Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Feast of Corpus Christi and Eucharistic Spirituality

"How holy this feast in which Christ is our food; His passion is recalled; grace fills our hearts; and we receive a pledge of the glory to come, alleluia."

This was today's Magnificat antiphon, for Evening Prayer II on the solemnity of Corpus Christi. Because Holy Thursday is more focused on the Pascal mystery and the establishment of the priesthood, Corpus Christi was added to the calendar as the feast day in commemoration of the gift of the Eucharist.

While there is no official body of literature describing the spirituality of consecrated virgins, I think I would be justified in saying that our prayer life is profoundly Eucharistic.

If you frequent the right Catholic circles (I'm thinking specifically, but not exclusively, of circles of younger devout Catholics--particularly those who are discerning religious or priestly vocations), you hear the expression "Eucharistic spirituality" a lot. Naturally this phrase sounds beautiful, but I think sometimes it can be hard to understand what it means concretely.

In light of my vocations as an aspiring consecrated virgin, I think for me "Eucharistic spirituality" essentially means that the Mass is absolutely the center of my life.

On a practical level, this entails making every effort to attend daily Mass. When I was choosing colleges, and later graduate programs, I automatically ruled out any place where I couldn't find a Mass every day. I also make sure to arrange my days in such a way where my other plans and obligations don't interfere with Mass (even if this means missing out on time with friends, having to skip interesting extra-curricular academic events and lectures at school, or having to study later into the night). And if the only Mass I can attend is before dawn, then I gladly get up and out the door before the sun rises!

However, these small "sacrifices" are only the surface of deeper reality, which is my conviction that my participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass is the most important thing I do all day. Every day at Mass, I do my best to join my offering of my life to Christ's offering of Himself for the redemption of the world. This continues throughout the day as I pray the Liturgy of the Hours--which, being the official prayer of the Church, I see as an extension of the Mass.

Being present at Mass also gives me the opportunity to be close to my soon-to-be Spouse. Of course, this means receiving the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. But it also gives me the chance, in a sense, to be with Jesus in His passion and to stand at the foot of the cross. We believe that the sacrifice of the Mass is truly a re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice at Calvary, but in an "unbloody manner." As my spiritual director is fond of saying, in response to the old Lenten song "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?", we can respond that yes, we were there!

Mass is also the place where I find nourishment for my soul. Just as ordinary food is necessary for the body to survive, I need Jesus as "the Bread of Life" for the survival of my spirit.

I do want to point out that while consecrated virgins are called to a particularly focused and intense participation in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, ALL Catholics are called to have a Eucharistic spirituality. Because part of my vocation is to be "extreme" in this way, I think it can help illustrate the beauty and value of the Eucharist to all of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

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