Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Eucharist - the earthly Heaven

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,


Let the Eucharist shape your spiritual life completely and you will know a hope and joy that no one and no thing can take from you.  In this land of exile, this valley of tears, the Eucharist is a "possession that is eternal and can never be lost." Christ's love suffered at the thought of having to delay to give you the total gift of Himself.  In order that you might taste now purity, happiness, and  consolation and that His desire to give you His eternal love might be satisfied, our Lord created an earthly heaven - the Eucharist! There hidden in the host your Beloved is personally present. Remain at the altar, dear Daughters, for your Lord cries out: "Come to the foot of my tabernacle and, far from the impure and degraded world, breathe in an atmosphere of purity.  Come and eat my Body and drink my Blood, and I shall live within your heart, and my arms shall enfold you in an embrace which it depends on your free will to make last till the eternal embrace of heaven.  "He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him."  Can you desire more on earth?"


God has created us for heaven.  Hence earth is to us no more than a place of exile, where we feel like strangers and pilgrims.  Like nomads, who today pitch their tents in one place only to move them to another place tomorrow, with never a permanent home, we, too, "exiled children of Eve," are always wandering toward heaven, along the pathways of the "valley of tears."

On earth we have no abiding place, because heaven is our true fatherland, our "home sweet home."  The good God awaits us there, who is our Father, and whose tender love infinitely surpasses that of all mothers together.  There Mary waits for us, enfolding heaven and earth in the incomparable sweetness of her glance and in the tenderness of her most loving heart.  There all the dear ones whom death has torn away from our sides are waiting too.  There we shall enjoy again and forever the sweet affections and holy friendships born on earth.  In truth, heaven is our home and fatherland.

Earth is a place of sin and misery.  How it pains a soul, not yet debased by evil's contact, to see sin reign everywhere, soiling everything, and flooding the earth like a second deluge!  What suffering to thirst for purity and to have to live in the midst of moral filth, to be consumed by the desire of perfection, and yet to feel, at every step, the power of human weakness!

But heaven is the mansion of purity.  O ardently longed for happiness!  There we shall remain free from every stain of sin.  We shall enter there with stainless souls whose brightness shall never more be dimmed.

The earth is a place of punishment, a prison.  Cursed by God after the first sin, it offers man only briars and brambles.  We have to water it with the sweat of our brows and the tears of our eyes, and sometimes, when life holds to our lips its bitterest chalice, with the blood of our hearts.

But heaven is the place of eternal rewards.  There shall be no strife or separation or mourning.  God Himself will dry up the wellspring of our tears.  In heaven every desire will be satisfied; happiness will be perfect and peace unalterable.

Heaven is all that, because it is vision of God, love of God, and possession of God; but a vision without veils, a love without deficiencies, a possession that is eternal and never to be lost.

What wonder, then, as the years roll by, if only one of all our desires survives in the end, namely, the immense, profound, and irresistible desire of heaven and the possession of God?

Jesus who knew the human heart so well, could not bear to see us pine till the end of life, without at least a foretaste of heaven.  His love for us suffered at the thought of having to delay so long the full and total gift of Himself to us.

And so, in order that our exile might be more endurable, that we might enjoy already on earth the inebriating perfume of the purity of paradise, that we might begin even in this place of trial to taste the happiness to be found in the possession of God, to satisfy His love and be our consolation.  He created an earthly heaven: the Eucharist.

It is a veiled heaven, because we still are walking in the obscurities of faith; a transient heaven, like a flash of lightning in the night, or like the echo of a far off harmony; yet, even so, a true heaven.  There, hidden beneath the white appearance of the Sacred Host, Jesus is truly and personally present, the lovely child of Bethlehem, the humble Carpenter of Nazareth, the gentle Wonder-Worker of Galilee, the Victim of Calvary.  There is Jesus, the Man-God, in whom is the fullness of the Godhead, because He is the Word of God, and with the Word are always the Father and the Holy Spirit.  What more shall we possess in heaven?  The manner of the possession will be different, but its object is essentially the same.  The Eucharist is the essence of heaven on earth.

When we receive the Sacred Host, therefore, heaven really comes to us and fills our hearts for all too short a time.  Holy Communion is not only a remembrance and a hope, but a divine reality: it is heaven anticipated!  With good reason, then, the priest says, while placing the Sacred Host on our tongue: "May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul unto life everlasting" - as if to say: "May the power of the transient earthly heaven you receive from my hand lead you safely, through the obscurities and dangers of this land of exile, to the full enjoyment of the eternal heaven of your fatherland."

Lord Jesus, my Beloved, I hunger for heaven.  The obstinate persistence of my miseries wearies me.  It breaks my heart to see everything enslaved by sin!  The atmosphere of corruption I breathe in the world asphyxiates me!

I hunger for heaven!  Oh, when shall I finally possess Thee, my soul's only love?  When wilt Thou be mine forever?  When shall I be allowed to press Thee to my heart, and be enfolded by Thy divine arms in an eternal embrace?  O beloved Christ, I hunger for heaven!

I hear Thy answer: "Dear soul, I understand you.  I, too, was in exile and trod the ways of life, seeking heaven, the bosom of my Father.  For this reason did I sweeten the words of my farewell to mine own:  "If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father . . . "  Yes, "I return to the Father . . . " to my Father, who is also your Father.

"Yet, to relieve my exile, I carried heaven in the innermost recesses of my soul.  There I contemplated the face of my Father and remained united to Him by the fire of love, which is the Holy Spirit.

"For you, too, I wanted to leave an intimate heaven; it is my Eucharist.  Come to the foot of my tabernacle and, far from the impure and degraded world, breathe in an atmosphere of purity.  Come and eat my Body and drink my Blood, and I shall live within your heart, and my arms shall enfold you in an embrace which it depends on your free will to make last till the eternal embrace of heaven.  "He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him."  Can you desire more on earth?

Thanks, my beloved Lord.  Thanks for Thy tabernacle, that little corner of paradise, to which I can flee away from the world.  Thanks for Thy Eucharist, that parcel of heaven Thou hast left us, to gladden our hearts on earth.  Well didst Thou say: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst . . . for they shall be satisfied."

This too is how the Eucharist contains a taste which sweetens life's bitterness.  It affords us the joy of possession and, at least for a little while, encloses heaven within our heart.  It is, in very truth, the bread "containing in itself all sweetness."

Jose Guadalupe Trevino
The Holy Eucharist