Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Height and Depth of Eucharistic Love

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

We come to the stunning conclusion of Jose Guadalupe Trevino's reflection on the dimensions of the Eucharistic Love.  Between God and man there is an immeasurable distance - made only greater by man's plunging himself into the abyss of sin.  Christ alone is able to rise up to the heights of the sublimity of God and at the same time abase himself to the depths of man.  He alone can bridge the great gulf fixed between Creator and creature.  Trevino beautifully writes: "Christ's mission to become and be the bond of union between God and man, to make void that infinite distance and to fill out that bottomless abyss, is perpetuated in the Holy Eucharist.  Communion, we have said, is the loving embrace in which Christ enfolds all those He loves.  Hence, the Eucharist is the grand embrace which unites the infinite with the finite, God with man.  Oh, the height!  Oh, the depth!"

To God the Father Christ offers perfect love and to sinful man perfect mercy and compassion.  And this only through complete immolation forever immortalized in the Eucharist.  ". . . in the Eucharist there are two aspects, both equally admirable: under one aspect, it reaches God and is lost in the Father's bosom; under the other, it touches man and descends into the depths of human misery.  Toward God it is adoring love; toward man, compassionate love.  The first is adoration that glorifies; the second, compassion that saves.  Who could fathom these two last dimensions of the Eucharist?  Who could tell us what is that height which loses itself in God, and that depth which disappears in the abyss of man."  In the face of such mysteries we can only fall silent.

"Behold, my substance is as nothing before thee."  "All nations are before him as if they had no being at all, and are counted to him as nothing and vanity."  Thus sang the Psalmist and the prophet Isaiah.  But modern man, steeped in pride and presumption, refuses to point the infinite superiority of the divine majesty above all human grandeur.

God is the fullness of power, wisdom, and love; man, an abyss of indigence, ignorance, and egoism.  All in God is of absolute and permanent possession; in man all is transitory, accidental and destructible.  In God everything is complete, flawless, perfect; everything in man is limited, rudimentary, and necessarily incomplete.  God is the infinite Being; man is nothingness.  God is life; man moves slowly on toward death.  God is truth and love; man, at the most, is an aptitude for and an aspiration to truth and love.

By their very natures, God and man - the infinite and the finite - are at an immeasurable distance from each other.  Man increased that distance when he plunged himself into the abyss of sin.  Then, between God and the sinner, "a great gulf was fixed" that could not be passed over.  God is light; man, the obscurity.  God, infinite purity; man, bottomless corruption.  God, holiness; man, sin . . .  "A great gulf"  . . .  indeed!

Nevertheless, the greater man's unworthiness, the more in him the need for God has grown.  Who shall fill that double abyss of nothingness and sin?  Who shall bridge that distance?  Who shall be able to rise up to the sublimity of God, and at the same time abase himself to the depths of man?

From the Father's bosom, from the mysteries of the august sanctuary of peace, light, and plentitude, from the splendors and adorations of heaven, the Word came down to earth and, reducing Himself as if to nothing, made Himself a man.  He did not stop there, but "bore our infirmities and carried our sorrows."

I contemplate Him in they night that saw Him in agony, prostrated to the ground, trembling, and sweating blood; and I remember that the prophet called Him "a leper . . .  struck by God" ". . . a worm, and no man."  O divine Word, from what heights and into what depths Thou has descended.!

That descent, however, was not to remain an isolated fact: Christ has immortalized it in the Eucharist.  Christ's mission to become and be the bond of union between God and man, to make void that infinite distance and to fill out that bottomless abyss, is perpetuated in the Holy Eucharist.  Communion, we have said, is the loving embrace in which Christ enfolds all those He loves.  Hence, the Eucharist is the grand embrace which unites the infinite with the finite, God with man.  Oh, the height!  Oh, the depth!

Thus, we see that in the Eucharist there are two aspects, both equally admirable: under one aspect, it reaches God and is lost in the Father's bosom; under the other, it touches man and descends into the depths of human misery.  Toward God it is adoring love; toward man, compassionate love.  The first is adoration that glorifies; the second, compassion that saves.  Who could fathom these two last dimensions of the Eucharist?  Who could tell us what is that height which loses itself in God, and that depth which disappears in the abyss of man.

More than for man's sake, Holy Communion was instituted for the sake of God.

The only absolute and necessary being is God.  Outside of Him, in the world created by Him, the only thing that matters is that He be given glory, and, therefore, that His sovereign rights be acknowledged and respected, and His sovereign will obeyed.  All the glory of God can receive from His creatures, full acknowledgement of His rights and complete subjection to His will, are summed up in one term: adoration.  Love itself, even in its highest summits and ultimate expression, in its very transports and ecstasies, is nothing else than adoration.  From the savage who kneels before a deity whose existence he vague surmises, to the holiest soul absorbed in the loving contemplation of the omnipresent, living, and true God, all religion is summarized and crowned in adoration.

Hence, the object of Christ's whole mission on earth was to give the Father true worshippers, who would worship Him "in spirit and truth."  In spirit and truth: that means united to Christ, who is the Truth, and moved by His Spirit, who is the substantial Love uniting the Father and the Son, namely the Holy Ghost.

To accomplish this, He first made Himself the great Adorer of the Father, giving this supreme meaning to all the mysteries of His life: His poverty and labors, His tears, the shedding of His good, and His death itself means adoration.

"Jesus filled with adoration the deep silence of the crib, the obscure labor of Nazareth, the long nights of prayer on the mountains.  On Calvary He showed it in a more expressive manner by the voice of His tears and blood, and finally by the voice of His death . . ."

On that poor altar, where holy Mass is offered - more frequently than not amidst vulgar surroundings: tasteless ornaments, a distracted congregation, and soulless hymns - profound mysteries are realized.  Putting off the apparel of His glory, Jesus comes down from heaven and hides himself under the veils of the host.  There He makes His own the mute adorations of nature, the silent adorations of the skies, the sorrow-filled adorations of men, and the ecstatic adorations of the angels - the adorations of the whole universe.  He lifts them up to the throne of God and offered them, with the loud voice of His sacrifice, in a supreme homage of adoration.

What a spectacle: Jesus, as man and creature, comprising and carrying in Himself the whole of creation, proclaims His nothingness before His heavenly Father.  Nothingness bows before the Infinite.  And that adoration, from the abysses of indigence and absolute dependency, rises up like a mighty clamor; rises higher and higher, above the skies; penetrates to that "light inaccessible" in which He dwells, the "King of kings and Lord of lords"; it enter into the immensities of that light, and rises higher still, carried on His mighty wings, until it reaches the spheres where all created intelligence is lost, all created eyes are blind, and all created being feels crushed by its own nothingness.  There, even the soul of Jesus, by far surpassing every other creature, is halted, because whatever is finite is confined by limited, detained by barriers, and confronted by unsurmountable weaknesses.  Beyond those barriers there is still divine infinitude, veiled by what in mystical language is called "dark darkness" and "luminous darkness" and is comprehensible only through its very inaccessibility or incomprehensibility: it throws the soul of Jesus into an ecstasy of eternal adoration.  Oh, the height!

But to what depths does thee Eucharistic Christ lower Himself?

All the sublime mysteries we have described take place not far away from us, not high above us in the hidden recesses of heaven, but within the narrow and humble limited of the Sacred Host.  This is already a descent into the depths.  It is, however, only the beginning of Christ's abasements in the Eucharist.  Where do they end?

When the Word, who is "the brightness of his Father's glory and image of his substance" came down to us, the purest reliquary mankind has ever known, the holiest place on earth, the virginal womb of Mary, became His dwelling place.  And yet, the Church exclaims in her hymn of thanksgiving: "Thou didst not abhor the virgin's womb."

What then shall we say when we see Him enter into the heart of any ordinary human being?  "I know the heart of but one honest man," wrote De Maistre, referring to himself, "and, I assure you, it is a horrible thing."  What must be the heart of a wicked criminal, or sacrilegious man? . . . To think that the sweet Jesus of the Eucharist would enter into even such a heart!

How many times unawares the priest's hand places the Sacred Host on lips stained by sin.  Yet the Holy Eucharist does not recoil.  He goes ahead, descends, down, down, to the bottom of a place of corruption, more repulsive than hell itself.  O my God!  My God!  The immaculate Host in that cesspool of sin!  Yet, now I understand the "worm and no man" of the Psalmist - not a man, but a worm writhing in that loathsome mire! . . . How can God permit the perpetration of that - that which has no name?

More than one reason could be alleged to explain it; but the most plausible seems to be the following: the more the Eucharist abases itself, the greater is Its immolation.  Consequently, the adoration born from it rises up higher and, with ever more appealing accents, touches the heart of God.  Christ suffers the infamy of the sacrilege that, from the depths of a sinful heart and the impurities of guilt, He might send up "the unutterable groanings" of His own adoration.

Oh, to what depths Jesus descends, and to what heights He ascends!

Before these mysteries, which dazzle our intellect and crush its pride, all we can do is fall down on our knees, incline our hearts, and adore in silence . . .  .

Jose Guadalupe Trevino
The Holy Eucharist