Monday, June 19, 2017

Celebrating Corpus Christi, the Eucharist

The feast of Corpus Christ, the celebration of Christ present in the Eucharist, is very important for people here in our parish. 

In several places in the parish, where there are Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, the Eucharist is reserved in the town or village church. Most of these churches celebrated the Forty Hours devotion from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. This devotion, recalling the approximately forty hours between the death and resurrection of Jesus, used to be common in the United States. I remember it from my youth. Here it Is much more common even today. Usually a priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister exposes the Eucharist in a monstrance and people in the town or village take times to be present and pray. I passed by the church in Plan Grande several times during the Forty Hours  - to pray in private the Liturgy of the Hours – and I always found people praying, often in a profound silence.

Since the extraordinary minister in neighboring Candelaria was gone, they asked me to expose the Eucharist for adoration on Friday. I arrived at 3:00 pm in a pouring rain. After exposing the Eucharist, we spent about thirty minutes in silence and in several prayers, including a reading from the Gospel and prayers of Saint Francis and Blessed Charles de Foucauld.

Saturday we had a meeting of the parish pastoral council. During the meeting, Padre German gave an extended catechesis on processions and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Recalling the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas he noted that the Eucharist brings, in Spanish, una gracia cibativa, which sustains, increases, develops and repairs life. With this grace we live in Gdd, we let ourselves be loved by God, and we love our neighbor. There was more, but I was impressed, especially with his emphasis on the importance of receiving the Eucharist often. Later, affirming my suspicions, I noted that the Latin word cibare refers to feeding or, in the passive, being fed.

In the afternoon I was going to go with Padre to the sector of San Isidro where they had planned a procession from Yaruconte to Dolores, a walk over dirt roads of several kilometers. But we had to suspend the procession, because of the strong rains which would turn the road into mud – which would be especially difficult ascending a hill. They had had such a procession a few years ago. Here are a few photos, which concluded with Mass and First Communions in Dolores.

This year there was only a Mass that evening in Dolores. Padre German had only four or five Masses planned for Sunday.

Sunday morning I got to Candelaria at 6:30 am to put the host in the tabernacle. As I drove over I thought that maybe we should have a short Celebration of the Word with Communion – even though I had to be in another village at 9:00 am. I thought that it only seemed right that they should have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist on the feast of Corpus Christi. When I arrived, I asked them if they’d like an opportunity to receive Communion. Yes, they replied. So after prayers, including the Canticle of the Three Young Men in Daniel, from Lauds, we had a short Celebration with Communion.

I only used the Gospel in the Celebration and gave a short homily, noting that the Eucharist is Jesus the bread of Life come down from heaven which recalls that Jesus is God made flesh who came down from heaven to be with us. The Eucharist is our food, given to nourish us.  The Eucharist is given to us not only to look on and adore, but as food for our life in God.

I hurried to Bañaderos, giving about eight people a ride in the truck. When I got there I was in my worst “in-charge” mode, trying to make everything work well (as I understood it).

There over seventy people from the sector had gathered – from eight different villages. We began about a kilometer from the church and walked in procession, singing hymns and praying the glorious mysteries of the Rosary. We stopped at five altars where we prayed using themes from the recent pastoral letter of our bishop.

  • Deepening our encounter with God through the Word of God.
  • Living the sacraments as encounters with God.
  • Strengthening the family as “domestic church,’ gathered around the Table of the Eucharist.
  • Caring for our “common Home” where God reveals his glory.
  • Living the Eucharist in lives of charity and justice.
(The Spanish text can be found here. An English version is here.)

When we arrived at the church, we had a Celebration of the Word with Communion, outside. I was impressed at how well and prayerfully Erasmo read the long Sequence. After Mass, I found out that he has only had three years formal education, but has been reading the Bible and materials related to his ministry in the village where he lives, San Isidro La Cueva.

After Mass, I left quickly since I was planning to go to Mass in San Agustín. Of course, I had a few people in the car.

As I was driving through an Isidro la Cueva, after leaving off several people, I heard a loud noise in the car. I stopped and opened the hood to survey the damage – one of the fan belts was broken and wrapped around a part of the ventilator fan. I removed it and as two young guys stopped to help we found another fan belt that had fallen off. Luckily the car still worked and it wasn’t the ventilator fan belt – just the hydraulic brake and air conditioning bands. So I got home, where I discovered that I had a nearly flat tire – and what looked like a brake line leak. With the help of a neighbor’s son-in-law, we got the tire changed.

Monday I got to Dulce Nombre where the tire was repaired and a mechanic put in two new belts and also replaced two balineras (ball-bearings).  The leak y the tire was oil from the differential which leaked out because of a broken balinera.

Though Sunday afternoon I was a little worried about the car, there was a deeper cause for sadness.

I had been looking forward to Mass on Corpus Christi. Even though I had received Christ in the Eucharist two times, I still had a longing for the communal celebration of the Eucharist. But what struck me in all this was my longing not just to be fed the Eucharist but to pray in a full scale celebration of the Eucharist at a Mass with a community.

I wonder how many of the people here also experience this longing. It is good to receive Christ in Communion, but maybe something is lacking when people don’t have enough opportunities to celebrate together – nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist around the Table of the Lord.

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