Eucharist, also called Holy Communion or Lord’s Supper in Christianity, is a ritual commemoration of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. The Eucharist (from the Greek eucharistia for “thanksgiving”) is the central act of Christian worship and is practised by most Christian churches in some form. It is one of the two sacraments most clearly found in the New Testament, along with baptism.
The earliest Christians regularly enacted the Eucharist. Initially, the rite was a repetition of the typical meal of the local group of disciples, with the addition of the bread and the cup signifying the presence of Jesus. St. Paul’s earliest record of the ordinance in his first letter to the Corinthians, written about 55 CE, suggests that some abuses had arisen in conjunction with the everyday meal, or agapē, with which it was combined. It had become an occasion of drunkenness and gluttony. St. Paul recalled and re-established the original institution and its purpose and interpretation as a sacrificial-sacramental rite to rectify this. Fellowship meals continued in association with the post-apostolic Eucharist, as shown in the Didachē (a Christian document concerned with worship and church discipline written c. 100–c. 140) and in the doctrinal,liturgical development described in the writings of the early Church Fathers little was changed. The meal became vestigial during the late 2nd century and was finally abandoned. The Eucharist was initially celebrated every Sunday, but by the 4th century, it was celebrated daily.
Eucharist in General (some general considerations only)
1. In the following lessons, we meditate on the mystery of the Eucharist. Eucharist flows from the mystery of Jesus Christ. It is the perpetually shining gift of the Father for the Church. Loving his people till the end, Jesus established the Eucharist (CFR Jn 13/1-2).
2. In the night that he was getting ready for his passion and death, Jesus instituted the Eucharist and entrusted it to his disciples to continue celebrating it till he came again. Eucharist is Jesus' departing gift to humanity. One needs to keep it with excellent fidelity and love. According to the West Syrian tradition, Eucharist began to be celebrated on the Wednesday following Pentecost by St. James, the brother of the Lord in Jerusalem. Though a legend, this tradition indicates that the instruction of the Lord, “whenever you meet, do this in memory of me”, began to be realised from day one of the church's existence. Celebration of the Eucharist in the Church is in fulfilment of the prophecy. In the last days with the spirit on every flesh (Joel 2/28-29) from the rising of the son, to it setting everywhere incense is offered to my name and pure offering (Mal 1/11).
3. Eucharist, whether daily or weekly, is the finest moment of our being united with Christ, by bhakti poorvam participating in it. The testimony of Acts 2/42 indicates that the earliest Christian community got together primarily to celebrate the Eucharist (breaking of the Bread) after praising the Lord (v 47) and listening to the Apostle's teaching (v 42), and caring for and sharing with the brothers who were in need. Instead of being separate actions, all the four elements converged into the Breaking of the Bread, which the Lord commandedto be the specific features of their coming together. All these elements together constituted for them the Community, the Church.
4. To “say Mass” is not just reciting it (cholluka); to “see it” is not merely an exercise of the eye (kanuka). To hear Mass is not just an exercise of the ear. Mass should become a celebration of the Heart, of the love of Jesus. If Eucharist was the final gift of Jesus' love for us, celebrating and participating in the Eucharist should be the finest moment of expression of our love for Jesus. The constant praising of the Lord, thanksgiving to him, humble request for remission of our sins, our petitions and supplications are all manifestations of our clinging to God.
5. Meeting Jesus present on the altar is the same as encountering Jesus. The 1st blessing makes us enter into the love of the Father, into the Grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, with the subsequent invitation to raise our bodhangal –charanga –hridhayangal to the right hand of God the Father, making us walk in the Way of becoming the Childrenof God (divinisation, theosis). Every request to pardon our offences and remission of sins becomes a preparation for receiving Jesus in Holy Communion that becomes the most significant moment of our union with God.
Liturgy of St. James Origin and Development
1. The Eucharistic celebration of the Malankara Catholic Church is known as the Liturgy of St. James. It had its origin in Jerusalem/Antioch attributed to St. James ‘Brother’ of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence the Name. Like any other literature the world over of the ancient period, it was learnt by heart by the celebrating priests. It existed in (hand) written form in some Cathedrals and monasteries. From the kiss of Peace to the second Blessing, the Anaphora part took a somewhat definite shape between 350-450 AD. What precedes and follows the anaphora was formed and added to it piece by piece during a long process of liturgical growth extending up to several centuries. During their formation into the Jacobite Church, the monophysitic group adopted the LosJ as their Patriarchal Liturgy. A revision work was done on the first Syriac version by Jacob of Edessa, commentaries made by Mose Bar Kepha and Dionysius Bar Saliti between the 8th and 12th centuries.
2. The Jacobite Bishops,as they arrived in Kerala, they Jacobite Bishops introduced St. James's liturgy gradually to the Puthenkoor Community. The liturgy of St. James was kept in the safe custody of the Jacobite Church till it was first printed by the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Rahamani in Rome in1922 and thus became the liturgical Patrimony of the universal Church. At the beginning of the Malankara Catholic Church, Mar Ivanios used the same Los the that he operated until then as a priest and Bishop, the Pampakuda Edition. In 1934 he printed the exact text for the use of the MCC.
3. Today, the liturgy of St. James is used by the Syrian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox and Maronite Churches of the Middle East, and by their Migrants to many continents, by the Jacobite, Orthodox groups, the Malankara Catholic Church, the Marthomites and their Migrants, the Thozhiyoor Church in India. Those who belong to this sublime spiritual tradition are united in dynamic spiritual bondage that should animate them to live and work together and express their faith and share their joys and woes in an atmosphere of communion that is said to have existed in the primordial Christian community that came into existence by the breaking of the bread (Acts 2/42-47). Liturgy of St. James is the celebration of Salvation History accomplished by Jesus' death and resurrection. The memorial of the historical salvation events is not a mere intellectual reference to some of the activities of Jesus, but of his person who accomplished it and continues to make it actual for every faithful through the liturgy. In the memorial, the very person of Jesus becomes present to the worshipper. Jesus' presence amid the Worshipping Community, his real presence in the Eucharist, is an active saving presence. It is for the worshipper to convert Jesus saving presence into his salvation. In the process,Jesus' presence becomes a transforming power for the worshipper.
2. In different units of the Los, the worshipper is placed before the healing and teaching presence of the Lord. (They gathered to him to hear him and to be healed by him (Lc6/18))
A few suggestions for personalising the celebration:
1. The numerous requests we make forgetting our sins forgiven are admissions of our sinfulness that transforms us and puts us on the path of the prodigal Son. Forgiveness received increases Love. “As much of her sins are forgiven, she has loved more.” (Lc 7/47) Freedom from sins calls for greater loving.
2. At Epiclesis, the Holy Spirit anoints the praying community, its members and the gifts. The Spirit of God completes everything and gives shape and beauty to everything salvation historical.
3. The Body and Blood of Christ received by the communicants guarantee the pardon of offences and forgiveness of sin, and life eternal.
4. The Eucharist imparts the “Love of the Father " to the participants. The grace of the Son and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in a word, into the life of the Holy Trinity.
5. In the final dismissal, the good wish, “go happily and joyfully and in the piece”, resumes all the transforming blessings accepted in and through the Eucharistic celebration.
6. Participation in the Post Anaphora of Los, particularly in the Thubten, Our Father, in the Kuklion, enhances the awareness of a participant, of being a member of a community that should become a source of knowledge of one’s identity, strength and courage and frees him from the bondage of sheer individualism.
7. The life eternal (Nithyajeevan) that is imparted in every blessing makes the participant a man of hope and expectation of his final destiny.
As a whole, the Eucharistic celebration becomes, for an active (engaging) participant, a liberative process that should help him leave the festival “joyfully, happily and in peace” as wished by the celebrant as he sends away the faithful in the find blessing.
(prepared by Fr. Varghese Anjanithadathil)