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MERCY – A Simple Understanding of the Eucharist

I’m sure you’ve heard of this phrase ‘hocus-pocus’. What comes to your mind when you hear that word? In my mind, I’m taken back to some movies, or dramas or plays where there is a witch and she will be stirring a pot mixed with some evil concoction – targeted to cast an evil spell on someone, all the while saying ‘hocus-pocus’!

What’s interesting, though, is the origin of that phrase ‘hocus-pocus’. The origin of that phrase is from the Latin, ‘Hoc est corpus meum’, which means ‘this is my body’, which is a phrase said by a priest during the Latin Mass!

Now, how did something said by a Roman Catholic priest in Latin, during Holy Mass, come to mean what it is today? Well, it’s very easy to imagine. Just think for a moment about someone who has no clue about Eucharist or Holy Communion walking into a church during the Eucharist. What do you think he will see and experience? He will see the priest doing all sorts of things – wearing fancy clothes and moving his hands in a peculiar fashion and saying words in some foreign language! There’s every chance that a first time ‘observer’ will be confused, bemused, or even amused!

Maybe a curious fellow once came to see a Eucharist and he heard the priest say – ‘hocus’; Before he could ask if what he heard was right, there comes the next words … finally all jumbled up in his head, he would have said – what’s this ‘hocus-pocus’ all about!

I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people even today, when they see the Eucharistic celebration going on and what the celebrant (the one who officiates or leads the eucharistic celebration) does – his hand goes like this and then his hand goes that way, and they kneel and then stand up, swing the incense and some strange sounding words are said – would feel the same way – ‘what’s this ‘hocus-pocus’ all about!

So, I came up with a way to remember, understand or explain in simple terms what actually happens during the Eucharist. When we were in college or school and when you find things difficult to remember, you come up with acronyms and the acronym I use for Eucharist is M E R C Y.

M stands for mystery. Eucharist is a mystery. No wonder why it’s so often mis-understood! That’s why this sacrament is also called the ‘Mystical Supper’.

The letter E in MERCY, E stands for elevation. During the Eucharistic liturgy, when we actually say the words, ‘our hearts and minds are with you’, we are elevating ourselves and the sacrifices which are offered.

R is for remembrance. We do this in remembrance. Not a memorial, but of remembrance.

And C, is for Coming of the Holy Spirit – because there’s a part during the Divine liturgy when the Holy Spirit, Who is sent forth from the Father, comes to sanctify us, as well as the bread and the wine offered during the Eucharist.

And finally, Y – You need mercy. If you actually notice, even in the songs we sing, the single most repeated word in the entire liturgy is ‘mercy’. And it could be in Greek ‘kyrie eleison’, it could be otherwise, but mercy, mercy, mercy, mercy – it’s repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated.

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