Sunday, April 21, 2024
18.2 C

Eucharist a remedy for modern body anxiety, says Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP

George Al-Akiki
George Al-Akiki
George Al-Akiki is a junior multimedia journalist at The Catholic Weekly.
British Dominican Fr Timothy Radcliffe in 2019. CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence

In an age of gender and body dysphoria the sacrifice of the Eucharist is a reminder of “the great redemption of our bodies, and of Christ who gives all that he is through his body,” Dominican Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP told listeners at St Mary’s Cathedral’s Chapter Hall.

Almost 100 people attended the English friar’s lecture, “Eucharist as our Sacrament of Hope,” as part of the Scholarship at the Cathedral series, where local and international speakers guide Catholic intellectual life in Sydney.

“We live in a society in a society that is afraid of the body and thinks of it as an object we are trapped in,” Fr Radcliffe said.

“Many people suffer a great anxiety over this, but we are deeply bodily beings. All Christian teaching is a sanctification and based on the goodness of the body.

“It’s wonderful that at the root of everything is that goodness of our bodies blessed by the body of Jesus when he says, ‘I give myself to you.’

“This is an enormously encouraging message at a time when we are seeing people struggle with their bodily being.”

Fr Radcliffe told the audience that in his lifetime the need for hope has never been so urgent.

“We see the outbreak of violence in Ukraine, the explosion of war in the Middle East, the retreat from democracy, the loss of love, of truth, the threat of climate catastrophe and the threat of nuclear war,” he said.

“In these times, Christianity has something extraordinary to offer—the Eucharist, which is our hope.”

Fr Radcliffe served as the master of the Order of Preachers from 1992-2001 and in 2023 was appointed by Pope Francis as spiritual advisor to the Synod on Synodality.

Despite the unseasonable heat, the 78-year-old friar moved deftly through his lecture and half an hour of questions on the centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic life.

“The manger was a feeding trough for animal and yet pointed forward right from the very beginning to Christ’s destiny, which was to become our food, the bread of eternal life through the Eucharist,” he said.

“If we bring bread and wine to the Lord’s table, we are implicating ourselves in the sorrow and the joy of the world for him to make sense of.

“In receiving the body and blood, we also receive each other, who are God’s body. St Augustine said: ‘Receive the sacrament of what you are.’

“We come together to receive the gift which promises the meaning of who we are. Then it is our job to go out and teach this, whether through word or deed, what we say or who we are.”

ACU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Hayden Ramsay, who introduced Fr Radcliffe, said he had a way of describing very serious aspects of faith “in the most beautiful and effective way.”

“For me and a number of us tonight, his particular reminder about the thing that matters most, the Eucharist, moved me deeply.”

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