“What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation.”
– St. Francis of Assisi
There are some amazing synonyms for prayer that only the saints seem to remember: Admiration! Astonishment! Humility! Adoration! Wonder! Mystery! These words of St. Francis of Assisi describe for us his prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
I believe the heart-movements of adoration and wonder so dear to the saints have been deadened in us by the over-stimulation that bombards us from all sides these days. The beautiful Feast of Corpus Christi this Sunday causes us to step back, kneel down, prostrate ourselves before Infinite Glory, and be swept up into the divine life of the Trinity.
“God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe
Our parish churches and chapels are temples of the living God. In the Eucharist, the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—becomes “fully a part of our human condition… God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us” (Sacramentum Caritatis, no 8).
Recently, I came across a story about Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR (priest, author, and retreat master, who died in 2014). He was traveling with a Protestant minister in a car and when they passed a Catholic Church, Fr. Benedict made the sign of the Cross. The minister asked him why he did this. Fr. Benedict explained that it was out of reverence for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The minister told him, if I believed what you believe, I would get out of the car, run inside the Church, fall on my knees and never get up again.
God dwells in our midst. God dwells in our midst. It isn’t quite like the wardrobe that was the portal through which the three children slip into the fantastic world of Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, from his epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia.
Instead, heaven is here among us. It is no fantasy, but Mystery. Yet the same struggle between good and evil that raged in Narnia, plays out also in our midst. In the end, as the prophetical scene described in the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation reveals, the majesty of God will be gloriously triumphant:
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped.
Behind the tiny door of the tabernacle in our churches is not only a ciborium, but the awesome Glory of Infinite Love and Mercy who has chosen to live in our midst. Even in tabernacles where he is alone and blasphemed he remains with us.
“O Jesus, You instituted this Sacrament because Your love exceeds all words. Burning with love for us, You desired to give Yourself to us and took up Your dwelling in the consecrated Host, entirely and forever, until the end of time. And You did this, not only to give us a memorial of Your death which is our salvation, but You did it also, to remain with us entirely and forever.”
– St. Angela of Foligno
At the beginning of the fourth century, during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, Christian worship was still forbidden by the imperial authorities. In 304, however, 49 Christians at Abitanae, however, felt compelled to celebrate the Lord’s Day with the Eucharist. Though the local bishop had obeyed the edict, they defied the prohibition. After cruel torture, the Christians and Saturninus, a priest, were martyred. Emeritus, in whose house the Christians had met, declared that it was not possible for them to live without the Eucharist, the food of the Lord. May these martyrs of Abitanae and all those who down the centuries have given their lives because “they couldn’t live without the Eucharist,” cause our hearts to burn in astonishment and gratitude for so great a gift.