Cleansing Fire

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Giving thanks after Mass: Gathering ‘Other’ Fragments

July 12th, 2019, Promulgated by Diane Harris

“Eat and run” is a colloquialism from the early 1900’s, when it was used to imply violating the social mores of hospitality, a kind of rudeness toward the host or hostess, taking the food and work of preparation for granted, only accepting an invitation to consume what is offered, not to enjoy the company. Another version is “come late; leave early” and, later in the twentieth century, morphing into the expression “fast food.”  Various parts of the world have embraced the “fast food” ambiance at different rates, “turning the table” more quickly to accommodate more business, even using color combinations in restaurants to psychologically make people want to eat and leave.

But among the joys of international travel (and there are not as many these days) has been the culture or art of making dining timeless. The three hour dinner (and longer!) has much more purpose, even in business, than just eating. It requires the art of genuinely wanting to get to know the people at the table, and allowing oneself to be known. And it embraces the lost ability to disagree without being disagreeable, to be inquisitive without being nosy, to grow and value a relationship with sincerity and expectation.

The bible is replete with events related to consuming food, and 40 years of manna in the wilderness is a centerpiece in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the key food-related events are the miracles of the loaves and fish and, of course, confection of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Food, and eating together as a group, have special emphasis in many other Teaching Moments of Christ. His first public miracle is at a wedding feast, where He protects the couple from being embarrassed (and perhaps provides even a wedding gift of excess wine for the larder of the bride and groom.) He criticizes those who take the best places at table; He chides a host who did not provide basic hospitality such as a kiss, and foot-washing. Christ raises a girl from the dead and tells her parents to give her something to eat. He helps Martha to put her food preparation in the right perspective to God’s Word and, above all, offers the gift of Himself in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine. After the Resurrection, Christ arrives in His Risen Body, in the Upper Room, to show by consuming food that He is really alive  and, on another day, He prepares broiled fish at the seashore for some of His apostles. 

Mary Mother of the Eucharist

We know that gratitude was (and still is) important to Jesus, because He criticized the nine lepers who did not return to give thanks for being cured. But the crowning glory of His gifts is the Eucharist; the word means Thanksgiving. Giving Himself in this way, at the Last Supper and through 2000 years of Masses, demands a proper Thanksgiving. What does that mean? Certainly it is not caving into the “fast food” mindset. Instead of “Come late, leave early,” perhaps it is the opposite: “Come early” for preparation and recollection, and “Stay late” for a little bit of time for thanksgiving and gratitude. There are, of course, various prayers which include the St. Michael Prayer (so vital in these times but not prayed in many parishes, and actually forbidden by the pastor in one prominent local parish), and the classic “Anima Christi” (Soul of Christ) found in many missalettes.  I prefer the rhymed version which I learned in grammar school (rhyming makes it easier to remember):                      

https://d2wldr9tsuuj1b.cloudfront.net/5285/documents/2014/4/Anima%20Christi.pdf

Another prayer after Communion is to the Blessed Mother:                  https://anastpaul.tumblr.com/post/71951389319/mother-upon-my-lips-today-christs-precious/amp

These are good, relevant prayers to keep us focused on the great gift we just received. But there is also another way — we learn from the Holy Spirit, Who reminds us of what Christ commanded, after those at the miracle of the loaves and fish had all eaten their fill, to collect the fragments. Surely one point to be made was how much greater volume there was of the fragments compared to the small amount from which the bread and fish were multiplied. That is because it is a miracle, not a slight of hand or marvelous oration. But there is also a concept in collecting the “fragments” after Mass which invites us to “revisit” the Mass in which we just participated, and realize that the fragments are much more than we initially realized we’d received. Can we remember the readings? No? Take a look at them again. Notice, that far too often the readings skip over verses in order perhaps to pack more into a reading, but we also lose what is dropped from the reading and we lose the sense of momentum in reading scripture. These fragments also can be collected, by reading the entirety of the reading in a bible, focusing on the  “missing verses”, so that nothing is lost. What about the homily or sermon? What key points most touched our hearts? or surprised us? In our Thanksgiving this is a wonderful time to talk such points over with the Lord, and not to be surprised if we then receive even more understanding. Did we pray for all the intentions we brought? Did we offer ourselves? Do we remember the hymns we sang? We can also read the unsung verses, some of which are even more beautiful than what we sing. We can rehear the words of consecration in our hearts, envision the care that the celebrant expresses in the consecration, in his receiving and distributing Communion, and in his cleansing the vessels, as we pray in adoration of the Son of God, the greatest gift of all. Even stretching out our personal conversation with Jesus for just a few minutes brings a richness and personal gift in those fragments we collect, that we don’t let fall to the ground, unnoticed.

It is odd, isn’t it, how so many people want to spend eternity with God, but not a few minutes after Mass! Sometimes people complain that they don’t know what else to say, except a quick “Thank you.” Hopefully, the image of collecting the fragments with reverence and sensitivity can enrich the experience of Thanksgiving.

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