Archbishop's Message

The Upper Room Experience: Renewing Church in Eucharistic Unity

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

We as an Archdiocesan family have joyfully begun the ‘Year of the Eucharist’ on 2nd December 2018 to culminate with the celebration of the Eucharistic Congress on 24th November 2019. It is my fervent hope that this year shall be a year of spiritual renewal and rejuvenation of the social, political and cultural dimensions of our Christian discipleship. The theme of reflection for this month is ‘Eucharist as the Centre of the Church’. When Pope John Paul II declared the ‘Year of the Eucharist’ in 2004, his exhortations repeatedly evoked an important imagery of the Church centered on the Eucharist: the image of the ‘Upper Room’, which is now referred in Jerusalem as the Cenacle. In his encyclical letter, ‘ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA’, through the eight references to this powerful imagery, the Holy Father expressed his dream for the ‘Year of the Eucharist’ (2004-2005) to be a personal Upper Room experience for the universal Church.

This image is significant also for us since it demonstrates the underlying unity between the Eucharist and the Church.

1. The upper room was the birthplace of the Holy Eucharist. It was there that the disciples heard from Jesus, ‘Do this in memory of me’, the words of consecration that we have been repeating for two thousand years now.

2. The upper room was also the locus of the Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. St Jerome attests and so do many biblical scholars and Christian traditions that the upper room was also the likely venue of the Pentecost. As Jesus insisted the disciples to not leave Jerusalem until they are empowered by the Holy Spirit, the apostles along with a total of 120 disciples and Mary, the mother of Jesus, had gathered in the upper room, the venue of the world’s first Eucharist and what would eventually also become the venue of the Pentecost.

And therefore Pope John Paul II writes, “Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No.1)

My brothers and sisters, I wish and pray that our ‘Year of the Eucharist’ (2018-2019) shall become a personal Upper Room experience for each of us in our Archdiocese. As partakers of the one ciborium and one chalice, we gather again in the upper room with the apostles, to be made a new community of disciples, a new local church and a renewing of our unity with body of Christ! Henri de Lubac affirms, “The Eucharist makes the Church, and [in turn] the Church makes the Eucharist (Eucharistia facit ecclesiam)”. How does this mutual foundation come about? It is obviously through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms this intrinsic connection between the Holy Eucharist and the Church into a lived reality in our discipleship. The best example, to this transformation, is certainly Mother Mary. During Annunciation, Mary had her personal Upper Room experience, when she conceived the Eucharistic Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit preparing her already for her eventual role as the Mother of the Church.

St John Damascene beautifully uses the role of the Holy Spirit in the personal Upper Room experience of Mary to explain the mystery of the Eucharist. “How can this come about?” Mary asked. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” the angel answered, “and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.” And now you are the one who puts the question: “How can bread become Christ and wine His Blood?” I answer: “The power of the Holy Spirit will be at work to give us a marvel which surpasses understanding.” By the power of the Spirit, through the saving realities of the Word and Bread, the Church as the Body of Christ comes to be, and Christian fellowship is quickened, within every community of faith and sacrament, as well as within the interlocking communities (which are the local sacramental assemblies and the local churches) throughout the world, the communio ecclesarium, always in living oneness with that church which “presides over the communion in love.” (SC 41; LG 21, 22)

May the Holy Spirit, who created the Church out of the apostles in the same upper room, where Jesus instituted the Eucharist, inspire us during this year of the Eucharist to reintegrate our families to the mystical union of the Church, through an integral Eucharistic renewal. I invite all the people of God to join hands with the priests and religious in working towards making this year a time of grace and renewal. I wish that each member of this Archdiocesan family contributes his and her might to the fullest realization of God’s will in and through this Year of the Eucharist. May the Blessed mother intercede for us that we may be enriched by a personal Upper Room experience.

With prayerful wishes,

 

Most Rev. George Antonysamy

Archbishop of Madras - Mylapore