Thursday, June 11, 2009

Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, St Thomas Aquinas and Carmelite Saints

Food sustains life. Without food, no living being can remain alive and active. Grace gives to man a divine life. Baptism gives man birth in the divine life. Confirmation gives man maturity in the divine life. But this life cannot continue to grow without food, spiritual food. Like every other life, the divine life of grace must be nourished. it must be fed. The food of the life of grace is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist . In this Sacrament, the life of grace feeds on the very Body and Blood of Christ Himself. If, in the natural order, bread were the only substance that men could eat, then all men would eat bread always. For a man needs food to live. In the supernatural order of grace, the Eucharist is the necessary food of the supernatural life of grace.

St Teresa of Jesus of the Andes: "Dear Jesus, may Your will be done and not mine. Tomorrow I will go to Communion. I obtained permission. Oh, what happiness: tomorrow I will have Heaven in my heart! Oh, I love, Jesus, I adore You! I thank You and my Mother for this favour. I am all Yours....only other creature."

The Eucharist is not necessary in the same way that Baptism is necessary. Baptism is necessary as the beginning of the supernatural life of grace. But the Eucharist is necessary as the consummation of the life of grace. Baptism is necessary because it make a man like Christ, and so fits him for the reception of Christ in his soul. In the Eucharist, man is united to Christ Himself. In the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of Christ become the spiritual food of man's soul, increasing grace in the soul and so increasing man's likeness to Christ.
The Eucharist is called by many names in Christian tradition. It is called "the Sacrifice", because it is a remembrance of Christ's Passion. it is called "Communion" because it is the cause of unity or union between Christ and the members of His Church. It is called "Viaticum", because it gives man the way to win the vision of God. To put it in another way, in the Eucharist we have a renewal of Christ's Passion, which saved men by meriting grace for men; in the Eucharist we have Christ Himself, Who gives grace to men; and in the Eucharist we have Christ Himself, Who enables the soul of men to pass through death to eternal life.

Bl Teresa of Jesus of the Andes: "Tomorrow I will go to Communion. How I long for this, my Jesus. I am so bad. I need You to be good. Come, Love, come quickly and I will give You my heart, my soul and all I possess. My Mother, prepare my heart to receive my Jesus." (after "God, the Joy of my Life: Blessed Teresa of the Andes")

Dieric Bouts "The Last Supper"

Christ Himself instituted this great Sacrament at the Last Supper. He knew that He was shortly to leave this earth. He knew that He would not remain in this world much longer in His bodily presence. But He did not wish to leave His faithful disciples entirely. He wished to remain with His followers in some way. And so He gave us His presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist to take the place of His historical bodily presence. Besides, He wished to leave men a remembrance of His Passion. Faith in His Passion is necessary for salvation. But in the course of time men might forget His Passion and death on the Cross. In the Eucharist he has given men a perpetual remembrance of His Passion and death on the Cross. He instituted this Sacrament at the Last Supper, because He knew that the last words and actions of men who are about to leave this world are more likely to be remembered with love and devotion than any other words and actions. The Eucharist was, as it were, His last will and testament to the human race. Shortly before His Death, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, he left men His Body and Blood as the food of their souls. It was the most precios gift He had to leave us, because the Eucharist is Christ Himself, the Author and Dispenser of God's grace.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, fragment of the poem "I shall Stay with You":
..."This is the heart of Trinity divine,
The center also of all human hearts.
Source of our life from God.

It draws us close with its mysterious might,
It keeps us safe within the Father's lap
And flood us with the Holy Spirit.

This heart beats in a tiny tabernacle
Where it remains in hidden mystery.
Within that orbit, silent, white.

That is Your royal throne, O Lord, on earth,
Which You have built for us, plainly to see.
It pleases You when I draw near....

In the mind of Christ, the Eucharist is to be the food of souls. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world...Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him. (John 6: 51-55). Becasue the Eucharist is the food of souls, Christ chose bread and wine for the matter of this Sacrament. Bread is the staple food of all mankind, and wheaten bread is the bread most commonly used among men. For this reason, Christ chose bread to be the sacramental sign of His Body. But man not only needs solid food, he also needs liquid refreshment. Wine is a liquid nourishment universal to mankind. Wine made from grapes
is the only true wine. Hence Christ chose wine to be the sacramental sign of His Blood. When He instituted this Sacrament at Last Supper, Christ, according to the custom of His country, mixed a little bit of water with the wine. In the Mass, a little bit of water is mixed with the wine which is to be changed into Christ's Blood. This water represents the Christian people, the members of the Church. This represents the union of the faithful with Christ. Christ wanted to give men His own Body and Blood, as the food of their souls. Hence, as the sacramental sign of His Body and Blood, He chose elements that would be recognized as food by men.

...Your eyes look deeply into mine with love,
And to my whispered words You bend Your ear.
You fill my heart with deepest peace.

And yet Your love cannot be satisfied
By this exchange, for there remains a gap,
Your heart still asks for more.

each morn You come to me at early Mass
Your flesh and blood become my food and drink;
And wonders are accomplished.

Your body permeates mine mysteriously,
I feel Your soul becoming one with mine:
I am no longer what I used to be.

You come and go, but still the seed remains
Which You have sown for future splendour,
Hid in the body made from dust.

A heavenly radiance lingers in the soul,
And deeply shines a light within the eye,
A vibrant music in the voice...

In the Eucharist, at words of consecration uttered by Christ at the Last Supper, or now by the priest at Mass, bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Bread and wine are no longer present. Instead the Body and Blood of Christ are present sacramentally. We can never hope to understand in this life how this change takes place. This is a mystery beyond comprehension. But we can so state the mystery that it is no longer absurd or ridiculous or contradictory. Let us examine the mystery more closely. Before the Consecration of the Mass, bread and wine are present on the altar. When the priest says, speaking in the name of Christ, "This is My Body," and "This is the chalice of my Blood of the New and Eternal Testament, the Mystery of Faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins," the bread and wine cease to be present. How does this take place? Christ, in His Body and Blood, is present in heaven. He does not leave heaven and come to the altar to displace the bread and wine. Rather, the bread and the wine are changed into His Body and Blood. The bread and the wine cannot remain. If this happened, then the words of Christ, pronounced in the Mass by His priest, would not be true. Instead of saying, "This is My Body," the priest should say "This is bread and the Body of Christ." At the moment of Consecration, then, the bread must become the Body of Christ and the wine must become his Blood. The change must be instantaneous, for Christ did not say, "This bread is about to become My Body;" He said, "This is My Body." Naturally, the whole of the bread must be changed into the Body of Christ, and the whole of the wine must be changed into His Blood. If this did not happen, then once again the words of Christ would not be true. He should have said something like this: "This is partly bread and partly My Body." But He did not say anything like this. He said simply, "This" - all this that you see - "is my Body".

Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity:
Oh, how good it is in silence
To listen to Him over and over,
To enjoy the peace of His presence,
And then to surrender wholly to His love.

O Lamb, so pure and so meek,
You and All, my only One;
How well You know that Your fiancee,
Your little one, hungers greatly for You.

She hungers to feed upon her Master,
Above all to be consumed by Him,
To surrounder fully to Him her whole being
So she may be totally taken.

Oh, that I may be possessed by You;
One who lives by You alone,
Yours, Your living host,
Consumed by You on the Cross.

This is a very special kind of change, in fact the only change of its kind we know. We are accustomed to many chages in the world of matter. Water and wheaten flour can be mixed together and baked. In the baking they are changed into bread. In the course of time, through the process of nature wine can change into vinegar. But there are three things of which we are sure in all changes of this kind. First, the new substance - bread or wine in the examples given - did not previously exist. It came into being with the change. Secondly, something of the first substance - of the wheat or of the wine -went into the making of the last substance, the bread or the vinegar. And thirdly, the sensible qualities of the first and the last substances were not the same. Wheat looks differently and tastes differently from bread. Wine tastes differently from vinegar. Now in the Eucharist, the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ are in existence before the substance of the wine are changed into them. Secondly, and consequently, nothing of the bread and nothing of the wine are used in making the Body or the Blood of Christ. Thirdly, although the sensible qualities of the Body and Blood of Christ are different from the sensible qualities of bread and wine, nevertheless, the sensible qualities of bread and wine still exist in the Eucharist. The consecrated Host still looks like bread, feels like bread, and tasted like bread. The wine that has been consecrated still looks like wine, tastes like wine. On the other hand, neither the Host nor the Previous looks like the Body and the Blood of Christ. We can only say that the whole substance of the bread has been changed into the substance of the Body of Christ, and the whole substance of the wine has been changed into the Blood of Christ, but that the appearance of bread and wine still remain. What was bread has been changed, though the appearance of bread remain. What was wine has been changed, though the appearance of wine remain. Theologians call a change of this kind 'Transubstantiation'. The word means that one whole substance changed into another whole substance, even though the appearances - philosophers would say "accidents" - of the first substance still remain. In the Eucharist neither the bread nor the wine is annihilated. They are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

St Therese of the Child Jesus: "Living Bread"
Living Bread, Bread of Heaven, Divine Eucharist,
O touching Mystery produced by Love,
Come dwell within my heart, Jesus, my white Host...

Deign to unite me unto Thee, O Holy and Sacred Vine,
That my feeble branch may yield its fruits to Thee;
And I will offer Thee a gilded cluster....
This cluster of love of which the grapes are souls.

"My Heaven Is Hidden"
My Heaven is hidden in the little Host
Where Jesus, my Spouse, hides Himself through love.

Thou, the great God Whom the universe adores,
In me Thou liv'st, a prisoner night and day,
Thou liv'st, for me, hidden in a Host.
For Thee I wish to hide myself, O Jesus,
Lovers need solitude,
A heart-to-heart which lasts night and day.

I am Thy cherished spouse,
Come, my beloved, live in me.
O come, thy beauty has ravished me,
Deign to transform me into Thee.

to be continued...