Andrew Kustec, M.Th.
1. What we believe: John 6
2. How we celebrate: The Liturgy of the Eucharist
3. How we live: The Mystical Body of Christ
4. How we pray: The Eucharist and Prayer
How I wish we could gather together to discuss this crucially important topic, but we are prevented. We must remember that God is working in this trial. We ought to trust Him, we ought to let him be our shepherd. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
I’d like to start with a quote by Fr. Robert Arida, priest of the Orthodox Christian tradition. Speaking to the 21st-century Christian faithful, he says:
“For some, maybe even for many, hearing that the Eucharist is the place where our corporate (communal) and personal rule of prayer take on their shape and purpose may sound a bit strange. If the connection between prayer and the Eucharist sounds unfamiliar to us, it is because Christians over past centuries and for a variety of reasons have been conditioned to accept the tragic separation between our celebration of the Eucharist and everyday life. The outcome of this horrible divorce has been, and continues to be, either an unawareness or skepticism that the celebration of the Liturgy provides the formation, content and direction for living day today. The divorce between liturgy and life is nothing less than the inability to allow our con-celebration of the Eucharist to impact our lives so that the way we pray is perceived as having a direct effect on what we believe and how we live.”
What Fr. Arida and others are observing in many Christians is a lack of continuity between prayer, belief and life. This is tragic and even anger-inducing. But before we get upset at the state of Christianity or the state of specific Christian souls, let us look at ourselves. “How can you say to your brother, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)
Do we give ourselves to the Lord in prayer every day? Do we understand that we are servants and that our life is ordered towards cooperation with God and His providence? Do we love what we say we believe? Do we live the virtues of faith, hope, and charity? Do we love one another as Christ loved us? (John 13:34-35).
In short, we may ask ourselves how close we are adhering to the ancient Christian maxim, “Lex Orandi, Lex Cridendi, Lex Vivendi;” the law of praying is the law of believing is the law of living. The use of the word “law” (in the English translation) suggests that each of these pillars is essential. And the grammar shows them to be essentially interconnected! You cannot pray without it affecting what you believe and how you live. You cannot believe something without it affecting how you pray and how you live. You cannot live any certain way without it affecting how you pray and what you believe. This tight spiritual nexus exists in every soul.
We need our prayer to be strong and humble if we want our belief to be faithful and unwavering if we want our life to be charitable and full. We must make firm resolutions to repent and conform ourselves to the gospel. We desire to be like Nathaniel, toward whom Jesus exclaimed, “here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:48).
We’ve discussed over the past weeks the importance of right belief in, the celebration of and life in the Eucharist. Prayer, deservingly so, is the final component. Prayer is the nourishment of the Christian life. It is the place of retreat, refreshment, inspiration and comfort. St. Paul understood its importance: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
If “praying unceasingly” sounds more like a burden than a joy, we must remind ourselves of Jesus in John 4, the Woman at the Well: “There came a woman of Samar′ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘give me a drink.’ For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘how is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar′ia?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, ‘if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.'”
Jesus thirsts and he asks the woman for a drink. We are the Samaritan woman. Jesus asks us for a drink. He thirsts for us! He calls us to himself – we can trust him! And we respond, “how is it that you, God, ask a drink of me?” Yes, we should be amazed. He loves us, we are the quench to His thirst. And by approaching God at the well of prayer, we are given living water which wells up to eternal life! Prayer is a joy!
We ought, then, to take Jesus’ words very seriously when he responds to his disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” In fact, the Church has taken these words seriously. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) paragraphs 2777-2865 for the official Church discourse on the Our Father.
As I stated earlier, prayer is nourishment. It is our source of life. We need it to survive. It is very curious then, that Jesus mentions bread – the biblical word used interchangeably with food or nourishment – in his teaching on prayer. Referring to the line, “give us this day our daily bread,” CCC 2837 states, “daily (epiousios),” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of “this day,” to confirm us in trust “without reservation.”
Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence. Taken literally (epi-ousios: “super-essential”), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the “medicine of immortality;” without which we have no life within us. Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: “this day” is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason, it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.
The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that gathered into his Body and made members of him, we may become what we receive (emphasis added) . . . . This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage.
The Father in Heaven urges us, as children of Heaven, to ask for the bread of Heaven. Christ himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from Heaven.”
In Christ’s own teaching on prayer, he commands us to consume him. We quench God’s thirst by receiving him, literally and spiritually; and in this communion, we indeed become what receive.
Won’t you foster a life of prayer, that you might receive Jesus with greater love and affection in the Eucharist? Won’t you spend some time with Him in the adoration chapel? Won’t you consider celebrating the Eucharist at daily mass? Won’t you love the God who humbles himself so much as to take on the form of bread and wine, that you might receive Him?
In this extraordinary time of distancing and isolation, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is not always possible. During these times, Catholics may make a spiritual communion to ask the Lord for the grace in the Eucharist when we are not able to receive sacramentally. Consider saying this Act of Spiritual Communion recommended by St. Alphonsus Ligouri:
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
God bless you all. Know of my prayers for you and RooCatholic! I hope to be with you again soon.
Andrew is an alumnus of The University of Akron (B.S. Civil Engineering, 2017) and the Augustine Institute (M.A. Theology, 2019). He has taken up and greatly enjoys the apostolate of catechesis and faith formation when he is not serving as a bridge engineer for a local consultant. Andrew and his wife, Lauren, live in Copley, Ohio.
Connect with Andrew: email@example.com