Brookline Carmel Bulletin
June 4, 1961
During Holy Week the Church pays only token respect to the ineffable mystery of love that took place on the first Holy Thursday, the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Were she to dwell on it for any length of time, she would have been unable to contain herself; she would have gone into transports of joy, hardly the thing to do at a time of penance and sorrow. Nor would it have been a good idea to celebrate that mystery during Paschal-tide. Holy Mother Church was still reliving the frequent appearances of Jesus to His Apostles and disciples before His final return to the right hand of the Father. Following that, she was busy commemorating the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the infant Church. But that season is over now. Jesus is gone, reigning gloriously in Heaven. The Holy Spirit now works secretly and imperceptibly in souls. At last the Church begins to feel the loss of Jesus’ physical presence. What better time, then, than now to celebrate the continued presence of Jesus among us sacramentally. We can appreciate much better now the significance of the Holy Eucharist and observe the Feast with befitting joy and solemnity. Indeed, one of the reasons why Our Lord chose to remain with us in this new kind of presence, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out, was that it might be for those who are saddened by His physical absence a very special solace.
In leaving us this Sacrament of love, however, Jesus intended first and foremost that it should be the food of our souls. We accept this truth on Faith, obviously, since we can hardly conceive of why a spirit needs to be fed, much less how it can be fed. But if we would believe the Archangel Raphael, even pure spirits need to be nourished. When the Archangel was about to take leave of the two Tobias’s he revealed his identity and explained that, though he indeed seemed to be eating (while appearing in human form), such was not the case. He said, “But I use an invisible meat and drink which cannot be seen by men” (Tobias 12, 19). He meant, of course, that he fed upon God. His intellect was nourished by the infinite truth, which is God, and his will by Infinite Goodness, also God.
Ordinary food contains energy that is released when it is oxidized (burned up) in the individual cells of the body. Energy is absolutely necessary to maintain vital processes and to sustain movement, activity. Jesus is the unique source of Sanctifying Grace, the divine energy our souls need in order to subsist and to be active supernaturally. But He is contained whole and entire under the sacramental appearances of bread and wine. Therefore, the Blessed Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, is the food and drink our souls require. When we consume the Sacred Species divine life in us is repaired, nourished and strengthened.
Since the Body and Blood of Our Saviour is spiritual food, it must be eaten spiritually, otherwise it profits us not at all. Many of those who heard Jesus promise His flesh and blood as food found the saying hard and could not listen to it. But Jesus insisted (John 6,63): “Does this scandalize you?…It is the spirit which gives life, the flesh profits nothing”. To derive divine energy from the Blessed Sacrament, acts of Faith, Hope and Charity are needed. They are supernatural, spiritual operations, acts of intellect and will. How much is derived depends, then, upon the intensity of those acts, since grace in Christ is inexhaustible.
Certain marvelous secondary effects of the Most Blessed Sacrament are prefigured by various properties of the manna in the desert. What we say of the Eucharist following the Tantum Ergo at Benediction was first said concerning manna: V. Bread from Heaven thou hast given them to eat. R. Containing in itself every delightful flavor. The book of Wisdom, from which the text is taken, goes on to say (16, 21): “…and serving the desire of him who received it, was blended to whatever flavor each one wishes”. Thus the Holy Eucharist will serve our desire and conform itself to our spiritual taste. If we are sad, it brings joy; if depressed, courage and renewal of enthusiasm; if desolate, comfort and consolation. But to taste them, we have to have the proper dispositions. We read further in the Old Testament concerning the manna (Numbers, 11,4): “The foreign elements among them were so greedy for meat that even the Israelites lamented again, ‘Would that we had meat for food! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt without cost, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. But now we are famished’ …” The faithful, who are greedy for merely natural compensation for sadness, discouragement, desolation, etc., will not perceive the spiritual taste; they will remain famished, i.e., lacking in supernatural nourishment. The Church commemorates this truth in the beautiful Antiphon at the Magnificat of First Vespers of the Feast of Corpus Christi: “O how sweet, O Lord, is your spirit! To manifest your sweetness toward your children, you give them very sweet bread from heaven, filling the hungry with good things, and sending away empty the fussy rich”. Clearly, the way to get the most out of the Blessed Sacrament is to receive it with a keen, an avid hunger for its spiritual effects, and a detachment from all merely natural consolations and delights.
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