Easter is the Feast of the Eucharist!
Easter is a Eucharistic feast. It is THE Eucharistic feast. The Eucharist has no meaning apart from Easter, and Easter is only understood in the Eucharist.
One of the most important stories about the Resurrection of Christ is Luke’s recollection of the events on the Road to Emmaus. It is also the most explicit passage in Scripture linking Easter with the Eucharist: “‘The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!’ Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.” We had hints about this on Holy Thursday, when the Eucharist was instituted as a new Passover celebration. In the mind of the Church, the Easter Triduum is one continuous liturgy that must be read backwards to ascertain its meaning. The fear and confusion of Holy Saturday have meaning only in Easter. The trial, scourging, and crucifixion of Jesus only have meaning in Easter. Likewise, the Last Supper has meaning only in Easter. Everything in the Christian life—every last detail of ritual, Scripture, ethics, faith, and tradition—finds its meaning in Easter, or not at all. History itself exists only for Easter! The Resurrection of Christ is what God had in mind from the beginning. In the words of St. Augustine, “The resurrection of Christ was God’s supreme and wholly marvelous work.” And it can only be comprehended, to the degree we can comprehend it at all, in light of the Eucharist.
Sometimes, we make the mistake of thinking that God’s plan was the perfection of the Garden of Eden—walking with God, no sickness or death—and that we messed it up with sin, forcing God, in mercy, to devise an alternate plan, a plan of salvation. How wrong we are! “God has no second thoughts,” the theologian Bernard Lonergan teaches us. Christ is the reason for creation from the start! Christ was not a Plan B! In other words, the Eucharist is the very reason for all of creation. It is THE perfect gift. Eden, despite how wonderful it was, lacked this gift and fell short of the fullness that God intended to offer. Although it was Paradise, although our first parents shared the life of God through sanctifying grace, God had something better still in mind. From all eternity, God had Christ in mind. God had Easter in mind. God had the Eucharist in mind.
In the Eucharist, we receive Christ; but Christ also receives us! Everything we are is received by Christ and transformed through the Paschal Mystery into a pure offering of love to the Father in the Spirit. All of our good works are received. All our prayers are received. All our brokenness is received. All our suffering is received. All of our sin is received. Nothing is left behind. As we carefully clean up every last crumb of Eucharistic bread and every last drop of the Precious Blood, recognizing even the smallest iota as the fullness of Christ, so too does Christ leave nothing of us behind. He receives us in our entirety, putting to death on the cross that which must die, and bringing us ever more fully into the new life of grace, life in the Spirit.
I am still failing to capture the power and majesty of all this! It is impossible to describe or fully comprehend! When we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we are fulfilling the deepest desires of Love itself. We are brought into union with our beloved God, who desires, even at the cost of suffering and death, to be united with His Beloved. Holy Communion is exactly that: it is the way in which we are swept up into the Divine Love, in communion with our God and with one another. United with Christ, we enter into the very heart of the Trinity. We enter into the Love Affair that is the Divine Life without end. We find the very meaning and fulfillment of our existence, and of existence itself. We were created for Communion! We are in Heaven when we are in Love!
If we think the Eucharist is a memorial meal, we are right. But it is more. If we think it is nourishment for the journey, we are right. But it is more. If we think it is Christ’s presence among us for all time, we are right. But it is more. If we think it is Christ’s way of dwelling in us and, through us, in the world, we are right. But it is still more. If we think it is Christ’s way of working through us for the salvation of the world, we are right. But it is still more. If we think it is the sacrifice that washes us free from sin, we are right. But it is still even more. If we think it is the promise of eternal life, we are right. But it is still even more than that. The Eucharist is the consummation of God’s love for
humanity! It is our participation in the Easter Mystery! It is already our being swept up into the heart of the Trinity, where our every desire to love and to be loved is satisfied without being satiated! Like the burning bush, we are on fire with an ecstasy that does not burn out! We forget about ourselves and we fall, and keep falling, deeper and deeper into an infinite Heart that continues to give and receive Love, revealing mysteries of Its infinite Self to us without end; and with each beautiful revelation, a deeper falling into Love. We are caught up in the dynamism of Divine Romance. We can think of nothing except our Beloved, and time ceases to exist. We are in eternity. In Communion, Love has defeated death forever! Christ is Risen!
Happy Easter, Beloved of God!! Alleluia!! Alleluia!! Alleluia!!
Editorial credit: Zvonimir Atletic / Shutterstock.com for the Road to Emmaus image.