Excerpts from THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
Fr. Frederick W. Faber, D.D.
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1958
TAN Books and Publishers
Book I: The Greatest Work of God
THE THEOLOGY OF TRANSUBSTANTIATION PART 2
THE second miracle which concerns the Body of our Lord is the presence with it of His blessed Soul, with all its sanctity, beatific love and vision, and all its ornaments and gifts, natural and supernatural, under the same species. In the language of the Council of Trent we say that our Lord's Soul is present under the species, not by the force of the words of consecration, but by what the Council calls concomitance: that is, it was befitting and honourable for our Lord's Body, that it should be accompanied by His Soul into all its surpassing beauty, and that in a manner as real as is its Own presence in the Sacrament. It was not therefore necessary that the Soul should come, neither did it directly, by virtue of the consecration. And though it comes by the force of natural connection with the Body of Christ, as the Council speaks, yet as the Body was produced under the species by an intimate, peculiar Divine influx, which did not reach the Soul, the presence of the Soul requires a new distinct productive influx touching its substance, as the former one touched the substance of the Body. So that here is a fresh act of beauty and of power in order to produce the Soul of Christ under the species, and it is there as truly, really and substantially as the Body itself. The third miracle which has reference to the Body of Christ is the presence under the species of the Hypostatic Union, by which the Flesh and Soul are united to the Divine Word. From this union the flesh of Christ receives its dignity and all its power of sanctification; and it is present under the species by a productive action of its own. For although the Divine Word is everywhere, yet the union of the Body and Soul of Christ with the Word is not everywhere; because the Body and Soul of Christ are not everywhere, but are circumscribed in a particular place.
Nevertheless the Hypostatic Union is so intrinsic to them that they cannot exist without it. Therefore as the Body and Soul of Christ are present in the Blessed Sacrament by a peculiar action, so also is their union with the Word. Thus the Divine Word is present in the Blessed Sacrament by concomitance; that is, not merely by reason of His immensity as God, by which He is in all things, but also by reason of the Hypostatic Union. Hence, furthermore, though let it be carefully observed not by any productive action, which cannot extend thus far, the Father and the Holy Ghost are also present under the species by reason of connexion and identity with the Word.
The fourth miracle is the spiritual manner in which the Body of Christ exists with all its corporeal qualities, under the species. His Body, with all its bulk and its qualities, is by a Divine virtue raised above the condition of a body, and receives a spiritual mode of existence, by which it is contracted as it were into a point, and is simultaneously and continuously so diffused through the species, that like a spiritual substance it is whole under the whole species of bread, and whole under every one of its parts; just as a man's rational soul is whole in his whole body and whole in each of his parts. This is perhaps the most stupendous prodigy of all this resplendent collection of wonders, and has no just parallel out of this mystery of Transubstantiation: -----that a thing extended by parts should be empowered to exist spiritually and without extent; and that when the substance and existence are both corporeal, the mode of being should nevertheless be spiritual!
The fifth miracle is the multiplication, so to call it after the example of Theologians, of the Body of Christ; its multifold presence, or method of existing multipliedly. See how the case stands with a man's soul. The soul is whole in each part of the body, yet, not fully or completely but imperfectly; for it depends in one part- on its existence in other parts; so that if a limb is cut off, it cannot preserve the soul in it unless by a miracle, in which case even it would be in a certain sense incomplete. Now the Body of Christ is totally and completely in every particle of the species, however small and to the senses indivisible, as perfectly as under the whole species; neither does His existence in one particle in any way depend on His existence in the neighbouring ones, but under each one He exists perfectly and independently, so that when the species is divided, He remains complete in each part without any new miracle. This prodigy differs from the preceding one and is additional to it; for it does not follow from His Body having the gift of a spiritual existence that it should have also what theology calls the gift of "multiplicity of complete existence." He might, for instance, have given Himself once under one species. Thus the former miracle gives to His Body the prerogatives of a spiritual substance, and this one adds to that a multiplicity which not even a spiritual substance possesses. And this multiplicity of Himself, His Flesh, His Blood, His Soul, the Hypostatic Union, what is it all but love, the same abundant, prodigal, spendthrift love which moves our tears in His Blood-sheddings and in all the mysteries of His dear Passion, and the actions of His Three and Thirty years?
The sixth miracle is the retiring of the Body of Christ from the species when they corrupt. When by any external agent or by the internal conflict of qualities the species so far suffer change, as that the substance of bread if it were there would
naturally be corrupted, in the very moment in which the substance of bread would suffer alteration, the Body of Christ withdraws. It is not that the Body of Christ has any natural dependence on the species, as the substance of bread would have; but that the Body of Christ being there by a special productive influx of God, that influx is withdrawn, and it ceases to be, so that if it were not in Heaven, or in the Blessed Sacrament elsewhere, it would cease to be altogether and be annihilated. Nevertheless our Lord suffers in no way by this; for it is all one to Him whether He exist once or a thousand times; for existing once He has the plenitude of all goods and all power, and a million times ten million existences could add nothing to Him. And this beautiful, worshipful marvel closes the series of those which concern His Body.
But our survey of this great work of God, the mystery of Transubstantiation, would not be complete, if we did not add to it two more miracles, which devout writers, using the word in a loose and poetical sense, are wont to notice, and which concern the consecrators of the Body of God. They are miracles rather of love than of power. One of them consists in the prodigal abundance with which our Lord has bestowed this immense gift of consecrating His Body. If one man had the power once in a century, how would the world fling itself in pilgrimage upon the one spot where the chosen pontiff was to accomplish this stupendous work. Yet God has given it to a huge motley multitude of priests. He does not require holiness of life to make the consecration valid, nor yet the profession of the true faith, nor even freedom from dreadful crimes. Even blasphemers, schismatics, heretics and apostates, so long as they were validly ordained, retain this power, and use it to the ignominy and shame of our dearest Lord, and to the profaning of His most holy presence. They make our Lord common and vile and wearisome to the people. They make merchandise of Him, and dishonor Him by simony and sacrilege. Yet He seems to care nothing for it. He looks only at us, consults only our interest, legislates only for our convenience. He must be at our doors. The Adorable Sacrifice must be easy and ready for all of us. Opportunities of communion must be cheap and common as the air we breathe. This is best for us, sweetest for us; and as our good is the rule of God's goodness, so it is! Who will quarrel with us for calling this a miracle?
Once more: our last and twelfth miracle is in the facility of consecration. When a Saint works miracles, first of all he is a Saint, and that is to be remembered, for it tells of long years of prayer and conflict, and modest secrets of corporal austerity. So if long fasting, and great learning, and much toil, and vigils of preliminary ceremony were necessary before consecration, it would seem an easy exercise of power when we consider the stupendous majesty of the work performed. But no! Five little words, and it is done! What more easy? Marvellously easy, we might have thought dangerously easy, dangerous for our own faith, dangerous for our own reverence! So it might be if that most beautiful of all things outside Heaven, the Latin rite of the Adorable Sacrifice, had not come forth out of the grand mind of the Church, and lifted us out of earth and out of self, and wrapped us round in a cloud of mystical sweetness and the sublimities of a more than angelic liturgy, and purified us almost without ourselves, and charmed us with celestial charming, so that our very senses seem to find vision, hearing, fragrance, taste and touch, beyond what earth can give. Thus, may I dare to say it? in the Roman rite the Church has at once so guarded us and so nursed our Lord, that she has made herself a loving and a thoughtful Mother, even to Him in those His daily new births, as well as to ourselves. But why was all this facility? For the same reason as the great motley multitude of priests. For us, for our sakes, for our convenience. It is another miracle of love. To be easy of access, to be multiplied in Masses, to entice lukewarm priests to consecrate Him, to be reserved in a greater number of tabernacles, to lie in more poverty-stricken homes:-this is all that Jesus wants. I had almost said it was not all for us; for it is His interest as well as ours. His luxury is to be with the children of men; and what thanks to Him when He is seeking His own enjoyment? Ah! but then, this is just the crowning miracle of all, the most touching of the wonders, the most thrilling of the truths, the most overwhelming of our obligations! Alas! Lord! earth has no scales to measure these twelve miracles of love; but man can parallel and overtop them all, not by his unbelief, for that might almost be forgiven where Thou art so .inexplicably good, but by his coldness to this Thy burning gift, Thy choicest love, Thy very dearest, divinest, living Self!
Now the hard part of my work is done. If you have taken the pains to learn the lesson patiently you will thank me for it afterwards. I only wish to say that in these foregoing pages I have not put forward any views of doctrine of my own. I have done little else but translate: often word for word, as the style will have shown you; and I have borrowed only from those celebrated doctors whom the whole world accounts to be masters in Israel. Remember-----I had two objects in leading you along these hard roads. One is that I fully believe a more intelligent apprehension of the Blessed Sacrament will lead to a more intense love of it; and the other is that I could feel no security that you would not accuse me of rhetoric and pious exaggeration, when I say what I mean to say in future pages; and now this body of dry doctrine, if it be dry, will support me, and more than bear me safely through all that is to come. Nay, more than safely, for what could possibly go beyond what has been already said?
Such then is the account which Catholic theology gives of this fifth great work of God, the mystery of Transubstantiation: and what a ravishing spectacle of Divine power, wisdom and love does it not present to us? It is as if we were allowed to look into the secret cabinets of God, one opening out into another, and each the scene of the most intimate operations of creative love. It is as if we were permitted to scan those processes at creation, which took less than a moment of time when the divine Fiat was uttered, yet which it would take us ages to pass in review before us, and untold volumes to explain even what our limited intelligence might hope to comprehend. Creation and annihilation, the opposite terms of God's omnipotence, and other acts mingling in themselves the nature and the characteristics of both, an assemblage of chosen miracles, the fairest and the rarest specimens of their kind, and new miracles peculiar to the mystery itself, and which have no fellows and patterns elsewhere, the ingenuity of the Divine Word to bury Himself lower still and lower in His own dear creation, till He almost comes to nestle in the bosom of nothingness, and to be as though He were annihilating Himself ten thousand times a day; and then the way in which we sinners seem to have been consulted at every step, our wants foreseen, our advantage ensured, and the majesty of God made vile to attain these ends which we are wantonly frustrating every day; the Human Flesh of Christ as it were taking precedence of His Soul, and drawing after it His Divinity, and the Holy Trinity being around it as if its court and equipage, and the power of this subterranean world of miraculous creation and annihilation, given out of His Own hands and put almost at random into the hands of a crowd of men of the most uncertain intellectual gifts and varying moral qualities: -----this is what the mystery of Transubstantiation presents to our astonished view. Surely here, if anywhere, we may say with Tertullian, Nothing gives us a more magnificent idea of God than the impossibility of comprehending Him; His infinite perfection both manifests Him to men and hides Him from them at one and the same moment!
Nowhere are we led so far into the deep things of God as by this exquisite mystery. We seem to leave the world and the world's ways behind altogether; nay, even to go out of sight of those ordinary operations of God which are familiar to us and form our ordinary practice of His ever blessed Presence. We sink down, with Jesus, through abyss after abyss, knowing not where He will stop, nor where the infinite abasement of His love will be exhausted. We learn there new wisdom, new devotion, new love. Yet the very light in which we see all these things is changed, because of the very depth to which we have descended. As in the Azure Grotto of Capri, where the light changes its colour and comes to us bluer than the clear sky above or the beautiful waters below, so going down into the depths of this mystery, though the same lights of faith and reason illuminate us there, it is as though their nature were changed, and they formed a new kind of medium, through whose softness we could better see the glory of the Divine operations. And what devotion this opens out to us! As we gaze upon our dearest Lord sinking from one depth to another, as if He were searching through creation for the deepest depth which He could find, our hearts for very love are constrained to imitate Him in our own feeble way, and to worship Him in His sacramental presence by a continual exercise of interior humility. Nothing teaches us humility so much as the Blessed Sacrament. Nothing makes us long so intensely to possess this grace. Nothing gives us such a sensible sweetness or such a delightful power in the exercise of it. Our vileness and our nothingness, like a many-chambered subterranean prison, stretch out before us, cell after cell, as if they were endless, and each succeeding one darker and gloomier than the one that went before. God is in each of them, waiting for us with abundant and peculiar graces, whenever we shall come there for them; and the deeper the depth the more intimate is His presence and the richer are His gifts. There, in these depths, it is that we draw the strength of our spiritual life. There is the grace found which makes us willingly and gaily choose shame rather than honour, and revel in humiliation as the children of the world revel in glory, wealth and pleasure. There it is that self-love has lost its atmosphere, and can breathe no more. O blessed death, more blessed than words can tell; for the liberty it brings is joyous as the bondage before was unendurable! There is the grace to throw ourselves beneath the feet of every other creature of God, as something which our intellect as well as our heart tells us is more vile and nothing-----worth than aught else which God has made. There is the grace which makes us see our best qualities to be pusillanimous imperfections, and which hides from us all the grace and beauty of our souls; and there the grace to cause us to feel the greater shame, the greater sense of vileness, the greater wonder at our own utter nothingness, the more God hangs His gifts about us and sheds the exuberant splendours of His love around us; so that the holier we grow, the viler we seem unto ourselves, and when Saints, then intolerably vile. O blessed they who are frequent in this exercise! Blessed they who thus love to darken the world to themselves, and go underground and become conversant with these deep places, which are at once the caverns of our own nothingness, and yet the treasure-chambers of God! When they have lost their footing, and are sinking out of depth, and find no bottom, if they begin to fear as Peter did upon the surface of the sea, they look to Jesus; they see Him in His chosen mystery of the Blessed Sacrament sinking far lower, far nearer to annihilation than they can ever reach, and they take heart, and bravely and lovingly imitate Him in these His ineffable condescensions. This exercise of interior humility is at once the most natural and the most fruitful devotion which accompanies the worship of the Blessed Sacrament.