Are you longing for the Holy Eucharist? The joy of the Easter season this year was tinged with sorrow because of the CoVid restrictions. We are living one of the great paradoxes of our faith, which is that joy and sorrow are often mingled together in this life. We trust, despite this sorrow, that this period of separation from Him in Holy Communion is an opportunity for us to grow in profound love for Him and the Church. And devise other ways and measures whereby we experience a more profound experience and presence of Jesus in our lives.
The Holy Eucharist is the very center of our Faith, which is why it is a great blow to the People of God in every age when they are barred from the public celebration of the Mass and the Sacraments. This makes perfect sense given the centrality of the Holy Eucharist in the life of the Church. St. John Paul II states:
“The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity.”
The celebration of the Mass is the most tangible encounter we have with Christ on this side of eternity. It is why the current crisis causes immense sorrow. Even so, this period of exile is an opportunity to enter even more into the mystery of the Holy Eucharist through our prayer; to allow Christ to lead us to a greater love of Him through longing for His Real Presence. Instead, we must ask Him how we can love His Eucharistic Face with greater ardor and devotion. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Though this is a different kind of absence.
When a child goes off to school there is an absence…but for the parents who love that child…it is never a matter of out of sight out of mind…rather out of sight or in sight…always on my mind and in my heart. If love is not able to see the object of its beloved based on physical sight or physical tough…then others senses are drawn into play and strengthened…like memory…or simply thinking so much about the object of one’s love as to make them present not only to the mind, but heart and soul as well who together see that person so clearly as though they were standing right before us…holding out their arms to embrace us.
One way and with the exception of Mass the absolute best way to have a direct encounter with the Eucharistic Christ is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament…Available every First Friday…tomorrow in fact…24 hours of Jesus Christ present on the Altar to behold…to adore…to communicate with…and to be seen by…loved and adored by as well.
Though we may have our many moments when with Jesus and anything spiritual of out of sight…out of mind…that is never the case with Jesus…there has never been a moment in God’s eternity and now the human mind of Jesus Christ when we are not being thought of…loved…prayed for…longer for…
As wonderful as it is to be in another’s embrace…sometimes, conditions prevent that kind of contact from occurring…for example, if you are at a dinner party with your Spouse as much as you would like to be in one another’s embrace…the occasion calls for a separation…but a still being very much present to each other…so much so, that a mere glance across the room to where your loved one is standing is enough to place a permanent smile on your heart.
There is of course no greater experience of being embraced by God than in Holy Communion but during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament our Lord remains present and He longs to glance across those pews and see the wonderful irradiated lights of our eyes and through them full our hearts with the Fullness of His Beatific Gaze…
We all know the experience of beholding something or someone beautiful…the effect it has not only on our senses but our very spirits. For example, when a Bridal Veil is lifted during a Wedding Ceremony and the Bridegroom beholds Heaven in Human Form…Or that first moment and all moments thereafter when a parent holds his or her child for the first of countless times...walking through a museum…a garden…hiking through the woods or a mountain, a puppy looking your face etc…that feeling of being not only overwhelmed by beauty but drawn into its embrace so that more than being a spectator you participate in the beauty you are beholding.
This is Exposition times infinity. The most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to us. Consequently the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the manifestation of his boundless love.
The Church is referred to as the Bride of Christ…and what Bridegroom does not live to gaze upon His beloved? When we participate in exposition…we afford Christ this opportunity and we get swept up into the awesome joy of this sustained moment of empowering gazing and Adoring. We know the feeling of being seen through eyes that admire us…are proud of us…are forgiving of us…are all alight with tenderness and affection…this is the gaze of Christ again times infinity but we must place ourselves before those most tender eyes and remain there for awhile until our entire insides are set afire with God’s Trinitarian Love. It is like when you place a cold object before a raging fire…eventually, that object absorbs the heat coming forth from that fire.
As on a cold winter’s day…having been out all day…but placing your trembling cold body before that fire…eventually you are warmed by that wonderful relieving fire…assuming the properties of that fire by sharing in its therapeutic warmth…Placed before the fire of Christ’s love…under that fully penetrating love of God…whatever the chills we experience from the challenges of daily living are…we are warmed not just to the bone but much deeper…to the very depths of our spirits and souls.
We can then join our gaze to the wider Church’s gaze throughout this present isolation and separation. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has not ceased. Our public participation has been temporarily restricted. We can still enter spiritually into the Mass as it is celebrated by our priests and bishops “from the rising of the sun to its setting” through our prayer. It is a time when we can seek union with God and the Church at the spiritual level: something that we risk ignoring when we are physically present at Mass.
The temptation to turn our gaze from His simply because there are current worship restrictions causing us periods of sorrow, agony, and tears may be great, but we must persevere. No matter what we experience during this present exile, we must keep our gaze fixed on Christ’s loving gaze in union with the Church.
We sense the presence of the Cross during this time as countless people suffer through the current pandemic, imploding racial and equality tensions and the encroaching threat of economic turmoil. Seeking greater love of the Holy Eucharist will lead us deeper into the paschal mystery, the suffering the world is experiencing at present, and communion with the Mystical Body of Jesus.
This period of exile is a time to be tried, tested, and purified through the refining fires of God’s love. Let’s seek to make Our Lord’s Real Presence the center of our lives so that when the joyous day comes when we can once more approach Him in Holy Communion, our hearts may be set ablaze with even greater love for Him.
But why wait that long…plan that First Friday visit.
Or if not on Friday…then any time our Church is open during the week from 8 to 5. When we walk into a Catholic Church and see that Sanctuary Lamp burning beside the Tabernacle…Jesus is present…He is behind those golden doors and just as He could pass through locked doors and visit His Apostles after He rose from the Dead…how more easily does He look through those Tabernacle doors…His eyes passing through them…searching and searching those pews for anyone…someone to come see Him…love Him…adore Him…speak to Him…fall asleep in His presence…and be filled with the entirety of His love that He communicates to us from the rays of His most sacred Heart that shine forth from those wonderfully piercing eyes of infinite love directly into our souls.