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Saint Mary’s hosts ‘Heritage of Hospitality’ lecture

| Thursday, February 7, 2019

Maxwell Johnson, a professor of liturgy at Notre Dame, spoke at Saint Mary’s third installment of its “Heritage of Hospitality” lecture series Wednesday evening.

In his talk, entitled “Guests at the Table, Hospitality to Strangers: Receiving the Body of Christ to Be the Body of Christ,” Johnson explored how communion and the Eucharist create a community of Christ in the Church.

Beginning with a holiday anecdote, Johnson said Scripture points us towards the implications of the Holy Communion.

“For Christmas this year, my wife and I received a lovely, beautifully framed calligraphy piece with these words from Hebrews 13:2 on there: ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it’ — or as another translation has it — ‘have entertained angels, unaware,’” Johnson said. “What a focus this provides for us tonight on the Communion Rite and its implications.” 

Johnson said each element of Mass comes with its own meanings. For example, Johnson described the sign of peace, which he said is more than a time to interact with fellow laypeople.

“This is not a time for greeting our neighbors. It’s a time not to say hello to as many people as possible,” he said. “It’s rather a symbolic gesture that we need to do deliberately and sincerely with maybe just a few around us as we impart to others the blessing of Christ’s peace.”

In examining the events of worship, Johnson said the Eucharist is fundamental to our unification with Christ.

“The gift of the Eucharist, the very body and blood of Christ given and poured out for us, continue to do over and over again what baptism has already done —  to build us up as the body of Christ itself,” Johnson said. “We are what we eat and then we’re sent as that community as the body of Christ into the world in order to say to the world this is our body, our blood given and shed for you. In other words, the Eucharist forms us to be little Christs ourselves.”

Those who have encountered Christ are called to show kindness to those in need, Johnson said.

“Showing the hospitality to strangers is one of the great implications of our sharing the bread and cup,“ he said. “And so we should ask ourselves, perhaps, who are these strangers in need of our hospitality today? … If we ourselves as members of the Eucharistic Church the Body of Christ, are aliens, pilgrims and sojourners ourselves, then we dare not and cannot be a church of walls and divisions.”

Following Johnson’s lecture, Sister Catherine Osimo reflected on the Eucharist’s reinforcement of community and connected this value to the College’s campus.

Osimo said she was glad to see students of all backgrounds feel comfortable attending the day’s event.

“I do hope that the students here of whatever brand, that they do feel welcome,” she said. “ … To see you as Liturgical ministers, and to see you lecturing and passing the basket and all of that, it just gives us and me a sense of pride. That, you know, you’re all in a family together. … Eucharist is about the diversity.”

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About Maria Leontaras

Maria Leontaras is a junior at Saint Mary's pursuing a student-designed major in Interactive Journalism with minors in mathematics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Maria serves as the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer when she isn't busy tweeting about movies and One Direction.

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