Selections from Christ on the Altar to help us grow in Eucharistic Devotion.
(Pg. 17) Why Do We Attempt To Write About The Holy Eucharist? Who is worthy to speak or to write about the Holy Sacrament? But if no one write, it no one speak, who will know the gift of God? Our humble opinion is, that whoever will with a humble heart endeavor to promote devotion to the Blessed Sacrament shall not fail to be blessed. At the present time a new impetus seems to be given to this devotion. We hear and we know of practices and associations, such as the Perpetual Adoration, the Forty Hours’ Devotion, Confraternities of the Blessed Sacrament, etc. How gratifying it is to see crowds of good Catholics hastening on Sunday morning to return thanks to their Saviour, to adore Him on the altar, to implore a blessing for the coming week, of Him from Whom all virtue proceeds!
How edifying to see so many approach the holy table! Again, in large congregations we see devout worshippers at the foot of the altar at almost any hour of the day. We hope that devotion towards Our Lord Jesus Christ hidden in the tabernacle is on the increase, and yet we are induced to write on the Eucharist precisely because the faith of many is not so strong as it ought to be.
What shall I say of the effects of Communion, as illustrated in the person of St. John? On the very night of the Last Supper Our Lord was betrayed and forsaken by all His disciples. John himself perhaps forsook Him, but it was for a few moments only. We will soon see him in the hall of Caiphas, where he remains till morning, and then he hastens to relate to the Holy Virgin all that has occurred. During the morning of that awful Good Friday John shows his love for his Master by comforting His mother in her immense sorrow. Let us go in spirit to Calvary: John is there, because he loves his Master; he wishes to feel, as it were, all and every one of His torments: and because he loves his Master, he institutes himself the guardian and companion of Mary at the foot of the Cross.
As we desire to speak of St. John chiefly in connection with the Holy Eucharist, we shall not dwell here upon the greatness of the trust confided to him by his dying Master. We all know that a moment before His death Our Lord recommended His mother to St. John, saying: “Behold thy mother!” and gave Mary to John as his mother with the words, “Woman, behold thy son!”
Let us, however, imagine, if we can, what must have been the devotion of St. John towards the Blessed Sacrament, when he remembered that the Body and Blood which he offered at the alter were the very same body which he saw hanging from the Cross! – the very same blood which he saw oozing from His sacred members! After the Ascension of Our Lord the apostles remained some years in Judea before they scattered all over the world to preach the Gospel. A legend has it that St. John and the Blessed Virgin lived on Mount Sion, in a house adjoining the dwelling in which the Holy Sacrament had been instituted. There are yet to be seen in Jerusalem, in a low wall near the above-named place, two stones which are said to have belonged to the dwelling of St. John and the Blessed Virgin. During the many years that the Holy Virgin lived under the protection of St. John, either at Jerusalem or in Asia Minor, she used to receive Holy Communion at his hands. We must therefore admit beyond any question that their life was a perfect imitation of the life of Jesus Christ. In the lives of Mary and St. John, communicating every day, the one at the altar, the other at the holy table, there were realized to their full extent the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ; “He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me and I in him.”
The effects of Holy Communion extend to the soul first, but sometimes also to the body. The early martyrs, who prepared themselves for the flight by receiving Communion, were often so strengthened by this holy food that they did not feel the torments; and in our own days, when cures that cannot be accounted for on scientific principles are obtained at sacred shrines, they nearly always occur after the reception of the Eucharist. So it was with St. John. Under Domitian, emperor of Rome, he was condemned to suffer death in that city, and was plunged, near the Latin Gate, into a caldron of boiling oil; but the body of John, the chaste friend of Jesus, that body sanctified by daily Communion, was not affected by the burning fluid, but was taken out of the caldron more full of life and strength tan before the ordeal.
(Pg. 314) How often we forget His dignity, His eternity, His infinite power, even when kneeling in His presence, and address Him as if He were many miles away, perhaps at the very moment that we strike our breast and exclaim, “O Lord! I am not worthy;” when we bend our knee at the words, “And the Word was made flesh;” nay, at the very moment of the elevation, when the whole congregation bows low in silent and humble adoration!
These elements represent the members of the congregation, inasmuch as, bread and wine being the principal nourishment of man, we offer ourselves to God in offering to Him that which is the sustenance of our life. At this point of the Mass adore Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, from the first moment of His existence on earth, never ceases to offer to the Holy Trinity His Body and Blood for the redemption of man. But the bread which you see on the paten, the wine which is in the chalice, will soon be consecrated separately; in a few moments Our Lord Jesus Christ will be present on the altar, whole and entire under the appearance of bread, whole and entire under the appearance of wine, really living, but being in a state of death. Pray, then, that the sacrifice which is prepared at the Offertory may be accepted by God as an odor of sweetness, as an homage to His majesty, in thanksgiving for all blessings, in atonement for the sins of all the world, but for your own sins in particular.
(Pg. 558) The Catholic Church is the house which Jesus Christ, the “Wisdom of God” has built. In this house He has left the “Food of Angels to be thee nourishment of men;” He has left for them “The Bread of Heaven.” To the table which He has prepared, it is our duty to sit down. “Come eat My bread and drink the wine which I have prepared for you;” When Jonathan, fighting the Philistines, partook of a little honey in the forest, his eyes were enlightened and he recovered his strength (I. Kings xiv.). And he who receives the Holy Sacrament will know the will of his Creator and receive strength to comply with it. But as the bread which Our Lord had promised was given to His Church only, the so-called Lord’s Supper which is received out of that Church, has no divine virtue: it can no more enable a man to resist temptations and perform good actions than common bread can.
[Note: For this reflection on the banquet of Wisdom (described in the book of Wisdom, and read by the Church to elicit the understanding of the Bread of Life Discourse) Bishop DeGoesbriand compares the Sacrament of the Eucharist with the “so-called Lord’s Supper” of communities which do not have Holy Orders. Because they eat unconsecrated bread, which is not the Eucharist, there is no sacramental grace flowing from such services of “communion.” This is not to say that the sacramental grace of baptism cannot be at work in ceremonial imitations of the Biblical Last Supper with their emphasis on scripture. The Scriptures and the grace of baptism can be at work, the Holy Spirit accomplishing good in such Protestant Christian communities, though their “Lord’s Supper” is not what we know to the be the Eucharist when we call the Mass the Lord’s Supper. Fr. T.N.]
(Pg. 559) But as Holy Communion is the receiving of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, it should be received with deep humility. St. Peter fell at Jesus’ knees when he saw the wonderful draught of fishes. He exclaimed: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” In future, when you go to church to hear Mass, fail not to remark that the congregation are on their knees after consecration: listen to the confession of the acolytes, who say in your name: “I confess that I have sinned exceedingly.” Hear the priest say: “O Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof.” Endevor to enter into the spirit of these ceremonies. Beg pardon of God, humble yourself sincerely in His presence; and in those dispositions receive that sacred bread, that adorable food, which will surely enable you to overcome all danger and perform all necessary duties.
(Pg. 559) In order to succeed in the great affair of our salvation, in order to appear in the presence of our Judge with an abundant store of good works, let us henceforth work in the company of Our Lord. We are in His Church: let us remain in it, believing in and practicing the law of our Master, careful to receive worthily the Food of travelers which is His sacred Body and Blood. Let us also determine for the future to please and glorify God in all our actions and prayers.
(Pg. 569) Through Holy Communion that we receive grace to become truly charitable towards our neighbor. He who receives the Holy Eucharist becomes one with Our Lord Jesus Christ. He communicates to our hearts the dispositions of His own heart, to our will the inclinations of His own will. As He gives us all that He is in Communion, so we must give Him all that we are and all that we possess. Be careful, then, before receiving Communion, to beg pardon of your brother if you have offended him, and then you will come to the holy Table, and you will return to your usual occupation, with strength to fulfil all you duties and particularly to practice patience and constant charity in all your relations with your neighbor.
(Pg. 89) The consecration has taken place. Thy Almighty Word (or Son), O Lord! Has come down from Thy royal throne. He is born again; He is living on the altar! Here, I would fain say, see the white linen on the altar, reminding you of the swaddling clothes with which His mother wrapped Him in the manger! He was silent in the stable; He is silent on the altar. In the stable His Divinity was his: only a lovely Babe, shivering with cold, was to be seen. In the tabernacle His humanity also remains concealed under the appearances of bread. In the stable He appeared all lovable to the shepherd, to all who visited Him. What is there more pleasing than the sight of an infant? In the Holy Eucharist He also veils His glory. He abides among men under the appearances of bread. So we love to behold Our Savior, our heavenly bread, under these common appearances. At Bethlehem, however, angels, men, the elephants themselves, proclaimed Him to be the Lord; and we also proclaim this to be our faith in the presence of the altar. We burn incense before Him; we bow down in his presence: we praise, we bless, we adore Him as our God.
In the presence of the altar at Christmas we understand, and to some extent we feel, the truth of those words, “A Child is born for us, and a Son is given to us.” In our churches on Christmas He is not far away. We know that His love to His children now is equal to the love He had for the shepherds, and therefore He comes among us by His Eucharistic presence; He comes to us through Holy Communion; He comes for us in the Holy Sacrifice, that He may cleanse our souls from their sins and apply to them the merits of His bloody sacrifice on Calvary.
Never-ending thanks be given to God for His unspeakable blessings! Take away the Real Presence, Holy Communion, and the Mass, and Christmas would no longer be a day of joy. Take away the Blessed Eucharist: how could the poor, the sick, and the dying rejoice? Take away the Blessed Eucharist: where could we find the peace of Jesus Christ? Take away the Blessed Eucharist: how shall we know that we have become the “sons of God?”