Most Blessed Sacrament
FR. STEPHANO MANELLI
Imprimatur: 1973, Naples, Italy
Knowing, Loving, Living the Eucharist
In order to explore at least some of the immense riches stored up in the Mystery of the Eucharist, let us undertake an exercise which, while one and constant, uses the mind, the heart and the will.
First, it uses the mind. Here one meditates in an attentive, orderly way on the Eucharist This may be done with books which lead us to personally uncover and deeply ponder this Mystery of Love. A simple booklet which is rich in content is St. Alphonsus M. de Liguori's "Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary." Also, there are the two precious booklets by St. Peter Julian Eymard entitled, "The Real Presence" and "Holy Communion."
We should, above all, turn to the school of St. Peter Julian Eymard, who was unequalled as an Apostle of the Eucharist. His vocation and mission was to lead all Christians to the Eucharist. When he founded the Congregation of Priests of the Blessed Sacrament, he offered his life for the Eucharistic reign of Jesus. At that time he wrote these ardent words: "Here, dear Jesus, is my life. Behold me ready to eat stones and to die abandoned, just so that I may succeed in erecting a throne for Thee and give Thee a family of friends, a nation of adorers."
If we but knew the gift of God Who is Love and Who gives Himself to us as a Gift full of Love! "The Eucharist," said St. Bernard, "is that love which surpasses all loves in Heaven and on earth." And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love: It signifies Love, it produces Love." One day an Arabian prince, Abd-ed-Kader, while passing through the streets of Marseille with a French official, met a priest who was carrying Holy Viaticum to a dying man. The French official stopped, uncovered his head, and knelt. His friend asked him the reason for this gesture.
"I adore my God, Whom the priest is carrying to a sick person," replied the good official.
"How is it possible," the prince said, "for you to believe that God Who is so great, makes Himself so little and lets Himself go even to the homes of the poor? We Mohammedans have a much higher idea of God."
The official answered, "It is because you have only an idea of the greatness of God; that you do not know His Love."
In confirmation of this, St. Peter Eymard declares, "The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself." Yet, how many of us Christians do not know the vast extent of the love contained in the Eucharist.
Second, to explore the riches of the Eucharist, we use the heart. If every Christian must love Jesus Christ ("If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." 1 Cor. 16:22). Love for the Eucharist must spring from the heart and be ever alive in us all. Now even love needs exercise. The heart needs to be exercised to love the true God, to long for "The Author of Life." (Acts 3:15).
Holy Communion represents the loftiest point of this exercise of love, Whose consuming flames unite the heart of a creature and Jesus. St. Gemma Galgani could exclaim in this regard, "I can no longer avoid the thought that in the wonderful scope of His Love, Jesus makes Himself perceptible and shows Himself to His lowliest creature in all the splendors of His Heart." And what may we say about the "exercises" of the heart of St. Gemma, who desired to be a "tent of love" in which she would keep Jesus always with her? She longed to have a "little place in the ciborium" to be able to stay always with Jesus. She asked that she could become "a flaming ball afire with love" for Jesus.
When St. Therese of the Child Jesus had become quite ill, she dragged herself with great effort to Church to receive Jesus. One morning, after Holy Communion, she was in her cell, exhausted. One of the Sisters remarked that she should not exert herself so much. The Saint replied, "Oh, what are these sufferings to me in comparison with one Holy Communion?" Her sweet complaint was that she could not receive Holy Communion every day. (It was not permitted in her times.) She ardently pleaded with Jesus: "Remain within me, as You do in the Tabernacle. Do not ever withdraw Your presence from Your little Host."
When St. Margaret Mary Alacoque left the world and consecrated herself to God in the cloister, she made a private vow and wrote it in her blood, "All for the Eucharist; nothing for me." It is useless to attempt to describe the Saint's burning love for the Eucharist. When she was not able to receive Holy Communion, she broke out in ardent expressions of love like these: "I have such a desire for Holy Communion that if I had to walk barefoot along a path of fire to obtain It, I would do so with unspeakable joy."
St. Catherine of Siena said often to her confessor: "Father, I am hungry; for the love of God give this soul her food, her Lord in the Eucharist." She also confided: "When I am not able to receive my Lord, I go into the Church, and there I look at Him ... I look at Him again ... and this satisfies me."
This we call "exercise of the heart."
Third, to find the riches of the Eucharist, one should exercise the will. One must do this by bringing the Divine lessons of the Eucharist into his life. What good would it be to discover the infinite worth of the Eucharist as we ponder It and seek to love It at Communion time, if we do not then proceed to live It?
The Eucharist teaches a love that goes beyond telling. It teaches total self-sacrifice, and an unequalled lesson in humility and self-effacement. It teaches patience and unrestricted dedication. But what do we draw from all this? We surely ought to achieve something! Can we continue to be indifferent and do nothing when Jesus has loved us and still loves us with this great generosity "even to the end?" (John 13:1) If we feel frail, we need to turn to Him, to speak to Him and not tarry about asking His help and support, for He is the very One Who said, "Without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) First of all let us go before Him: "Come to Me ... and I will refresh you." (Matt. 11 :28) Let us often visit Him, entering a Church every time we can and pausing a little while before the tabernacle, and put both our heart close to Him and our body before His! The Saints were constantly eager to make visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, to make Holy Hours of adoration, spiritual communions, ejaculatory prayers and earnest acts of love that come from the heart. How much profit they gained from this and how much good they passed on!
One day in Turin a friend, who was his companion from the University, asked Peter George Frassati, "Let us go and take an appetizer." Peter George took advantage of the occasion and replied, indicating to his friend the nearby Church of St. Dominic, "But, of course, let us go and take it in that cafe." Entering the Church, they prayed for a little while near the tabernacle; then they neared the offering box, Peter George said, "Here is the appetizer." And, from the pockets of the two youths came alms for the poor!
Thinking of the Eucharist during his sermon, St. John Chrysostom asked one time, "How can we make of our bodies a host?" And he himself replied, "Let your eyes look at nothing evil, and you have offered a sacrifice; let not your tongue offer unbecoming words and you have made an offering; let not your hand commit a sin and you have offered a holocaust."
Just recall the eyes of St. Colette, which were always lowered and recollected in sweet modesty. Why? She once gave the answer: "My eyes, I have filled with Jesus upon Whom I have fixed them at the Elevation of the Host at Holy Mass and I do not wish to replace Him with any other image."
Let us think of the reserve and edification of the Saints in speaking, using with exactness the tongue which had been consecrated by contact with the Body of Christ Jesus.
Recall the good works which souls, filled with love by the Eucharist, have accomplished because Jesus communicated to them His Own sentiments of love to all the brothers, especially the most needful.
Can we not also exercise thus our will? Let us learn from the Saints and begin to continue their good works.
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