REFLECTIONS ON THE EUCHARIST & THE APOSTLES’ CREED - delivered during the Forty Hours devotion at St Columba’s parish in Glasgow (on 28 May 2012, Whit Monday)
Now, I’m not sure if you used the Apostles’ Creed during the Mass here at St Columba’s, but it is recommended in the Missal as an option during Lent and Eastertide. Why? Because originally this Creed was a baptismal creed summarizing the teachings of the Apostles, and it was given to the catechumens when they were baptized from as early as c.200 AD. And the time of year when catechumens were prepared for baptism and received the sacraments of initiation, of course, was Lent and Eastertide. So, we remember that fact by using the Creed during this liturgical period. But the Apostles’ Creed is also very apt for this period after Pentecost because the tradition was that the Creed, which is divided into twelve articles, is believed to have been dictated by each of the Twelve apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost.
So, what I intend to do is to look at the articles of this Creed, and consider what them in relation to the Eucharist. However, time doesn’t allow me to look at all of the twelve articles, so we’ll just look at the five that follow on from belief in the Holy Spirit, which seems fitting given that we are in this time following on from Pentecost.
I believe in the holy catholic Church…
The classic position of the first millennium of our Christian Faith, especially in the Fathers of the early Church, is that “the Eucharist makes the Church”, as the Catechism says. Because the Eucharist is nothing less than the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ; it is the Lord. And it is from the body of the Lord that the Church is born. Just as Eve was taken from Adam’s side, so the Church is born from the pierced side of Christ on the Cross as blood and water poured forth. Pope Blessed John Paul II put it this way: “The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist”.
But the Eucharist makes the Church in another way. When we receive Holy Communion we are drawn deeper into communion with Christ, the Head of his Body, the Church, and so we are drawn deeper into communion with one another too. As the Catechism says: “Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens [our] incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call”. St Augustine reminds us, then, that when the priest says: “Body of Christ”, and we say “Amen”, we are saying “Yes, this is the Body of Christ, and I am a member of the Body of Christ”. So, we’re making a commitment to one another, a commitment of love, and so, we’re also building up the Church in love and unity.
The communion of saints…
It should be fairly clear, then, how the Eucharist is related to the communion of saints. For we, the baptized, are all called “the saints” by St Paul, and the sacramental grace that comes from the Mass makes us holy. And we have communion, a holy unity with one another through our union with Christ in the Eucharist; this is the great sacrament and sign of our unity.