Once in a lifetime, you might be wondering why we celebrate the Eucharist the way it is. I never asked the question why we do what we always do in the Eucharist. But one day I started to question, why? And one of the “why” question that came to my mind is why the Eucharistic celebration has that order: we begin with the liturgy of the Word, and then liturgy of the Eucharist.
At first it does not seem to be intuitive for me, in many prayers, such as the liturgy of the hours (the official prayer of the church), we begin with Thanksgiving and praise (through the psalm), and then we have the Word of God. In many prayer groups, we sang praise and thanksgiving also, and then we have the preaching of the Word. But why in the Eucharistic Celebration, all those seems to be reversed? We begin with the Word, and then the Eucharist (the greek word for Thanksgiving).
I remember one day I read a book, which now I can’t remember the title. And it explains the “why” of my question. It turns out to be simple, and the more I reflect on it, the more I understood how true it is.
The reason is that in the Eucharistic Celebration, the order of the liturgy follows that of the life of Jesus himself. In fact, our participation in the Eucharistic celebration becomes a participation in the life of Jesus! Isn’t amazing?
Just as Jesus began his public ministry by preaching, so it is in our liturgy as we enter the Eucharistic celebration: we have the liturgy of the Word! Just as Jesus preach 2000 years ago, he still preaches now. Just as the Word of God is being proclaimed, so it is today in the liturgy of the Word. It is the same Jesus that speaks and preaches. That is why we stand up when the Gospel is going to be proclaimed, and we cried “Alleluia!!”, praise the Lord! God is going to speak again in our midst. And we all fell into silence as the Word is spoken and being broken for us to eat.
And just as Jesus finish his public ministry by going to Jerusalem for His passion, death and resurrection, so too we enter the liturgy of the Eucharist. In this liturgy of the Eucharist, we enter the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We experience the sacrifice of Jesus as it was happen then. The same person, the same body is being sacrificed out of love for you and for me.
And should we wonder now that the Eucharistic celebration ends with the word, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”, just as 2000 years ago Jesus told his disciples before he ascended into heaven, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15). The same command is given to us all by Jesus himself, “Go into the world”.
There is one interesting point that we often overlook, and that is the main person in this whole celebration is Jesus. Jesus is the one who preaches, and ministers to us, Jesus is the one who sacrifices himself for us. Jesus is the one that make the offering of Love.
Many people complained that our Eucharistic celebration is not really engaging. If only we understand what is happening, we would not choose otherwise. Our celebration is the time when Jesus ministers to us just as he was 2000 years ago. We don’t need to be envy with those people who were living at the time of Jesus, because Jesus still lives today! Jesus still ministers today! What we need to do then, is to open our selves to receive what Jesus wants to do in our lives.
It’s about being like Mary instead of Martha. Our Eucharistic celebration is like Mary who listens to the Word of Jesus and allow ourselves to be nourished. It is also like Mother Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and open herself for the grace and salvation from the pierced heart of Jesus. It is like peter who allowed Jesus to wash his feet so that he may have fellowship with Jesus. Our Eucharistic celebration is not about what we want it, but it is about allowing God to do what He wants to do. This is humility. And we can participate, by allowing God to speak to us, to cherish his word, and live it.We can also participate by uniting ourselves with Jesus and his sacrifice, by accepting His love on the Cross, and His healing power to save us.
This is our celebration, it’s not about what we do, but about what God is doing. The centre of that celebration is Jesus who offers himself to the Father, and somehow we are caught in that love exchange between Jesus and the Father. This exchange of love is God’s divine life, and by participating in this Eucharist and uniting ourselves with Jesus, we have participated in that divine life.