by Father Prosper Gueranger, 1870
The grand Feast has, at length, dawned upon us; and everything is speaking of the triumph of faith and love. During the feast of the Ascension, when commenting those words of our Lord: It is expedient to you that I go (St John, xvi. 7), we were saying, that the withdrawal of the visible presence of the Man-God from the eyes of men on earth, would bring among them, by the vivid operation of the Holy Ghost, a plenitude of light and a warmth of love which they had not had for their Jesus, during His mortal career among them; the only creature, that had rendered to Him, in her single self, the whole of those duties which the Church afterwards paid him, was Mary, who was all illumined with faith.
In his exquisite hymn, Adoro te devote, St Thomas of Aquin says: On the Cross it was the Divinity alone that was hid; but here the Humanity, too, is hid; and yet, on no day of the Year is the Church more triumphant, or more demonstrative, than she is upon this Feast. Heaven is all radiant; our earth has clad herself with her best, that she may do homage to Him, who has said: I am the Flower of the fields, and the Lily of the valleys (Cant. ii. 1). Holy Church is not satisfied with having prepared a throne whereon, during the whole of this Octave, the sacred Host is to receive the adorations of the faithful; she has decreed, that these days of solemn and loving exposition be preceded by the pageant of a triumph. Not satisfied, today, with elevating the Bread of Life, immediately after the words of Consecration: she will carry It beyond the precincts of her churches, amidst clouds of incense, and on paths strewed with flowers; and her children, on bended knee, will adore, under heaven’s vaulted canopy, Him Who is their King and their God.
Those joys, which each separate solemnity of the Year brought us, seem to come back upon us, all of them at once, today. The Royal Prophet had foretold this, when he said: He (the Lord) hath made a remembrance (a Memorial) of His wonderful works: He hath given Food to them that fear Him (Ps. cs. 4, 5). Holy Church is filled with enthusiasm, holding in her arms that divine Spouse, who said: Lo! I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world (St Matth. xxviii. 20). Nothing could be more formal; and the promise has been faithfully kept. It is true, we beheld Him ascending from Mount Olivet; He went up into heaven, and there He sitteth at His Father’s right hand: but, ever since the memorable day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit took possession of the Church, the sacred mystery of the Supper has been celebrated, in virtue of those words spoken by Jesus: Do this in remembrance of me; and from that day forward, the human race has never been deprived of the presence of its Head and its Redeemer.
The immense blessings bestowed by the divine mercy upon the Christian people give it an inestimable dignity. There is not, nor ever was, a nation so great that has gods so nigh as our God is present to us. And this body that he took from us he gave wholly for our salvation. For he offered his own body to God the Father upon the altar of the cross as a victim for our reconciliation, and he shed his own blood both to redeem and cleanse us, that we, being bought back from a wretched slavery, might be washed from all our sins. And then, that the memory of such a great benefit might abide in us, he left his body to be our food and his blood to be our drink, that the faithful might receive them under the species of bread and wine.
O precious and wonderful banquet, health-giving and full of all sweetness! What could be more precious than this banquet, in which no longer as under the law the flesh of calves and goats is eaten, but Christ the true God is set before us that we may receive Him? What could be more wonderful than this sacrament, in which bread and wine are substantially changed into the body and blood of Christ? And therefore Christ, perfect God and man is contained under the appearance of a little bread and wine. He is eaten by the faithful but not torn asunder; indeed when the Sacrament is divided he remains entire in each particle. The accidents subsist without a subject, that there may be room for faith, when we receive visibly that which is invisible and hidden under an appearance not its own. Thus the senses are kept free from deception, for they judge of accidents known to them.
Of all the sacraments none is more health-giving, for by it sins are washed away, virtues are increased, and the soul is fed with an abundance of all spiritual gifts. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, that all may profit by that which was instituted for the salvation of all. Finally, no words suffice to describe the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delights are tasted at their very source and the exceeding charity of Christ in his passion is called to mind. It was in order to impress more deeply upon the minds of the faithful the boundless extent of his charity that, when he had kept the Pasch with his disciples and was about to depart out of this world to his Father, Christ instituted this sacrament as a perpetual memorial of his passion, the fulfillment of the ancient figures, the greatest of all his miracles. To those who grieved at his absence it was to be a special consolation.
For while by food and drink men seek to attain to this end that they shall neither hunger nor thirst; there is nothing that truly does this, except that food and drink, which makes those who partake of it immortal and incorruptible; namely, the very fellowship of the Saints, where there will be peace, and full and perfect unity. And so, just as men of God understood this before us, our Lord Jesus Christ has commended to us his body and blood in those things, which from being many are reduced to some one thing. For a unity (bread) is formed out of many grains; and another unity (wine) is made by the juice of many berries flowing together. At length, he now explains how that of which he speaks comes to pass; and what it is to eat his body and to drink his blood.
He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me, and I in him. And so it is apparent that one eats that food and drinks that drink, if he abides in Christ, and Christ in him. Consequently, he who does not abide in Christ, and in whom Christ does not abide, without doubt does not spiritually eat his flesh, nor drink his blood, though he may, in the flesh and visibly, press with his teeth the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; but rather does he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment, because he, being unclean, has presumed to draw near to Christ’s sacraments, which no man takes worthily, except he who is clean: of whom it is said: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.
And says He, the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he who eats me, the same also shall live by me. As though he should say: That I live by the Father; that is, that I ascribe my life to Him as to one greater than I, is brought about by that emptying of myself in which he sent me; but, that one lives by me is effected by that participation in which he eats me. And so I, being brought low, live by the Father; while that man, being raised up, lives by me. But if it is said: I live by the Father; so as to mean that he is of the Father, not the Father of him, it is said without disparagement to the equality between them. But on the other hand, by saying: He who eats me the same also shall live by me; he did not signify equality between him and ourselves, but He thereby showed the grace of the mediator.
May the heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen.