Saturday, November 17, 2012

Until He Comes

In today's Mass we hear Apocalyptic language in Daniel and Mark's Gospel in the context of the end times, that is, when the triumph of Jesus over sin and death, and the transformation of the cosmos in him will be complete. 

Yet we also know that the glorious future of God's kingdom is a present reality in Jesus. In him he age to come has already broken into this present age. Indeed, the writer to the Hebrews describes Christians as those who "have [already] tasted of the powers of the age to come" (Hebrews 6:5). 

In the timelessness of the Eucharist we are merged with the worship of heaven, swept up already into the glory of eternity, and overwhelmed by the infinity of God's creating and redeeming love. That's why St Paul tells us to celebrate the Eucharist "Until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). 

The following reflection is from the Bible Alive (UK) website

The sacrifice and self-offering of Jesus to the Father on behalf of sinful humanity did not come to an end with Jesus’ ascension into glory. In his vision of heaven, the author of the Book of Revelation sees Jesus as a Lamb standing ‘as though it had been slain’ (Rev. 5:6). The liturgy of worship of him who sits on the throne (God the Father) continues in heaven. But the Lamb is at the heart of it. He is the one who with the Father is worshipped and adored, but he also is the one who continues his sacrifice of self-offering love to the Father and, as head of the Church and of all creation, draws everything and everyone into this heavenly liturgy. We can say, therefore, that our celebration of the Eucharist is not only our entry into the sacrificial death of Jesus, but also our participation in the everlasting liturgy of heaven, a participation that will be complete when he comes to raise us and bring us together with him to heaven. As Paul remarks: ‘For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’ (1 Cor. 11:26). 

All of this has implications for the way we celebrate the Eucharist. We should learn to celebrate the Eucharist as a way of expressing our hope and our longing for the Lord Jesus to come again. This is not, perhaps, a way that we have typically approached our celebration of the Eucharist, even though the Mass at various points expresses this cry of the Church, which is so boldly proclaimed by the author of the Book of Revelation: ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come’... He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Rev. 22:17, 20). 

In the Mass the Creed proclaims: ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead’; two of the memorial acclamations after the consecration refer to Christ’s coming again. In the season of Advent the focus is particularly on the Second Coming, and in funeral liturgies too we express our hope that the dead will be raised to life when the Lord comes again. 

Coming together for the Eucharist should be the time of our most intense longing for the Lord’s return. The more we appreciate the mystery of the Eucharist, both in what it achieves and in what is still needing to be brought to completion, the more we shall celebrate it and experience it as the deepest cry of the Church for the Lord to come. 

Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze ‘to him who is to come’. In her prayer she calls for his coming: Marana tha!, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’


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