So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Real Presence: Communion, Technology & Memory

Lest We Forget

The moment we begin to recall a deceased parent, a child, a brother or sister, friend or even an enemy, to some degree we begin to make present who and what they were for us. We recall the scent of a perfume mom used to wear. We remember dad's aftershave lotion. We recall the grip of someone's hand we used to hold, the texture of their skin we used to feel as we stroked their arm to ease their suffering or to simply show them our affection. We can practically taste the Yorkshire pudding or the clam chowder mom used to make. Our memories are embodied or embedded in all our senses, in our very flesh. We remember the blessings they brought to our life.
Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face. Have mercy on us all, we pray, that with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with the blessed Apostles, and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages, we may merit to be co-heirs to eternal life, and may praise and glorify you through your Son, Jesus Christ.—Eucharistic Prayer II.
We become present to our departed loved ones when we engage our capacity to recall who and what they were for us. We can become present to family and friends who live far from us by remembering past encounters of both a pleasant and unpleasant nature.
And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior. Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he shared our human nature in all things but sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to the sorrowful of heart, joy.—Eucharist Prayer IV.
Those who have suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse know all too well the power of memories. We remember the hurts perpetrated against us in physical ways. Because memories become embodied, victims of abuse are often locked into a memory loop that saps the very life out of them. However, the same power of mind and body, disposed to the grace of God, can be liberated from the tyranny and prison of dark experiences. Thoughts can be transformed and lives renewed in the participation of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance (confession) wherein one encounters the only One Who can give us true and lasting peace. The redeemed imagination, purified of its content—and by purified that doesn't necessarily mean discarded; purified, as in transformed, freed of limitations—can be employed to help others discover authentic freedom. The process of purification of memory begins with a request for help from Jesus and is completed when our lives are perfectly conformed to His life. Remember, Jesus suffered and died for us. His transforming and saving action extends throughout eternity. He suffers with us here and now. Our wounds are windows through which His consoling and transforming presence reaches to the heart of the soul.


In many ways, most ways really, our ability to recall the love of a friend or family member is a far richer experience than merely texting them into existence. We need not, however, set technology in complete opposition to our natural faculties. Texting, Skype-ing, phone calls and photographs and letters can connect us to those we love. A handwritten letter is a true gift that engages one's imagination in ways that the instantly retrievable and instantly disposable text message or email cannot. Recall the days when a sweetheart would perfume the letter she sent to her boyfriend or husband far away from home.

Technology can only keep alive in us what we have already planted deeply in our own souls. What texting and Skype cannot do is give us the body-felt impressions and connections that cement our convictions that last for an entire lifetime. We are, after all, enfleshed souls. Food for an enfleshed soul is neither mind candy nor junk food. True food for the enfleshed soul is something more, Someone more. As much as we may seek to touch and feel with our physical bodies the good material things in life, we are really seeking to touch the divine. The Good News is that God is already reaching out to us; we need only respond.

A true covenant is a shared conviction that is not diminished by any kind of distance. The ability to recall memories and become present to them is a superpower when compared to texting. There is no texting in heaven. There is simply no need. You cannot take your smart phone into eternity, but you do take all that you love with you. That is, if you have not lost your soul and end up in hell where all love evaporates except for the false and chaotic loves of hatred, envy, lust, etc., which envelope and imprison the soul in perfect isolation.

Have you paid attention to the Eucharist Prayers (canons) during Mass?
Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty, from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.—Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I).
Therefore, O Lord, we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of your Son, his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, and as we look forward to his second coming, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.—Eucharistic Prayer III.
The Mass is the making present, not merely as a memory in the limited sense that we moderns tend to think, of the one "holy and living sacrifice" of Calvary. Jesus is not dead but alive, and every valid Mass is a making present of His death and ressurection. If we understand that, then we should be unable to get up from kneeling in His divine Presence, because we are so rapt in His Presence! The only good reason to get up from kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus' command to go forth to spread His Gospel.

In our communion with Christ, the only Son of the living God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity Who is God the Son, we, in the Holy Spirit, are in communion with the Church on earth and throughout eternity.
The Church, the Mystical Body, exists on this earth, and is called the Church militant, because its members struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. The Church suffering means the souls in Purgatory. The Church triumphant is the Church in heaven. The unity and cooperation of the members of the Church on earth, in Purgatory, in Heaven is also called the Communion of Saints. When St. Paul uses the word "Saints" in opening an Epistle, he does not mean they are morally perfect. He has in mind Hebrew qadosh, which means set aside for God, or coming under the covenant. Being such means of course they are called to moral perfection. But of course, not all have reached it in this world.—Fr. William G. Most.
As we near the month of Holy Souls, perhaps we should consider allowing our lives to be formed in the memory (making present) of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. At Mass, we can strive to be attentive to every word, for every word of the Liturgy is saturated with the presence of the Word of God, Jesus Christ. Perhaps we can keep in mind, then, the following:
  • Jesus, the principal actor in the Mass, begins the Liturgy through His priest with the Sign of His victory over death, the Sign of the Cross.
  • Jesus forgives our venial sins during the Penitential Act.
  • Jesus is present to the assembly gathered in His name.
  • Jesus speaks through the reading of Holy Scripture and in His Holy Gospel.
  • Jesus, present in His priest, transforms the bread and wine into His very Body and Blood during the consecration.
  • Jesus remembers us to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus gives Himself to us in Holy Communion.
  • Jesus blesses us and sends us forth to invite everyone to an intimate communion with Him in His Church.
  • Jesus guides and protects the Supreme Pontiff and He gives His Spirit to protect the Catholic Church in Her mission to save souls.
November is a month of remembering. The solemnity of All Saints and the feast of All Souls begin again our journey through the four last things: death, judgement, heaven or hell.
In Canada, we have Remembrance Day, the day on which we recall the sacrifices made by the brave members of our armed services who have given their lives in defence of freedom: soldiers, sailors, airmen, doctors and nurses. My British mother referred to the Day as Armistice Day, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in 1918 when 'the war to end all wars', World War I, came to an end. Every year we attended with mom the November 11th ceremony at the cenotaph, rain or,... well, rain. Civilians wore a red poppy on their coats near the heart. Hymns accompanied by the cadet band were sung. A trumpet would sound; a silence would descend. A formidable blast from a howitzer that typically shattered more than a few windows, followed by the trumpet, would signal the end of the silence. Prayers were said. Real prayers, not politically correct prayers sanitized of any reference to Christ. As the names of fallen soldiers were read aloud above a military band accompaniment, wreaths were laid before the monument to the memory of the young men of our small town who gave their lives in service to God and country. Before and after the ceremony, young cadets marched alongside members of various active regiments and veterans in a fitting tribute to the fallen. Old men, chests decorated with medals testifying to their bravery, marched. The sacrifices made by the veterans of the First and Second World Wars, and the Korean War, along with the supreme sacrifice made by their fallen comrades who stood against tyranny, reminded us that peace and the dignity of man require defence. That defence is continued by our current security and armed forces. We pray for their safety.
This year on November 11th, our national memory will be saturated with the loss of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. We honour them by remembering them. Let us honour the Son of God Whose sacrifice makes possible their and our entry into heaven.
Heavenly Father,
though we have strayed from Your Law,
look not on our sins but on the faith of Your Church
and have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Watch over those who defend our nation,
our brave brothers and sisters who defend freedom at home and abroad.

Your Son, our Lord, taught us that peacemakers are blessed.
May we always defend the weak and innocent
and oppose with every just means of defence those who threaten peace.

May Your Holy Spirit guide and protect us from every danger, spiritual and temporal. 
In Jesus' name. Amen.

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