This Lent, I am receiving the daily “5 Minutes of Caring” emails from www.coolpeoplecare.org, which are full of helpful suggestions for positive action in the world. Their slogan is “Because there’s no such thing as not enough time.” I have often heard folks in independent sacramental circles claim that they have no time to cultivate a eucharistic life. Now, if you define a eucharistic life as celebrating a three hour liturgy in a dead language every day, it might pose a wee bit of a challenge, unless you are retired, single, and have no friends. For the rest of us, there is no excuse. We just have to think outside the box.
First, we can strive to let all our meals take on more of a eucharistic character. We can bless our food (even if silently in a restaurant with co-workers) asking that God’s life meet us in the simple act of eating. Being thankful for the food we have, we can donate to programs for the hungry, or cook a fabulous meal for a homeless shelter or Food Not Bombs. We can try to eat nourishing, local food, which has been compassionately and responsibly produced, lovingly prepared, and shared with friends. Surely such ways of eating bring us closer to eucharist than swallowing corporate fast food while driving.
We can revive the ancient practice of sending consecrated bread and wine home with folks after mass, so that they can commune themselves regularly until the next gathering. We have done this locally, with very good results. If you have reserved communion on hand, who cannot manage a few moments of quiet, the Lord’s Prayer, and a quick partaking? If folks are inclined to eucharistic adoration (alright, Alexis, I can hear you all the way across the Atlantic!), indie priest Father Seraphim McCune makes mini-monstrances: http://maxpages.com/stseraphim/Monstrance – scroll down the page for the little ones. I have one, and the website photo does not do it justice. Father Seraphim does lovely work, and has improved the design since the website went up. You liturgy freaks know that you want one. 🙂
If you have a conservative Roman Catholic devotional manual sitting around, you will find a practice called “the Mass of St John” or sometimes “Spiritual Communion,” in which you go through some of the prayers of the mass, joining yourself in spirit to the eucharist as it is celebrated around the world. A bit more boldly, you can pray the liturgy inwardly, offering your own body and blood to be transmuted into the presence of Christ, which will then be offered to the world through your daily living. (Thanks, Mariel, for this practice.)
Finally, there are a number of very short forms of the mass which can be celebrated alone, in a family setting, or with a small group. No matter who is physically present, the eucharist always gathers the whole church, living and dead, angelic and human, in intercession for the world. There is a short rite well-suited to post-Vatican II Roman sensibilities in the Sacramentary of the Servant Catholic Church. An equally brief liturgy, from a more esoteric perspective, is the Priest’s Daily Communion, from the Sanctuary Manual of the Holy Order of MANS. These rites, when celebrated with maximum simplicity, take less than 10 minutes. The Mariavites created a “People’s Mass” which can be done by anyone – lay or ordained. It consists of little more than the words of institution, followed by thanksgiving. (Father Chris Tessone – http://chris.tessone.net – is working on translating this important document, which has never appeared in English.) To give only one more example, the Sangreal Sodality (www.sangrealsodality.org) has recently posted William Gray’s mini-eucharist, “A Mass of Moments,” on their website. While my theology and preferred language differ from Gray’s, his rite is structurally very interesting, and might hold promise for your own liturgical writing.
Bottom line: There’s no such thing as not enough time for the eucharist on a very regular, even daily, basis. How about “5 Minutes of Communing” every day for Lent?