United With Christ

Henri Nouwen had a friend named Mary Ellen Neill. She wrote to Henri asking about how to be centered in her faith. Henri replied, using some language not very common to Protestants. The meaning behind them, though, is not hard to discern.

Be sure to make the Eucharist the center of your life. Attend Mass as often as you can and read about it and think about it. In the Eucharist we become most intimately united with Christ. It gives you a whole new space to ‘Stretch, turn, look, listen and move.’ God becomes our boundless space.

Love, Henri. p.33

In my faith tradition the common practice is weekly communion (Eucharist). I’ve heard some in other traditions exclaim that it would become old and habitual if they partook of it that often. And I have no doubt that is true for some. For me, at times, when I’m not mindful.

But Henri suggests it should be the center of life. What is the center of your life? What occupies the most of our attention and time? The body and blood of Jesus Christ is probably not a contender. Yet, who are we without the body and blood of Jesus?

So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.

John 6:53

The trinkets we own and the associations to which we cling so often become the most important things to our hearts. But life is to be found in God … and specifically in the Son of God who infuses us with life and vitality and freedom. When I am united with Christ my spiritual life is not characterized by lifeless habits but by the ability to see God at work all around me.

Henri said to Mary Ellen, “read about it and think about it”. No one does it perfectly but we are headed toward such a realization of God in our hearts that He is the center of everything that we do. Communion reminds us that eternal life resides within us. Not just the promise of heaven in the great blue yonder, but here and now. The Eucharist provides a witness to our senses that we belong to Christ and He lives within us. That truth, when we remain mindful…when we read about it and think about it … guides us ever deeper in discipleship.

Communion with Christ and His disciples can help keep us centered in our faith. I’m still working on that. And I am assured Henri was too.

Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13