For the Solemnity of Corpus Christi I continued some of the thoughts I had shared about our capacity for love and union. I noticed the connection between the image and likeness of God that we have created in and the gift of Christ coming to us to be our food and nourishment. In the Bread of Life discourse, we hear Jesus speak of what will happen for those who receive Him, literally consuming Him. He says that He will be in us and we will remain in Him. In other words, Jesus is saying that a union is formed between us and Him, a union meant to last to eternal life.
The Catechism nicely describes what happens in the Eucharist.
1323 “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'”
In this section of the Catechism we are told the reason Christ left us the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. That the fruits of His sacrifice found in the Eucharist are always made available to His Spouse until the day He comes again. The Church sees herself as the Spouse of Christ. Rightly so since it is Christ who calls Himself the bridegroom. There is also that scene in Revelation when the bride is presented to the Lamb
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. Revelation 19:7-8
The love that is coming from Christ in the sacrifice of His Body and Blood can and should be seen as a the same type of life giving love that spouses give to each other in marriage.
This form of love I’m referring to is known as agape, which becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love. Agape is an experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other. This love becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness like eros; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice. (Deus Caritas Set §6) Christ’s love for us is this kind of love and it is a love that is commonly found in what we know as the sacraments of service. These are the sacraments of Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders since both are ordered and directed towards the good of the other in that form of love.
In Ephesians 5, St. Paul even speaks of this connection. He says that the love which binds two spouses to become one flesh is a mystery because he is referencing Christ and the Church.
It is a mystery because Christ is the High Priest of the covenant and yet He even refers to himself as bridegroom. It is also a mystery because of how Christ speaks of what forms in the recipients of His loving sacrifice. There is formed a unitive dimension in our relationship with Christ. Jesus says in the Gospel, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” A bond is formed between the one giving and the one receiving. On the Cross, Christ will make a complete gift of Himself, out of a profound selfless love, for the salvation of souls. Christ continues by saying that whoever feeds on Him, whoever remains in Him, will have life because of Him. From this union comes new life. This union is formed from that agape and marital type love expressed by God for us and our reception of it.
God’s complete gift of self to us, the same complete gift that is made present at every Mass, is the complete gift you come up to receive during Communion. In receiving Christ in this real way in the Eucharist, our bond and union with Him grows. We are fed by Him through it and given the graces we need to remain in Him.At Mass, Christ offers each of us the chance to receive Him and the gift of Himself. It is no ordinary reception because it is no ordinary gift that is being offered. As a bridegroom to his bride, Christ is offering His entire self and desires that you receive Him in order that you remain in Him, that all of us become one with Him. The offer from Christ is always the same complete gift of self, but how we accept Him into our lives at that moment is always changing.
St. John Paul II said.
“Consequently, while it must be reaffirmed with the Second Vatican Council that the Liturgy, as the exercise of the priestly office of Christ and an act of public worship, is “the summit to which the activity of the Church is directed and the font from which all its power flows”, it is also necessary to recall that the spiritual life “is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy.” Rosarium Virginis Mariae §13
The going to Mass every weekend should not be the entirety of our spiritual life. St. john Paul II’s point is that we are meant to go and live what we have received, we are meant to be living life in that bond formed with Christ. Since we are made of body and soul, we live as such through the whole week. As we take care of our bodies each week we should be taking care of our souls. It is good to be reminded occasionally then that we have a spirit, a soul, that has its own form of health. The term ‘spiritual life’ is in reference to the overall practices we do for the betterment of our life with God, the life of grace. The life of grace being the living out of the sanctifying grace which comes as a divine gift infused by God. It is the strength and participation in the life of God to embark on a life of holiness which is also a life of turning away from sin.
With all of that said, we know the turning from all sin is a lifelong battle. There are going to be times when we make bad choices and fail. There are times when we fall because of human weakness. It is in those times we need to go to God more in prayer for help and strength. It is those times we need to run toward Confession to receive sacramental absolution. The sacrament of Confession is actually the sacrament that all of us need so to be made more disposed to approach our Lord in the Eucharist.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Confession is that sacrament, that after confessing our sins and receiving absolution, our wedding garment is made clean. In other words, we are ready to go to the feast. Since what we celebrate on the weekend in the Liturgy is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, the way we prepare ourselves for Mass more than likely mirrors how well we are preparing ourselves for the heavenly liturgy. Let’s remember that the Eucharist is the high point of our faith and not just the only part of our faith. Let’s remember that we are to be living out through the week the immense love we have been given.
May we always seek God’s aid in becoming and remaining who we are called to be as His children.