Holy Eucharist: August 2009 Archives

Gustate et Videte

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Twentieth Sunday of the Year B

Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 33:2-3. 10-15
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Today's Grace

We have arrived at the fourth of five Sundays on which the Word of God speaks to us of the astonishing mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. How important it is to profit from these five weeks dedicated to the Bread of Life. Do not let them pass without leaving an impression on your souls. The particular grace offered you today will not be there tomorrow.

Sadness and Grumbling

Read and re-read the entire sixth chapter of Saint John. Take the Compendium of the Catechism to prayer and review, point by point, exactly what the Church believes and teaches concerning the Most Holy Eucharist. Saint Bernard says, "When men grow weary of studying spiritual doctrine and become lukewarm, when their spiritual energies are drained away, then they walk in sadness along the ways of the Lord. They fulfil the tasks enjoined on them with hearts that are tired and arid, they grumble without ceasing." Never say, "I have already read that, I have had enough: there is nothing more for me to learn."

Like Jacob's Ladder

We offer the Holy Sacrifice over and over again, in obedience to the command of the Lord, "Do this in remembrance of me" (2 Cor 11:24). The Mass is inexhaustible. The reality of the Eucharist stretches, like Jacob's ladder (Gen 28:12), from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven.

Good Things As Yet Unseen

Today's Mass opened with a Collect that drew us into the very heart of the Eucharist. We prayed, "O God, who have prepared for those who love You good things as yet unseen." What is the Most Holy Eucharist if not a glimpse and foretaste of these good things, "what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor 2:9)? We asked God to "pour into our hearts such love for Him, that we, loving Him in all things and above all things, may obtain His promises, which exceed all that we can desire." This is no ordinary love. This is the love that "takes the kingdom of heaven by violence" (Mt 11:12), a love that permeates every part of us, a love "strong as death" (Ct 8:6). The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass opens onto infinitely more than we can see or think, ask or imagine, onto things that "exceed all that we can desire."

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A Table for the Little and the Poor

How then are we to approach the adorable mystery of the Eucharist? In the first reading we encounter Lady Wisdom. She lays the table and pours out her wine. She calls the little and the poor inside to her table, sending out her servants to cry aloud from the highest places. "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed" (Prov 9:5). The mistress of the house bakes her bread, airs her wine, and attends to all the details of a gracious hospitality.

God's Own Hospitality

Wisdom appears as the handmaid of God's own hospitality. She appeals to the simple, to those without understanding, without knowledge, in a word, to those without power. The First Reading gave us the very passage that completely changed the life of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, and became the foundation of her "Little Way." Thérèse read it in the translation of the Vulgate where is it is rendered, "Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me" (Prov 9:4). We are to approach the Most Holy Eucharist conscious of our powerlessness, of our need for something that "exceeds all that we can desire." The Eucharist calls us to the poverty of empty hands. Saint Thérèse understood this.

To Offer Ourselves

Saint Bernard teaches that it is not enough for us to take and eat the Bread from Heaven. We must also offer ourselves to be eaten. Holy Communion is a wondrous exchange in which we become the bread of Christ. Listen to Saint Bernard:

My penitence, my salvation are His food.
I myself am His food.
I am chewed as I am reproved by Him;
I am swallowed by Him as I am taught;
I am digested by Him as I am changed;
I am assimilated as I am transformed;
I am made one with Him as I am conformed to Him.
He feeds upon us and is fed by us
that we may be the more loosely bound to Him."

Saint Bernard, ever the poet, uses images of eating and assimilation to describe how Christ unites us to Himself. Our Lord becomes our food that we might become His. We need the language of poets and preachers in our approach to the Eucharist; we need song as well.

The Inadequacy of Mere Words

In the Second Reading, Saint Paul says, "be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart" (Eph 5:18-19). The Church has always sung her way through the Eucharist. The Mass cries out to be sung because mere words, uttered in the routine and conventional tones of our everyday exchanges, fail to convey that the Most Holy Eucharist is something awesome and heavenly, divinely inebriating, powerfully transforming.

Liturgical Singing

The Synod on the Eucharist warned us that we are in danger of losing our sense of awe, in danger of wanting to tame the mystery, of trying to contain it with the narrow margins of our own comfort zones. The Sacred Liturgy demands a kind of singing that suggests more of heaven than it does of earth, a kind of singing that echoes the angels' ceaseless song.

O Taste and See

In the early ages of the Church, Christians always approached the Body and Blood of Christ singing. Their favourite Communion chant was the one we heard as today's Responsorial Psalm. They never tired of repeating, "O taste and see . . . taste and see" (Ps 33:8) because in the Body of and in the Chalice of His Blood they had discovered, already here below, the taste of Wisdom's eternal banquet.

Complete Union

In the Gospel Our Lord brings Wisdom's invitation to fulfillment. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me" (Jn 6:57). Saint Bernard says, "Christ eats me that He may have me in Himself, and Christ in turn is eaten by me that He may be in me, and the bond between us will be strong and the union complete." What awaits you in Holy Communion exceeds all that you can desire. Eat, then, and offer yourself to be eaten. Receive the Bread of God and become the bread of God.

Doctor Zelantissimus

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Siamo Napoletani

Given that grace builds on nature, my Neapolitan ancestry may, in some way, account for my spiritual affinity with Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori. For the long lazy days and hot nights of August I recommend a a fascinating biography of the saint: Alphonsus de Liguori, Saint of Bourbon Naples, by Frederick M. Jones, C.Ss.R.

Reparation Then and Now

Meditate the following text written by Saint Alphonsus Maria, and translated by Norman J. Muckermann, C.Ss.R. It is astonishingly relevant to the need for reparation, when one considers the current proliferation of so many outrages against the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The Sorrowful Heart of Jesus

It is impossible for us to appreciate how greatly afflicted the Heart of Jesus was for love of us and at the same time not be filled with pity for Him. . . . The principal sorrow affecting the Heart of Jesus was not so much knowing the torments and insults His enemies were preparing for Him. Rather, it was seeing how ready we would be to reject His immense love.

Desecrations of the Sacred Host

Jesus distinctly saw all the sins which we would commit even after His sufferings, even after His bitter and ignominious death on the cross. He foresaw, too, the insults which sinners would offer His Sacred Heart which He would leave on earth in the Most Holy Sacrament as proof of His love. These insults are almost too horrible to mention: people trampling the sacred hosts underfoot, throwing them into gutters or piles of refuse, and even using them to worship the devil himself!

The Pledge of His Love

Even the knowledge that these and other defamations would happen did not prevent Jesus from giving us this great pledge of His love, the Holy Eucharist. Jesus has an infinite hatred for sin; yet it seems that His great love for us even overcomes this bitterness. Because of His love, He allows these sacrileges to happen in order not to deprive us of this Divine Food. Should not this alone suffice to make us love a Heart that has loved us so much?

Jesus Forsaken on the Altar

What more could Jesus do to deserve our love? Is our ingratitude so great that we will still leave Jesus forsaken on the altar, as so many are wont to do? Rather, should we not unite ourselves to those few who gather to praise Him and acknowledge His divine presence? Should we not melt with love, as do the candles which adorn the altars where the Holy Sacrament is preserved? There the Sacred Heart remains burning with love for us. Shall we not in turn burn with love for Jesus?

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

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