The Only Permanance
The world around us is in turmoil and changing in front of our very eyes. Is thre anything "out there" that we can count on as a reliable anchor?
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source: Catholic.net
“(T)hose whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away” (I Cor 7:31 JB). These lines were written two thousand years ago, yet in our own turbulent times, they couldn’t be more chilling, more prophetic. When Paul wrote them he was addressing a community that was in the midst of its own swirling turmoil. Corinth was a vastly diverse commercial center with every manner of goods, temptations, money and trade available. Sound familiar?
The Corinthians who made up that community were of every status, from richest to poorest. Division and discrimination in the community centered around who gets to take “the supper” first, how much people were eating, and especially drinking and so on. Within the community, factions were developing and everyone was missing the point of the sacred meal and the concept of community. Paul wrote these words to remind his nascent community what is really important and where their attention should be focused in order to avoid being distracted from their true purpose as Christians. The situation is eerily similar to what is happening in the world today. Our world leaders are frantically meeting to figure out the “fix” for the financial markets. If you listen to any of the pundits you know that the truth is no one really knows what to do! Our world as we know it is quite literally passing away.
Paul’s message to the Corinthians reminds them that nothing is permanent and even if they have to deal with the world to make a living, that is the least important thing they are engaged in. He reminds them to not get “engrossed” in it because it will not last. So then what about our position as Christians today? How should we be thinking, what should we do, where do we go to “protect” our money? His advice is no different today; don’t focus there, it’s passing away. Turn your heart and mind to the only permanent thing that we have on the earth, the Church and the amazing gift of the Eucharist.
Eucharist, you are consuming the body of Christ; you are consuming the blood of the risen God! This is more than astounding if you actually give it a minute of though. Preposterous claims if you were a thinking, educated person at all and the early Romans were. It’s no wonder that all sorts of rumor and innuendo surrounded the Christian community in the first centuries after Jesus death! In North Africa, stories circulated about how the Christians practiced cannibalism. It’s not surprising that until Christianity became the law of the land in A.D. 314 people were out to persecute and eradicate Christians in general.
What is it about this Miracle of the True Presence that is so permanently rooted in Jesus own behaviors and words? Why has the reality of this teaching lasted these many two-thousand years almost unchanged from the night Jesus himself established the Sacrament? Enduring, despite lies persecution and the martyrdom of so many? In the witness of early Church writings there are two things that jump out at you. The first is that for the earliest christians, the people who endured the severest hard times of persecution, the Eucharist was something you lived, not something to which you only gave lip service. The second is the way that Christians clung to “community” no matter what. Even to the extreme of setting up and maintaining secret “house churches” that were well camouflaged, but created for the benefit of the “brethren”. The rich built homes with the community, not themselves, in mind. Like the model, that the Master himself created, life was prayer and prayer was life. In fact, praise in the form of melodic lines was so like the spoken word that, often, public speech could not be distinguished from the cadenced line of song! Speech was praise and praise was speech. Every faith statement that the earliest Christians engaged in was not separated from daily life, but simply an extension of it.
The “ritual meal” was the hub from which everything else radiated. No wonder this Sacrament stands so firm today even in a culture that no longer values community and erroneously prides itself on “rugged individuality”. To this day Eucharist still brings us together and still unites us in a way that we can't even articulate. Its power heals us and calms us, and calls us back over and over.
The fact is that Eucharist today is still celebrated with same four elements that have been present for two-thousand years, unchanged: taking, thanking, blessing, breaking. The reiteration of this form is itself a witness to the power of the event. Even in meals that were not labeled as the Last Supper, like the feeding of the five thousand, these same elements were present. Could it be that every time Jesus shared a meal during his ministry, he knew that it would be the archetype of an event that would shape, indeed preserve, civilization? We need to look at the fact that the singular event of the Last Supper formed and molded early Christian Communities and eventually the entire Church. Its permanence of form and influence on the world are witness enough. Every Saint who was ever martyred, in all of history, participated in the same experience that we come to on any Sunday. What a blessing we have been given.
In truth, Communion and the Living Christ is the only thing that we will ever have that is not passing away. It is the one thing that we can keep our eyes on that will not change. Turn your heart and mind to the only permanent thing which has ever existed and delight in the fact that, as Catholics, this gift is ours, “pressed down, shaken together and over flowing”. We are no different that the first century Christians. Go to the Eucharist, that’s the only place you’ll find truth for these troubled times.
Copyright© 2008 by Kathryn M. Cunningham, all rights reserved.