Monday, May 23, 2016

Hope and the Eucharist

I was not intending, originally, to write about the Sacraments anymore than I was intending to write about the Rosary, but those who read my work as it was being created begged for it and so I hear the call of Christ in those words. Forgive me if this chapter seems out of order, but perhaps it is exactly where it needs to be.

The Rosary is useful for keeping us steady in our walk with Christ but it is not enough on its own to strengthen us for what is to come. For that, we need much more than stories. We need the nourishment and the strength that comes from taking Love deep inside ourselves and allowing His love to transform us from the inside out.

Down In Adoration Falling

I sit in silence before an altar upon which there is nothing but a golden statuette in which rays of the sun emulate from the center. In that center is the host. To the eyes of the unbeliever it is just a circle shaped wafer of bread. To mine, it is Christ.

What we believe as Catholics is audacious. Protestants call it idolatry. It is fine, in their eyes, to believe that God became man. However, to believe that God would become the food for men to eat is taking it a step too far. It is an act of outrageous humility and infinite generosity for the Creator of all things to pour Himself into the humble work of human hands for our consumption.

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the Son of Man that you care for him?” – Psalm 8:4
It is an amazing, humbling thought to imagine that the same God who created all things including me would so desire a relationship with me that He would allow Himself to become the very food that I eat. 

What does He see in me that I don’t see in myself? Why am I worth the very real risk that He takes that I will pass Him by as nothing special, or abuse Him as some have done? Why am I worth all this work?

Yet it is Christ Himself who taught us to believe that He is truly and really present in that Host. When He called Himself the Bread of Life and the Jews began to grumble asking themselves how He could give them His flesh to eat, He responded,

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” – John 6:53-58
There was no metaphor, no symbol. It is very evident from the fact that, later, we see that many left his side because of this teaching. It was this teaching which led Judas to decide to turn away from Jesus.

The Source of Eternal Life

During a debate with a Protestant friend of mine, He asked if this was really and truly the flesh of Jesus, why did He do this before His death?

It took me a bit of prayer to puzzle it out, but the answer rings true. Everything that human beings eat is dead. These dead things can only sustain us temporarily, they can’t give us eternal life. They can’t give us what they don’t have to give.

To gain eternal life, you must eat what is eternally alive. To consume Christ’s dead flesh would have served us no purpose. It had no life within it.

The initial institution of the Eucharist was done at the Last Supper, with Christ pouring Himself into the bread and the wine that He shared with His disciples to supernaturally strengthen them for the battle that was to come. Judas left before the Bread was broken and shared, and he was the only one who did not survive the trial of Christ’s crucifixion.

It was only when Christ was resurrected from death that the Eucharist was once again shared. First, with the apostles, then with the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus. Christ lives in the Eucharist.

The Power of Adoration

I was in my 20’s before I heard of Eucharistic Adoration while reading a romance novel called Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. She didn’t preach poetically about the Eucharist. She allowed you to experience its effects by experiencing the change that came over the main character, Claire, while sitting in that Adoration Chapel. 

Claire was a healer who’d encountered a brokenness she didn’t know how to fix, and the broken man was the one she loved more than life itself. Powerless, helpless, afraid, she came to that chapel and found in it peace, comfort, and the calm that comes from knowing what action to take to resolve a seemingly impossible situation.

I needed that sense of peace, comfort, and calm assurance. It was sadly lacking in my life at the time, and her writing about it so beautifully led me to decide to give it a try. My mother invited me to attend Adoration with her, and I did. I’m not sure what I expected, but it didn’t happen that I noticed.

It took three times of going before I realized that I did feel differently after going than I felt before going. Years later, I would ask my atheist husband to attend with me. I didn’t ask him to believe what I believed. I simply asked him to sit there with me. He found the silence, the lack of attention, and the lack of demands on him to do anything a refreshing change from his usual experiences with Church activities.

Eventually, I would ask him to take my place in Adoration when I could not be there at my assigned time. Little by little, changes began to take place in him. Positive changes, shifts in our lives and our marriage. One does not need to believe Christ is really and truly present to be changed by an encounter with Him.

Not quite a year after my husband first attended Adoration with me, he became a convert to the faith. Marital arguments that could not be resolved despite our best human efforts we brought into the chapel and laid them at the feet of Christ. It was inevitable that we would walk away feeling not only better but with a clear resolution to the disagreement before us. Christ healed the heart and cleared the mind.

A woman I met who was Muslim told me her journey from being Muslim to being Catholic. It was the Adoration Chapel that drew her, called to her, even though she didn’t know what was in it. She simply knew that she felt different, changed, when she stepped in that building. 

She began hungering for the source of it. She started following people who went from that chapel to the Church nearby, attending weddings, funerals, and Daily Masses not knowing what it was that was drawing her but knowing it was what she wanted more than she wanted anything else in the world.

One day she recognized it when the priest lifted up the Host and blessed it. She knew she had to have it. She had to have the Eucharist though she didn’t know what name to give it. She wasn’t yet Catholic. She didn’t know she could become Catholic, she thought you had to be born that way just as Jews must be born into the Jewish faith.

She began to receive regularly, and begged to be baptized when it was told to her that she couldn’t receive again until she was. There was no more joyful woman I have ever met than that, and she would spend hours in that Adoration chapel, wrapped up in the love of Christ, sitting at His feet.
This is what I have learned. It simply is not possible to sit at the feet of Christ and not find yourself changed for the better. You may not know what is happening to you. You may not see it until later, but it works in silence as Love so often does.

What Is Needed for the Body Is Needed for the Soul

There is a logic to the Eucharist. The body is the owner’s manual for the soul. What is needed for the body is needed for the soul. As we must have food for the body, so we must have food for the soul.
To eat a symbol of eternal life would be as useful to the soul as eating a picture of a ham sandwich would be to the body.

It is not enough to eat once per year, or even twice per year. We are warriors who fight daily battles with temptation and selfishness. Even once a week is barely enough to sustain the muscles required to say no to what isn’t good but might feel good at the moment and yes to what is good but might not feel good at the moment.

A starving man will stuff his face with candy if it’s offered to him even though the candy isn’t good for him and he knows it. The body demands some kind of nutrients.

A man who starves his soul of love will fill it with the junk food of lust and vanity and greed and avarice and envy and pride and gluttony. The soul demands it be fed as well. If we are to keep ourselves filled with love, we must be feeding our souls at least once a day.

Where There Is Love, Hope and Joy Are Found

If we fill our souls with love, hope and joy will make their home in our lives as well. It will not protect us from suffering, for suffering is a mirror that reflects the true state of our soul and we sometimes need to be shown areas where there is still work to be done. It will not protect us from pain, for such is what teaches us compassion for the pain of others. 

However, even in the midst of pain and suffering we will know that Love is acting and Love is greater than all of these things. And that will reinforce in our lives the hope that endures and does not fail.

we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces endurance; endurance character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

Popular Posts