Today the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord. In response to St. Gabriel’s greeting, Our Heavenly Mother says her “yes” to God, and she allows the Holy Spirit to overshadow her. In so doing, she becomes a living Tabernacle. The body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ dwelt within her. Today she calls each one of us to become living tabernacles through frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist and through a deep, reverential, and intimate love of Our Lord’s Real Presence. She calls us—laymen, priest, and religious—to her Son and to become, once more, a Eucharistic people.
Belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist is at abysmally low levels in the West. Many Catholics casually approach Our Lord each Sunday without any thought of Him. They do not know that He is the remedy for all that afflicts them. That He is the answer to all they long for and seek. How much He longs for union with them in His Sacrament of Love.
The pandemic revealed a lack of emphasis on the supernatural and sacramental life in the Church when far too many parishes and dioceses made access to the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle difficult or impossible. Throughout the world, the countless tabernacles housing Our Lord largely remain abandoned and very few people stop to visit Our Lord to “wait one hour with Him.” There is no outcry or concerted effort to rouse a deeper devotion of love for the Holy Eucharist. Things remain business as usual.
The lack of emphasis on a Eucharistic way of living is at the heart of the crisis of faith infecting the Church that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI warned has become widespread. Without belief in the Real Presence and without living as a Eucharistic people in the world through the example of Our Blessed Mother, we become adrift, cast upon the rocks of worldly pursuits and desires. The Church quickly becomes lost and forgets her ultimate destination and purpose. We are a people easily taken in by the lures, pleasures, and ideologies of the world.
Since we have not been grounded in the still, silent, burning Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament—that Blessed Presence Who dwelt silently in Our Blessed Mother’s womb for nine months—we easily fall into the snares and temptations of the Enemy, the world, and the flesh. Without being grounded in the Holy Eucharist, we easily begin to think that the Christian life is about our endeavors, plans, pleasures, and goals. We forget that happiness, beatitudo, is only found in deep communion with Christ, which leads to a deeper love of others.
This goes for laymen, as much as clergy. In the West, there are many false idols that lead us to believe that this life is about tasks and checking off things from our daily checklists as if this will lead us to holiness. More often than not, it takes us away from Christ as our center because we emphasize the wrong things. The divine love must be the very center in our daily lives and that love is learned through a daily encounter with Our Eucharistic Lord.
Our calling is to give our own fiat to Christ in our daily lives. To allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow all we do in union with Our Eucharistic Lord, who offers Himself to the Father. If Sunday is the only day we can attend Mass, then it should be a time of privileged encounter. We should be docile and open to the coming of Our Lord on the altar. We should unite ourselves to Our Blessed Mother in spirit. She shows us how to open ourselves fully to the coming of Christ, who desires to enter the very depths of our being when we receive Him in Holy Communion.
Daily Eucharistic Lives
The requirements of our daily lives quickly drain us of energy and often distract us from union with God. It is through a concerted effort of uniting ourselves to the Eucharistic Lord that we can overcome our weaknesses and tendencies to choose the things of this world over Him. Whether we stop at a church to pray each day before the tabernacle or prayerfully come before His Real Presence in spirit, we should unite ourselves to His Real Presence throughout the day. Every day should look like the Annunciation in our own souls. We are saying “yes” to His Presence, to His mission for us, to the Cross.
St. Edith Stein writes in Essays on Woman about the necessity of women being Eucharistic in their daily lives. This applies to men as well:
To have divine love as its inner form, a woman’s life must be a Eucharistic life. Only in daily, confidential relationship with the Lord in the tabernacle can one forget self, become free of all one’s own wishes and pretensions, and have a heart open to all the needs and wants of others. Whoever seeks to consult with the Eucharistic God in all her concerns, whoever lets herself be purified by the sanctifying power coming from the sacrifice at the altar, offering herself to the Lord in this sacrifice, whoever receives the Lord in her soul’s most innermost depth in Holy Communion cannot but be drawn ever more deeply and powerfully into the flow of divine life, incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, her heart converted to the likeness of the divine heart.
We cannot be open to the vocation and mission given to us by Christ if we do not live a life of intimate union with His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is through the Sacrament of Love that we ourselves are purified and opened up to even more expansive horizons of love. Our Blessed Mother’s fiat at the Annunciation opened her soul to the expanses of love that allowed her to become the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church.
The call to a Eucharistic life must begin in our own daily commitment, but more than anything it must first come from the Eucharistic life of our priests. There is nothing more beautiful or powerful in this life than the Real Presence of Our Lord in the hands of a priest. Yet, so often, an emphasis on the Holy Eucharist has been abandoned. Many were surprised and dismayed by the lack of response on the part of the clergy to the startling revelation that nearly 70% of Catholics in the U.S. deny the Real Presence of Our Lord. The relationship a priest has with the Blessed Sacrament sets the tone for his entire priesthood. If the priest does not emphasize at every turn the Holy Eucharist, then his parishioners will not either.
Our Lord tells a Benedictine Monk in the beautiful book, In Sinu Jesu, that intimate union with the Holy Eucharist is where priest-saints are made:
This is the secret of priestly holiness. Once a priest begins to come to Me, seeking My Eucharistic Face and longing for the company of My pierced Heart, I will come to him and make My home in him, and with Me will come My Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus will his priesthood be forever consecrated and sanctified and rendered divinely fruitful.
Holiness is to live in deep intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity and to do the will of the Father in all things. There is no more intimate union with Our Lord in this life than at the moment we receive Him in Holy Communion, which leads us to want to spend time praying with Him in Adoration. These moments are made possible by the graces of priestly ordination, which means the Eucharistic life of the people depends on a holy priesthood that is completely devoted to intimate union and identity in and with His Real Presence.
The fruitfulness of a priesthood is completely dependent on the priest’s relationship with Our Lord’s Real Presence. All graces ultimately flow from the priest’s identity with the Blessed Sacrament and belief in the Real Presence increases in proportion to the priest’s dedication to the Holy Eucharist. A Eucharistic priest raises up a Eucharistic people who are seeking to be living tabernacles for Our Lord in union with Our Blessed Mother.
Regardless of our state in life, we are called to be a Eucharistic people. The world needs us to be a completely Eucharistic people. In order to grow in deeper intimacy with our Eucharistic God, the Annunciation is a time to remember to turn to Our Blessed Mother who will show us how to love her Son in the Blessed Sacrament and how to be transformed by His burning love. Now is the time to turn from our lack of faith, our lukewarmness, or indifference to Our Lord’s Real Presence in our daily lives, so he may renew the world and the Church through our radical “yes” to His Sacrament of Love.
image: Fresco of the allegory of faith with the Eucharistic paten and chalice in the Karlskirche (Vienna) by Jeffery Edwards / Shutterstock.com