There is too much emphasis on Mass as sacrifice
Brendan Hoban poses the question ‘Who will break bread for us?’ in the context of dwindling vocations to the priesthood – and presents us with a seemingly frightening prospect ‘without priests we have no mass and without Mass we have no Church ‘.
However, rather than seeing the future in these terms, maybe we should approach this seemingly intractable issue differently.
I think we have approached the Eucharist with far too much emphasis on the miraculous power of the priest in transforming the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Mass thus revolves around the words of consecration spoken by the priest as immediately after these words of consecration the transubstantiated bread and wine immediately become objects of adoration and as the presence of Christ persists in the consecrated Bread after Mass an individualised adoration of the Blessed sacrament after Mass in the form of Holy Hours developed. This adoration of the consecrated bread and wine immediately after the consecrating words was introduced to counteract the protestant reformers’ alternative beliefs. Also too much emphasis on the mass as sacrifice further objectivises it and the congregation of lay people become both passive receivers of grace and adorers of the real presence in the consecrated Bread and wine.
What is lost is the primary meaning of the Body of Christ as the presence of the risen Lord in his followers. As the primitive Church had no priests and thus no ‘consecrations’ as such the emphasis of these followers of Jesus was not on his sacramental presence in the transubstantiated bread and wine but on his presence through the Spirit in his followers as his real presence was revealed through the charisms of the Spirit. This community not only survived without priests but thrived without Mass as we know it.
Maybe these dwindling vocations are a sign of the times to recall us to a re-emphasis on the Body of Christ as the mystical presence of the Risen Jesus in his followers and a call to by the Spirit to realise the implications of this presence among the people of God. We need a renewed theology of the ‘Body of Christ ‘ as present not only in his followers but also in our world of today.