Of the Inestimable Benefit and Great Love That Our Lord Jesus Christ Has Shown Us in the Institution of The Holy Eucharist

by admin on December 22, 2012

Holy EucharistTWO works there are that God has shown us, of all that He has done the most signal, the most apt to astound and cut short the judgments of men. So subtle their contrivance that the Prophet Isaias, speaking of them, calls them inventions of God. Make known among the peoples My inventions (Isaias xii. 4). They are works in which it looks as though God had set Himself to think in what way He could show Himself eager to communicate and pour Himself out. The first work was the Incarnation, in which the Word of the Father conjoined and united Himself with our nature in a bond so binding and a knot so tight and close that God and man came to be together in one Person. A knot to which all the reason of the world is blind, and to God alone is it clear; darkness and obscurity to all, and to Him alone light and brightness; an indissoluble knot which, once tied, shall never be untied or undone. What He has once assumed, He has never abandoned.

St. Denis says that love is a unitive power, which trans­forms the lover into the beloved and makes of the two one. Now what no love that ever has been on earth could ever do, that the love of God for man has done. Never had it been seen below the heavens that love had truly made love and beloved into one. Above the heavens that is well seen; the very nature of the Father is that of the Son, and They are one; but below the heavens such a union had never been realized. But the love of God for man has been so great that He has conjoined and united Himself with man in such sort that of God and man there has come to be only one Person; and that so strictly one that man is true God and God is true man; and all that is proper to God can with truth and propriety be said of man; and, conversely, what is proper to man is said also of God. Thus He Whom men saw, was God; He Whom they beheld speaking by means of bodily lips, was God. He Whom they beheld eating, walk­ing, toiling, was God. He had a real human nature and real human activities; and He Who discharged those activi­ties was God. Who ever heard or saw the like? says the Prophet Isaias (Ixvi. 8). God is a child, God wrapped in swaddling clothes, God weeping, God in weakness, God weary and suffering pains and torments! There the Royal Prophet says: Lord, thou hast set thy resting place on high, evil shall not come near thee, and the scourge shall not approach thy dwelling (Psalm xc, 9). But now we see, Lord, that the scourges have come near Thee, and the nails, and the thorns, and they have put Thee on a cross; a thing so alien from God, says Isaias, a strange thing (Isaias xxviii. 21), a thing that bewilders and arrests the judg­ments of men and angels.

There has been another work of God, an invention proper to His infinite love, the institution of the Most Holy Sacra­ment. In the former, He covered His Godhead with a cloak of flesh, that we might be able to see Him; in this, He cov­ers not only His divine but also His human nature with the cloak of accidents that we may have Him for our food. In the former, God gave welcome to man, uniting a human nature with the divine Word, and so made man enter into the innermost depths of the Godhead; in the latter, God wishes you to welcome Him in the innermost depths of your heart. Before, man was united to God; now God and man seeks to be united to you. In the former, the communica­tion and union was with one sole individual nature which is the most holy humanity of Christ our Lord, hypostatically united to the eternal Word. In this latter, He unites Him­self to each individual that receives Him, and makes Him­self one with him—not now by an hypostatical or personal union, for that were not convenient, but by a union the most intimate and closest that can be imagined short of that. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, is in me and I in him, says the Lord Himself (John vi. 57). Marvel­ous work! Not only is it the greatest of His miracles, as St. Thomas says, but it is the sum and compendium of them all.

Holy Scripture tells us of King Ashuerus that he made a great and solemn banquet, which lasted one hundred and eighty days, to show his great riches and the glory of his power (Esther i. 3-4). So that great Ashuerus, Christ our Redeemer, has wished to make a royal banquet, to show the greatness of His treasures and riches, and the power and majesty of His glory. The food that is given us in this banquet is God Himself, a work to move the admiration and astonishment of the world, no less than the former. Even over the mere shadow of this admirable mystery, which was the manna, people broke out into the wondering excla­mation: Manhu, what is this? (Exod. xvi. 15). And after­wards they said: How can he give us his flesh to eat? (John vi. 53). And this banquet did not last one hundred and eighty days, as that of King Ashuerus lasted, but has lasted sixteen hundred years (this article was written in the 1600’s), and shall last till the end of the world; it is always being eaten and always endures. With reason did the prophet exclaim: Come and see the works of the Lord, the wonders that he hath wrought on earth (Psalm xlv. 9). Amazing the contrivance and wisdom of the counsels of God that He has taken for the salvation of men! It is of this second work that we are to treat now; the Lord give us His grace thereto, whereof we have great need.

The glorious Apostle and Evangelist St. John in his holy Gospel, speaking of the institution of this Most Holy Sac­rament, says: When he had loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end (John xiii. 1) : for it was then that He did them the greater favors and left them the greater pledges of His love, among which one of the chiefest, or even the chiefest of all, was this Most Holy Sac­rament. Therein His Majesty abides truly and really, and in so doing He markedly shows the great love that He bears us. It is the mark of true love to wish to keep its object ever present and ever to enjoy the company of the same, because love cannot bear the absence of the beloved. So when it was time for Christ our Redeemer to leave this world and go to His Father, He wished to depart in such a way as not entirely to depart, and in such a way to go as still to stay. Thus as He came forth from heaven without leaving heaven, so now He goes away from earth without leaving earth; and as He went forth from His Father with­out leaving Him, so now He goes away from His children without leaving them.

It is further in the nature of love to desire to live in the memory of the beloved, and seek to be ever remembered on his part. For this end, when friends part, they give one another memorials and pledges to awaken this memory. In order, then, that we may never forget Him, He has left us for a memorial this Most Holy Sacrament, in which He Himself dwells in person, wishing that between Him and us there should be no less a pledge to awaken this memory than Himself. So, after instituting this Most Holy Sacra­ment, He said: Every time you celebrate this mystery, cele­brate it in memory of Me, remembering how much I have loved you, how earnestly I have sought after you, and how much I have suffered on your account (Luke xxii. 19; I Cor. xi. 24, 26).

Of the people of Israel, Moses vaunted greatly: There is no nation so great as to have its gods nigh unto it as our God is nigh unto us, being ever at hand to hear all our sup­plications (Deut. iv. 7). Solomon, having built the Temple, stood amazed and said: Is it possible that God should dwell with men on earth? If heaven and earth, in all their vast amplitude, are not enough to find room for thee, how much less shall this house which I have built! (Ill Kings viii. 27).  How much more reason have we to say this, seeing that now it is no longer a figure, but God Himself, that we have for our companion!   Lo, I am with you all days even to the end of the world (Matt, xxviii. 20).   A great comfort and a great favor it is that Christ our Redeemer should wish to remain in our company to console us and lighten the burden of our pilgrimage.   If here the company of a friend consoles us in our labors and afflictions, what should it be to have Jesus Christ Himself in our company—to see God enter in at our gates, pass through our wards and streets, be taken up and carried and enthroned in our temples, so that we can visit Him repeatedly and at all hours, day and night, and treat with Him of our affairs face to face, giving Him an account of our labors, recounting to Him our trou­bles,   imparting  to  Him   our  temptations,   and   begging redress and favor for all our needs, in confidence that He Who has loved us so much as to will to be so near us, will not stand aloof when we ask for a remedy for our woes. I will go and take up My abode in the midst of you; I will go where you wish to carry Me; I am ready to pass through your streets; I am ready to honor you (Levit. xxvi. 11-12). Not content with our having Him in our temples and houses, the Lord has wished that we should have Him within our heart; He has wished you yourself to be the temple and chalice, the monstrance and reliquary, where this Most Holy Sacrament should be laid and placed.   He does not give Himself here to kiss, as He did to the shep­herds and the kings, but to receive Him into our breasts. O unspeakable love!    O unheard-of bounty!    That I should receive into my breast and into my heart God Himself in person!    Jesus Christ Himself, true God and true man! The same that the most holy Queen of Angels received and bore nine months in her most pure womb!   If St. Elizabeth, mother of the glorious Baptist, on occasion of Thy Virgin Mother, in whose womb Thou wert carried, entering her house, marveled, and full of the Holy Ghost cried aloud, saying: Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me! (Luke i. 43), what shall I say, when Thou comest not by the gates of my material house, but of my body and soul, within me into my innermost self, Thou, O Lord, Son of the living God! With how much more rea­son may I say, Whence is this to me! to me who for so long a time have been the abode of the devil! to me who so often have offended Thee! to me, so thankless and ungrateful! Whence is this to me except from the greatness of Thy mercy, and from Thy being what Thou art, so good, such a lover of men! Whence but from Thine infinite love!

Saints further consider, and with much reason, that, if the Lord had granted this boon only to the innocent and pure, still it would be an inestimable bounty; but what shall we say now that by reason of His wishing to communicate Himself to them He has obliged Himself to pass through the hands of many wicked ministers; and as He allowed Himself to be crucified for our love by the hands of those perverse executioners, so He permits Himself now to be handled by wicked and perverse priests and enter into mouths and bodies, filthy and foul, of many wicked men and sinners, to visit and console His friends! To all this the Lord exposes Himself, and wills to be again and again sold and mocked and crucified and put between thieves, as St. Paul says that they who sin, so far as in them lies, cru­cify Jesus Christ again (Heb. vi, 6); all this He undergoes to communicate Himself to you. See if we have not good cause to give Him thanks and good cause to serve Him. The Church sings in astonishment that this great Lord had no horror of entering into a maiden’s womb; but lay side by side the purity of this maiden and our impurity, and you will see how much greater reason we have to be astonished that He has had no horror of entering into the breast of a sinner.

Excerpt from Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues by Alphonsus Rodriguez, translated by Joseph Rickaby (Loyola University Press, 1929). Reprinted with permission.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: