Carrying Christ

At New Camaldoli Hermitage, the evening meditation session begins with bringing the Eucharist into the chapel. For years, the same monk filled this role every night. Brother Emmanuel raised the host—housed in its glass and brass stand—carried it into the chapel, placed it on the altar, and led everyone in a deep bow before the presence of God in our midst.

Br. Emmanuel had shrunk somewhat and was a bit stooped over when I started visiting the hermitage, but there was something about the way he carried the Eucharist that let you know, even if you couldn’t explain what it meant, that this was the body of Christ. I never spoke with Br. Emmanuel, who passed away last year, other than to offer the sign of peace, but I always looked forward to his entrance. I thought of him as the monk who carried Christ.

“We are the body of Christ,” we repeated many times in multiple languages last night as we celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. We hear certain phrases so often that they lose their meaning.

We are the embodiment of eternity, of the Alpha and Omega, of the creative, evolutionary energy of the universe. We are the flesh and blood of the Word of God, which was present in the beginning. We are—collectively throughout time—God’s coming into being.

It is given to all of us to carry Christ, not in some abstract way but in the particles that compose us, in the love that connects us, in the kindness we show each other, and yes, on this Good Friday, in the suffering we share, not for the sake of suffering but for the coming transformation as we look toward Easter morning.

From all eternity, God has known you, Jim Finley says. From all eternity, we are the body of Christ. Within and outside of time, we carry Christ forward as does all of creation.

I think Br. Emmanuel walked into the chapel with such conviction because he knew his kinship with the Eucharist in heart, soul, and body. May we all come to know this reality that surpasses understanding.

3 thoughts on “Carrying Christ

  1. When I first started going to New Camaldoli 3 years ago, unfamiliar as I was about the Catholic Eucharistic tradition, I did not know Br. Emmanuel was carrying in the host. I surmised that he was carrying in some holy relic because the look on his face was a look that I always imagined Moses had when he came down from the mountain after talking with God. When I learned a couple of years later that that glass “only” contained a bit of bread, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. My evangelical roots go deep, the bread is “just” a symbol, so what’s the big deal?

    But then Br. Emmanuel passed, and I realized I missed him bringing the bread in. It just wasn’t the same anymore. Thanks to your comments here, I think I understand. Whether the host is just a symbol or something more, it reminds us that we are all carrying Christ, groaning with all of creation as we eagerly await the Omega of a new creation, a new heaven and earth. And I realize that we are all the Presence in our own unique, imperfect ways and we are filling up in ourselves “what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” (Col. 1:24)

    I am awestruck by that reality and in my awe, I begin to understand the depths of what Br. Emmanuel must have felt every time he carried the host into that beautiful sanctuary. In those moments, I know that we are one with the One who Is.

  2. What an exquisite reflection on the meaning of the Eucharist and of our entire spiritual life. As you say, we hear certain ideas so often that they lose their depth of meaning, Perhaps if the traditions emphasized the core meanings in the way you have done so here, people might listen with greater interest. I think that is exactly what thinkers like Ilia Delio and Jim Finley are about.
    Of course it is a two way street. This message, however profoundly it is articulated, will only resonate for those with the inclination to listen deeply.
    My hope and prayer, for myself and for you all, is to grow in awareness of this spiritual vision.

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