Holy Eucharist: June 2007 Archives

Soon To Ireland

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To Mayo and Leitrim

On Saturday 30 June, making my way via Ireland to the United States, I will fly Aerlingus from Rome to Dublin, and then from Dublin to Knock in County Mayo. After a few days in Knock I will travel the short distance northeast to Carrick–on Shannon in County Leitrim to visit Cousin John McKeon.

As a small boy, I heard about Knock from my Grandmother Margaret Kirby (1900–1993). Her Aunt Mary had gone there on pilgrimage and sent her a little bottle of blessed water from the shrine. Grandma told me what she knew about the apparitions. In 1988, when I went to Knock together with my Mom, Dad and brother Terence, I was able to celebrate Holy Mass on the site of the apparitions.

Actuosa Participatio and the Silence of the Mother of God

The apparition at Knock is unusual in that the Blessed Virgin spoke no message and uttered no warning; she asked for nothing. Our Lady was silent and, at the same time, intensely present to the Immolated Lamb upon the altar, and to the people who watched the apparition.

The contemplative silence of the Mother of God speaks to my own understanding of actuosa participatio (actual participation) in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There is a silent inward cleaving to the Mystery of the Eucharist that precedes and perfects all other forms of participation in the Holy Sacrifice. The fifteen parishioners of Knock, young and old, to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared on that rainy night in 1879, were accustomed to "hearing Mass" in silence. By her own silence in the presence of The Mystery, the Mother of Jesus was confirming them in theirs.


Toward the Recovery of Silence

The Irish custom of silence at the Holy Mysteries was, in its own way, an actual participation in the sacramental re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ. While silence is not the only mode of actual participation in the Mass, it remains one that is valid, fruitful, and profoundly unifying. It is remarkable that the neglect of spaces and moments of silence within the celebration of the Mass — even of those clearly prescribed by the Roman Missal — had led, in most places, to the complete loss of silence around the Mass, that is to say, in church before and after the celebration.

Knock After the Motu Proprio

If things here in Rome go this week as I rather suspect they will, I will find myself in Knock very shortly after the promulgation of the long-awaited Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI. Coincidence? I don't think so. Knock is the Blessed Virgin's invitation to enter deeply into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The presence of the Lamb upon the altar surmounted by the cross, of angels in adoration, of Saint John proclaiming the Word, and of Saint Joseph reverently inclined toward the Virgin Mother is, in pictorial form, a mystagogical catechesis waiting to be developed.

In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI writes:

The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one's life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world. For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate. Given the vital importance of this personal and conscious participation, what methods of formation are needed? The Synod Fathers unanimously indicated, in this regard, a mystagogical approach to catechesis, which would lead the faithful to understand more deeply the mysteries being celebrated.

A Devout Method

Compare the teaching of the Holy Father with this Devout Method of Hearing Mass Before Holy Communion in my heirloom Treasury of the Sacred Heart published in 1860 in Dublin, that is nineteen years before the apparition at Knock:

To hear Mass with fruit, and to obtain from that adorable sacrifice abundant treasures of grace, there is no method more efficacious than to unite ourselves with Jesus Christ, who is at once our Priest, Mediator, and Victim. Separated from Him we are nothing, but even in the eyes of God Himself, we are truly great, by and with His Beloved Son. United thus with Jesus Christ, covered, as it were with His merits, present yourself before the throne of mercy.

This was written in a widely diffused household manual of Catholic piety 103 years before the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. It is not a complete presentation of the mystery of the Mass. Its genre is that of the pious exhortation, not of a comprehensive theology of the Eucharist. That being said, it strikes me that this little Irish text goes to the heart of what is meant by actual participation: communion with Christ, Priest, Mediator, and Victim. Through Him, with Him, and in Him, all who partake of His Sacred Body and Precious Blood are priests, mediators, and victims, offering, and offered to the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

Saint Joseph and Saint John

One last thing. The presence at Knock of Saint Joseph and of Saint John the Evangelist is especially significant to me. Although it was not so in 1879, both are now named in the venerable Roman Canon. They are the two men chosen by God to share most intimately in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Saint Joseph obeyed the word of the Angel of the Lord: "Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost" (Mt 1:20). Saint John, for his part, obeyed the word of the crucified Jesus: "Behold thy mother." "And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own" (Jn 19:27).

Saint Joseph and Saint John entered in the silence of Blessed Virgin. One cannot live in the company of Mary without being drawn into her silence, that is, into the ceaseless prayer of her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, and into the mystery of the Mass: the Sacrifice of the Lamb renewed in an unbloody manner on the altars of the world.

The Eucharistic Heart of Jesus

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On 9 November 1921, Pope Benedict XV instituted the feast of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus to be celebrated on the Thursday within the Octave of the Sacred Heart with a Proper Mass and Office. The feast continues to be celebrated in some places and by some communities, notably by the Redemptorists who maintain it in their Proper Calendar. In instituting the feast, Pope Benedict XV wrote:

The chief reason of this feast is to commemorate the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the mystery of the Eucharist. By this means the Church wishes more and more to excite the faithful to approach this sacred mystery with confidence, and to inflame their hearts with that divine charity which consumed the Sacred Heart of Jesus when in His infinite love He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, wherein the Divine Heart guards and loves them by living with them, as they live and abide in Him. For in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist He offers and gives Himself to us as victim, companion, nourishment, viaticum, and pledge of our future glory.

The adorable mystery of the Eucharist sums up, contains, and communicates to us the entire mystery of Christ: His incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. If you seek the open Side of the glorious ascended Christ, you will find it in the Eucharist. If you seek the pierced Heart of Christ, beating with love for the Father and with mercy for sinners, you will find it in the Eucharist. The Communion Antiphon of the Mass of the feast is meant to be repeated and treasured. It is, at once, a promise and an invitation: "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Mt 28:20).

Here is my own translation of the Proper of the Mass of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, together with invocations for the Act of Penitence and General Intercessions. The lessons, Gradual, and Alleluia can be found in most older missals in the section entitled "Local Feasts."

Per antica tradizione

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Leafing through the 1941 edition of the Usi Monastici of our Congregazione Cistercense di San Bernardo in Italia, I happened upon this interesting prescription:

Per antica tradizione il Matutino durante l'Ottava del Corpus Domini si recita immediatamente dopo la Compieta et coram Sanctissimo in Altari exposito.

By ancient tradition, Matins during the Octave of Corpus Domini are recited immediately after Compline and in the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament exposed on the altar.

The same book prescribes the solemn renewal in every monastery of the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the presence of the entire religious family, on the feast of the Sacred Heart, according to the formula prescribed by the Chapter of our Congregation.

While the latter practice is, in fact, maintained, no one here seems to remember Matins in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed during the Octave of Corpus Domini.


The Church has a beating Heart: the Eucharistic Heart of Christ. This is what Pope Benedict XVI said in today's Angelus address:

“Today’s solemnity of Corpus Christi, which was celebrated last Thursday in the Vatican and in other countries, invites us to contemplate the supreme Mystery of our faith: the Most Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the altar. Every time that the priest renews the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in the prayer of consecration he repeats: ‘This is my Body…this is my Blood.’ He lends his voice, his hands, and his heart to Christ, who wanted to remain with us in order to be the beating Heart of the Church.

But even after the Celebration of the Divine Mysteries the Lord Jesus remains present in the tabernacle. For this reason praise is rendered to Him especially through Eucharistic Adoration, as I sought to remind everyone in the recent Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (see nos. 66-69) following the Synod on this topic. In fact, there is an intrinsic connection between celebration and adoration. The Holy Mass is in itself already the greatest act of adoration on the part of the Church. ‘No one eats this flesh,’ St. Augustine wrote, ‘unless he has first adored it’ (Com. on Psalms 98,9; CCL XXXIX, 1385). Adoration apart from the Holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what has taken place in the liturgical celebration, and makes it possible to receive Christ in a real and profound way.”

I was especially touched by the Holy Father's description of the priest lending his voice, his hands, and his heart to Christ. It is through His priests that Christ, who desires with a great desire to abide with us, is the beating Heart of the Church in the Eucharist.

Salve, Festa Dies

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Hail, Festival Day!
Hail, Day of Sion’s sweetest hymns!
Hail, Day of timeless adoration!
Hail, Day of lavish jubilation!
Hail, Day of our most fragrant incense!
Hail, Day of flowers strewn before their Maker!
Hail, Day of flames dancing in the presence of the Fire!
Hail, Day of a silence that is song!
Hail Day of a song become silence!
Hail, Day made radiant by the Face that shines like the sun in full strength!
Hail, Day made lovely by the Face of the fairest of the children of men!
Hail, Day rising to see the Face once hidden in the tabernacle of the Virgin’s womb!
Hail, Day rejoicing in the Human Face of God concealed in bread and wine!

Hail, Eucharistic Face reflecting the Glory of the Father
and bearing the very stamp of His nature!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, Living Icon of the Father!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, Epiphany of the Father’s Love!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, Kindly Light amidst the gloom!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Crucified in the Sacrament of Your abiding presence!
Hail, Eucharistic Face of Life conquering death!
Hail, Eucharistic Face of Mercy rising in the night with healing in your rays!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, Sweetness leaving no bitterness!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Risen One,
filling earth and heaven with glory
from the rising of the sun even to its setting
in the offering of your pure and eternal Oblation!
Hail, Eucharistic Face raising the dead to life!
Hail, Eucharistic Face breathing peace into every troubled place!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, revelation of a Heart full of mercy and ready to forgive!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Ascended One!
Hail, Eucharistic Face of the High Priest interceding for us beyond the veil!
Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Victim reconciling heaven and earth!
Hail, Eucharistic Face all ablaze with the Holy Spirit’s fire!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the King who will return in glory!
Hail, Eucharistic Face hidden from the powerful, the clever, and the wise!
Hail, Eucharistic Face revealed to the pure of heart!
Hail, Eucharistic Face familiar to little children and to those like them!

Hail, EucharisticFace of the Divine Wayfarer!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, unrecognized and unknown in the midst of men!
Hail, Eucharistic Face shrouded in silence,
and with us always, even unto the consummation of the world!

Hail, God–With–Us!
Hail, God–Turned–Toward–Us!
Hail, God who with immense yearning desire to share your Pasch with us!
Hail, God–in–Search–of–Those–Who–Hunger!
Hail, O inexhaustible and precious Chalice!

Hail, Day of the Altar and of the Blood!
Hail, Day of the new and everlasting covenant!
Hail, Day that calls us anew to obedience:
“All that the Lord has spoken we will do,
and we will be obedient” (Ex 24:7).
“This is my Body which is given for you.
This Chalice poured out for you is the new covenant in my Blood.
Do this in remembrance of me” (cf. Lk 22:19–20).

Hail, Day of the Blood without which there is no pardon!
Hail, Day of the Blood poured out for the refreshment of the weary!
Hail, Day of the Blood that flows, a river of mercy in the wastelands of sin!
Hail, Day of the Blood that vanquishes demons!
Hail, Day of the Blood that consoles in sorrow!
Hail, Day of the Blood that cleanses the entire world of sin!
Hail, Day of the Blood of Christ, Victim and Priest!
Hail, Day of the Blood presented in the sanctuary not made by hands!
Hail, Day of the Blood offered on earth as it is in heaven!

Hail, Precious Chalice lifted up for all to see!
Hail, Precious Chalice, thanksgiving sacrifice worthy of God!
Hail, Precious Chalice held to the lips of the martyrs!
Hail, Precious Chalice strengthening every witness!
Hail, Precious Chalice making pure the impure!
Hail, Precious Chalice containing the Fire of the Divinity!
Hail, Precious Chalice, the antidote for every poison!
Hail, Precious Chalice, the remedy for every ill!

Hail, Day of the Upper Room made ready for eternity!
Hail, Day of the Pasch without end!
Hail, Day of the Bread lifted up in Christ’s holy and venerable hands!
Hail, Day of the blessing uttered by His sacred lips!
Hail, Day of the Body forever given and of the Blood forever poured out!
Hail, Day of the Cenacle opened to every nation on earth!
Hail, Day of the Mystical Supper open to the poor, the sick, the lame, and the blind!
Hail, Day of Heaven’s open door!
Hail, Day of the Supper of the Lamb!

Hail, Day that sees us prostrate before the Eucharistic Face of God!
Hail, Day on which men do the work of Angels!
Hail, Day on which Angels stand amazed
before the Mystery set before the children of men!
Hail, Day that passes too quickly and never passes!
Hail, Day that begins in time the joys of eternity!
Hail, Day that fills the earth with a foretaste of heaven!
Amen. Alleluia.


Father Ragheed Gannis, 34 years old, was killed by gunfire after having celebrating Holy Mass on Sunday in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, Iraq. Three subdeacons were killed with him. Hours later the bodies were still lying in the street because no one dared retrieve them. On May 28, 2005 Father Ragheed spoke at a prayer vigil during the Eucharistic Congress in Bari, Italy.

"Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet inside of us for many generations one truth has become embedded: without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live."

"This is true today when evil has reached the point of destroying churches and killing Christians, something unheard of in Iraq till now."

"On June 2004 of last year, a group of young women was cleaning the church to get it ready for Sunday service. My sister Raghad, who is 19, was among them."

"As she was carrying a pale of water to wash the floor, two men drove up and threw a grenade that blew up just a few yards away from her."

"She was wounded but miraculously survived. And on that Sunday we still celebrated the Eucharist. My shaken parents were also there.

"For me and my community, my sister's wounds were a source of strength so that we, too, may bear our cross."


A Grace Renewed

How do readers of Vultus Christi celebrate the anniversary of their First Holy Communion? Every grace remembered is a grace renewed. Saint Gertrude the Great made a practice of recalling the sacramental anniversaries of her life and of re-living them in the spirit of praise and thanksgiving that runs through all her writings.


For me, today is a memorial of thanksgiving embracing all of the Holy Communions received since June 4, 1959. Every Holy Communion draws the soul into the thanksgiving of Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit: "In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was Thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him'" (Lk 10:21-22).


Today is also a day of reparation for the coldness, indifference, and unworthiness with which I have received the holy and life-giving Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ over the years. The desire to make reparation is directly proportionate to what Pope John Paul II called "Eucharistic amazement." Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. wrote of being "lost, all lost in wonder" before the adorable mystery of the Eucharist. It is this sense of awe before the Mystery that ignites the desire to make Eucharistic reparation.

My recent trip to France made me more sensitive to the need for Eucharistic reparation. For one who loves it becomes an imperative of the heart. I passed through dozens of small rural villages, each one having its clocher, its ancient church. In many of these villages churches Mass is offered only once a week on Sunday; in some of them Mass is offered only occasionally. Churches, with the Blessed Sacrament reserved in their tabernacles, are kept locked from one week to the next. No longer is there the possibility of making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or of stealing in quietly to seek the Eucharistic Face and Heart of Love. A coldness is spreading through our lands, and this not only in France. "I came, " says the Lord, "to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled" (Lk 12:49).

I am reminded of what Mother Marie-Adèle Garnier, the saintly foundress of the Tyburn Benedictines wrote in 1875:

In this France which He loves, and where He has been pleased to manifest the torrents of love and mercy of which the Holy Eucharist is at once the ocean and the channel, does He not expect to find souls, objects of His special mercy, uniting themselves to Him, consecrating themselves forever to the prayer of reparation at the foot of His altar, and obtaining by their humble supplications a slackening of the sacrileges committed against Him, and a check to the contagious temptations of indifference and neglect? . . .

A Bold Prediction

I predict that among the fruits of Pope John Paul II's Year of the Eucharist and of his intercession in heaven, we will begin to see here and there in the Church the birth or rebirth of monasteries and other communities of men and women "driven" by the Holy Spirit to a life of Eucharistic adoration and reparation. Priests, in particular, are being called to the life of adoration, reparation, and Johannine intimacy with the Holy Face and pierced Heart of Jesus at once concealed and revealed in the Eucharist. Some are being called to live this out in community, others in a more solitary fashion.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory