The Jesuit composer of liturgical music, Father Manoling Francisco, SJ, has written a song entitled, “CHRISTIFY.” Sorry you will not find it in the regular dictionary because it is an invented word. You see, sometimes, in human language, when we cannot find the word, we invent it.
The idea in the word CHRISTIFY is that the bread and wine we consecrate is transformed in substance into the body and blood of Christ. That is what the priest prays when he lays down his hands on the bread and wine: “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts, that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Tagalog, I’d translate CHRISTIFY to “gawing si Kristo” or “tulutang maging si Kristo.” Turn into Christ.
For Corpus Christi Sunday, I would propose three points for reflection, inspired by Father Manoling’s song, on what the Eucharist is about:
- the consecration of the fruits of our labor
- the reenactment of the Lord’s Supper
- our participation in the life and mission of Christ
FIRST, the consecration of the fruits of our labor. This is what the first stanza of the song is saying:
“Christify the gifts we bring to you,
bounty of the earth receive anew,
take and bless the work of our hands,
christify these gifts at your command.”
If you see the priest mumbling at the presentation of gifts and are wondering what we are saying, here it is: “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made, may it become for us the bread of life.”
It goes the same way with the wine. Again, at the presentation of gifts, the priest says, “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands … may it become our spiritual drink.”
The Jews call these prayers the berakoth, literally: “blessings.” A bit like our grace before meals, at which we recognize the gifts we offer as bounty of the earth and fruit of our hard work. We consecrate our labor as our participation in God’s creative activity. This way, we proclaim that we are not just creatures; we are God’s co-Creators. And our work is meant to be creative, never destructive. We consecrate the food that we eat so that it can nourish us, not just for life in this world, but also for eternal life; not just for human life but also for divine life.
SECONDLY, we reenact the Lord’s Supper. Let me quote again from the next stanza:
“Turn the bread and wine, our hearts implore
to the living presence of the Lord.
Blessed and broken, shared with all in need;
all our hungers, sacred bread will feed.”
We celebrate the Eucharist TO COMMEMORATE the life-giving passion and death of the Son of God on the cross. And so we repeat the words that he said on the night he was betrayed: “take and eat, this is my body; take and drink, this is my blood of the covenant.”
His words have to become our own words. (Take note, we don’t say “This is HIS body…”) He gives us his body and blood as food and drink, so that we can do likewise. He expects us to do it ourselves—namely, to live our lives as Eucharist, to imitate Christ who gives up his life as food and drink for the redemption and spiritual nourishment of the world.
The sign-value of the bread is evident: from the many grains of wheat, crushed and milled into flour, and then kneaded into a mass of dough, the multitude of grains become one bread, food that nourishes and gives life. So also with the wine.
A multitude of grapes is likewise crushed, juiced and fermented in order to become wine. The image itself graphically contains the meaning that goes with the outpouring of blood of the covenant. It enables us to be one with him, and one with each other.
Through the commemorative act of repeating the Lord’s supper, by the act itself of taking, blessing and partaking of the bread and wine as his body and blood, we reenact the redeeming passion and death of the Lord. In the bread and wine, he becomes truly present—body and blood.
We call it Eucharist; it’s not magic. It’s not really about transforming the bread into God. It makes better sense when we stand upside down and seen it the other way around. It’s ironic that we are able to imagine in the Eucharist the bread that becomes God and not the God who becomes bread.
This is what St Paul calls Kenosis, the total self-emptying act of the Son of God on the cross. This self-emptying began already when the Son of God became a human being, when God allowed himself to be born in human likeness, when he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on the cross… (Phil. 2:7-8)
THIRDLY, the Eucharist is our participation in the life and mission of Christ.
In the language of Father Manoling, at the Eucharist we also ask the Lord to CHRISTIFY US who are nourished by his body and blood. He says:
“With this bread and wine You Christify,
now our deepest thirst You satisfy.
We who by this bread You sanctify,
draw the world for You to Christify.”
That is why St. Paul, in 1 Cor 10, goes beyond the idea of the Eucharist as a mere sign. He says in v.16, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” And in v. 17, “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
St Augustine calls the Eucharist “a different kind of food.” Unlike ordinary food which the stomach digests so that it is transformed and made to become part of us, it goes the opposite way with the Eucharistic food. We don’t transform it; it transforms us. We become what we eat.
Like the grains milled, like the grapes crushed, like the body broken, like the blood poured out. We call it a sacrament of of God’s redeeming LOVE in Jesus Christ.
And so, at every Eucharist we ask God to “Christify” us, turn us into bits and pieces of Christ, into parts of his body, the Church. Not only does Christ become present in us through the Eucharist. We become so intimately bonded to each other in Spirit, so that Christ can speak and act through us. He sanctifies us so that through us, he can continue to sanctify the world.
Homily of Bishop Pablo Virgilio David for the Feast of Corpus Christi, 06 June 2021, Mk 14:12-16,22-26