St. Oscar Romero on the Eucharist

There is one incident in Romero’s life that especially highlights the importance of the eucharist in forming a body of people marked by the kingdom of God, a body of resistance to the powers of darkness. When [priest and close friend of Reomro] Rutilio Grande was killed, Romero had only been archbishop for a few short weeks. The oligarchy that killed Grande still had high hopes for Romero; so far he had done nothing to gainsay the widespread judgment that his appointment had been intended to dampen some of the more incendiary challenges to the status quo from within the church. When Grande was killed, however, Romero made an extraordinary decision: The following Sunday there would be only one mass in the entire archdiocese. In order to receive the eucharist, every person would have to come to the cathedral in San Salvador.

The oligarchy reacted with alarm. The day after Romero announced the single mass, representatives of ANEP, the national businessmen’s association, met with Romero and demanded that the idea be dropped. The church, they said, was stirring up trouble and conflict. Besides, the wealthy Catholics of the plantations were complaining that they would be deprived of the opportunity to receive the eucharist and fulfill their Sunday obligation. They seem never to have considered the fact that the wealthy could most easily drive into San Salvador for the mass, even if it did mean standing in the sun for three hours with a bunch of unwashed poor people.

But that, of course, was the whole point. Romero intended the one eucharist to be an anticipation of the kingdom, of the day when rich and poor would feast together, of the day when the body of Christ would not be wounded by divisions.

Romero wrote the following about the eucharist in Violence of Love (168):

The eucharist makes us look back to Calvary twenty centuries ago .. . [b]ut it also looks ahead to the future, to the eternal, eschatological and definitive horizon that presents itself as a demanding ideal to all political systems, to all social struggles, to all those concerned for the earth. The church does not ignore the earth, but in the eucharist it says to all who work on earth: look beyond. Each time the Victim is lifted up at Mass, Christ’s call is heard: “Until we drink it anew in my Father’s kingdom.” And the people reply: “Come, Lord Jesus.”… Death is not the end. Death is the opening of eternity’s portal. That is why I say: all the blood, all the dead, all the mysteries of iniquity and sin, all the tortures, all those dungeons of our security forces, where unfortunately many persons slowly die, do not mean they are lost forever.

(From “Dying for the Eucharist or Being Killed by It? Romero’s Challenge to First-World Christians” by William T. Cavanaugh, Theology Today 58.2 [July 2001] 177-189.)

One comment

  1. Reminds me of Geoffrey Wainwright’s Eucharist and Eschatology, one of the best theological-liturgical books I have ever read.

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