Sunday Reflection – 11 November
“Standing before the Lord” (Excerpt)
Pope Benedict XVI
In the Church of former times, the word for this was statio. …From the very beginning, when Christianity spread throughout the world, its heralds laid the greatest importance on there being only one bishop and only one altar in every town. This was meant to express the unity of the one Lord, who unites us all in His embrace from the Cross, an embrace that goes beyond the frontiers drawn by earthly life and forms us into one body. And this, of course, is the innermost meaning of the Eucharist, that, by receiving the one bread, we actually enter into this one centre and thus become a living organism, the one body of the Lord.
The Eucharist is not a private matter among friends, taking place in a club of like-minded people where congenial spirits meet together. On the contrary, just as the Lord allowed Himself to be crucified publicly outside the city walls, stretching out His hands to all, the Eucharist is the public worship celebrated by all, whom the Lord calls….
It was fundamental to the Eucharist in the Mediterranean world, which first saw the growth of Christianity, that the aristocrat who had found his way to Christianity should sit down with the Corinthian dock-worker, the miserable slave who, according to Roman law, was not even held to be a human being and was dealt with as chattel. It is of the very nature of the Eucharist, that the philosopher should sit beside the illiterate man, the converted prostitute and the converted tax-collector beside the ascetic who has found his way to Jesus Christ.
In Rome, for instance, even during the era of persecution, the titular churches came into being as predecessors of the later parishes…..the Eucharist continued to unite people who would otherwise not mix. Consequently, the statio was introduced – here, particularly during Lent, the Pope, as the single Bishop of Rome, goes among the individual titular churches and celebrates the liturgy for the whole city of Rome.
Christians gather together and go to church together, thus, in the individual churches, the whole Church is visible and is manifest at the individual level.
The Lord gathers us together and opens us so that we can accept one another and belong to one another, so that, in standing side by side with Him, we can learn once again to stand together with one another. ….What binds us together is not the private interest of this or that group but the interest which God takes in us. And we can calmly and confidently, entrust all our interests to Him. We commit ourselves to the Lord. And the more we commit ourselves to the Lord and stand before Him, the more we stand together with one another and the more power we discover to understand each other, to recognise each other as human beings, as brothers and sisters. In this way, in this fellowship with one another, we are building the foundations for humanity and making it possible.
Joseph Card Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI “Seek that Which is Above”