Eucharistic Face of Christ: January 2008 Archives

Adoro Te Devote

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Yearning, I adore you, wondrous hidden God,
Bread of Life by bread concealed, speaking heart to heart.
Give me now the faith that sees darkly through the veil,
Let your presence draw me in where my senses fail.

Seeing, touching, tasting, fail to grasp you, Lord.
Hearing only stirs up faith; faith clings to your word.
This is truth enough for me: all that you have said.
Faith alone discerns your Face, radiant Living Bread.

Seeing you upon the Cross, flesh and blood I find;
Here your flesh and blood are hid, veiled in sacred signs.
Trusting in your mercy, like the dying thief,
I confess you, God and Man; this is my belief.

Unlike Thomas touching, probing hands and side,
I see not but name you still God and Prince of Life.
Hold me in your presence, stronger make my faith,
Bolder make my hope in you, fire me with Love’s flame.

Wonderful memorial of the Crucified!
Sacred Banquet, Bread from heav’n, Wellspring gushing light!
Let your life be life to me, feed and feast my mind,
Be to me the sweetness I was meant to find.

In the wounded Pelican, faith sees something more.
She with blood sustains her young; you your blood outpoured
All the world to cleanse of sin. Bathe me in that tide,
Though a single drop makes pure those drawn to your side.

Jesus, here your Face is hid, from my sight concealed,
How I thirst to meet your gaze gloriously revealed!
After life’s obscurity, let me wake to see
Beauty shining from your Face for eternity. Amen.

Original Latin text: Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
English translation: Father Mark Daniel Kirby, O.Cist., 2004

Thank you, Holy Father!

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"One cannot contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ and one cannot look at Christ without immediately perceiving the presence of Mary."

I am profoundly moved by the Holy Father's message for the 2008 World Day of the Sick. Pope Benedict XVI is showing himself, in every way, as Marian a Pope as the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II. Here is an excerpt of the message; my own comments are in italics.

The Immaculate Conception

The hundred and fifty years since the apparitions of Lourdes invite us to turn our gaze towards the Holy Virgin, whose Immaculate Conception constitutes the sublime and freely-given gift of God to a woman so that she could fully adhere to divine designs with a steady and unshakable faith, despite the tribulations and the sufferings that she would have to face. For this reason, Mary is a model of total self-abandonment to the will of God: she received in her heart the eternal Word and she conceived it in her virginal womb; she trusted to God and, with her soul pierced by a sword (cf. Lk 2:35), she did not hesitate to share the Passion of her Son, renewing on Calvary at the foot of the Cross her 'Yes' of the Annunciation.

Is this not the mystery of Mary invoked and presented as Coredemptrix? "She did not hesitate to share the Passion of her Son." In the next section the Holy Father speaks of the "Yes" which "joined her wonderfully to the mission of Christ, the Redeemer of humanity."

Led by Mary's Hand

To reflect upon the Immaculate Conception of Mary is thus to allow oneself to be attracted by the 'Yes' which joined her wonderfully to the mission of Christ, the Redeemer of humanity; it is to allow oneself to be taken and led by her hand to pronounce in one's turn 'fiat' to the will of God, with all one's existence interwoven with joys and sadness, hopes and disappointments, in the awareness that tribulations, pain and suffering make rich the meaning of our pilgrimage on the earth.

To be taken and led by Mary's hand expresses what we means when we speak of total consecration to her. Consecration to Mary is ongoing and dynamic; for this reason the Holy Father speaks of "our pilgrimage on earth."

An Indissoluble Link Between the Mother and the Son

One cannot contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ and one cannot look at Christ without immediately perceiving the presence of Mary. There is an indissoluble link between the Mother and the Son, generated in her womb by work of the Holy Spirit, and this link we perceive, in a mysterious way, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as the Fathers of the Church and theologians pointed out from the early centuries onwards.

The link between the Mother and the Son is prolonged in the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. One who contemplates Mary will be attracted to Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Love. One who contemplates Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Love will perceive the presence of Mary. This is the experience of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, and of so many other saints.

Mother of the Eucharist

'The Flesh born of Mary, coming from the Holy Spirit, is Bread descended from heaven', observed Saint Hilary of Poitiers. In the ninth century "Bergomensium Sacramentary" we read: 'Her womb made flower a Fruit, a Bread that has filled us with an angelic gift. Mary restored to salvation what Eve had destroyed by her sin'. And Saint Peter Damian observed: 'That Body that the most Blessed Virgin generated, nourished in her womb with maternal care, that Body I say, without doubt and no other, we now receive from the sacred altar, and we drink its Blood as a sacrament of our redemption. This is what the Catholic faith believes, this the holy Church faithfully teaches'.

The same Holy Spirit who overshadowed the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, overshadows the altar in every celebration of Holy Mass. The Body of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist is the very Body of Christ that the Blessed Virgin conceived, carried beneath her heart for nine months, brought into the world, and nourished at her breast. Is this not what the magnificent medieval prose, the "Ave, Verum Corpus," sings? "Hail, true body, / Born of the Virgin Mary, / Truly suffered, sacrificed / On the Cross for mankind, / Whose pierced side / Flowed with water and blood, / Be for us a foretaste / In the trial of death."

Mother of the Sacrificed Lamb

The link of the Holy Virgin with the Son, the sacrificed Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, is extended to the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. Mary, observes the Servant of God John Paul II, is a 'woman of the Eucharist' in her whole life, as a result of which the Church, seeing Mary as her model, 'is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery' (Encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," n. 53). In this perspective one understands even further why in Lourdes the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary is joined to a strong and constant reference to the Eucharist with daily Celebrations of the Eucharist, with adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament, and with the blessing of the sick, which constitutes one of the strongest moments of the visit of pilgrims to the grotto of Massabielle.

Yes, the Holy Virgin is the Mother of the Immolated Lamb. This was illustrated in the apparition at Knock. Our Lady, appearing with Saint Joseph and with Saint John the Evangelist, stood with her hands raised in prayer in the presence of the Immolated Lamb who stood upon an altar with the Cross behind Him. The Holy Father alludes to the three grand Eucharistic moments that mark every experience at Lourdes. These are not of course, limited to Lourdes. I try to make them part of the retreats that I am asked to preach.

Through the Heart of His Most Holy Mother

The presence of many sick pilgrims in Lourdes, and of the volunteers who accompany them, helps us to reflect on the maternal and tender care that the Virgin expresses towards human pain and suffering. Associated with the Sacrifice of Christ, Mary, Mater Dolorosa, who at the foot of the Cross suffers with her divine Son, is felt to be especially near by the Christian community, which gathers around its suffering members, who bear the signs of the Passion of the Lord.

Yes, those who suffer bear the signs of the Passion of the Lord, His wounds. Saint Paul says, "I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body" (Gal 6:17). This is true, not only of the signs of physical suffering, but also of the wounds of the psyche and of the heart.

Mary suffers with those who are in affliction, with them she hopes, and she is their comfort, supporting them with her maternal help. And is it not perhaps true that the spiritual experience of very many sick people leads us to understand increasingly that 'the Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the Heart of his Holy Mother, the first and the most exalted of all the redeemed'? (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, "Salvifici Doloris," n. 26).

"The Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the Heart of His Holy Mother." Is this not what we mean when we speak of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Mary is the Mother of the Suffering Servant, "despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity" (Is 53:3), and of all who resemble him.

The Eucharistic Congress

3. If Lourdes leads us to reflect upon the maternal love of the Immaculate Virgin for her sick and suffering children, the next International Eucharistic Congress will be an opportunity to adore Jesus Christ present in the Sacrament of the altar, to entrust ourselves to Him as the Hope that does not disappoint, to receive Him as that Medicine of Immortality which heals the body and the spirit. Jesus Christ redeemed the world through His suffering, His death and His resurrection, and He wanted to remain with us as the 'Bread of Life' on our earthly pilgrimage.

The Holy Father emphasizes the healing virtue of the Most Holy Eucharist, the Medicine of Immortality. He invites us to entrust ourselves to Him as the Hope that does not disappoint. In the Sequence of the Mass of Easter, Mary Magdalene calls Our Lord "Spes mea — my Hope." In the Eucharist He remains our Hope, and the remedy for every despondency.

The Face of the Lord

'The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World': this is the theme of the Eucharistic Congress and it emphasizes how the Eucharist is the gift that the Father makes to the world of His only Son, incarnated and crucified. It is he who gathers us around the Eucharistic table, provoking in his disciples loving care for the suffering and the sick, in whom the Christian community recognises the Face of her Lord. As I pointed out in the Post-Synodal Exhortation "Sacramentum caritatis," 'Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become "bread that is broken" for others'. We are thus encouraged to commit ourselves in the first person to helping our brethren, especially those in difficulty, because the vocation of every Christian is truly that of being, together with Jesus, bread that is broken for the life of the world.

Every authentic passion for the adorable Mystery of the Eucharist leads to compassion for the suffering, for the sick, for those in difficulty. Contemplation of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus opens one's eyes to the Face of Jesus in the suffering and broken members of His Mystical Body.

A Living Offering for the Salvation of the World

4. It thus appears clear that it is specifically from the Eucharist that pastoral care in health must draw the necessary spiritual strength to come effectively to man's aid and to help him to understand the salvific value of his own suffering. As the Servant of God John Paul II was to write in the already quoted Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, the Church sees in her suffering brothers and sisters as it were a multiple subject of the supernatural power of Christ (cf. n. 27). Mysteriously united to Christ, the man who suffers with love and meek self-abandonment to the will of God becomes a living offering for the salvation of the world.

The spirituality of victimhood: to suffer with love and meek self-abandonment to the will of God, thus becoming a living offering for the salvation of the world. The Blessed Virgin Mary Coredemptrix was the first to follow her Son, the Immolated Lamb, into the way of victimhood. Since that hour on Calvary she draws other souls after her in the same way of offering and victimhood.

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.

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