Saturday, April 23, 2016

Three Excesses of the Holy Eucharist Part II - The Altar

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

In this second part of the series on the excesses of the Eucharist, Trevino focuses on the Altar.  It is here that Christ offers the constant immolation of Himself. Divine love accomplishes the impossible.  God decreed to love man with a love that would go to the extreme of the shedding of blood and pass through the crucible of indescribable suffering.  In the person of the Son He made Himself a man, indissolubly uniting in His heart all the greatness of divine and all the tenderness of human love.  He tasted love's highest satisfaction, to give life for the beloved; and from the heights of Calvary He could say to all mankind: "Behold, I have loved thee to the end: unto the excess of shedding my blood for thee and the follow of immolating Myself for thy sake."  Christ thirsts to offer himself perpetually with a burning desire for us and our salvation.  He wanted to carry His immolation to a never heard of excess, reaching to every altar throughout all time; so much so that immolation, victimhood, is His essential state.  In helplessness, humiliation and annihilation, He loves to the end.

The conclusion of this, Daughters, is that the life of eucharistic souls must be a life of immolation. The measure of your love will be the measure of your sacrifice; the willingness "to flee from all the pleasures which debase and stain, to embrace all the sacrifices that purify and ennoble, and to shrink from none of the abnegations implicated in Christ's precept: "Love one another as I have loved you."

Jesus' love has reached another excess in the Holy Eucharist, that of constant immolation of Himself.

Love's last word, its supreme triumph, is to give life for the beloved; this was proclaimed by Christ Himself, whose heart knew well the laws of love.  "Greater love than this no one has, that one lay dow his life for his friend."  This intimate and exalted satisfaction of loving till the shedding of one's blood and the sacrifice of self is the exclusive privilege of man. It is impossible to the angels, who are spirits.

Yet how limited is human love!  Its very triumph is also its exhaustion. When the soldier sacrifices his life on the altar of patriotism, or when the martyr offers to Christ the testimony of blood, he may taste the supreme joy of love, but he cannot taste it anew; man has but one life to offer and only once can he immolate it.

This is why certain souls, who had learned the science of love and felt that the immensity of their love for God surpassed any proof they were able to offer Him, would speak to Him with holy and loving audacity: "Would I had a thousand lives to offer them to Thee a thousand times."

But to mere man, finite and limited as he is, this super human ambition will always remain a beautiful ideal that cannot be realized.

Divine love, however, accomplishes that impossible . . .  .

In the splendors of His eternity God decreed to love man with a love that would go to the extreme of the shedding of blood and pass through the crucible of indescribable suffering.  In the person of the Son He made Himself a man, indissolubly uniting in His heart all the greatness of divine and all the tenderness of human love.  He tasted love's highest satisfaction, to give life for the beloved; and from the heights of Calvary He could say to all mankind: "Behold, I have loved thee to the end: unto the excess of shedding my blood for thee and the follow of immolating Myself for thy sake."

One lone offering of self - how little this is to a love that is infinite and unsurpassable!  To immolate Himself a thousand times, to sacrifice Himself in all the places of the earth, to cause the mighty and triumphant voice of His blood to rise to heaven at all times, always fresh, constantly being shed, not only on one, but on thousands of Calvaries - this would be the supreme triumph of divine love.  "I thirst" - I am tortured by an unquenchable thirst for suffering!  This cry of the dying Christ found an echo in the heart of God, and His omnipotence fulfilled the burning desire it manifested.  What to Him are three hours of agony and a whole life of sacrifice?  To quench its thirst Christ's love demand a life of centuries to immolate Himself, an agony lasting in a certain manner as long as guilty mankind would live on earth.  To that purpose He nailed Himself, so to speak, to the sacramental species, where He lives always, constantly sacrificing Himself, and continuing to shed His most precious blood.

Let us adore this new excess of Christ's love.


Faith teaches us that the sacrifice of the altar is the same as the sacrifice of the cross: the same Victim, the same Priest, the same value, the same reality.  The only difference is in the manner of the offering: on Calvary the sacrifice  was bloody, on the altar it is unbloody.  On Calvary the blood of Christ was separated from His body, in a physical and painful manner; on the altar it is separated mystically, that is, in a mysterious and painless manner.  Both separations, nevertheless, are something real. 

For Christ's charity it was not enough to offer His life only once for those He loved: He wanted to carry His immolation to a never-heard-of excess, to really immolate Himself at all hours and in all places on the earth.  He wanted not only Calvary, but thousands, as many as there are altars in the civilized countries, in the frozen polar regions, in the sandy deserts, in the jungle of the Indies, on the solitary islands of Oceania, and even on the high seas where there is no other temple than the immensity of the skies, and no other altar than the wood structure of a fragile craft.  Three hundred and fifty thousand Masses daily - what a prodigality in the Sacrifice!

More even than this - in a certain way, Jesus continues His immolation of the Mass as long as His sacramental presence endures.  Does He not live immolated in the Holy Eucharist?  This might well be a new reason for His permanent presence: to continue His sacrifice.  If St. John saw Jesus in His glorious life "as if slain," with greater reason may we assert that in His eucharistic life He continues immolating Himself for us unceasingly.

This mystical immolation is so much the essential state of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, that the very words which give Him His eucharistic being cause Him, in the same moment, to be sacrificed.  In fact, the words of the consecration bring about the mystical separation of Christ's blood from His body - which is the essence of the Sacrifice - and at the same time make Him present in the Eucharist.  Hence the act which makes Him present under the appearances is the same that immolates Him.  In other words: only in immolating Himself does He become present.  This is why immolation is the fundamental and essential state of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, and for this reason we call Him there Hostia (Host), i.e., Victim par excellence.

Let us now look more closely into the meaning of that real and true state of immolation of Jesus in the Eucharist.  The painful immolation of Jesus, far from being limited to His passion and death, filled His whole life.  From the moment of His Incarnation, He lived not only immolated, but, according to St. Paul's expression, annihilated.

Yet, does He not surpass in His eucharistic life the annihilations of His mortal life?

In the poverty of the stable at least the charms of a heavenly child could be seen; amid the ignominies of Calvary the tragic traits of the martyr's heroism still provoke admiration; and in the grave itself the human form, albeit rigid and mangled, still remained to Jesus.  But in the Eucharist, in that frail Host, in that particle which the slightest breeze can sweep away, in a fragment which the sense hardly can perceive - what is there of the divine majesty?  What remains of at least the human appearance?  In the Eucharist, Jesus abdicates all exterior dignity, and reveals His presence by no sensible signs whatever.  More fettered and more a prisoner than in the praetorian of Pilate, more helpless than on the cross, He seems to authorize the sarcasms of unbelievers, to give them opportunity for their profanations, and to offer a pretext for the blasphemies of His enemies.  Could He go any further in His immolation and annihilation?  Cannot impiety fling at the Sacred Eucharist all the sarcasms uttered by the prophets against the idols of paganism?  Where is the power of those false gods, asked the prophets, who cannot help themselves, who have to be carried from place to place by their priests, and be protected against robbers behind securely locked iron gates?  Behold, if nobody carries Jesus in the Eucharist, He will not go; and if He is not surrounded with many a safeguard, He will remain exposed to any sacrilegious outrage.  What helplessness!  What humiliation!  What annihilation!  In other words: What unheard of immolation!  What excess of love!  Truly, "He loved to the end."

The inescapable conclusion from all this is that the life of eucharistic souls must be a life of immolation.  And the facts of experience corroborate this conclusion.  In the obscurity of the catacombs, amid the splendors of the medieval centuries of faith, during the battles of our modern times, the Sacred Host has always been the germ of sacrifice and the seed of heroism.  The Sacred Host gave birth to those three glories of Christ's doctrine: the heroism of martyrdom, the heroism of virginity, and the heroism of the apostolate.  It has preserved them in a society of ever growing degeneration and defilement.  It has taught souls to flee from all the pleasures which debase and stain, to embrace all the sacrifices that purify and ennoble, and to shrink from none of the abnegations implicated in Christ's precept: "Love one another as I have loved you."  Love all men as I have loved them.

Let no one, therefore, say that he loves Jesus in the Eucharist, if for His sake he does not sacrifice himself.  The measure of our sacrifice will show forth the measure of our love.

Jose Guadalupe Trevino
The Holy Eucharist