In this catechesis we will talk about Eucharist as a center of the life of the Church and how it influenced the life of Elizabeth Eppinger.
Encyclical Eclessia de Eucharistia offers thoughts for meditation and a way to everyone, who wants to deeply live the precious heritage of the “Mystery of Faith”, which our Lord left us.
We, the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer founded by Mother Alphonse Marie, Elizabeth Eppinger, have already meditated on different aspects of her life. We know very well that her relationship with the Eucharist was strong. Now I would like to share with you her relationship with the Eucharist in another way.
1. About the Eucharist
The Eucharist is the salvific presence of the dead and risen Christ in the midst of His people. He wants to be with us always in a specific way in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Therefore, the Eucharist has the central position in the lives of Christians. Today, without doubt, we can see in the lives of Christians many positive signs of faith and love towards the Eucharist. One of them is your presence at this meeting.
When did Elizabeth Eppinger begin to acquire the relationship with the Eucharist?
It was already at the age when she attended school. This relationship was intensive and intimate.
In her Autobiography she says:
A teaching about the Eucharist, which our priest gave us, made a very deep impression on me. Especially the explanation of the prayer: “O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!” During class I sighed and prayed, “O my Jesus! When will the moment come that I may receive You in the Holy Communion. Oh, how I desire to prostrate myself before You at this moment and worship You.”
Once I was alone in the garden, kneeling down and raising my hands toward heaven, I said the same prayer. As often as I passed the church, I walked very slowly to repeat this praise, near the Blessed Sacrament, several times.
2. The Church Lives from the Eucharist
The Church, it means all of us, we live from the Eucharistic Christ. The very essence of the Eucharist has two basic aspects: sacrifice and reception which are inseparably bonded. The Eucharist – sacrifice and reception, is the most precious that the Church possesses on her pilgrimage through history. The Eucharist is the precious gift which the Church received from her Lord, Jesus Christ. For us all, Jesus in the Eucharist, whom we receive, is the source of all gifts we receive from God.
The Eucharist is the source of every grace because it contains a goodness of salvation of the Church in her fullness, Jesus Christ Himself, the living Bread. He is the Author of graces; He is full of grace and truth; He is indeed a source of grace.
How does Elizabeth Eppinger understand this source of graces?
She goes from the meaning of suffering to the meaning of the Eucharist – the memorial and the source of life. In Elizabeth grows a strong desire to receive the Eucharist and participates in the life and suffering of Christ.
The preparation for Elizabeth‘s First Holy Communion creates a new dimension in her relationship to the Eucharist. This relationship is so enormous that she has no greater joy than to receive Jesus as often as possible, but the time she lives in does not know about daily Holy Communion.
When she asks Father Reichard to receive Holy Communion more often, she confesses what she feels in her heart, that is, that the Eucharist is for her essential food in looking at her way of life which will follow God’s will: “In all I do I try to please our God.”
3. Eucharist – Creative Strength of Community
The Eucharist, in which is visible work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is also a source of Church unity that means it is the Sacrament of unity for every family, community, country and the world. The Last Supper, which is presented in the Eucharist, certainly takes place in the climate of unity and in the community of love.
The same atmosphere was present at the time of the Last Supper and should be present at every celebration of the Eucharist. The Last Supper was the first Christian celebration of the Eucharist, when Jesus said: “Do this in memory of me”, and it is done from generation to generation. The Eucharist is a specific source of unity for Christians, because in them the unity is not only presented, but also completed.
The Church is one because the Eucharist is one.
In the Eucharist, Christ gives His own life for those who receive Him in the form of bread and wine. Jesus said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him”(cf. Jn. 6:56).
St. Augustine writes: “The effective power of this food is unity.” In establishing the Last Supper, Jesus left us the commandment of love, which means that in the Eucharist in the origin principle of love.
Theologian Maurice De La Taille adds: “When you hurt the love, you offend the Eucharist. When you look for love, you will find it in the Eucharist.”
After the foundation of the Congregation, Elizabeth Eppinger, Mother Alphonse Marie, who was a zealous devotee of the Eucharist and strengthened by it, built the Congregation into a community of love.
The desire and love after a deep knowledge of Jesus became her lifelong task. She instilled this great love for the Eucharist in her Sisters. In the Original Rule it is written: “There will always be perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament at the Motherhouse; and also, in all other houses of the Order as soon as the community has about 40 persons. If the community is not that large, or if there is no chapel, each Sister must spend an hour of adoration in the Order’s Chapel.”
4. Eucharist – Banquet of Thanksgiving
Joy, praise and thanksgiving for the gift of freedom were essential signs of the Jews’ Passover.
A reason why Jesus expresses gratitude to His Father at the solemn hour of the Last Supper lies in following: Jesus thanks His Father for the redemption of those whom the Father entrusted to Him.
The same is even today. The Eucharist is celebrated in the Church since the Last Supper down through the centuries. Making present the Last Supper means to celebrate a banquet of joy and giving thanks to the Lord, who delivers us from the slavery of sin. The Eucharist is really a life center of the Church. The Eucharist is the heart of the Church. Yes, the Church has the heart of the Eucharist.
Mother Alphonse Marie also founds in the Eucharist the true center of her life, her work, and the spiritual energy to fulfill her tasks of the apostolate. She lived with the eyes staring at the cross and from the Eucharistic manifestation of the sacrifices of the cross she drew spiritual strength. With the eyes staring at the Eucharist she built the community of the Sisters and strengthened it in unity.
According to the example of their Foundress, the relationship of the Sisters with the Eucharist did not diminish through the duration of the Congregation. The Congregation is mainly the community of the Sisters who confirm and express their identity by celebrating the Eucharist, living spirituality, spreading the charism and apostolate. They lead all whom they meet to deeper contemplation of the Face of Christ and develop the Eucharistic devotion.
To experience still deep and great intensity of the Mystery of the Eucharist, Jesus invites us to the school with the saints – the great interpreters of the true Eucharistic adoration.
There are two Servants of God: Mother Alphonse Marie and Sister Jullita, who are the bright examples for us.
We are invited especially to listen to the Blessed Mother, Mary, in “whom more than any other manifests the Eucharistic mystery as a mystery of light. Looking at her, we come to know in transforming strength, which the Eucharist possesses,” and which is the transforming and renewing strength of the ONE, who came to make all things new.
Let us take advantage of the moments and experience the meeting with Jesus, who encourages us to deepen our unity with Him. It is sure that all of us desire for it in our hearts. This satisfaction we can experience daily through the Eucharist.