LIVERPOOL – Noting the city’s centuries-old history of welcoming immigrants, Liverpool Archbishop Malcolm McMahon opened the Adoremus National Eucharistic Congress by expressing his hope it would be “a place of welcome where you feel at home, not just in the city, but at home in Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”

The first national Eucharist Congress in England and Wales – the last Congress in 1908 was an International Eucharistic Congress – is the largest Church event in the country since Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2010.

Friday was mostly a set-up for the weekend – most of the attendees were people without work commitments – and featured a symposium on the Eucharist.

“The Eucharist brings together some of the most important and significant elements of our humanity and shared Christian faith: gathering together in the presence of the Lord,” said Father Mervyn Tower of Oxford, who spoke about the Scriptural underpinnings of the Eucharist.

Joking with the audience about the “simplicity” of his subject matter, Tower spoke about the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, the similarity of the processions of the Torah in modern Jewish liturgies with Eucharistic processions, and how Hebrew and Greek terminology informs our understanding of the Eucharist.

“The Eucharist forcibly encourages us to focus on the Scriptures. There has not been enough recognition of this in much of contemporary liturgical approaches to the Eucharist nor in many of our parishes of the crucial intrinsic synergy between the Eucharist and the Scriptures, especially with regards to the Old Testament,” said Tower.

Father David Oakley began the second presentation by asking everyone, “What is your favorite model, or image, of the Church?”

He said many people see it as an institution among many, or something that is dying or passing away; but the priest emphasized this is not the case: The Church is part of God’s plan, the Body of Christ, and the Pilgrim People of God.

“When we come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and realize how much we are loved by the Lord and shown his mercy, this leads to a certain way of looking at things, to being joyful and to being grateful,” he said.

“It seems at times, there are few signs of joy and gratitude in the lives of many disciples called to be missionary. Many disciples of Jesus are somewhat broken, wounded and crippled by resentment, a burning anger, a furious sense that they are unappreciated, unloved, unrewarded.  It all seems to be part of the spirit of our age,” Oakley continued.

“If we disciples begin to look as though we have found the pearl of great price, and to mix the Gospel metaphors, not buried it in a field somewhere, then others might take our good news message more seriously,” he said.

The Congress is getting into full swing on Saturday, which will also see a Youth Congress and a score of workshops in the “parallel congress” taking places in parishes across Liverpool.