Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,
Like Christ's sufferings on earth, the sufferings of eucharistic souls, who are united to Him on the cross in a special manner, offer satisfaction to God for the sins of men (and you Daughters, for the sins of priests), bring the life of grace to souls, and are of such value in the eyes of God that they give those souls an almost unlimited power over His heart. This is the efficacy, fecundity and value of your commitment, only perceived by faith and offered in response to God's call.
Daughters, as eucharistic souls, God seeks to transform you into another Christ; to be souls in whom Christ continues His suffering life, as in others He reproduces especially His hidden life and in others His apostolic life. Most fortunate souls, allow Jesus to give you to men "as a host of praise, because the world blasphemes . . . as a host of tears, because the world laughs . . . as a host of reparation, because God is unceasingly outraged . . ."
"In the universe there is nothing greater than Christ," says Bossuet, "and in Him there is nothing greater than His Sacrifice." Now, this sacrifice is perpetuated in the Eucharist. Hence we may conclude that in the universe there is nothing greater than this adorable sacrament.
The Eucharist is indeed the center of Christianity, the soul of the spiritual life, and the supreme exemplar of the highest religious perfection. In it Jesus has gathered all His wonders and perpetuated all His states. In Communion, He continues to communicate to us His mysteries, His virtues, and His life.
In the very actions performed by Jesus in its institution, we find a full program of perfection, that is, of the soul's transformation into another Christ. These actions are enumerated by the priest in holy Mass, immediately before the Consecration: "Taking bread into His holy and venerable hands . . . he blessed it, broke it, and gave it."
God took us for the first time into His holy and venerable hands, when His power drew us out from nothingness: "Thy hands have made me and formed me." And we continue in existence only because we remain in the hands of His power: if those hands withdrew from us for a single instant, we would fall back immediately into nothingness.
Many fall into the hands of God's justice. They are the ones who, till the end of their earthly lives, obstinately refuse to cast themselves into the arms of His love. The horror of their eternal fate can be deduced from these words of St. Paul: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
But God has still another way, a very special one, of taking a soul into His holy and venerable hands. Even as Jesus took bread into His hands, to change it into his own substance, so God selects the eucharistic soul and segregates her from the multitude of men, to transform her into another Christ and make her a victim of divine love. In consequence of this selection and vocation, the soul is held not only in the hands of His love, but of His predilection - not only in His creative, but in His priestly hands. Again, as at the Last Supper, Jesus raises eyes that radiate with purity and light to the Father, and thanks Him for that new eucharist which He will produce.
How will He realize this new wonder? How can a soul become, as it were, a prolongation of the Eucharist? There are three operations leading to so marvelous an achievement, indicated in the words of the celebrant at Mass: "He blessed (the bread), broke it, and gave it."
He Blessed It . . .
The words "to bless" (Latin: benedicere, from which comes "benediction") mean "to say well," or rather, "to say a good word." While many good words may be said, there is only one which is essentially good. It is the word par excellence; it is the Word of God. The Father's whole life consists in speaking that Word. He spoke it before time was, "before the day-star"; He said it "in the beginning"; He will utter it unceasingly forever. All creatures, all the wonders of the universe, and all the mysteries of the supernatural order are but a feeble echo of the eternal Word: "All things were made through Him." That Word "springs forth from the Heart of God," and is substantial and omnipotent. It expresses all that God is in the immensity of His being, in the fullness of His perfections, and in the eternity of His life. Hence it is infinite Wisdom, perfect Praise, an eternal Hymn to the glory of God.
From this we conclude that every blessing (benediction) is necessarily a derivation or extension of that blessed Word by which the Father engenders His Son. The generation of the divine Word is the only divine blessing; sent down to earth, that blessing is Jesus. Jesus is the only blessing of the Father. To receive it in its fullness means to be transformed into Jesus. All the other blessings, coming from heaven to earth, bless us only in as far as they give us something of Jesus: His grace, His virtues, His sufferings. St. Paul means this in saying: "God . . . Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . .has blessed us with every spiritual blessing on high in Christ."
The Father, then, takes us into His only and venerable hands to bestow upon us His Blessing, that is, to transform us into Jesus.
He Broke It . . .
And how does He transform us? He breaks and crushes us. To become other Christs, we must be purified, cleansed not only of whatever is evil in our nature, but even of what is imperfect; to become like Jesus-Victim, we must suffer. The very purpose of this transformation is to continue His sacrifice in and through us. The role of suffering is of paramount importance in the eucharistic transformation of our souls. It prepares and accompanies it; its fruit is our becoming like unto Christ.
It could not be otherwise, because the same thing happens in the transubstantiation, and even in the preparation of the bread and the wine used for consecration. The millstone has to crush the grains of wheat to make them fit for bread; and the winepress must crush the grapes for the juice that becomes generous wine.
At the consecration, by the words that make Jesus present on the altar, He is also mystically slain, so that we may say He comes to earth on the road of sacrifice. He lives in the Sacred Host in the state of victim. His eucharistic life comes to an end when He gives Himself in Holy Communion, which is the last stage of His sacramental immolation. Thus suffering is signified in the beginning, in the continuation and in the end of the Eucharist.
It is not surprising, then, that the transformation of a soul, called to be a eucharist to Jesus, should be the work of suffering. Through suffering, that soul is purified and prepared for perfect union with Him. Through suffering, the bloody features of the divine Victim are engraved on the chosen soul. It is not surprising, then, that fruitful, redeeming, and divinizing suffering brings about a transformation in which the soul, without ceasing to be human, becomes divine.
Arrived at those heights, the soul is like a eucharist to Jesus; because, even as in the Eucharist of the altar, Jesus, the Victim, is hidden under the appearances of bread and wine, so, under the cover of human nature, something divine is hidden in that soul: an extension of the very sacrifice of Jesus. In other words, Jesus has perpetuated His sacrifice in two ways: in the Eucharist of the altar, where He continues suffering mystically and offers Himself in an unbloody manner, the only way compatible with His glorious state; and in the eucharistic soul, where He continues suffering also mystically, but where He sacrifices Himself in a painful and sometimes even bloody manner. He makes His own the sorrows, pains, and other sufferings of that soul, and gives them efficacy, fecundity, and value. The soul offers Him her capacity for suffering, and Jesus imparts to her sufferings the dignity which His divine personality gave to sufferings He endured one earth. To Jesus, then, that fortunate soul is like a prolongation of His humanity, or, in the words of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, "an accrued humanity." It is a reflection of the Incarnation and an imitation of the Holy Eucharist.
He Gave It . . .
The only thing still to be done is the completion of the sacrifice. Christ achieves it in the soul, uniting her to Himself most intimately, and then offering her with Himself to the Father and giving her with Himself to men.
Surrender of self is so necessarily the fruit of love that both are identified: to love is to give oneself. This is why that gift of self which achieves the soul's eucharistic transformation is the work of the Holy Ghost. He, indeed, is the personal Love of God. He crowns all the works of God and completes the cycle of the divine processions which constitute God's inner life.
The heavenly Father takes the soul in His holy and venerable hands and imparts to it His supreme blessing, which is the transformation into Christ. This transformation is entirely a work of purity and light, because the Word of God is "light from light," and Christ, the Word made flesh, is "the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world." The Word is the purity of the Father, "the brightness of his glory and the image of his substance," and Jesus is that very same uncreated purity poured forth upon the earth to enlighten and purify it.
Once the soul has been purified, Jesus unites and assimilates it to Himself, breaking and crushing it. Then the soul is a victim with Christ, and may well exclaim like St. Paul: "With Christ I am nailed to the cross."
On Calvary Christ "offered himself unblemished unto God through the Holy Spirit," because love alone immolated Him. When He renews His sacrifice in the eucharistic soul He offers Himself with her to the Father again "through the Holy Spirit," and through the Holy Spirit gives Himself with her to souls in a mystical communion.
"Behold," He would say to the Father, "behold, this soul is no longer a merely human creature; she is like a shell containing a pearl, and like a vessel containing a precious perfume. That pearl is Thy Word and that perfume is the fragrance of my sacrifice, which "like a sweet odor" rises up to thee."
And after offering her to the Father for His glory, He gives her to men for their salvation.
There is nothing as universal as the saints. Their virtues are ours, because we find in them models which stimulate us powerfully to imitation, in the measure of our capacity. Their satisfactions are ours, because they supply our deficiencies. Their sacrifice is ours, because it is an extension of Christ's sacrifice and, as such, redeems, sanctifies, and saves. When Jesus gives that soul to men, He might say: "This is my body, this is my blood," for, mystically, that soul is a chalice filled to overflowing with Jesus' blood for a guilty world.
Most fortunate soul, allow Jesus to give you to men "as a host of praise, because the world blasphemes . . . as a host of tears, because the world laughs . . . as a host of reparation, because God is unceasingly outraged . . ." Like St. Ignatius of Antioch, be Christ's wheat, crushed by the world that despises you and by the devil who persecutes you; crushed in your body by work, sickness, and voluntary mortification; crushed in your heart by separation, disappointment, and ingratitude; crushed in your will by obedience; crushed in your very being by the divine operations; totally crushed by death, which will be your last sacrifice and your last Mass.
To sum up the forgoing considerations, it might be said that in the eucharistic transformation the three Persons cooperate in a manner corresponding to their respective special relations in the Blessed Trinity: The Father blesses with a blessing of purity which makes of the soul another Christ; the Word sacrifices the soul and assimilates her to Himself in suffering; the Holy Ghost consecrates her and offers her to the Father and to men in mystical communion through love.
Thus the three fruits of purity, suffering and love correspond to the three eucharistic acts enumerated by the priest: "He blessed, broke, and gave it . . ."
Jose Guadalupe Trevino
The Holy Eucharist
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,
Once again Dom Mark Kirby, OSB gives us a privileged look into the writings and thought of Mother Mectilde de Bar. His most recent post captures something particularly important for the eucharistic adorer and that in its hiddenness must be discerned.
Kirby writes: the on "who contemplates the Sacred Host will, by the secret action of the Holy Ghost, come to resemble the One whom he contemplates. Mother Mectilde de Bar suggests that each soul is called to participate in some way in what she calls the states of Jesus the Host. The knowledge of each soul’s particular correspondence to the Divine Host is, she says, given only in the light that comes from prayer. Once a soul has discerned what this correspondence is, she must pray for the grace to adhere to it by love, even though it be a hard and rugged thing to enter into the mystery of the Christus passus (Christ suffering)." In the remainder of the POST Kirby elaborates on 24 states and how they manifests themselves in the soul and "corresponds a virtue or fruit. Each state constitutes a particular form of holiness; a hard and rugged path to glory; a grace given for the upbuilding of the Church, and a participation in the priesthood and victimhood of Christ."
Sunday, May 15, 2016
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
Saturday, May 14, 2016
In this second reflection on the Dimensions of the Eucharist, Jose Guadalupe Trevino speaks of the expansive reach of the Eucharist across all times, places and even through death itself. In every age we have seen how the Eucharist has inspired, strengthened and given hope to the faithful. It has given profound expression to faith and to the longing of the human soul for God, courage to those defending the faith against all error and heresy, perseverance to the lonely missionary, comfort to those who mourn the loss of loved ones, and to all, regardless of background, it has been a source of light and purity, pardon and consolation, immortality and love. In its breadth, the Sacrament makes us forever and in all circumstances one Body united in Christ's tender love.
The Holy Eucharist does not extend itself only in a general way, over all the centuries: it embraces all times, places and men in a particular way.
The same Eucharist which I adore shone in the obscurity of the Catacombs. There it strengthened the martyr's heart for the supreme combat; frequently the breast of a confessor of the faith was the altar on which the Holy Mysteries were celebrated.
The same Eucharist which I revere was the soul of the epic centuries of the Middle Ages; their vigorous and dynamic faith inspired the creation of those poems in stone and marble, the Gothic cathedrals, whose heavenward pointing steeples symbolize the longing of the human soul for the infinite.
The same Eucharist which I love saved the Church in the crises of the Renaissance and the so-called Reformation, and, in modern times, against human reason's appalling aberrations. This is why, now more than ever before, the eucharistic cult so strikingly characterizes the religious spirit of our Christian people who battle for the conservation of their persecuted faith.
The Holy Eucharist embraces all places. Surrounded with filigrees of stone, kept in jewel-studded vessels of blazing gold, the Sacred Host is the soul of our magnificent European cathedrals, the center of their great manifestations of devotion, beneath their lofty ceilings, or outside in the open air, beneath the huge vaults of the skies.
It gladdens the humble rural church, which seems to gather around itself the poor huts of the village as the hen gathers her young. Overseas, from one end of the world to the other, everywhere, we find the Holy Eucharist: in the Arctic regions of perpetual ice and snow, in the heart of the African continent, in the solitude of the Argentinian pampas, in the virgin forests of India, in the sandy vastness of the Sahara, and on barren atolls lost in the immensity of the Pacific Ocean. What would be the missionary's life without the power to erect a tabernacle wherever he stays? Where would he find heroic determination, undauntable perseverance, and divine consolation?
Jesus has strewn all over the earth so many Hosts that they seem to cover its whole surface, from east to west, from north to south, with their whiteness.
The Holy Eucharist embraces all men of all races, tongues, and nations. It distinguishes not between Jew and Gentile, barbarian or scythian, slave or free. In all it sees only souls. Every day, early in the morning, the Sacred Host descends into the heart of the peasant's daughter, and into the heart of the poor servant girl; it descends into the heart of the laborer's wife, who rises from her sleep before dawn and goes to holy Mass to receive that daily Bread which gives her strength to bear the heavy burden of the poor. Through the convent grill it passes to repose in the virgin's heart, where it develops to ever fuller beauty the two flowers of the Eucharist; purity and the spirit of sacrifice, the spirit that makes martyrs. It descends into the heart of the child, to guard its innocence. It goes out to meet the homecoming prodigal, and is to him a sure pledge of pardon. To the humble cot of the poor as well as to the sumptuous bed of the rich, it goes to plant in the heart of the dying a germ of eternal life. Priest and faithful, saint and repentant sinner, all receive it, and all derived from it strength and courage, light and purity, pardon and consolation, immortality and love . . . .
O wondrous thought! the poor, the weak, the lowLove's great source of suffering here on earth is separation. It shall be unknown in heaven. But, as long as we journey through this vale of exile, how frequently separation from those we love is forced upon us by life's vicissitudes! And then, the final separation of death. Not seldom, when neither vicissitude or death seem to threaten loving hearts living happily side by side, God Himself, through the austerity of His doctrine and the demands of His love, separates brother from brother, friend from friend, son from mother.
Feast on the body of the living Lord.
Jesus, who brought a remedy for all evil and a comfort for all grief, could not fail to invent a divine way of abolishing distances, reducing separations to naught, and uniting souls in spite of life's perpetual fluctuations. That bond of union, the great embrace which enfolds all hearts, draws together all souls, and makes of them but one heart, is the Holy Eucharist.
Tell me, poor child, who, far away from your mother, weep tears of homesickness for her, do you not feel her near when, in your college chapel, you receive the same Sacred Eucharist that nourishes her maternal heart at home? And you, young man, whose loving heart has courageously made the sacrifice of leaving all your loved ones behind to follow Christ, do you not feel the warmth of your distant home in the Host of your convent tabernacle? And you, weary missionary, whitened in the rough labors of the apostolate, why do you refuse to accept a well-deserved rest, a return to your homeland, where those who love you wait with open arms? It is because the Sacred Host unites you every day with those you love.
Earthly distances are like nothing compared to the abyss between time and eternity. But the Eucharist bridges even this immeasurable distance: it unites us with those who are no more.
Poor orphaned child, dry your tears. In the heart of him whom you mourn, the same Host you receive had deposited a germ of immortality. Some day your dear father will rise again, because the Host is "the Resurrection and the Life."
In the splendors of glory, where he does not forget the love ones left on earth, he now contemplates without veils the same Jesus you receive under the veils of the Communion Bread. In the Holy Eucharist Christ brings together, in a close embrace, all those who are united by love but separated by distance and death.
So intimately does He unite our souls that we come to form only one body, according to St. Augustine's words: "Because we eat only one bread, we who are many, form, nevertheless, only one body. O Sacrament of Christ tender love! O symbol of unity! O bond of charity!
Jose Guadalupe Trevino
The Holy Eucharist
Friday, May 13, 2016
In a fervent prayer, which is part of his magnificent Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul entreats the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" that He may grant them to have Christ dwelling through faith in their hearts, so that, strengthened by the power of His Holy Spirit, they "may comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth" of Christ's love, "which surpasses knowledge."
If that love "surpasses knowledge," if it is an inscrutable mystery, how can it be "comprehended" by our human intellect? In truth, we cannot comprehend Christ's love in the fullness of it measureless dimensions. Our understanding, however, enlightened by faith through which Christ dwells in our hearts, and strengthened by the power of His Spirit, is able to penetrate those dimensions to a certain and ever widening degree, by attentive, loving and frequent consideration of the works born from Christ's love, and in a particular manner by the consideration of His Holy Eucharist. Here, indeed in the Eucharist, without ceasing to be a fathomless mystery, Christ's love seems to have placed its divine proportions within the reach of our limited intellect, more than in any other of its admirable works. Hence, if we want to catch at least a glimpse of those proportions, we have only to study the "breadth and length and height and depth" of this sacrament, which is par excellence "the sacrament of Christ's love.
It is such a glimpse, dear Daughters, that Jose Guadalupe Trevino seeks to provide us and that I set out to present in the following series of three posts. Once again, he beautifully opens our eyes to the wonders of the Holy Eucharist in ways that might have otherwise escaped us.
By the length of the Holy Eucharist, I understand its duration. When did it begin? When will Christ's eucharistic life come to an end?
It was born on the night of agony, "on the night in which he was betrayed." The forgetfulness, ingratitude, blasphemy, and hatred of all the centuries past and to come were cruelly oppressing and wounding Christ's divine heart. Then, even as from the incision made in some Arabian trees a perfume of exquisite fragrance flows forth, so, from the crushed and wounded heart of Jesus came forth the essence of His love, the Holy Eucharist, heavenly perfume, indeed, and balm divine.
The truth is that the nightly hour of the Last Supper, the hour "greatly desired," and called "His Hour" in the Gospel of John, saw only the external realization of what had been conceived of long ago in the heart of our Lord. The truth is that the Eucharist began with the first pulsation of that heart. In the long silences of Bethlehem and Nazareth it had been eagerly waiting for this time; more than once it must have been the theme of Christ's intimate disclosures to Mary. This, however, was only its earthly beginning.
In the person of the God-man, Jesus Christ, besides the truly human love of a truly human heart, there is also the divine love, sometimes metaphorically called "the Heart of God." The first love began at a determined moment in the course of time, with the first pulsation of His human heart; the second, prior to the first, knew no beginning. Being the very essence of divinity, according to St. John's definition of God, it is as eternal as God Himself. Hence, inasmuch as the Eucharist is the work of Christ's divine love even more than it is the work of His human love, its first origin has to be sought in the very bosom of God and is lost to our limited understanding in the inscrutable mysteries of eternity.
How consoling it is to think that God had decreed this excess of His love from all eternity. How consoling to think that, in our analogical way of speaking of the divine operations, from all eternity God had eagerly looked forward to the coming of "His Hour" and of that night which would be "light as the day," because in it would shine the eucharistic Sun, that knows no setting.
How consoling it is to think that in the very moment of the Eucharist's eternal birth I was present to the mind of God, and He foreknew the number of times I would allow Him to come to me in Holy Communion; that, even then, His tender love thankfully appreciated my hospitality, as if not I, a miserable creature of one day, but He Himself were to be the favored beneficiary.
"It was in the beginning . . . " What, then, will be the duration of His "eucharistic life"?
Christ's eucharistic life will last till the consummation of the world, because until then will men have to eat His flesh to have life everlasting. When He said to His Apostles: "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world," He doubtlessly meant not only His divine and spiritual presence and His moral assistance, but also His eucharistic presence.
His enemies may refuse Him rights they would not deny even the lowest pariah, imprisoning Him within the narrow limits of His temples; they may subject Him to the most abominable outrages, thereby making His mystic passion in the Eucharist in some way exterior and visible. Those who call themselves His friends may multiply the traitor's kiss, deny Him and His works, and abandon Him who showered upon them the tokens of His love. But Jesus will stay. His promise and His love keep Him enchained. As long as there will be on earth a tear to wipe away, a sorrow to share, and a sinful man in need of His expiatory sacrifice, the Eucharist will continue to pulsate in the silence of our tabernacles.
Will the Holy Eucharist end with time and die with the centuries?
To this question faith gives no answer, and piety remains free to investigate the mystery and draw its own conclusions. But Christian piety is loth to suppose that the Holy Eucharist will come to a total end with time, and that the Bread which is and gives life will itself, in some way, die some day.
In the risen Christ we recognize an unmistakable eagerness to conserve in His glorious body the vestiges of his passion. He wanted to keep not only the scars of the wounds opened in His side, hands and feet, but their very perforations. This seems to be clearly indicated by the words He spoke to the incredulous Thomas with them: "Bring here thy finger, and see my hands; and bring here thy hand, and put it into my side." What a wound it must have been to make possible the introduction of a hand!
If Jesus wanted to keep His scared wounds in heaven itself, as a living remembrance of His passion and death, will He not also conserve there, in some manner, the living memorial of that same passion and death, the Holy Eucharist?
St. John, the Seer of Patmos, tells us in his Apocalypse that in one of his visions he saw Christ, not among the ignominies of this earth, as did Isaiah, but in the splendors of heaven. How did He see Him? Under the symbol of a "lamb standing, as if slain."
In that Lamb "who has been slain from the foundation of the world," and who, in the splendors of the heavenly glory, always appears as a victim immolated, I discover a symbol of the Eucharist.
The manna sent by God to the Israelites to be their chief nourishment during their long wanderings through the desert, another manifest symbol of the Eucharist, lost its purpose when they finally entered into the promised land. And yet, in obedience to God's own commandment, a vessel filled with manna had been placed near the Ark of the Covenant in the "Holy of Holies," to be kept there, for future generations, as a reminder of how God had nourished His people in the wilderness. The Holy Eucharist is the food which sustains our supernatural life on the journey through the desert of this earthly life. Shall we, then, at our final entrance into the promised land, remain forever without the remembrance of this truly divine Manna? At the approach of our final moment of separation from this vale of tears, when the soul's hope of possessing God without fear of losing Him, of contemplating Him face to face and loving Him with a never fading love, will rise higher than ever before in our hearts, shall we have to be saddened by the thought that we receive our last Host and say "adieu" forever to that Companion of our exile? If such were the case, many a departing soul, gathering all its strength and spending the last energies of a waning life in this supreme effort, would cry with the disciples of Emmaus: "Stay with us, for . . . the day is now spent."
There are cries of the soul which find so powerful an echo in the heart of God that cannot resist their appeal, even if, to still them, He would have to display all His omnipotence. It seems to me that one of these mighty cries is the "stay with us" of departing souls. Would it be too much to suppose that Christ's answer would be the words He once addressed to a holy soul: "If as yet I had not instituted the Eucharist, in this very moment it would come forth from my heart for thee"?
Priesthood cannot be thought of apart from sacrifice, nor eternal priesthood apart from eternal sacrifice. Now, Jesus is Priest and His priesthood is eternal - "Sacerdos in aeternum." Must we not conclude therefrom that, since His sacrifice is the eucharistic sacrifice, the Eucharist must be in some manner eternal? It existed already under the figures of the primitive sacrifices and of those of the Old Covenant, which it endowed with efficacy and made acceptable. It exists now that Christ reigns in heaven. Could it be that, once it has fulfilled its purpose on earth, at the glorification of all the elect, it will fade away and die?
Christian piety desires and demands that the Holy Eucharist be not entirely missing in heaven. It even desires that in heaven it be a Eucharist with veils - otherwise it would not be like what we now adore in the obscurities of faith; but with luminous and transparent veils - otherwise it would not be a celestial Eucharist.
Thus the Holy Eucharist would reach from eternity to eternity, including in its immeasurable love what we call "the centuries," no more than a miserable instant in comparison with eternity.
When Garcia Moreno, martyr-defender of the rights of Christ, fell mortally wounded by the "machete" of an emissary of Ecuadorian Masonry, his last words were: "I die . . . but God dies not!"
At life's end, when my last glance shall fall upon the Host of my Viaticum, I wish to expire murmuring in my turn: "I die . . . What does it matter? I die, a miserable creature of one day; but He shall never die!" The light of my eyes, so many times bathed in the light of that divine Sun, shall end in darkness; my lips, that told Him so many words of love, shall remain cold and sealed by death's icy finger; my rigid limbs will not allow me any more to even drag myself to the foot of the tabernacle, where day and night I have spent the best hours of my life; my heart, which has so loved Him, will beat no longer . . . . I shall die. My mortal remains will go to decay in the obscurity of a tomb; those who love me now will forget me; nothing else will remain of me but dried bones, ashes, and dust. What does it matter? He shall not die! New generations will offer Him adoration and love, and that divine Sun will continue bathing them in His light; no sunset will it know, because it is He, who "is the same, yesterday and today, yes, and forever," and "whose reign shall have no end." Men will forget me. What does it matter? Thou, O Jesus, wilt not forget me, because even as in the course of my life on earth, since the happy day of my ordination, I have celebrated Thy Holy Mysteries, in memory of Thy love and in obedience to Thy command, "Do this in memory of me," after my death Thou shalt celebrate those same Mysteries, through other priests, in memory of a heart which never ceased loving Thee as long as it beat on earth.
If death were the end of it all, even then, that so consoling thought alone would suffice to make me go joyously to the grave. But death is not the end. Much to the contrary, it is the dawn and beginning of the glorious eternity. "If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever."
Non omnis moriar - "I shall not die altogether," exclaimed a great pagan poet. More fortunate than he, I shall be able to challenge death on the very edge of the tomb, because each consecrated Host will have deposited in my soul and in my body a germ of eternal life. "Oh death, where is thy victory? where is thy sting?"
If the Holy Eucharist, which is "the Resurrection and the Life," dwells in my soul now, my eyes, when closed by death, shall see again, my muted tongue shall speak and sing an immortal canticle, and my heart shall throb again with an endless life. "Death will be swallowed up" in the victory of the Holy Eucharist, which is the Bread that gives life everlasting.
O wellspring of grace which rises up unto life everlasting! O eternal testimony of God's eternal love! O living Bread that gives perpetual life to perishable man! Grant that I may live on Thee, true heavenly ambrosia; grant that I may taste evermore of Thy incomparable sweetness.
O divine remembrance of my Savior's death,
Living Bread that brings heaven's breath,
Be my soul and body thine forevermore;
Lift me to the sweetness of thy sacred love.
Such is the "length" of the Holy Eucharist, and such the amplitude of the love that created it. It reaches from eternity to eternity, including in its duration that moment we call "the centuries," and communicating to man, creature of one day, immortal and everlasting life.
Jose Guadalupe Trevino
The Holy Eucharist