Cusp-a point of transition, as from one historical period to the next;
the borders between the twelve astrological signs.
You are considered to be "on the cusp" if you were born
within a day or two of the beginning or end of any sign.

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863; Albert Bierstadt

21 November 2009

Transformative Power of the Eucharist

Article published November 21, 2009
Scholar cites transforming power of the Eucharist
Ritual should inspire justice, conservation
Richard Gaillardetz lectured on the impact of Holy Communion.

When Christians partake of Holy Communion, the ancient ritual should be a transformative event inspiring them to care for the poor and the environment, according to University of Toledo professor Richard Gaillardetz.
Unfortunately, the ritual of the bread and wine, or the Lord's Supper, can become "domesticated" and its power "neutered by rote, inattentive performance," Mr. Gaillardetz said.
In his annual Murray/Bacik Lecture in Catholic Studies Tuesday night, the professor explained the deep theological connections between the sacrament of the Eucharist and Christians' obligation for social justice and environmental stewardship.
The lecture, which drew about 175 people to UT's law school auditorium, was titled "Eucharist, Hunger, and the Destruction of Our Planet: Can a Religious Ritual Heal the World?"
One of the functions of religious ritual is to invite participants to "consider the ordinary with new eyes" and "to embrace a new vision of human existence," Mr. Gaillardetz said.
Everyday objects such as bread and wine take on new meaning through Holy Communion. They become identified with the body and blood of Jesus, serve as reminders of God's provision, and are symbols of man and nature collaborating.

Mr. Gaillardetz cited a number of links between the Eucharist and Christians' call for social justice.

The two "miraculous feeding" stories of the Gospel of Mark, for example, in which Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes to feed the multitudes, each had a four-part "Eucharistic pattern" - take, bless, break, and give.
This pattern "suggests that for Mark and the early Christians, the Eucharist was a ritual enactment of the Christian obligation to feed the hungry," he said.
In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle "appears to be condemning a social stratification within the community," warning those who gave special favor to the wealthy that they were eating the bread and drinking the cup "unworthily," Mr. Gaillardetz said.
The Gospel of John's account of the Last Supper describes how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. In doing so, Jesus subverted the social hierarchy and reinforced Scripture's special concerns for strangers, widows, and orphans, the professor said.
The lecture also drew connections between Communion and an obligation for environmental stewardship.
When God created the universe, it was an act of love in which he "gifted" the world into existence, Mr. Gaillardetz said, citing the Book of Genesis. There is no reason for creation other than that "the Creator desires it," and that giftedness is reflected in the Scriptures that say, "… and God saw that it was good."
People should view the planet as a gift from God, not something they can control or consume.
He cited Pope John Paul II's teaching that "all property bears a 'social mortgage,'•" which recognizes the moral responsibility of stewardship.
Mr. Gaillardetz referred to the Book of Exodus in which God provided manna - a form of bread - daily to the Israelites who were wandering in the desert. When the Israelites attempted to store the manna, the bread rotted.
"God's provision had to be patiently received daily as a gift, not hoarded and controlled," Mr. Gaillardetz said.
Jesus made clear allusion to the Exodus account when he taught his followers to pray, telling them to ask their Father in heaven for "daily bread."
"This connection between the symbol of bread and a theology of gift deeply informs the understanding and practice of the Eucharist," he said.
Mr. Gaillardetz, who has been the Murray/Bacik professor of Catholic Studies at UT since 2001, said during a question-and-answer period that despite his lecture title, he doesn't expect Holy Communion will actually heal the Earth but hopes to remind people of the transformative power of the religion ritual and remind them to care for the poor and for the planet.
- David Yonke

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