Of all the gifts in the world that can be given, there is no greater gift than Holy Communion. In it, God gives Himself to us entirely. There is nothing greater than He can give us. As St John Vianney says “O my God, what joy for a Christian who has faith! On rising from the holy table he goes away with all Heaven in his heart.” Such is the magnitude of this gift that the Second Vatican Council wrote in Eucharisticum Mysterium 38 “…the Christian faithful, contemplating unceasingly the gift they have received, may make their life a continual thanksgiving under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and may produce fruits of greater charity.”
Today, 22 Oct 2011, is the anniversary of my First Holy Communion, and thus a day of special thanksgiving. For each Holy Communion to be made possible, the whole of salvation history has to precede it, together with a multitude of holy men one after the other who answered God’s call to priesthood, thereby nourishing communities of faith and inspiring the next generation of priestly vocations, right up until the vocation of the priest who said Mass this morning. What an extraordinary gift it is to be able to receive the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the only begotten Son of God in each Holy Communion!
It is also the first feast day celebration for Blessed Pope John Paul the Great. The best way, I think, to combine these two celebrations is to highlight a few quotations from Blessed Pope John Paul the Great’s encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia.
Section 8 : “When I think of the Eucharist, and look at my life as a priest, as a Bishop and as the Successor of Peter, I naturally recall the many times and places in which I was able to celebrate it. I remember the parish church of Niegowic, where I had my first pastoral assignment, the collegiate church of Saint Florian in Krakow, Wawel Cathedral, Saint Peter’s Basilica and so many basilicas and churches in Rome and throughout the world. I have been able to celebrate Holy Mass in chapels built along mountain paths, on lakeshores and seacoasts; I have celebrated it on altars buit in stadiums and in city squares… This varied scenario of celebrations of the Eucharist has given me a powerful experience of its universal and, so to speak, cosmic character. Yes cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. The Son of God became man in order to restore all creation, in one supreme act of praise, to the One who made it from nothing. He, the Eternal High Priest Who by the Blood of His Cross entered the eternal sanctuary, thus gives back to the Creator and Father all creation redeemed. He does so through the priestly ministry of the Church, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Truly this is the mysterium fidei which is accomplished in the Eucharist the world which came forth from the hands of God the Creator now returns to Him redeemed by Christ.”
Whenever a person understands these truths as set out by Blessed John Paul II they can never ever again think of the Mass as boring. Each and every Holy Mass is a universe-changing event, no matter if it is celebrated quietly in a university chaplain’s room with a tiny congregation or in a packed parish church with full choir, incense and solemnity.
Section 16 : “The saving efficacy of the Sacrifice is fully realised when the Lord’s Body and Blood are received in Communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through Communion; we receive the very One who offered Himself for us, we receive His Body which He gave up for us on the Cross and His Blood which He ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matt 26:28) We are reminded of His words: ‘As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me’ (John 6:57) Jesus Himself reassures us that this union, which He compares to that of the life of the Trinity, is truly realised. The Eucharist is a true banquet, in which Christ offers Himself as our nourishment.” …
For the full text of the encyclical: http://www.vattican.va/edocs/ENG0821/_INDEX.HTM
We believe this amazing truth, in the final analysis, because Jesus Himself said it is true. Before us is a cloud of witnesses that unites their own testomony to His: the martyrs of the Eucharist like St Tarcisius; the witness of the Saints like St Juliana of Liege; the great apostles of the Eucharist like St Alphonsus Ligouri and St Peter Julian Eymard; the numbers of people every day who seek a Tabernacle in order to spend time with Jesus truly present there; and the many more who count a day without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion as a disaster beyond all reckoning.
So today I thank Him for this gift beyond all gifts in Holy Communion and I thank Him for the gift of the life of Blessed Pope John Paul the Great and his clear witness to the Eucharistic presence of Jesus. May the numbers of those with active Eucharistic faith increase!
Blessed Pope John Paul the Great, pray for us!