Friday, April 22, 2016

Three Excesses of the Holy Eucharist Part I - The Tabernacle

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

The Eucharist fills all the centuries, makes God present in all places, and is the supreme effort of His love to attract all souls to His heart.  In this series of posts, Jose Guadalupe Trevino will show you three stage in the eucharistic life, three each time more eloquent manifestations, three ascensions, in which God's love gradually increases till it is without measure - "He loved to the end."  They are: the tabernacle, the altar, and your heart.  In the tabernacle God is your companion, on the altar your victim, in your heart your life.  

May God show you, Daughters, how to these three excesses of His Eucharist must correspond, on your side, three other divine excesses: perpetual adoration, constant sacrifice, and total gift of self.

Why did Jesus not limit His eucharistic presence to solemn moments of holy Mass?  Why does He not continue it during the hours when, amid lights and flowers, He receives the adoration and homage of His sons and daughters?  Why does He remain also during those hours, even in tabernacles where He is abandoned and forgotten and sometimes subjected to sacrilegious profanation?

It would seem that this persistent miracle of the real presence of Jesus under the appearance of the consecrated bread, even in times of profanation, is an excess prodigality, both useless and incompatible with the divine majesty.

And yet, this is the very reason why Jesus chose to do so: to love with a love that knows no measure and does not shrink from excess.  This was the purpose for which He invented and instituted the Holy Eucharist as we have it: "He loved to the end."

A saintly priest, great lover of the Holy Eucharist, was replacing the Sacred Host after Benediction, at the conclusion of a day of eucharistic adoration.  Flowers and a great number of burning candles decorated the altar; vanishing clouds of aromatic incense floated around the tabernacle; the organ was intoning the last hymn to be sung by the whole congregation; the faithful were sending their last murmured acts of adoration, love, and thanksgiving to the altar, while many a lover of the Eucharistic Lord felt already the strain of having to tear himself away from his beloved presence.  In those impressive moments of suspense, just as he was turning the key of the tabernacles door, the priest felt himself overwhelmed by deep emotion at the sudden thought that he was "locking up," as in a jail cell, the divine Prisoner of love, who would remain there alone for the longer hours of the night.  With tears welling up in his eyes and hardly able to repress his voice, this great lover of the Eucharistic Jesus said to Him with quivering lips: "It is Thy own fault - for being in love - for being in love!"

Such is the full truth, the reason for all the follies and excesses of the Holy Eucharist.

Love watches.  A mother prolongs her watches by her baby's cradle till late at night.  After lulling him to sleep, she continues her vigil, all the while covering his soul with her silent prayers and, with anxious concern, thinking of his future no less obscure than the night around the house.

Jesus cannot permit even one mother to surpass Him in love and tender solicitude.  At night, when His children are resting in sleep, He watches over them, covers them with His prayers, and protects them, "as a hen gathers her young under her wings."

Considerations like these come to my mind when, in the semi-obscurity of some night, I see hamlets and cities crowded around a church wherein Jesus dwells and His divine heart watches.  Then the church, its belfry rising high above the houses, brings to my mind the image of a great guardian angel watching over our sleep, or of a mother praying by her children's cradle.

Besides, no one knows beforehand the hour of his death.  A grave sickness may befall us in the middle of the night, and the Viaticum - the provision of food - must always be kept in readiness for the last journey.  That food is the Holy Eucharist.  At whatever time we apply for that Viaticum, day or night, the priest will go at once, open the door of the tabernacle, and there find Jesus ready to go with him, to strengthen and accompany us on the terrible passage from time to eternity.

Jesus, before whose eyes the future lay unveiled, knew that the follies of the Eucharist would find an echo in at least some generous hearts.  He knew that, if He consented to remain alone throughout the nights, with no more company than the flickering light of a lamp, there would be loving hearts who, rather than allow Him to remain abandoned, would interrupt their sleep, renounce a well-deserved and need rest, and, like living lamps, illumine many a solitary sanctuary and dissipate the shadows of forgetfulness and abandonment.

This sad perspective of living abandoned and alone in so many tabernacles could not change His loving plan.  His heart would be filled with a deep and tender emotion at the thought of the magnificent works of faith and devotion His eucharistic excesses were to bring forth, like a divine florescence, in the course of time: perpetual adoration, nocturnal adoration, and religious communities whose purpose is to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, day and night, without interruption.  He felt His love requited by the foresight of whole legions of souls who would leave everything behind and spend their lives before the tabernacle, whose love and heart would be great and vast enough to embrace and warm, in a magnificent gesture, all the tabernacles in the world, but particularly the ones most lonely and outraged.

The first stage of the Eucharist is the tabernacle, its first excess of love His permanent presence, day and night, in times of profanation as well as adoration.  It would seem then, eucharistic souls, that our first response ought to be perpetual adoration.  Oh, what happiness, to live always before the tabernacle!  What happiness, if the demands of life in this miserable world never tore us away from that blessed spot!

A word that ought to cover many a Catholic with shame and confusion once came from the lips of a person raised in Protestant tenets and surroundings: "If I believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, I should spend all my life before a tabernacle, and no power could tear me away from it."

Does this not suffice to put to shame our little generosity in visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?

Let us pay Him a visit every day, even when only a short one is possible, particularly if it is our happiness to live with Him under the same roof.  Let us not pass by a church where He is kept in the tabernacle, without entering at least for a moment, or without making at least a spiritual visit.

We can multiply spiritual visits at any time, amid our daily occupations and when we awake at night - a practice which growing love will more and more cogently urge upon us.  Because after all, who can enchain love?  Who can resist the heart?  Who can separate what love has joined?  Who can prevent, what obstacle can impede our hearts from living in perpetual adoration at the feet of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?

"Where thy treasure is," said Jesus, "there they heart also will be."  If the Holy Eucharist is our treasure, our heart will live in the tabernacle.

Jose Guadalupe Trevino
The Holy Eucharist