In the Holy Eucharist, Christ is both the Food of our souls and our Teacher and Model. Through the worthy reception of the Eucharist’s sacramental grace, we commune most intimately with our God, and so become like Him. In Holy Communion, He teaches us the life that He wishes us to lead, its special characteristics, and the laws of its progress.
We may view Christ’s life in the Blessed Sacrament under three different aspects, from which we may draw eminently practical lessons. We may consider His life toward the Father, in itself, and toward us.
In this mystery of love, Christ ever intercedes for us with the Father. He is our great High Priest, unceasingly offering Himself and begging forgiveness for our sins. With all the powers of His sacred humanity, He adores the Father, and longs with infinite longing to increase the Father’s glory through the sanctification of souls.
This intense devotion to the glory of the Father but echoes the inspiration of His life when He walked among us as our eldest Brother.
The eucharistic life of Christ is in itself wholly new. When He assumed our flesh, He became like us in all things save sin. His growth, like that of every other human being, was accomplished by suffering and sorrow. It was wrought by trial both within and without, by the most agonizing of deaths, by His burial, by His wondrous Resurrection, and by His admirable Ascension.
In the Blessed Sacrament, this onward progress yields to calm repose, to divine changelessness, in the full perfection of His glorified humanity. Christ in the Holy Eucharist, one with the Father, abides in the perfect peace of the completion of man’s redemption. Impervious to inward change or outward unrest, proof against the ravages of time, Christ’s life in the tabernacle is the same as His life at the right hand of the Father, replete with divine stillness.
For us, Christ’s sacramental life is an act of continual self-immolation. In Holy Communion, He gives us His divine life. To do this, He conceals Himself in mysterious secrecy, hiding Himself in elements absolutely unworthy of the Godhead. But they truly illustrate His unspeakable gift to us of spiritual food and life, for He wills to thrill us through and through in one infinite largess of life, nourishing us body and soul with His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
The more we imitate Christ’s eucharistic life by frequent Communion, the deeper will be our insight into the laws governing it, and the stronger our conviction that our lives must be directed by the same laws. Our transformation by these laws will trace in our souls the image of the sacramental God.
Christ on the altar ever contemplates the face of the Father. As, in the days of His humiliation, He continuously sought to glorify the Father, so, in the Holy Eucharist He will, to the end of time, always yearn to glorify the Father through our sanctification. Those who, in union with Christ, lead sacramental lives, must be noted for the same zeal. For their own souls’ welfare, they will adore Him; as mendicants, they will constantly beseech Him, cast all their care upon Him, and remind Him of their needs, their anxieties, their weaknesses, and their “wrestling. . . against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” In all the difficulties of their oppressed souls, they will, with submissive sincerity, turn to Him for light, strength, deliverance, consolation, and peace. For the sanctification of others, especially those under their charge, they will importune Him for grace, mercy, pardon, and rest, so that they also may bear their burden with resignation to His will, and thus clothe themselves with His infinite strength.
Ardent lovers of the eucharistic God will acquire, by the grace of this sacrament, the peace of His life in the tabernacle. This peace is not the inertia resulting from the want of interior struggle or exterior conflict. It is not a negative but a very positive factor in our lives. It is born of self-conquest through daily mortification of every power of the soul, every sense of the body. As the life of grace grows within us, our natural restlessness and vacillation succumb to its sovereign sway.
Again, Christ dwells on our altars that we “may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” This life is mysteriously ours as often as we communicate. The sacramental God would have it animate our whole being. This we can do by keeping the eye of the soul sound; that is, by simplicity in our intention, and purity in our affection. “By two wings, a man is lifted up from things earthly; namely, by simplicity and purity. Simplicity ought to be in our intention; purity in our affection. Simplicity tendeth toward God; purity apprehendeth and tasteth Him.”
We are transformed by Christ only insofar as we progress in the imitation of the threefold aspect of His Eucharistic life. Daily meditation will, with Christ’s unfailing help, contribute mightily to our transformation.
A prerequisite for this spiritual sublimation is unlimited confidence in God’s power. The fullness of grace can, if worthily received, carry the soul to the apex of growth in holiness. Where Christ alone abides in a soul, no height of holiness is too high for it to scale. We may have promised to be found faithless; we may have fought only to fail. Nevertheless, fidelity to grace will give us infinite strength, will fan to intensest fervor our love of our indwelling God, and develop to a rare degree our interior life with a constancy wholly divine. Christ dwells in us to unite us forever to Himself; for love dies if it is not one with its object.
We can mount spiritually to alpine peaks only through total self-extinction accompanied by a faith that moves moun-tains. How tenacious we are of self! How narrowly and nervously solicitous about self! How self absorbs our thoughts!
Always and everywhere, self is most aggressive — in civil life, in temptation, and even in prayer. Self is the censorious critic of God’s Providence. Self cuts our neighbor with its sharp angles. Self is the deadliest foe to progress in virtue.
Union with Christ is self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-extinction. The eucharistic Christ cannot possess a soul enslaved by self-love. His death, and its memorial, the Blessed Sacrament, have virtually no meaning for such a soul, for “Christ died for all, that they also who live may not now live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again.”
The Divine Lover in the tabernacle longs to diffuse His life. If we are to resemble Him, then love, which is His life, must so burn within us as to set on fire the world around us. “I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?” Christ wishes us to create or renew this life in others.
To be His true disciples, we must not possess our sacramental God selfishly, but, like Him, we must willingly and generously sacrifice ourselves, be other Christs, in the unrestrained, perfect development and diffusion of His life of love. As love acts and reacts, our charity, especially toward those who need it most, through daily, thoughtful kindness, through a delicate anticipation, and, if possible, through relief of their wants — through spending ourselves and being spent for them — will determine the extent of our love of Christ and His love of us. The God of love cannot abide in a soul where there is no love of neighbor. “ He that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him.”
Rancor, discord, arbitrary caustic remarks about peculiarities of our fellowmen, or dogmatic judgment on their behavior, cannot coexist with the God who dwells in us only through love. Divine charity cannot but languish in our hearts if we rudely wound even the least of God’s creatures. To appreciate the gravity of uncharitableness, we have only to consider God’s unwearied patience with us, His meek tolerance of our sins, and the supreme gift of Himself when we return to Him. He cannot, therefore, possess a soul contracted by distrust, embittered by resentment, or poisoned by jealousy.
To receive Holy Communion according to the mind of Christ is to lead a life lost in God. “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.” When the presence of the sacramental Savior within us crucifies our carnal selves and disengages our thoughts from earth, we will bear with our brethren and give to our contact with them the element that will mark our eternal communion with the saints. As, under the guidance of the eucharistic King, he runs the way of God’s commandments, the communicant who fully corresponds with the grace of Holy Communion will so fuse his earthly with his supernal state, that his body will be on earth, but his soul in Heaven.
Christ suffered, died, and gives Himself in the Blessed Sacrament, to transform the creature and unite him to his God. Will such love find little or no response in our lives? Let us but profit by the grace of Holy Communion, and we will be one with Christ, and in Him one with the Father, realizing therefore the end of both Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, by which we are created new creatures, by God, and in God. We will thus labor incessantly for the one thing necessary, and be honored instruments in the hands of Christ for the salvation of others, one with them and Him, here and eternally hereafter.