thus the normal consequences of liturgical celebration. Particularly inspired by sung participation, the body of the Word incarnate goes forth to spread the gospel with full force and compassion.

Note that the document refers to “normal” consequences, presuming, I suppose, that liturgy may also yield abnormal consequences. One wonders if Sing to the Lord might have been slightly more instructive—and colorful—if it included a paragraph that went something like this:

Selfishness, injustice, and apathy are the abnormal consequences of poor liturgical celebration. Particularly disheartened by lackluster or non-existent sung participation, the body of the Word-desperately-trying-to-become-incarnate leaves nonchalantly to wallow in the status quo with faintness of heart and a bad attitude.

Liturgy has consequences. Sunday Eucharist is intimately connected to the church’s mission. But how so? Pope John Paul writes in his 2004 apostolic letter for the Year of the Eucharist, Mane Nobiscum Domine, no. 27,

The Eucharist is not merely an expression of communion in the Church’s life; it is also a project of solidarity for all of humanity. …The Christian who takes part in the eucharist learns to become a promoter of communion, peace, and solidarity in every situation. More than ever, our troubled world… demands that Christians learn to experience the Eucharist as a great school of peace, forming men and women who, at various levels of responsibility in social, cultural, and political life, can become promoters of dialogue and communion.

The Eucharist is a project of solidarity for all of humanity, and a great school of peace. Have you ever sung about that in a Communion song? But John Paul goes even further. He writes at no. 25:

The Eucharist provides more than the interior strength needed for [the church’s] mission, but it is also—in some sense—its plan. For the Eucharist is a mode of being, which passes from Jesus into each Christian, through whose testimony it is meant to spread throughout society and culture.

Eucharist as school, as project, as plan. Offhand, I’d say we’re not in liturgical Kansas anymore!

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2 comments

  1. Mane Nobiscum Domine stands as one of the great, under-reported statements on the liturgy by John Paul II. John Paul’s links between liturgy and solidarity, liturgy and care for the poor, liturgy and evangelization, are wonderful food for the soul. Kudos to Steve Janco for picking up on some of these very good things.

    The statement (MND) not only makes claims from abstract principles, JPII actually does some mystagogy on the rites to back them up. He reflects on the order of worship, as well as the scriptural grounds of worship to find meaning and direction. Very fine.

    The challenge implicit in these claims, however, is immense. If we are all attending the “great school of peace” and human solidarity in the Eucharist, why so much continuing strife, racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice, and taking up of arms? Why not more concern for the poor?

  2. “The Eucharist is a project of solidarity for all of humanity, and a great school of peace. Have you ever sung about that in a Communion song?”

    – Yes – Bob Hurd’s ‘Ubi caritas:

    Refrain
    Ubi caritas est vera, est vera:
    Deus ibi est. Deus ibi est.

    1. The love of Christ joins us together.
    Let us rejoice in him,
    and in our love and care for all
    now love God in return.

    2. In true communion let us gather.
    May all divisions cease
    and in their place be Christ the Lord,
    our risen Prince of Peace.

    3. May we who gather at this table
    to share the bread of life
    become a sacrament of love,
    your healing touch, O Christ.

    4. For those in need make us your mercy,
    for those oppressed, your might.
    Make us, your Church,
    a holy sign of justice and new life.

    5. May we one day behold your glory
    and see you face to face,
    rejoicing with the saints of God
    to sing eternal praise.

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