What is it that brings us together at Mass on Sunday? Is it the community? Comfort? Obligation? Fr. Grosch’s amazing homilies? Donut Sunday? All of these things are aspects of our Sunday liturgy (except maybe the last two…maybe), but the real purpose of the Mass, and the real purpose of the Eucharist itself, is, as its name implies, communion.
Communion is what truly draws us together when we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass, even if we’re too tired or distracted to realize it right away. When we receive Holy Communion, we’re entering into an intimate encounter with Christ. There’s a strange paradox about the Eucharist, really: As food, we sacramentally receive Jesus into our bodies, but we do so that we can more completely be assimilated into his!
One of the themes that, when you listen closely, you’ll hear over and over again in the prayers of the Mass is that the Eucharist, as powerful as it is, and as real a communion as it is, ultimately is really only the anticipation of the greatest communion – being together with God in Paradise. And so the prayer that the priest prays quietly before he receives the Eucharist is a great example of that: “May the Body of Christ/Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.” In praying this prayer, and in receiving the Eucharist, the priest is asking for the greatest gift of all: not just communion on earth, but the salvation of his body and soul for communion in heaven.
There’s a small change that occurs in the new translation of the Roman Missal, coming from the Latin word custodire, which for us, is translated “keep me safe.” You might recognize this Latin word in English words like “custody” or “custodian”. Really, what this word shows us is that the Eucharist that we receive isn’t just a Sunday thing or a “one-and-done” event. When you receive Holy Communion, Jesus claims custody of us, and he takes responsibility for us, to guide us, watch over us, and protect us.
Some of you…more experienced…folks might remember the word custodiat spoken to you as you received Communion at the rail (if the priest was speaking slow enough that it didn’t sound like gibberish). And really, it’s the same concept today. This is a prayer that each of us can pray personally, that we might be able to humbly entrust ourselves to the custody of God.
So keep that in mind for the next time you receive the Eucharist. It’s never as simple as it appears, but truly leads us to an intimate relationship with God, both in this life, and in the next!