Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Forty Hours (part III)

During this YEAR FOR PRIESTS, we have meditated these past few days on the intimate union between the priesthood and the Blessed Sacrament. We have looked at how Holy Orders and Holy Eucharist are inseparably connected from their very institution by Our Lord in the Upper Room at the Last Supper. Sunday evening we pondered the mystery of Christ the Priest who SANCTIFIES us with His own Precious Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity. Monday evening we examined the mystery of Christ the Priest who TEACHES us about Divine Love; that it is BOTH possessive AND oblative, as Pope Benedict explained in Deus Caritas Est. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrifice of the Son to the Father so that we may receive salvation, redemption and eternal life. Just as Divine Love gives and receives; just as God wants us to be His children and wants us to be with Him forever, He also gives us His Son as a sign of that love. The Eucharist therefore challenges us to die to self and the surrender our will and allow the will of God to replace ours.

This last evening we shall look at Christ the Priest who shepherds and leads us to Heaven via the Holy Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament points to our final destiny. We were made for heaven and heaven is where we belong since it is perfect UNION with God. Although Jesus sacrificed His body and blood for us and the Holy Eucharist is most certainly his precious body and blood, soul and divinity, it is not the dead flesh and blood of our Savior we receive in Holy Communion. We are given the RISEN CHRIST, His risen body which is reunited with his blood because HE IS ALIVE. He is no longer dead, but ALIVE. So, in that monstrance on the altar is the RISEN LORD with His Risen Body and Blood in that one Host as He is in every Host and in every drop of the Precious Blood as well.

Saint Thomas Aquinas said in his Summa (III, Q. 73, a. 4) that the Holy Eucharist connects us to the past, present and future. It makes what happened 2,000 years ago in the past, namely, on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, now present to us each time Mass is celebrated. It unites everyone in our present who partakes of Holy Communion as members of one body, the Mystical Body of Christ. It finally points to our future, i.e., to our DESTINATION. The Holy Eucharist is a foretaste of Heaven, which is where we should want to go and end up for all eternity. The Church gives the name VIATICUM to the Holy Eucharist administered to the dying. It is spiritual food FOR THE JOURNEY.

On this feast of the birthday of the Virgin Mary, we are reminded that just a month ago we celebrated the feast of her Assumption. She who was of the earth is now in heaven, thanks to her Son, Jesus Christ. That same Christ present on our altar and in our tabernacle, will also raise us up, body and soul, and will take us up into heaven to be with him forever. The Holy Eucharist is a memorial of what Jesus did in the past on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. It is also spiritual food for us TODAY in the present. But the Holy Eucharist is ultimately the sign and beacon which leads us to our eternal home. It points heavenward. Earthly bread becomes the BREAD FROM HEAVEN. The Holy Eucharist is the RISEN LORD hidden behind the veil of the accidents of bread and wine. Only in heaven will we be able to see him face to face. Yet, what we see before us is no replica and no imitation. IT IS THE LORD HIMSELF. IT IS HIS BODY and BLOOD, SOUL and DIVINITY. The more frequently we spend TIME with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the regularly we WORTHILY receive Him in Holy Communion, the better prepared we become for the completion of our journey. We are pilgrims traveling to our destination and Christ gives us His very Body and Blood to nourish and sustain our souls during the voyage. His Mystical Body the Church is the ship which transports us and the Holy Eucharist is also the compass which guides and directs us so we can faithfully follow the maps and charts given us by Divine Revelation.

Cardinal Arinze addressed the Eucharistic Congress in 2004 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He said that the Holy Eucharist UNITES HEAVEN AND EARTH. It is the Incarnate Word, the God-Man, Who makes present His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

The Book of Revelation speaks in prophetic and apocalyptic language with the Jerusalem temple worship as background. But it also speaks of the Church beginning to spread in the world and presents Jesus Christ as the Gospel Lamb, the King of the universe, the High Priest, the Lord of history and the immaculate Victim on his throne.

In the Apocalypse, divine worship is praise of heaven begun on earth. The cult images are powerful and clearly liturgical. Examples are adoration of the immolated Lamb on his throne, hymns and canticles, acclamations of the crowds of the elect dressed in white, descent of the Church of heaven on earth, the Jerusalem of which the Lord Jesus is the temple. And the people are a priestly and royal one. The visions recall many cult elements: seven candlesticks (seven sacraments), the long white robes of the Son of Man and of the old men and of the Saints (white albs), the altar, the Amen and the exultant Alleluia ...

The Holy Eucharist brings us to tend towards the life to come. “When you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes”, St. Paul tells the Corinthians. Christ promised his Apostles his own joy so that their joy may be complete. The Eucharist is a foretaste of this joy. It is a confident waiting “in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ”.

When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion one of the results is that we get a pledge of eternal life, of our bodily resurrection, since Jesus promised that those who so receive him in this sacrament have eternal life and he will raise them up at the last day. Therefore St. Ignatius of Antioch called Holy Communion “a medicine of immortality, and antidote of death”

Scott Hahn and others have interpreted the allegory in the apocalyptic literature of the Book of Revelation to represent the Divine Liturgy IN HEAVEN, especially at the end of time. The symbols and metaphors used are not just clandestine ways to escape Roman persecution. They also POINT TOWARD the ultimate DESTINY of man. Heaven is a continuous celebration of the worship and adoration of the Holy Trinity. It is a perpetual liturgy where the angels and saints give continuous praise to the Lord.

While we sojourn here on earth as on pilgrimage, we are given the Holy Eucharist as a beacon of light to guide us to our journey's end. It is food for today to give strength in the spiritual war of good vs evil but it is also food for others and food for the journey from this world to the next. This then explains what Jesus meant when he said "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall have eternal life."

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