Saturday, December 7, 2013

the Immaculate Conception + the Eucharist


"‘Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”
 ~Flannery O’Connor, on the Eucharist
"Our Creator gave us life, and the Eucharist to sustain our life... [W]e cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other.  We know him in the breaking of the bread, and we are not alone anymore.” 
 ~ Dorothy Day on living out the Eucharistic communion

Today marks a great, lovely feast.

Yes, it’s the beautiful feast honoring the Immaculate Conception of our Mother Mary.

And on a personal note, it’s also the anniversary of my First Communion at Colegio de la Inmaculada, an all-girls Catholic school in Santurce, Puerto Rico, named after today’s feast.

Unlike most girls’ white First Communion dresses, thanks to the Spanish nuns that ran our school, we dressed like mini-nuns, veil and all. Each of us wore light grey “habits,” with a white cord belt securing the cloak around the waist. 

At the time I didn’t know any better. But decades later, my girls certainly found my photos hilarious.




When asked about my experience with the Eucharist today, I find myself filled with awe and humility. Receiving the Body of Christ is what makes me and keeps me Catholic, and it’s the reason I get myself as often as I can to daily Mass.

The older I get, the more I "get" that the nuns at La Inmaculada were not simply celebrating the school's feast day with our First Communion. In a very genuine way, they were connecting the dots for us--knowing it would take us a life-time to embrace the Mystery... Mary, the Immaculate vessel that brought brought the Son of God into this world... and opening up myself to receive Him who is Mercy-made-flesh. 

The Eucharist connects me and commits me to the Body of Christ, local and universal. It heals me, restores me, and reminds me daily of Christ’s great love for me. And at times when my husband and I have found ourselves divided, broken, and suffering—it was the Eucharist we received that kept us together, one in Christ.

Over at the Catholic Education Resource Center, author Jim Forest tells a beautiful, touching story about Dorothy Day that describes perfectly how I feel about the Eucharist--and how grateful I am to the generous Hijas de la Caridad de San Vicente de Paúl who introduced me to it:
"Pleased as [Dorothy Day] was when home Masses were allowed and the Liturgy translated into English, she didn’t take kindly to smudging the border between the sacred and mundane. When a priest close to the community used a coffee cup for a chalice at a Mass celebrated in the soup kitchen on First Street, she afterward took the cup, kissed it, and buried it in the back yard. It was no longer suited for coffee — it had held the Blood of Christ. I learned more about the Eucharist that day than I had from any book or sermon. It was a learning experience for the priest as well — thereafter he used a chalice."

[an edited version of this blog post first appeared here on 12/7/12]