Thursday, March 31, 2016

Perfume and Tears

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Jose Guadalupe Trevino, in the following reflection, masterfully guides us deep into the origins of Eucharistic Adoration and the consolation that adorers bring to the Heart of Christ.  In the outpouring of tears and perfumed oil, Magdalen is the exemplar of eucharistic love and veneration.  "Before that sacred body was wrapped in the sacramental shroud, and before it was laid in the 'new sepulcher' of our tabernacles, her affectionate heart had shed upon it a costly perfume, symbol of the love that would always envelop the adorable Eucharist."  And "If the fragrance of Magdalen's perfume not only filled Simon's house at Bethany, but also permeated the immortal pages of the Gospels and is perceived throughout the centuries, her tears, veritable perfume of the heart, filled with their delightful aroma something more immortal and divine: the Heart of Jesus."

Such is the love that you are called to imitate.  And as the prodigality of Magdalen's sign of love was misunderstood, scorned and rebuked, so often will the offering of yourself and your prayer before the Blessed Sacrament be seen as wasteful or lacking in value. Yet, be assured that your loving adoration is the most precious of all gifts to the Lord.  To console Jesus: in this consists essentially the noble mission of eucharistic souls.  Yours, indeed, is "the best part."

It pleases me to consider Mary Magdalen, the divinely enamored of the Gospels, as the precursor of eucharistic souls who are daily increasing in number and become more and more select and inflamed with love.  Did not Magdalen, in utter disregard of scorn and criticism, feel and follow a special attraction to honor the body of Christ, the same body we venerate under the sacramental species?

It happened the first time in Galilee, on the day of her conversion, at the dining hall of a wealthy Pharisee, amid the noise and merriment of a banquet.  Wrapped in the folds of a luxurious cloak, she made her way through the guests to the feet of Jesus, who was "reclining at table."  Kneeling down, she embraced and kissed those sacred feet, and wipe them with the mass of her loosened hair.  To express her profound contrition and obtain forgiveness, her lips utter not a word: she spoke only with the silent language of the heart, so well understood by my beloved Christ, namely, by her tears.

More than two years later it happened again, this time at Bethany, a village then situated on the eastern slopes of Mount Olivet and less than two miles east of Jerusalem.

Six days before His last farewell, Jesus went to that little town, which He loved so much, and stopped at the house of His three devoted friends, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.  More than one before, in the course of His public ministry, He had been welcome and always expected guest in that house.  From the Gospels of Matthew and Mark we gather the, during this last week of His earthly life, every evening, after spending most to the daytime in the Temple of Jerusalem, facing the envy, hatred, and carvings of His embittered enemies, He sought solitude and a comparative security in the groves of Mount Olivet, or continued His way to Bethany and the home of His three friends.  On such occasions, now as before, the contemplative Mary would choose her place at the feet of the divine Friend and Master, and remain there listening in rapt attention to His enlightening and consoling confidences.

Did Jesus, in those intimate confidences, disclose to her His approaching passion and death?  Above all, did He perhaps reveal to her the approaching institution of His Eucharist, the living memorial of His passion and death?  Everything inclines us to assume that He did so.

Without taking up this appealing inference, let us consider what happened on one of those lasting evenings at Bethany.

Jesus had been invited with His apostles to a formal dinner at the house of a certain Simon, who was bound to Lazarus and his sisters by the ties of close friendship.  He had accepted.  It was His last public assistance at a banquet.  Lazarus, whom Jesus had recently called back to life, was on of the guests.  Martha served and seems to have acted as mistress of the house.  Mary was also there, though it would seem that she came after the banquet had already started.

A very natural association of images must have awakened in Christ and Mary the remembrance of that first banquet, in the course of which she had received forgiveness of her sins, and the thought of that other banquet during which He would inaugurate the perennial and heavenly Agape, the Holy Eucharist.

With the solicitous foresight of those who love, Mary had secured "a pound of ointment, genuine nard of great value," contained in a vase of artistically molded alabaster.  Carrying the vase in her hands, she enters the dining room.  The crowd of guests is hushed by the sudden appearance of one so unexpected.  Mary advances toward Jesus.  Will she open her alabaster jar with great care, so as not to destroy it?  Will she sparsely pour out its precious content?  No, such are not the ways of love.  Love knows the science of absolute and total, perfect and irrevocable surrender.  In the hushed room a sound is heard.  Mary has broken her artistic vase!  On the head and feet of Jesus she empties its precious content, even to the last drop.

Admirable are the intuitions of love.  Did Mary, by one of these intuitions, realize the whole meaning of her action and penetrate its profound symbolism?  Whatever the answer, Jesus certainly had this intuition, and, with tender emotion, must have contemplated, in the broken vase and its poured out perfume, a touching symbol of His Eucharist.  His heart was indeed a precious vessel, formed by the hands of God, and overflowing with the richest perfume heaven has ever known: a sublime mixture of the majesty of divine love and the tenderness of human affection.

Carrying this precious vase within His breast, He had lived among men.  But on the eve of His death, He, the divine Model of total, perfect, and irrevocable self-surrender, poured forth in the Eucharist the fragrance of all the love contained in that vase, and the following day broke the vase itself on the cross.  "And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment."  Yes, all mankind, all the centuries, and the whole universe have been filled with the sweet odor of this divine perfume.

But, oh, the wretchedness and folly of men!  Even the symbol of the Eucharist scandalizes them, "and they grumbled" at Mary.  They saw in her action an excessive prodigality, and indignantly censured what their covetous hearts were not able to understand.  But Jesus came to her defense.  "She has done me a good turn," He said.  "She has anointed my body for burial."

Will it be a temerarious inference if we assume that by these words Jesus, in a veiled manner, made known to this loving soul that He had understood the eucharistic meaning of her "good turn," of her action inspired by love?  Anticipation is one of love's characteristics.  In the name of all the believing generations to come, Mary had shown to Christ's body the first tokens of eucharistic love and veneration.  Before that sacred body was wrapped in the sacramental shroud, and before it was laid in the "new sepulcher" of our tabernacles, her affectionate heart had shed upon it a costly perfume, symbol of the love that would always envelop the adorable Eucharist.  "She anointed my body for burial."

Only thus do I fully understand why Jesus attached such importance to her gift, as to declare with all the solemnity of an oath that "wherever in the world this Gospel is preached, this also that she has done shall be told in memory of her."  It shall be known and praised; and, as long as the Gospel will be announced to me and the Eucharist venerated, its remembrance shall not perish.

A few days later came the cruel reality: Jesus is dying on the cross; and, by the cross, at her favorite place, we see Magdalen, clinging to the bleeding and rigid feet of her divine Beloved.

When, finally, the lifeless body was taken from the cross, a spotless Virgin, Mary Immaculate, and a repentant sinner, Mary Magdalen - innocent love and rehabilitated love - received it in their arms in behalf of mankind, and embalmed it with the myrrh and aloes of Nicodemus.  Still better than with these precious ointments, those two souls, who had loved Christ more than anyone else had loved Him, embalmed His mangled body with the incomparable perfume of their tears.

Oh, tears of Mary!  Oh, tears of Magdalen!  You were mankind's supreme homage to the lifeless body of Christ.

At the break of dawn on Easter Day, a group of women advanced cautiously through the shadows.  Mary, their leader, carried in her hands her customary perfumes - such is the fascinating sameness of love.  Finding the grave empty, her companions traced their steps back to the Holy City.  She alone remained, weeping, by the open sepulcher.  Her perseverance received its reward; and when the word "Mary," coming from the lips of Jesus, made her recognize the risen Savior, her soul was filled with transports of joy.  At once she fell down on her knees, eager to embrace and kiss His feet and bathe them with her tears.  Oh, the truly fascinating monotony of love!  Its theme is always the same: perfume and tears.

If the fragrance of Magdalen's perfume not only filled Simon's house at Bethany, but also permeated the immortal pages of the Gospels and is perceived throughout the centuries, her tears, veritable perfume of the heart, filled with their delightful aroma something more immortal and divine: the Heart of Jesus.

When I come to Thy tabernacle and have no precious perfumes to offer Thee, my Beloved Christ, when I have nothing else to offer Thee than silently flowing tears, oh, how it consoles me to think that the first offering Thy Holy Eucharist received were the tears of a repentant sinner!  Thou wilt not despise my tears, although they be, as they are, the tears of a poor and miserable sinner.

My heart has no other desire than to love Thee.  And, when death will come to break it like Magdalen's alabaster, may its last drop of blood be Thine, and its last pulsation an act of consuming love of Thee.

Magdalen did not only honor the Body of Christ; what is more, she also consoled His suffering heart. In the first role she may be regarded as the forerunner of the exterior cult of the Holy Eucharist; in the second we discover the intimate spirit of that cult.

Mary, the Immaculate Mother of Jesus, had been, above all, His consoler in the intimacy of Nazareth.  But, during the years of His public ministry, this mission of hers was strikingly interrupted, or at least covered with a veil of humble reserve.  Jesus, truly human as He was, felt the need and the love ambitions of His followers filled His heart to overflowing with sadness and disappointment, and the rebellion and ingratitude of the others left it deeply wounded.  At such times He would take the road to Bethany and the quiet home of His friend Lazarus.  There, as we have seen already, He would unburden His sadness to Magdalen's sympathetic and understanding soul, and find the comfort we derive from an intimate conversation with a trusted friend, a comfort so necessary to the heart and yet so rarely attainable.

What was the subject of those heart-to-heart talks between Jesus and Magdalen?  What mysterious designs of divine love prompted them?  The only thing we know with certainty this regard is the Master's meaningful word: "Mary has chosen the best part."

For my part, I feel inclined to think that Jesus did not avail Himself of those conversations for merely doctrinal statements.  On such occasions I like to see in Jesus the Friend rather than the Master.  His main object was not to teach, but to pour out into a loving and understanding should the bitterness that filled His heart to overflowing.

How delicate and exquisite, ardent and pure must have been Magdalen's heart to be capable of consoling the heart of a God-man!  And yet, it was the heart of a sinner.

He would speak to her, I imagine, of the ingratitude of men, which so deeply wounds all noble and sensitive hearts.  He would share with her the pain caused to His loving heart by the perfidy and obstinacy of His enemies.  He would go still further because, confidences once started, the heart feels urged on to new confidences.  He would lift the veil of the future: His Church, His priests, the persecutions, and, soon, His death - above all, His Eucharist.

O my God, who could describe the sweetness of those moments?  Jesus, speaking with accents of tenderness - Magdalen, the mystic beloved, sitting at His feet, her favorite place, and listening with rapt attention, her eyes fixed on His eyes, her soul flowing out into His soul.  Jesus, feeling Himself understood and immensely loved - Magdalen, experiencing the inebriating happiness of knowing that in her heart, in her love, the divine Beloved was find rest and solace.  These are mysteries which escape our understanding here on earth.

Time passed on.  In its course, other chosen souls, continuing before the tabernacle the mission initiated by Magdalen at Bethany, have offered Jesus rest and consolation.  Men, nowadays, are no less rude, ungrateful, or egoistic than they were nineteen hundred years ago, and the sensitive and exquisite heart of Christ yearns for consolers.  To console Jesus: in this consists essentially the noble mission of eucharistic souls.  Theirs, indeed, is "the best part."

Truly hours in heaven are the hours those souls spend before the tabernacle.  They do not speak; they listen; nor does Jesus merely instruct them.  They are hours of intimate communion.  As their eyes are fixed on the eucharistic Lord, their hearts are united to His heart and their souls submerged into His soul.  Like Magdalen, they derive unutterable happiness from an intimate conviction that to Jesus they are balm and consolation.

Once more, how encouraging is the thought that, after the immaculate heart of Mary, it was the heart of a sinner purified by divine love that Jesus chose for His most intimate confidences.  How well we thereby understand that, in truth, this beloved Shepherd came not to seek the sheep within the fold, but those gone astray; not the just, but sinners; not the healthy, but souls afflicted by spiritual disease.

Magdalen was truly the forerunner of eucharistic souls, when she poured perfume and tears upon Christ's body, and into His afflicted heart shed the balm of consolation and the fragrance of love.

Jose Guadalupe Trevino
The Holy Eucharist

Monday, March 28, 2016

Heaven on earth

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

To imitate the saints in heaven now is to share, as much as human frailty allows, in their contemplation and adoration.  It is for this reason that we make the Sacred Host the center of our life and prayer.  What an extraordinary gift to have perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and for those souls drawn to the Eucharistic throne it is truly heaven on earth! 

"It has been said, and rightly so, that between contemplation and adoration there is so close a union, so mutual a relationship, that they cannot be separated. We adore while contemplating and we contemplate while adoring. The saints in heaven live in perpetual adoration, because their joy is derived from eternal contemplation. On earth, where in some manner we must imitate the life of heaven, Christian devotion has striven to make the Sacred Host the center of perpetual contemplation and adoration, as far as human frailty permits. And both adoration and contemplation have called for perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
"The Sacred Host perpetually exposed on its Eucharistic throne, and, before it, day and night, loving souls in adoration and contemplation! Is this not truly heaven on earth?,"

- from "The Holy Eucharist" by Jose Guadalupe Trevino 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Do not make excuses

Dear Daughters,

Do you realize that when the Lord is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament He is coming to you, seeking your love and to have you place your confidence in Him.  When the Lord is offended everywhere, mocked and denied, when His Church is rejected and His servants betray Him, it behooves noble souls to come and publicly adore Him; to tell the world - "This is my Beloved, He is my Life."  The greatest gift you can bring Him is to share with Him your vulnerability.  Expose your misery, your sins, your heart's bitterness, your loneliness and disillusion to Him.  All find an echo in His Heart.

Do not say that you have no time, that you don't know what to tell Him, or that you must delay until tomorrow.  Your Beloved waits for you now.

"Did you ever consider well, dear Christian soul, that, when the Sacred Host is publicly exposed, Jesus is not on His Eucharistic throne to receive the adorations of the angels and to enjoy the company of the blessed? These He finds in heaven. But He is on His Eucharistic throne to receive your adorations, to listen to your confidences, and to console and alleviate your sorrows and trials.

Come, then, and adore that Holy Host. When Jesus is offended everywhere, when His royal dignity is mocked and His sovereignty denied, it behooves noble souls to come and acknowledge publicly that He is our beloved Sovereign and divine King, and that to Him all praise, honor, and glory are due.

Come and adore that Host of mercy and peace. Show Him your wounds, tell Him your faults, expose to Him your miseries. You do not insult Him who shed His blood for all the sins of the world, when you tell Him your sins to obtain forgiveness. Whatever their number and grievousness, in proportion to His infinite mercy they are less than a grain of sand lost in the immensity of an ocean.

Come close to that loving Host and pour out your heart's bitterness into His heart. Let your tears flow freely in His presence as if you were upon His breast. The sorrows of your exile, the faithlessness of your friends, the loneliness of your heart, and the disillusions of your life, all find an echo in that heart, which has known from experience what it means to suffer.

There you will find peace in your worries, light in your difficulties, and firmness in the execution of your good resolutions. There your thirst for affection will be satisfied. You will learn the science of hidden sacrifice, of constant abnegation, of tireless meekness, and of perfect joy.

Do not say that you have no time. Rather, acknowledge that you do not love Him enough. If you did, you would leave everything, in order to visit Him.

Do not say that you do not know what to tell Him. Rather, admit that you do not love Him. If you loved Him, your lips would speak out of His heart's abundance; and, if your lips stayed silent, it would be because hearts that understand each other need not words: silence is enough.

Do not look for other excuses. Try it, and find out by your own experience. Do not wait until tomorrow. Today, go and spend time with Jesus, whether He is within the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance. Let your weary and wounded heart be penetrated by the peaceful atmosphere of the sanctuary and your soul be bathed in the light streaming forth from the Eucharistic Sun. And, tomorrow, I am sure, you will return."

The above reflection was taken from the book The Holy Eucharist, by Jose Guadalupe Trevino

Let your eyes speak

Dear Daughters,
The human face is a mysterious icon of the heart. It signifies, among other things, a personal presence open to relationship with another. In the Sacrament of His Love, the Face of Christ, the Human Face of God, is turned towards you who seek Him, ready to draw you into a healing and life-giving communion of love with His Sacred Heart. Thus did Pope John Paul II share with the Church his own experience of seeking, finding, and adoring the Face of Christ in the Eucharist.
To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “programme” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Likewise, Dom Mark Kirby beautifully writes:
The Eucharistic Face of Christ waits to meet the gaze of our faith, waits to be sought and recognized, adored and implored. “We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known” (1 Cor 13:12). Sanctissima Facies Iesu, sub sacramento abscondita, respice in nos et miserere nostril. . .  .The adorer who seeks the Eucharistic Face will experience that in its light there is the healing of brokenness and the beginning of transfiguration. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).The Eucharistic Face of Jesus is veiled beneath the humble species of bread lest we be blinded by its glory. “His face,” says Saint John, “was like the sun shining in full strength” (Rev 1:16). The rays of that Sun reach us nonetheless through the appearance of bread that conceals it; its healing effects are not in any way diminished, nor is the splendour of its glory. “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor 4:18). “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Eucharistic face of Christ” (cf. 2 Cor 4:6).The sentiments of every human heart find expression on the face even before they are communicated in words. So too are the secrets of the Sacred Heart revealed on the Face of the Word made Flesh and communicated to those who seek that Face in the mystery of the Eucharist. One who seeks the Face of Christ will be led surely, inexorably, to the inexhaustible riches of His Heart. The Face of Christ shines through the veil of the Sacred Species to illumine those who seek it there. The radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus heals and repairs the disfiguration of sin; it restores beauty to the face of the soul and likeness to the image of God obscured by sin.
Allow yourselves then Daughters when before the Blessed Sacrament to focus only upon the Beloved; confident in the healing power of His loving gaze.  Let nothing come between you.  Let nothing in those moments - no matter how good - distract you or divert your gaze from Him.  Tell your heart: "Choose the better part."

“Beloved souls, in suffering and in joy, go to Jesus hidden in the Sacred Host and let the sweetness of His loving gaze fill you. Like the sick who expose their diseased bodies to the healing rays of the sun, expose your miseries, no matter what they are, to the beams of light streaming forth from the Sacred Host.

Why dilute your love in an unceasing flow of words? Why destroy the charm of intimate communings with Him by childish loquacity? May the silence of the Eucharist teach you silent recollection! But, while your lips are still, let your eyes speak. Yes, tell it all to Jesus with a long gaze full of adoration, love, and pleading. Put all your tenderness in that look, all your desires, your sorrows, your disillusions—in a word, your whole soul. Stir up your faith and seek the eyes of Jesus through the Eucharistic veils. May His gaze and yours meet, be united, and form together one and the same light and one and the same fire of love. Why do you look for more? Ask Him only to deign to look upon you. Tell Him with entire confidence: ‘Look upon me and have mercy on me’ (Ps 118:132). Remembering that, as soon as Jesus had looked on that young man who came to Him, He loved him, fear not to tell Him also: ‘Look upon me and … love me!'”

(From The Holy Eucharist by Jose Guadalupe Trevino)