Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday of the Last Week of the Year (II)

Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9a / Luke 21:20-28

Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb. Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt.

These are the words the Roman Missal uses to invite the faithful to receive Communion at the Mass, but they find their origin not in the Last Supper in the upper room, but in the eschatological vision of the Book of Revelation. There they serve as an invitation of the blessed who have survived the trials and tribulations of the end times and are called to partake in the wedding feast of Christ the Bridegroom, the Lamb once slain. At the same time, this wedding feast is also a victory banquet, a celebration over the fall of Babylon, the Great Harlot, and in this victory, the final victory of Christ over the enemies of his Church.

In this eschatological context, the be among the blessed invited to the supper of the Lamb is to have decisively taken sides. More precisely, it means to have held on to the truth, the faithful witness of the Lamb, even in the face of violent persecution, as well as in the face of the seductive potion of Babylon, the seductive call to compromise our witness to Christ for the sake of a share in her wealth, power, and influence. By placing these words into the mouth of the priest inviting the faithful to Communion, the Church means that we too must decisively take a side. The Church means for us to expose ourselves, and to do so willingly, to armies and calamity, to have our blood shed by the Great Harlot. All the while, we are meant to live not by keeping our heads down, not by hoping to pass by unnoticed and so bypass the trials and upheavals that must come. Rather, Jesus Christ exhorts us, in the face of the global, even cosmic, upheavals we must face, to stand erect and with our heads raised, proudly identifying ourselves on the side of the Lamb, and so also willingly opposed to even the best the world, the Harlot, and the Beast have to offer.

Every act of sacramental communion, then, is a public act of taking sides. However personal Communion is and indeed must be to be fruitful, it is never a hidden or private act, but always, by its nature, a public assertion of fidelity to the Lamb and a refusal to serve those who would oppose him and his Kingdom. In receiving Jesus Christ in holy Communion, we thus choose to expose our lives, our very selves, to the dark powers that continue to plague and molest our world, and will continue to do so to the end. Yet, we do so not in fear, but in hope and confidence. Brothers and sisters, we can stand up straight with heads held high because the end is not in doubt. The victory has already been won. We have only now to share, even now, even in pledge and anticipation of what will surely come: the glories of the eternal banquet, the wedding feast of the Lamb.

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