September 29, 2006

In practice and in attitude, are we forgetting that the Eucharist is a covenant?

[I originally posted this in March 2006. A new comment has come in, so I re-dated the post to appear here today.]

Our Lord gave us his Eucharist by referring to his Blood as "the Blood of the new and everlasting Covenant." With that declaration he echoes Moses' words in ratifying the ancient Mt. Sinai Covenant. "Behold the blood of the Covenant!" [Exodus 24:8]

The Mt. Sinai Covenant took place with God DEMANDING reverence for his untouchably holy mountain at whose foot he decreed an altar of piled stones unmarked by human tools.

The Mt. Sinai Covenant— just as any covenant— is a life-and-death mutual transaction, by which both parties in the Covenant vow to lay their lives on the line for each other.

By our casual liturgical manners today, we fail to let the New and Everlasting Covenant speak of the implicit, solemn and dangerous demand Christ is requiring of us by giving us his Eucharist AS a covenant.

We do not "receive" the Eucharist with right intention if we fail to understand that it is a COVENANT, that is, a binding two-way "faithful-unto-death" vow. One never “receives” a covenant. A covenant is always agreed to and entered.

ALL SOLEMNITY is owed to the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass, simply by the very nature of a covenant.


Blogger dilexitprior said...

First of all, thank-you for your blog. I was delighted to come across it via tonight while postponing my essays to do some blog reading. Enlightening posts and from a Benedictine = Healthy procrastination. :-)

The Mt. Sinai Covenant— just as any covenant— is a life-and-death mutual transaction, by which both parties in the Covenant vow to lay their lives on the line for each other.

I'm glad to hear (read?) someone remind us that the Eucharist is a covenant. I was aware of this, but didn't really reflect upon it much until I took a theology course on the Theology of the Body. In that course I chose to do my term paper and presentation on the Eucharist in light of Theology of the Body. To recognize that in the Eucharist not only does Christ offer Himself freely, fully, faithfully, and fruitfully to us, but we are called to reciprocate with the same gift of self. In receiving the Christ's Body in the Eucharist we are (or should be) truly entering into a covenant, agreeing to reciprocate that gift. It's mind blowing when you think about it...

I think it's easy (and perhaps more comfortable) to think of the Eucharist as our reception of often do we forget that it is also our commitment to Him. Unless we put our lives on the line we will not be conformed to Him.

Anyways, I have bookmarked your blog and look forward to future readings.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Thank you!

I consider a healthy recover of "covenant spirituality" to be essential for the New Evangelization and the new "springtime of the Church". Because of that, I may repeat this particular post once a month.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


As you may notice, I have decided to place a link to this post at the top of the list of links on my blog.

6:55 AM  
Blogger JDM said...

"I consider a healthy recover of "covenant spirituality" to be essential for the New Evangelization and the new 'springtime of the Church'"

I also want to thank you for the beautiful covenant insight.
...although it took me a bit to get past that Benedectine severity.
God reward you!

2:00 PM  
Blogger JFelix said...

Father Stephanos,

Thank you so much for the reflection on the covenant aspect of the Eucharist. Your point about the covenant as a life-and-death mutual transaction reminded me of then Cardinal Ratzinger's exegesis in "Journey Towards Easter" of the Covenant between God and Abraham.

May God bless you and your ministry.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

JFelix, I just came back from visiting your blog. Thank you again.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Father, thank you for your writing. Being newly received into the Church this past Easter, I am an avid reader of all things that have anything to do with the Eucharist, theology, spirituality, etc. I have even started a blog of my own to write about my journey and our faith - hopefully it will touch someone's life, somewhere out there, in some way.

I also hope to become a part of the new evangelization with what I will be posting there. May God bless you in all you do!

2:21 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Thank you Father.

I haven't had much theological instruction since high school in the 50s so bear with me.

I've heard the reference to the "New Covenant" many times and have generally appreciated it from a historical point of view. This is the first time that I am realizing that I have a responsiblility as a result of being a party to that Covenant.

I'm ashamed to admit how recent it has been that I've really received Our Lord in Holy Communion with the solemnity, awareness and gratitude that the event deserves. And even that is just for the moment. That attitude quickly fades.

The Covenant stipulates that I have the responsibility to give myself in return to Our Lord as a husband and wife or parent and child ideally are to love each other.

But when I make that commitment to offer up all my "prayers, works, joys and sufferings" to Him, you can be sure that within a few minutes I will have forgotten that resolve and find myself flying into a minor tantrum because something in my life has not gone as I had expected.

Any thoughts on just how we are to reciprocate the gift of Life and the love we have received from Our Lord? My mind boggles at the thought of it.

Thank you again for making me think about this.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Dear Ray,

We are all in the same situation when it comes to our covenantal relationship with the Lord.

As a married man, you have a covenant with your wife. It calls you to daily faithfulness, justice, wisdo,m temperance and charity in your relationship with her.

Every Ash Wednesday we begin the season that prepares us to renew our Baptismal and Eucharistic Covenant on Easter Sunday.

The Ash Wednesday Gospel gives us three disciplines for cultivating closeness and faithfulness in our relationship with God: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving.

First of all, I'll recommend a publication that is really helpful to keep one's prayer life full of healthy and holy attitudes and intentions. It's called "Magnificat". You can ask for a free sample copy and also subscribe to it on their website.
You don't have to scale mystical heights to have a good prayer life. What we all need is an honest prayer life: daily pieces of my life simply offered up to God.

Fasting,or, Fasting and Abstinence.
A good practice is to give up eating meat on Friday, but also to "fast" by reducing one's food on Friday to an amount that adds up to less than two meals. This discipline is a "work-out" that teaches us to say "No" to ourselves, even if we have to suffer a little (or sometimes a lot). It is to be done with a spirit of "training" to be ready for whatever God asks of us.

Almsgiving. I recommend some small amount physically set aside on a daily basis. Two quarters (fifty cents). The physical act and the physical cash can impress on you the real (not merely theoretical) act of providing alms for the poor. At the end of each week or each month, you can "translate" the cash into a check written and mailed to a charitable organization. Then, use the same coins for the next week or month. Alms are to be given in a spirit of imitating the Father's goodness.

I've tried to keep this practical and simple. Training. Practice. Habit.

It grows on you ... and you grow through it.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Thank you Father. That will be extremely helpful.

It spreads my "prayer-life from two or three times a day to much of the day, when I have to make spiritual decisions on praying, eating/consuming and spending/saving. Everything becomes a prayer in that respect.

Pray for me, as I will for you. Thank you again.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For many years I have received Communion in a passive way - reverently, and thankfully, but without any thought of my part of the Covenant. Thank you for reminding me of just what a Covenant is.
For the past several years, I have been a Eucharistic Minister in my parish, and as I give the Body and Blood of Jesus to parishoners, I pray that in some way Jesus will awaken in them a greater understanding and fervor for the gift they are receiving. I think we Catholics are losing/have lost a lot of the faith in the Divine Presence. I wish our priest would preach on this topic and also on the Covenant aspect of communion.
Thank you for your blog - I really enjoy your comments.

7:16 AM  

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