Rolheiser: What is love asking of me now?

Several years ago, a colleague of mine suffered a crushing disappointment. Her instinctual temptation was towards anger, towards shutting a series of doors and withdrawing. Instead, wounded in spirit, she asked herself the question, what is love asking of me now? In answering that, she found that despite her every instinct to the contrary, love was asking her to move away from bitterness and withdrawal, asking her to stretch her heart in ways it had never been stretched before.

What is love asking of me now? That is the question we need to ask ourselves every time the circumstances of our lives are shaken (by wound or by grace) to a point where we no longer want to respond graciously and lovingly because everything inside of us wants to shut down and withdraw.

Thus …

Praise the Lord

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Rolheiser: A Eucharistic Prayer

As a seminarian, I was privileged one summer to take a course from the renowned liturgist, Godfrey Diekmann. This was back in those heady days shortly after Vatican II when it was very much in fashion to frown on prescribed ritual prayers and write your own. This was particularly true for the Eucharist Prayer, the “Canon” of the mass, which a number of priests began writing for themselves. Diekmann, it turned out, was not a great fan of this. Asked about it in class one day, he said, “It seems today that everyone who has a tiny bit of imagination and even less theology feels obliged to write a Eucharistic Prayer.”

Because of the Covid restrictions this year, I have often celebrated some form of the Eucharist virtually. At first, leading those services, my thought was, what’s the value of a Eucharistic prayer if there is to be no communion? Therefore, I simply jumped from the Liturgy of the Word straight to the Lord’s Prayer. Eventually though I deemed that something more might be offered. Thus (with Godfrey Diekmann’s words now forty years distant) I wrote a Eucharistic Prayer for a virtual mass.

What is a Eucharistic Prayer? Most people would say it’s that part of the Eucharist where the priest consecrates the bread and wine, but that’s only part of it. The Eucharistic Prayer is that part of the Eucharist where we make memorial (Zikkaron, in Hebrew) of the major event by which Christ saved us, in order to make that event present for us to participate in today.  We come to the Eucharist not just to receive the body and blood of Christ, but (just as importantly) to participate in an event, namely, the saving action of Christ as he undergoes his Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost. The Eucharist is the Christian Passover Supper and, like the Jewish Passover Supper, its purpose is to make a past event present to us.

Praise the Lord

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Rolheiser: Home

Home is more than a house or a place on a map. It’s a place in the heart, the place where you most want to be at the end of the day. The metaphorical idea of home can help us sort out many things, not least how sex connects to love.

Sex can never be simply casual, purely recreational, something which does not touch the soul. Sex always touches the soul, for good or for bad. It’s either sacramental or harmful. It’s either building up the soul or tearing it apart. When it’s right, it’s making you a better person and when it’s wrong, it’s making you less of a person. Metaphorically, when it’s right, it’s taking you home; when it’s not, it’s taking you away from home. Sex is designed by God and nature to take you home. Indeed, it’s meant (metaphorically) to be your home. If you are going home after sex, something is very wrong. This is not, first of all, a moral judgment, but an anthropological one on behalf of the soul.

The soul, as we know, is not some invisible spiritual tissue floating inside our bodies. A soul cannot be pictured imaginatively, but it can be grasped as a principle.  As we see in the insights of philosophers like Aristotle and Aquinas, the soul is a double principle inside us. It’s the principle of life (of all our energies) and it’s the principle of integration (what holds us together). This may sound abstract, but it’s not. If you have ever been present with someone who is dying, you know the exact moment when the soul leaves the body. Not because you see some spirit float up from the body, but because one minute the body is alive, an organism, and the next minute it is inert, lifeless, dead, and beginning to decompose. The soul keeps us alive and the soul keeps us glued together.

Praise the Lord

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