Summary: The transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that gathers us into one body.
January 5, 2009
The radical change, the change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a change made present in Bethlehem as God revealed Himself as human, is the same change we celebrate here each day on our altar. Reality is transformed; the insignificant becomes the Lord of all time. And that transformation means that we, too, can be transfigured with all the world into images of Christ.
The daily celebration that brings on this transformation is the realm of action of the Holy Spirit. In every Mass, right at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest, standing in persona Christi, extends his hands over the offering and invokes the Holy Spirit. It was that Spirit that Jesus invoked at the Last Supper, the Spirit of Truth. We make a big deal out of the presence of the Spirit because the Spirit is the agent of transformation. The deacon bows, then kneels. The bells are rung to signal and celebrate the divine presence. John tells us today: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God. Here, the Holy Spirit not only acknowledges Jesus in the flesh, but makes Jesus present under the forms of bread and wine. The transubstantiation of the Eucharistic elements is His work. The Holy Father reminds us of the words of St. Cyril: we "call upon God in his mercy to send his Holy Spirit upon the offerings before us, to transform the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ. Whatever the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and completely transformed" (par 13)
What is the point of all this fuss? The Pope brings the prayer to the Holy Spirit into context: the petition to the Father to send down the gift of the Spirit so that the bread and wine will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ is also a prayer that the community as a whole will become ever more the body of Christ. As Eucharistic Prayer 4 prays: grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit,
they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory.
That, of course, implies that we care about one another and support one another. I have felt that support from this faith community in a particular way over the past week, and want to thank you for making real the prayer of Jesus that we all be one.