This is the second of a four-part series on understanding one of the difficulties we will face in implementing a Eucharistic Revival and how we may overcome it.
In the first article of this series, “Why can’t People hear what I am Saying?”, we looked at the fact that we may be talking past each other when we engage in conversations with those who do not share our views. In this article, we will be looking at exactly where that miscommunication lies with regard to talking with people about the Eucharist. Understanding where this conflict lies will be valuable as we move in the remaining articles to looking for ways we can get past this conflict so that we may enjoy a True Eucharistic Revival in our diocese.
When we say that we want a Eucharistic Revival, we are saying that we would like for people both within and outside of the Church to find a deeper relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist. We are saying that we recognize the importance of the Eucharist and that we would like the Eucharist to be at the center of renewal within the Church, a renewal that will reach those who come to Mass, those who are joined to us by Baptism but no longer come to our parishes or to the Eucharist, those who are joined to us by Baptism but may never have joined with us in the celebration of the Eucharist, and those who have not yet accepted the invitation to Baptism. We are hoping for a Eucharistic Revival that brings new vigor and fruitfulness to our lives as disciples and missionaries.
But what are the assumptions underlying these desires? What understandings of the Eucharist and a life in Christ are we relying on when we express these desires? I think we can identify at least three of these assumptions that are foundational to our understanding of the Eucharist and to our desire for Eucharistic Revival. Likewise, we can see that to each of these is opposed a contrary understanding that is common in our society and that will prevent many from agreeing with us on even the most basic levels with regard to the Eucharist.
The First Conflict: At the Level of Reality
First, there is the level of understanding how reality works. We believe that the things of the world are real and that each thing has a definable essence that makes it what it is and allows us to understand what it is. We understand that in the Eucharistic celebration we are engaging with these realities, some of which go beyond what our senses can apprehend but which are nonetheless real. In the Eucharist, we are truly brought into contact with spiritual realities. In the Eucharist, what we bring as bread and wine undergoes a substantial change and truly becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Our God becomes present to us.
Opposed to this is the view that there are no essences. When we speak of the things around us, on this view, we are mistaken to think that there is an underlying reality to them. Someone who sees the world this way would not be able to make sense of the claim that we are in touch with a spiritual reality or that the substance of the sacred species had changed from bread and wine into Jesus.
The Second Conflict: At the Level of Knowledge
Second, there is a conflict at the level of knowledge. For us, we understand that we can know things about the world. We can make true and false claims, and they are true or false according to whether or not they accurately describe reality. You can see that this depends on there being a reality to which our statements can conform. If I say that “This chair is blue,” on this understanding of knowledge, that can only be true if there is such a thing as a chair, there is an actual chair in front of me, there is such a thing as the color blue, and the chair in front of me to which I am referring is in fact blue. In the Eucharist, I can actually come to know Jesus more fully through the proclamation of the Sacred Scriptures, through the homily, through the words of the prayers of the Mass because He is real and each of these tells me about Him.
Opposed to this understanding, there is the view of the world that there is no such thing as objective truth. Instead, on this view, knowledge is not a grasp of a truth that conforms to reality but a socially constructed way of looking a things that we agree upon or, possibly, merely truth within a system. Someone whose underlying understanding of knowledge and truth takes these forms will not be able to understand what we are saying when we speak about the truths of the Faith with regard to the Eucharist. That is not a system that they have bought into, and they will most likely think that the way we are using language conforms not to reality but springs from a way of speaking and thinking that was developed, on their view, to prop up the power of the hierarchy of the Church.
The Third Conflict: The Level of Morality
Third, there is the conflict at the level of morality. We understand that there is right and wrong. There are good and noble actions, and there are sins. When we stray from virtuous action, when we are selfish instead of loving, when we act against the natural law, we are in a state of sin and need to be reconciled to God, to the Church, and to those we have hurt. Once reconciled, we can once again approach the Lord to receive Him in Holy Communion where He will continue healing us by His very presence.
But what if you did not believe in right and wrong, in virtue, in natural law? What if you saw morality as a construct designed to oppress the masses? What if morality was seen just as whatever I think is right, as being true to myself and the values I hold? In such a case, I would not need a Savior, I would not need to be healed of my sins, I would not need Jesus or to find Him in the Eucharist. I would be sufficient unto myself.
These are just brief outlines of these conflicts, but I think we can begin to see that there is a gap between what we would like people to believe as part of a Eucharistic Revival and the place from which they are starting. If someone does not believe in reality, in essences, in objective truth, and in morality, how are the things that we are going to say to them about the Eucharist going to make any sense?
In the next article, we will see if we can get some answer to this from the way Jesus and some of the saints throughout history have dealt with similar problems.
Where we are going:
Part 3: Jesus’ and the Saints’ approach to Shifting Understanding
Part 4: Strategies for Moving Forward
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Dr. Seth Wright
Director of Missionary Discipleship
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