Vol 38 No 3
SPIRITUALITY FOR EARTHLINGS
THE LONG JOURNEY HOME: SEARCHING FOR EUCHARIST TODAY
THE LONG JOURNEY HOME: SEARCHING FOR EUCHARIST TODAY
REFLECTIONS ON SPIRITUALITY AND THE CHURCH
ON THE RISE AGAIN: NEO-FUNDAMENTALISM IN AUSTRALIAN CATHOLICISM (PART
and Liz Chatelier
MARRIAGE: GROWING IN LOVE
KEEPING ALIVE THE MSC TRADITION
NEW RELIGIOUS BOOKS BY AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS
long journey home:
Searching for eucharist today
FRANK ANDERSEN MSC
The EJ Cuskelly Memorial Lecture 2004
THE STORY IS TOLD of the construction of the first Catholic Church in
the town of Cloncurry in 1907.1 Father Hanley had arrived in the town
in 1898, and for nine years Mass was celebrated in the old Shire Hall.
During this time monies were collected and an order was placed in England
for a wooden Church. In time this building did arrive at the seaport of
Townsvillebut there it was waylaid by customs to sit for months
on the wharf. It was eventually redeemed by a consortium of Catholic locals
(including a Father Walsh) who now possessed a ready-made Church which
he promptly erected in South Townsville. My newly married parents, Em
and Claude Andersen, knew this church wellwhich is more than can
be said for the patient parishioners of Cloncurry! They were left with
a debt of forty (40) pounds, and no Church!
But the West was hungry for worship and further monies were raised by
the faithful of the Cloncurry district. Led by their newly-appointed Parish
Priest, Father OKeefe, suitable building material was again purchasedthis
time, prudently, in Townsville itself. Construction was delayed as the
materials had to come via Julia Creek, with the final leg of the journey
to Cloncurry being by wagon-team. It was a wet year
and it would
take three months for the teams to get through, and Father
OKeefe (they tell), often rode out of an afternoon on his
creamy horse to the Six Mile Well to see if his Church was coming!
I suggest that this delightful metaphor still holds for todayand
that many of us wait, with yearning and hopeat the Six Mile of our
livesto see if the Church is coming .
Todays Catholic faithful are living through a time of rare moment:
the Church is in Passover; it is crossing a momentous thresholdand
we have been led into Great Expectations. We find ourselves on the cusp
of something so extraordinary that only a Council as visionary as Vatican
ll could both mark and trigger its commencement. In the sweep of history
this is a journey barely begun and far from completed.
Barely 100 years ago, at any Sunday Mass in this country, few adult Catholics
would have presented for Holy Communion.2 Today, a century later, most
in our congregations do sobut this can only be said for the reception
of Eucharistic Bread (our practice of receiving from the Chalice is less
established). That this central Eucharistic gesture of eating and
drinking remains so fractured should alert us all to the unfinished
and still urgent business of liturgical renewal. Underneath an apparent
lack of urgency concerning the Blood of Christ lie deeper issues of meaning
Yes, a commencement has been made. Yet, in terms of celebrating and proclaiming
the mystery of faith we are still (in the words of Noel Davis)
somewhere between towns .
I read our current situation as a transition between two distinct epochs
(both of which I have experienced). I grew up in an era of Church dominated
by a sense of Priesthood. That era is by no means past, yet as the realities
of Vatican ll sink deeper into our consciousness, I find myself living
in anticipation of what many would refer to as the coming epoch of the
Laity (in its best and all-inclusive sense).
Sandra Schneiders remarked recently:
We know the kind of Church we want to leave behind, but the shape of
the Church that is coming eludes us all. Nothing comparable has existed
since perhaps the third century.3
I am talking about our experience of being a Church, and about what appears
to be an inability to sense that my primary, personal identity lies in
being a member of a communiothat the secret of grasping who I am
is to be found only in terms of my relationships with others.
What does this mean in practical terms?
I find myself most fulfilled when being called to love; when challenged
to extend my boundaries of affection and loyalty. From others I need regular
expressions of both forgiveness and empathy on this lonely and at times
terrifying journey. I need others with whom to sing my celebratory moments.
When facing into the tasks of life, I need experiences of strengthening
solidarity. I cannot sustain alone this attempt on the mystery of God.
I am now conscious of how shared an endeavour this has to be (just as
it was for Jesus).
Yet, this need for companionship in faith has been a late arrival in the
consciousness of this writer
I grew up in a spirituality that was individualistic. I lived the spirituality
of an isolated heart. For this individual, life was a lonely journey towards
a distant God. The Church was a vehicle for my personal salvation; according
to my recollection, our manner of doing sacraments reflected
a like mentality.
A change to this outlook came in the 1970s. In common with many
of you, I began to explore the richness of Sacred Scripture becoming
conscious thereby that life could just as easily be imagined as a journey
with God. Much of my early scriptural music was crafted around this delightful
discovery: You are God who walks with me!
What I was still missing, of course, was a sense of Churchor (to
put it another way) that life could be a journey with you and in God.
The deeper one enters the Scriptures, the more this awareness seems to
surface in our heartsand perhaps it is a realisation that does take
Those of you working in liturgy know only too well this crippling tension
between the individualism so many of us bring to worship and the common
mind that liturgy seeks to cultivate. I can be touched by God in a wilderness
solitude, but I can only touch the God of Jesusand the God of Christian
ritualwhen I reach out towards community.
We had forgotten the peculiar fleshiness Jesus gave to his
sense of God. To find this kind of God one washes feet, or takes bread
thankfully, breaks it and gives it to others. To find the God of Christ,
I must find the Body of Christ. Anything less (in my reading of the Gospels)
is a delusion.
Thus, it is no accident that our inability to perform Eucharist properly
lies central to this depletion. To get Eucharist right is to get Church
right (Ecclesia de Eucharistia writes John Paul II4). I suspect that the
gap in our lives left by this loss of a sense of Church is precisely the
gap being filled on all sides by the current quest for spiritualities
of all types. My contention in this paper is that the primary, foundational
spirituality of the Christian is corporate and that the formation of Eucharistic
community is our spirituality, and that to forget this is to lose touch
with the experience that lay at the heart of the person we call Jesus.
If Eucharist is our primary well of nourishmentand consider the
haemorrhage occurring from our Sunday communities todaythen are
we not truly in a time of lamentation? Yet, how infrequentlyindeed
everdo we sing songs of lamentation in our diminished and struggling
Yet lamentation and anguish are part and parcel of the psalmody that formed
the prayer-life of Jesus peoplewe can be confident it formed
an integral part in Hebrew worship. Artists have long known that lamentation
and grief source the energies of creativity and imagination. When I sense
what the celebration of Eucharist could be in our communities and compare
it to the general state of how things are, I know anguish in my heart.
It strikes me as simplistic to suggest that our difficulties with Eucharist
lie primarily in the realm of language: the depletion of our sense of
mystery lies rather at the level of our perception and understanding.
We are not conscious of what it is we are doing when at Eucharist. What
we have lost is the country of the heart
By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat and we wept!
When we remembered our country
there we sat and we wept!
I sometimes wonder whether our loss of imagination as a Church might not
be related to our incapacity to lament publicly.
Grief is a healthy process of life. So also is public penitence. Both
face us into truthyet we avoid them, afraid to admit publicly the
defeat and loss of faith they entail.
To follow you again, my Lord is inseparable (at least in our
mythology) from leaving ones boats behind. The disciples
left what was in their shared pursuit of what could
beand the rest is history! Our current transitional movement
as a Churchour Passover eventis as momentous: from the individualism
of recent centuries into an awakening realisation that we are, at our
deepest level of being, a community called Christ, and that ones
individual giftedness was to be explored within this matrix of community
We call this a passover event: it involves for us all a massive conversion
of heart, a shift in mentality from I to we, from my to our and from me
This option between pronouns might appear slight, yet the imaginations
they evoke are worlds apart. Is it any wonder that in this transitional
period of the shift, our liturgical rituals would struggle for authenticity
and meaning? Vatican II gave explicit shape to this image of Church as
a People-on-the-Move, what Matthew in his Gospel calls a qahal (a caravan
of Gods faithful). The Church is seen as a small band of believers
in hostile territory, moving forward in history as one People, on journey
together into the Mystery of God. Lumen Gentium gave this image prophecy;
we wait yet upon its fulfilment.
Just as surely, the sense of Sacrament that emerged from Vatican II was
different from what had been in place for previous centuries: where once
Sacraments were moments of intense grace that happened to individuals
(e.g. I was baptised in 1942), now they were seen as communal rites of
passage, as rituals that initiated and nourished life-long processes of
shared incorporation into the Mystery of Christ (I am still being baptised
with you, my community, washed each weekend deeper into the story of Jesus).
My sense is that the authentic liturgical alterations of Vatican II were
attempting to address this massive shift in imagination: from individual
to community; from piety to liturgy; from attendance to participation.
The two Sacraments that benefited greatly in this process of renewal were
those of Baptism and Eucharist. They now present as strongly communal
in character (whereas the same quality of shiftindividual to communalsadly
was not sustained in Reconciliation).
Here I wish to pay tribute to Bishop Jim Cuskelly MSC and his groundbreaking
insight concerning the Spirituality of the Human Heart: that to know ones
own heart is to spend time in the library of the very heart of Godor
(in other words) that our God has a heart as human as mine. It is called
by the name of Jesus. To know my own hearts pathways is to know
Jesus at new depths of awareness; to know my own hearts struggles
and hopes is to know the heart of my sisters and brothersindeed,
to come into the presence of the Heart of Humanity itself. But first,
the most difficult of steps: to know thyself! The pathway
of inner wisdom lies through the experience of ones individual heart.
I believe it is the same dynamic of returning to the heartland that is
happening to the body corporate we know as Church. What we are witnessing
since Vatican II is the struggle by the Church (as a corporate entity)
to go into its own heart and there to confrontand be confronted
byits own truths, yearnings, hopes, dreams and longings. One goes
there, to ones heart (whether as an individual or as a community)
cautiously. The heart is a wild and dangerous placeespecially so
when what lies at the heart of the Church community is the story of Jesus.
The Gospel is the unique treasure that lies at the core of the Churchs
memory. The Word of God constructs the community. Jesus is our story!
We cannot now commence any sacrament without immersing ourselves in the
Gospels, without going into that inner room and carefully locking
the door, so that the One who lives in that secret place will speak with
We were not always so welcoming of the Word of God, nor have we always
viewed it as so critically important to the formation of Church. Some
of us would remember that prior to Vatican II the legal requirement for
attendance at Sunday Mass was to be there in time for the Offertory and
to remain in attendance until after the priests Communion. In those
times the Readings from the Scriptures were not really the Catholic
What a different feel is developing amongst us now for the Word of God!
The Introduction to the Lectionary puts it well: When the Word
of God is proclaimed in the Church
and put into living practice
it enlightens the faithful and draws them into the entire mystery of the
Lord as a reality to be lived .
The stories of Jesus (and the Old Testament stories leading up to him)
wash the community into the mind of Christ. His lifes
portrayal is what our communities shall become. Its his way of living
the Covenant that we remember when we come to make Covenant each Sunday.
The community stands in the presence of Gospel storiesthe invariable
posture of the Risen Lordready to serve this Word! Todays
community lives in Christ, being his presence in the world
of today. The risen Body of Christ is who we are
Come! Be born of us once more!
With your Spirit fill our lives!
May we beon earththe Heart of God!6
For us, of course, the Word is a person. A Hebrew person, who lived in
a Hebrew culture, whose thoughts and attitudes were shaped by Hebrew tradition,
who thought about life and God in Hebrew ways.
One can fall in love with a person. Like the Apostles, we too are swept
off our feet as we are thoroughlyand progressivelyimmersed
(baptised) in living relationship with a real person.
But what kind of Jesus emerges from within the Gospel stories? What kinds
of cultural richness lie undiscovered within the portrayal of the life
of this Hebrew man? What are some of the cultural nuances that we Westerners
can so easily misread?
I make the following comments as a liturgist who is now regularly surprised
by the kind of symbols and images employed by the Gospel writers. They
were always there (some obviously) but it has taken me a lifetime of symbolic
maturation to notice as many of them as I do now. What I want to suggest
is that the Gospels present Jesus not so much as a gifted individual but
as the embodiment of Israels corporate story.
We do violence to the memory of Jesus when we see him from
a Western viewpoint as some unusual and gifted person whose individualistic
kind of life finally got him into trouble. His mission in life was the
formation of a New Israel. In his being he carried the whole Nation he
loved. Were we to penetrate his mind, I believe we would be shocked to
realise that for Jesus it was not merely himself who was on the Crossit
was his whole Nation.
In other words, Jesus was Hebrew to the bone. He was born
of a People whose self-identity lay in the Covenant struck at Sinai: we
are a Pass-Over People! Yes, it was a covenant with God, but
the human dimensions of its living involved a commitment by Twelve Tribes
to collaborate in the formation of a new kind of Nation.
This commitment to create a holy nation (one that could become
in turn a light to all nations) was noble in conception, fragile
in deployment and all too humanly deficient in practice. Yet the Prophets
rose time and time again precisely to call back into their original fidelity
the entire body-politic. Prophets were constantly calling for a reconstruction
of social culture, the better to reflect the loving and loyal nature of
the God who had saved them from Egypt.
The Gospels merely continue towards fulfilment this process of corporate
The Gospels may present as the story of an individual (Jesus),
yet one of the first acts of his public life is to call The Twelve
clearly signalling his intent to lay a new foundation for the social entity
of Israel. From that moment, the Gospels are about Jesus and The Twelve:
their livesas a dedicated bandbecome a deliberate street theatre
depicting the ethical and loving shape of the Kingdom into which God was
calling the whole Nation.
When The Twelve broke the Law, Jesus was held liable.
When he was unable to visit every village and hamlet, they were
sent two-by-two in his namepreaching and healing and casting out
spirits with the same energy (and impact) as Jesus himself.
In the Feeding Stories, it is Jesus who insists: Give them
something to eat yourselves. The miracle is performed over their
bread and fish and the words spoken over these gifts are the already ritualised
wordings of the Eucharist.7
The Gospels end with the passing of the mantle to those same Disciples,
which becomes in this years Lucan Gospel a seamless transition into
the Church community of Acts.
This is probably saying no morebut this is so important to noticethat
the Gospels were shaped and committed to written form by Churches, for
Churches and using already established Church (and ritual) language.
I believe these same corporate dimensions are present within the language
attributed to Jesus himself.
When, from the Cross, Jesus prays Psalms 22 and 31, he is making use of
Hebrew ritual prayers. The Psalms are the ritual songs of the Hebrew Nation
(we still call them The Prayer of the Church). They are the Prayer-Songs
of a People, and in the
Psalms the personal pronouns I and Mewhile catching the sentiments
of the individual who prays themare primarily pronouns that refer
to the Nation of Israel, Gods Chosen Servant.
What is astonishing for me of late is how deeply Jesus loved his People.
And in committed love for his People (despite their betrayal), he continues
to pray on their behalf from the Cross: My God, my God, why have
you abandoned me? (Ps 22).
And, in one final gesture of trust, surrender and love for his People:
Into your hands I give my spirit
It was for the renewed life of the body-corporate called Israel that Jesus
devoted himself so spectacularly, so completely. His own individual life
was swept-up into a yearning for a renovation-of-heart that embraced his
whole culture and times:
Jerusalem Jerusalem! How I longed to have gathered you as a hen
gathers her chicks under her wingsand you would not!8
This is the cri-de-coeur of a man whose meaning-for-life came from his
awareness of being embeddedand responsible tohis beloved community.
He carried them within his heart. His life would become a public manifestation
of everything the
Nation was called to be (the public life of Jesus). He (and
his little band of believers) would embody to the end the affection (hesed)
and the loyalty (emet) that characterised the God who had captured their
This was public theatreand all in Israel were invited to participate.
This dramatic attempt to reform the heart of Israel came to climax in
Jerusalem during the final week of their lives togetherthe week
that celebrated Passover. What could be more naturally expressive of their
passover faith than to ritualise their commitment to the Covenant that
alone gave shape to their intentions. Let me dwell a moment on this central
ritual in Jesus life (which we have come to call the Last Supper)
The Gospels tell us much about how Eucharist was understood in the earliest
communities for which they were written. Gospel accounts are less helpful
in terms of precisely what occurred at the Last Supper. But we do know
that Jesus was a
Hebrew and that he gathered during this Passover week with other Hebrew
believers to celebrate the Hebrew Covenant commitment. These were not
Tridentine theologians, but Hebrew-traditioned visionaries prepared to
put their lives on the line for the practicalities of their Covenant faith.
At such a meal, it would have been unthinkable for Jesus not to have consumed
with them the elements of bread and wine. He gave, but also partook himself
of what he gave them. In that desperate week of his life,
what he needed to ritualise with them was a shared incorporation, his
solidarity with them in the Covenant commitment. Only in solidarity with
them would he find the strength needed later that night to walk into Gethsemane
and into all it heralded. The Last Supper was a ceremonial of loyalty
and committed Covenant bonding.10
In his own person, leaving that Upper Room, Jesus carries the whole Nations
Covenant dream; he embodies the commitments made at Sinai and the Nations
total trust in God. He is acting as no mere individual, engaging in a
merely personal struggle-to-be-faithful. Jesus is a sacrament of the loyal
Nation. When he suffers, all suffer
When he rises, all rise
his stripes, we are healed
I believe that what we are being invited to participate in on Sunday is
this same dynamic commitment to become together a Covenant Community.
Called to bein todays worldthis same faithful community,
we are driven by the Covenant vision that drove Jesus and the Twelve.
We are certainly doing more than merely changing bread into Jesus
body!11 We are taking the bread of our lives, looking the world in the
eye and saying together, This is my Body, it is given up for you
We must become clearer as to just whose body this is that
is being put on the line. Just whose blood this is
that will be poured out for you and for all people . The participation
called for is a participation by all present in this central gesture of
bread and wine. Would that we had a shape to the ritual that rendered
this sacramentum12 with clarity! It is there already, of course, when
we refer to the Presider as being there in persona Christi capitis [ in
the person of Christ the Head] and that when the Presider speaks,
and whatever the Presider prays, they are our words, they are our prayers.13
It is our life as a community that is being transformed into Christ. It
is our own corporate mystery that is being celebrated.
Let me finish with these increasingly well-known words of Augustine: It
is your own lives that are placed on the Lords table! It is your
own mystery that you are receiving
If we wish to recover the mysticism embedded in Eucharist, we need go
no further than this: when we are offered the Body of Christ, what is
it that we are about to consume? What implications for the reception of
Holy Communion can we draw from these profound words of Augustine?
He contends that we are receiving our own mystery, our own
lives now consecrated as the Body of Christ. Let us contemplate this for
In my hands I hold all of your lives, all of your sufferings, your hopes
and your dreams. I consume you in this moment, my companions in Christ.
I am prepared hereby to demonstrate publicly our total interdependence
one with another, that we are
One Bread, One Body. We are mutual nourishment one for another. Even more
profoundly, through this Eucharistic bonding with all who are present
in this local ritual, the whole of created reality is also made present.
The interdependence in Christ is a universal interdependence. The act
of Holy Communion is of cosmic dimensionand therein, might I suggest,
lies the only hope for our contemporary world.
And when we are offered the Blood of Christ, what is it that we are about
to drink? We are prepared to drink the sufferings of todays Christ!
We blood ourselves in a sacred commitment to the contemporary Covenant
task: to create of ourselves, a holy nation, a royal priesthood,
a people set apart.
We are using the ritual of bread and wine as a construction of corporate
commitmentto name our corporate identity as a Peoplejust as
the ritual was employed by Jesus and the Twelve. This remembered Story
is what feeds us; we are driven forward by that same Covenant vision that
Thus, it is one another we receive in Holy Communion, and through one
another, the whole of creation. The gathering might be localised, but
its sacramental significance is universal and unconditional. My gestures
with you are gestures towards all creation: when I bond in peace with
you, I am reaching towards a wider reality and bonding. This act of communio
is appropriately called holy in that it transforms in the
instant all my relationships
We move towards knowing the fullness
of God by moving towards one another in Christ. Paul
used these very terms when encouraging his community at Ephesus into their
Deep in Christ I pray you know the power he can give
May your hidden self grow strong, and may you live
strong in faith and built on love, until you know
how high and long, how wide and deep the fullness of God.
With these words we return to Bishop Jim Cuskellys major insight
about the hidden depths of the heart. Yet we note here that when used
by Paul, words like your hidden self refer to the hidden dimensions
that lie at the heart of the community called Christ.
Is it not true to your own experience that the Churchs task today
is to reclaim its own hidden self and thereby to rediscover
its identity as Church (whether universal or localised)?
In conclusion (and like Father OKeefe of Cloncurry), with Vatican
II we have paid our deposit on the purchase of this new Church. And how
frequently we stand hopeful at the Six Mile of our lives to see if that
Church is coming! Its in that kind of hope that we hold our hearts
steady and for that kind of arrival that we daily commit ourselves
in ministry (as did OKeefe and Cuskelly, as did Jesus and Paul).
For the Churchs journey into its corporate heart is no less difficult
a journey than that undertaken by each of us individually into our own
hearts experience. Indeed, corporate journey may well be far more
demanding of our patience, our courage and our hope. This was the kind
of patient and loving fidelity into which Jim Cuskelly called us alland
he did so relentlessly. We may indeed be engagedas a Churchon
a long journey home. Yet its outcome is as immediate and as accessible
as turning to one another with a bond of Christs peace.
Frank Andersen MSC is a teacher, liturgist,
musician and adult faith educator. His music includes Eagles Wings,
Everything I Possess, Rising Moon and Kindly Light. His publications include
JesusOur Story, and Eucharist: Participating in the Mystery.
1. For this story I am indebted to the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in
their folio celebrating their contribution to the Church in Western Queensland
(specifically Hughenden) entitled: North-West to Hughenden, Carmel Bourke
2. The Sodality Movements of the early 20th Century (supported by Papal
authority) promoted the reception of Holy Communion on a monthly basisthe
Holy Name Society (for men) and the Sacred Heart Sodality (for women)
were two of the better known.
3. During a conversation on Religious Life in Rome, March 2002.
4. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, written in 2003 by Pope John Paul 11, offers
this eloquent title, which could be freely rendered as: The Church hangs
from the Eucharist.
5. Matthew 6:6.
6. The Cross of Christ (Frank Andersen MSC), from the collection Kindly
Light (Spectrum 1992).
7. Mark 6:41.
8. Luke 13:34.
9. Hebrews used the two terms hesed and emet when speaking of Gods
love. Both are terms for love, but yet they differ in aspect: hesed being
a term for affection (or tenderness) and emet a term for the decision
to love (hence loyalty or faithfulness).
10. Marks Last Supper account (14:22-25) is framed by two stories
of Covenant commitment: Judas lack of commitment (14:17-21) and
Peters inability to maintain his commitment (14:26-31). Between
these, Mark places the commitment of Jesus which he maintains at the cost
of his life next day. This description of Jesus commitment is presented
in the same wording we still employ at each Eucharist.
11. Beautifully expressed by John Paul 11 in Ecclesia de Eucharistia (#12).
This paragraph alone deserves to be carefully studied at all levels of
12. In the Roman world from which the term was borrowed by the Church,
a sacramentum was a public oath of commitment and allegiance made by the
Army recruit to the Roman Emperor (considered divine). Once taken, this
public oath of commitment could never be revoked. It forever changed the
relationship between the person making the oath and the Emperor. The Church
was happy to consider Baptism and Eucharist as experiences of sacramentum.
13. This phrase in persona Christ capitis is often reduced
to the three words in persona Christi when being quoted as
a definition of priesthood by various Church officials. The impression
can be given that the priest is there at Eucharist standing in the place
of Jesus (in persona Christi) rather than in the more fulsome
understanding that the priest at Eucharist actually stands in the place
of Christ as head (of a body, presumably). The abbreviated understanding
can lose sight of the communal dimension of the priests function
14. St Augustine, Sermon 272.