Article written by Carmen Mangion
Summer is about holidays, sea, sun, outdoor activities … it is also about the weekly village festa. .Months ahead, every village and town in Malta and Gozo start preparing for this yearly event. It is a time of great celebration: flags and banners colour the streets, the lively music of the bands fill the air, balconies are decorated with coloured lights to enrich the flavour of festivity. You cannot forget the fireworks and all the current deliberations and discussions which add to the noise (in the true sense of the word!!) Not everyone likes il-festa but nobody can deny the fact that it brings a sense of celebration and joy. Tourists just love it and every weekend they flock to various towns and villages around Malta.
From the festa to the banquet
The festa comes every weekend in summer. However, throughout the year, whatever the season, we are daily invited to a banquet! In the Roman Missal, which is a book that can serve as an aid to better understand Mass, we read how in an ancient prayer the Church used to acclaim the mystery of the Eucharist:
O sacred banquet in which Christ is received as food,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the soul is filled with grace and
a pledge of the life to come is given to us.
Every time we participate in the mystery of the Eucharist we take part in a banquet where the word is read and the body and blood of Christ is given to us. This is what truly nourishes our soul.
My dear father passed away nineteen years ago. However, I still remember very clearly how almost every evening he used to call my brothers and myself to listen to his stories. He lived through the Second World War and we used to be fascinated to hear him narrate one story after the other. The details about air attacks and vivid descriptions of people running to a safe place used to bring tears to our eyes. Whilst relating these episodes, my father was re-living the memory of the events that happened in the past, events that gave meaning to his life. As eager listeners, we children, participated in this ‘memorial’ of the war
During Mass we also participate in the memorial of the Lord’s passion and resurrection. The sacrifice of Christ is once again made present. Celebrating the Eucharist is not re-enacting an event but it is the re-actualisation of the event: the death and resurrection of Christ. St Augustine, one of the greatest theologians of the Church, says that whilst the event took place only once, the sacrament takes place every time.
Moreover, it is very important to understand that during Mass, Jesus does not give us something, but He gives us Himself. He offers his own body and pours his own blood – the totality of his life. As we read in the gospel of John,
I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh
During the Last Supper, Jesus was commemorating the deliverance of the people of Israel from the slavery in Egypt as all Jews do when they celebrate Passover. But besides a commemoration of an event that took place in the past, it was also a prophetic proclamation of the deliverance yet to come. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Eucharist as “a pledge of the life to come … an anticipation of the heavenly glory” (para 1402). Pope John Paul II, during one of his Wednesday General Audiences, when he was speaking about heaven, had said that one can anticipate this final state through the “sacramental life, whose centre is the Eucharist”.
Invited for the Banquet
The invitation to attend this banquet is for all of us and we can attend every single day!! However, it is very important to note that we attend not merely as spectators or as part of the audience; we are invited to particpate in this mystery of the Eucharist. And to participate we will do well to prepare ourselves. Sometimes I find myself attending Mass out of obligation or as part of my routine. However, Fr Cantalamessa, the papal preacher, encourages us to celebrate Mass as Jesus did on the Cross, “in the company of the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit will give a new meaning and a new light to our celebrations. He will really make us, as we ask in the Canon of the Mass, “a living sacrifice pleasing to God!” During Mass we will be exchanging our misery and sin with Jesus’ holiness. This exchange leads to a transformation and we will become more Christ-like. The saying “I am what I eat” describes the mystery of the Eucharist very well. Through the Eucharist we can become more and more like Jesus. Now that is a Feast worth celebrating!
Suggested Follow-Up: Ideas, Quote & Suggested Reading
- Besides attending a weekly Mass on Sunday try and attend a Mass during the week
- Read and meditate Luke 24,13-32
Reflect especially on verses 30-31 – as Jesus was breaking the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized him
History reveals what happened once and how it happened, liturgy keeps the past from being forgotten; not in the sense that it makes the past event happen again, but in the sense that it celebrates it. The Mass renews the event of the Cross by celebrating it (not reiterating it) and celebrates it by renewing it (not just by recalling it).
Raniero Cantalamessa – The Eucharist, Our Sanctification