Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wednesday within the Octave of Corpus Christi

Homily of St Hilary the Bishop on the Trinity - Lessons vii-ix Nocturn III
When we speak concerning the things of God, we must not speak after the manner of men, nor after the manner of the world.  Let us ponder those things which are written, and endeavour to understand those things which we read ; and then let us act in a fulness of faith.  Unless we learn from Christ how to speak, concerning the real truth of his abiding in us, we shall speak thereof foolishly and without devotion.  For he himself saith : My Flesh is meat indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.  There is here no room for doubt as to what is his Flesh and what is his Blood.For now do we know, from the declaration of the Lord himself, and from the experience of our own faith, that this is truly his Flesh and Blood.  And when we eat the one and drink the other, they work effectually in us to make us dwell in him and he in us.  Is not this true?  Of a truth it cannot be denied except by them that in some sense deny that Christ Jesus is very God.  He is in us by means of his Flesh, and we are in him, for our own nature is with him in God.  That we dwell in him through that Sacrament wherein his Flesh and Blood are given unto us, he himself doth testify, where he saith : Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more, but ye see me ; because I live ye shall live also ; at that day, ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me and I in you.That this his union with us is real, Christ himself testifieth thus : He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood dwelleth in me, and I in him.  For no one dwelleth in Christ in whom Christ doth not dwell, and only he that receiveth the Body of the Lord is made one body with Christ.  He had already taught that this was the Sacrament of perfect unity, when he said : As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so, he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.  He therefore liveth by the Father, so shall we live by receiving his Body.

Eucharistic Miracle at Sienna - miracle of preservation
The golden ciborium containing consecrated Hosts was stolen from the deserted Church of St. Francis during celebrartion of the Feast of Assumptionon on 14 August 1730. The theft went undiscovered until the next morning, when the priest opened the tabernacle at the Communion of the Mass. Then later, when a parishioner found the lid of the ciborium lying in the street, the suspicion of sacrilege was confirmed. The Archbishop ordered public prayers of reparation, while the civil authorities began a search for the consecrated Hosts and for the scoundrel who had taken them. Two days later, on August 17, while praying in the Church of St. Mary of Provenzano, a priest's attention was directed to something white protruding from the offering box attached to his prie dieu. Realizing that it was a Host, he informed the other priests of the church, who in turn notified the Archbishop and the friars of the Church of St. Francis. When the offering box was opened, in the presence of local priests and the representative of the Archbishop, a large number of Hosts were found, some of them suspended by cobwebs. The Hosts were compared with some unconsecrated ones used in the Church of St. Francis, and proved to be exactly the same size and to have the same mark of the irons upon which they were baked. The number of Hosts corresponded exactly to the number the Franciscan friars had estimated were in the ciborium -- 348 whole Hosts and six halves. Since the offering box was opened but once a year, the Hosts were covered with the dust and debris that had collected there. After being carefully cleaned by the priests, they were enclosed in a ciborium and placed inside the tabernacle of the main altar of the Church of St. Mary. The following day, in the company of a great gathering of townspeople, Archbishop Alessandro Zondadari carried the Sacred Hosts in solemn procession back to the Church of St. Francis. During the two centuries that followed it has sometimes been wondered why the Hosts were not consumed by a priest during Mass, which would have been the ordinary procedure in such a case. While there is no definite answer, there are two theories. One explanation is that crowds of people from both Sienna and neighboring cities gathered in the church to offer prayers of reparation before the sacred particles, forcing the priests to conserve them for a time. The other reason the priests did not consume them might well have been because of their soiled condition. While the Hosts were superficially cleaned after their discovery, they still retained a great deal of dirt. In such cases it is not necessary to consume consecrated Hosts, but it is permitted to allow them to deteriorate naturally, at which time Christ would no longer be present.

To the amazement of the clergy, the Hosts did not deteriorate, but remained fresh and even retained a pleasant scent. With the passage of time the Conventual Franciscans became convinced that they were witnessing a continuing miracle of preservation.

Fifty years after the recovery of the stolen Hosts, an official investigation was conducted into the authenticity of the miracle. The Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Father Carlo Vipera, examined the Hosts on April 14, 1780, and upon tasting one of them he found it fresh and incorrupt. Since a number of the Hosts had been distributed during the preceding years, the Minister General ordered that the remaining 230 particles be placed in a new ciborium and forbade further distribution.