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Archive for the ‘Eucharist’ Category

“If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” John 1:6-7

The month of July is devoted to our Lord’s Precious Blood. Jesus became incarnate by taking on our human nature. His blood is from human nature, and our redemption was at a cost – the shedding of His Blood on Calvary. Jesus gave back every drop when He redeemed us with His Precious Blood. Sin offends God. The gravity of this fact lies in that our sin required the Blood of Christ, the Son of God, to forgive that sin. Through the Sacraments this Blood flows into our souls to cleanse and purify us and to enrich us with His grace. Oh the purity acquired for us in the Precious Blood of Christ!  Venerate and realize how truly precious it is and to become more sensitive to how awful sin is, since it cost Jesus the shedding of His blood and His life.

His Blood also means life. In John chapter six Our Lords says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

St. Teresa of Jesus, in her work entitled The Interior Castle, explains that worldly persons living in mortal sins are not able to retire into their own hearts, since they are accustomed “to be with reptiles and other creatures living outside the castle” where the King lives. She therefore admonishes them by saying, “O souls, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ, take these things to heart; have mercy on yourselves…remove the darkness from the crystal of your souls.” (Interior Castle, Book 1:2)

One day while St. Therese of Lisieux was looking at an image of Jesus on the Cross she became focused on the blood. In her autobiography she recounts: “I was struck by the blood flowing from one of the divine hands. I felt a great pang of sorrow when thinking that this blood was falling to the ground without anyone’s hastening to gather it up. I was resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross and to receive the divine dew. I understood I was then to pour it out upon souls. The cry of Jesus on the Cross sounded continually in my heart: “I thirst!” These words ignited within me an unknown and very living fire. I wanted to give my Beloved to drink and I felt myself consumed with a thirst for souls. As yet is was not the souls of priests that attracted me, but those of great sinners; I burned with the desire to snatch them from the eternal flames.”

We can offer this Precious Blood for great sinners. By actively participating in Mass and by uniting with the offering of the priest, we can offer the Blood of Christ for sinners. We can make visits to the Blessed Sacrament adoring the Real Presence of Our Lord, and through our prayers for sinners, we can ask that souls will come to live a life of grace by living a sacramental life and will live according to their great dignity that God has given to them.

“Every time a creature offers up this Blood by which he was redeemed, he offers a gift of infinite worth, which can be equaled by no other!” (St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi)

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Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is often referred to as the Real Presence. This is because Christ in His fullness abides in the Eucharist. In it dwells both His human and divine natures. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 explains this presence:

 “The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”

St. Teresa of Jesus was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and this especially shows through in her teachings on the Sacred Humanity of Christ. She exhorted her nuns to meditate on the life of Christ and even wrote that to abandon the humanity of Jesus was a hindrance to prayer. She teaches this because God chose to reach out to His people through the human person. Consequently devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus encourages Carmelites to reflect on the humanity of Jesus who loves with a human heart.

So after Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He did not leave earth. Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament in the same way that He is present in Heaven. Therefore His physical heart is there in the Blessed Sacrament.

All this then makes one see why St. Teresa would write, “Certainly, I think that if we were to approach the most Blessed Sacrament with great faith and love, once would be enough to leave us rich. How much richer from approaching so many times as we do. The trouble is we do so out of routine, and it shows.” [Meditations on Song of Songs, 3:13]

It shows. We do see the bread and wine and behind them we believe that Christ is present, since faith supplies what the senses fail to perceive. But how routine has our reception of the Blessed Sacrament become? The Sacrament does confer grace; how could one be in the Presence of Christ and not be affected?  The grace received is the grace to love. Through our faith in the Eucharist, charity grows in us both towards God and others. Does it show?

St. Teresa gives advice on how to receive the Eucharist with greater devotion and profit:  “After having received the Lord, since you have the Person Himself present, strive to close the eyes of the body and open those to the soul and look into your own heart… You should acquire the habit of doing this every time you receive Communion.” [Way of Perfection, 34:12] And “ If you immediately turn your thoughts to other things, if you pay no attention and take no account of the fact that He is within you, how will He be able to reveal Himself to you? This, then, is a good time for our Master to teach us, and for us to listen to Him. [Way of Perfection, 34: 10]

She also wrote that, “From certain things He told me, I understood that after he ascended to heaven He never came down to earth to commune with anyone except in the most Blessed Sacrament.” [Spiritual Testimonies, 13] Therefore it is important to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace. To this she also wrote that, “I understood well how much more priests are obliged to be good than are others, how deplorable a thing it is to receive this most Blessed Sacrament unworthily.” [Life, 38: 23]

Our devotion to the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be also fostered in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, whether exposed or reserved in the tabernacle. This is a great way to strengthen our faith and to draw closer in our union with Christ. Many communities, especially religious communities, have Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration available for the faithful. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is a great way to foster holiness. St. Teresa made certain that the Blessed Sacrament was in each of her foundations. This was often the first task that she attended to when making new foundations as she writes in her Foundations chapter 29,  “We took the Blessed Sacrament and had it reserved in the church with great and well-organized solemnity. It caused much devotion.”

Since we have such a blessing in the Real Presence let us, “Behold Him here without suffering, full of glory, before ascending into heaven, strengthening some, encouraging others, our companion in the most Blessed Sacrament; it doesn’t seem it was in His power to leave us for even a moment.” [Life, 22: 6]

Need more reasons to visit the Blessed Sacrament? Look here for 24 more reasons.

 

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Fasting is one of the principle means of making satisfaction for sins. By abstaining from eating all that is available to eat, one can do penance for sins, making reparation for them. Also one can gain strength against future sins by this self-imposed penance. Fasting is a way to chastise the body for the sins the body has committed. Additionally denying oneself the pleasure of eating helps to bring the body into control and subject to the soul.

St. John of the Cross tells us to keep in mind the value of our good works, fasts, alms and penances. Firstly the value of these is “not based on quantity and quality so much as on the love of God practiced in them”. (Ascent Book 3 Chap. 27) So our good works, fasts, almsgiving and penances should be done for the love of God, and we “should not set (our) heart on the pleasure, comfort, savor and other elements of self-interest (like trying to lose weight) these good works and practices usually entail, but recollect (our) joy in God and desire to serve him through these means.”

As always regarding fasting we have Christ for our example. He is perfect, so we do not see any extremes to the virtue he models for us. He did practice fasting and abstinence, though he did not need to do this. He had perfect control over his desires and the appetites. In gaining control over the sense appetites prudent discretion is in order. We are not to “kill (ourselves) with penances” and “weaken (ourselves) by fasts”. (Dark Night, Book 1, Chap 6) The idea is virtue, which is the mean between extremes. We should be doing our fasting with the proper motivation which is to repair the damage done by our sinfulness and to gain strength for future temptations to sin.

Fasting is also good because the mind is dulled when the body overeats. When one indulges in  too much, the mind becomes sleepy and unable to meditate or pray with attentiveness.

The Church has us fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. These are the days Catholics usually associate with fasting. Fasting during these penitential days of Lent is defined as one normal meal and two smaller meals that together do not equal a full meal. Snacking in between meals would also be excluded as part of the fast. The Church additionally ask us to fast before receiving Holy Communion. We are to fast from food and drink, with the exception of water, for one hour before receiving the Eucharist. It is good to be reminded as to why we are obliged to do this. We do the Eucharistic fast out of respect for the sacrament. We are about to received Jesus, and therefore it is fitting that we should not eat or drink other substances prior to receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood.

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The duties and cares of the day ahead crowd about us when we awake in the morning (if they have not already dispelled our night’s rest). Now arises the uneasy question: How can all this be accommodated in one day? When will I do this, when that? How shall I start on this and that? Thus agitated, we would like to run around and rush forth. We must then take the reins in hand and say, “Take it easy! Not any of this may touch me now. My first morning’s hour belongs to the Lord. I will tackle the day’s work which He charges me with, and He will give me the power to accomplish it.”

(Edith Stein Collected Works, ICS Publications p. 143)

How often I have begun my day full of anxiety and already exhausted by the thoughts of what needs to be done ‘today’. I can’t go about my day disturbed and agitated. In today’s society we live with almost constant stress in our daily lives. Many things need to be done and physically we can feel overwhelmed, if not totally exhausted.

I believe St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) quoted above in her essay on Principles of Women’s’ Education has the answer for us. Our first duty each day should be to spend time with God in prayer. Ideally, it should be spent at Mass where we participate in the great offering of reconciliation and are purified and made happy. As we participate in Mass we lay all our doings and troubles along with the sacrifice on the altar.

sunrise

However, this is not always a possible way to start our day when we have a house full of small children to raise or if we don’t have the luxury of a convenient Mass time and a nearby church. Nevertheless, I can get up a bit early, before everyone else in the house has awaken, and spend some quiet moments with the Lord in prayer.

I can spend a moment making a spiritual communion and unite myself with Him. A spiritual communion is the best way to express, in prayer, my desire to receive Jesus. God will respond to this act with His grace. St. Teresa of Avila encouraged this practice as well. “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you” (The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35)

And when the Lord comes to me then in Holy Communion, then I may ask Him, “Lord, what to you want of me?” (St. Teresa). And after quiet dialogue, I will go to that which I see as my next duty. (Edith Stein Collected Works, ICS Publications p. 144)

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Here it is evening. I have just finished evening prayer which closes with the following prayer:

“Stay with us, Lord Jesus,
for evening draws near,
and be our companion on our way
to set our hearts on fire with new hope.
Help us to recognize your presence among us in the Scriptures we read
and in the breaking of bread,
for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.”

           (Evening Prayer, Monday Week IV, The Liturgy of the Hours)
This prayer is reminiscent of the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “ And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.” (Luke 24:15) As I reflect over my day, filled with conversations and various activities, I wonder if I had been aware of His presence with me. Perhaps he was there along and my “eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

But now it is evening, things have quieted down “the day is almost over”. It is time to urge the Lord to “stay with” me as I break open the Scriptures. Pouring over these words I will let him speak to me and set my “heart burning”.

As a Carmelite the Scriptures hold an important place in my daily life and prayer. Secular living does have an impact on the amount of time I can devote to this each day, but even a short amount of time spend in Scripture reading will help to foster love and devotion for the Lord.

Tomorrow I will arise early and go to Mass. There I will meet the Lord in the “breaking of the bread” and in hearing him speak as the priest “opens the scriptures to us” who have gathered to hear Mass. Another opportunity in my day for the Lord to “make himself known” and to be my “companion along the way”.

emmaus

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From Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours during Ordinary Time the closing prayer for Week IV on Monday evenings reads:

Stay with us, Lord Jesus,
for evening draws near,
and be our companion on our way
to set our hearts on fire with new hope.
Help us to recognize your presence among us 
in the Scriptures we read,
and in the breaking of bread,
for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
As his disciples were walking and talking along the way, Jesus comes up to them (though they were unable to recognize him) and he asks:
“What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” 
(Lk 24: 17)
Why they were talking about Jesus! Should this not be our conversation with each other as we walk together along the Way? Shouldn’t we be able to help each other to recognize him? 
This can only be done if we get to know him through the Scriptures which will cause “our hearts to burn within us” sparked with the flame of faith. Then, after getting to know him in the Scriptures, we can see him with the eyes of faith in the breaking of the bread, the Eucharistic bread.
The Word and Eucharist are our sustenance – food for the journey. May his words be on our lips and  burn within our hearts as we walk and talk with each other, and may we see him and recognize him in each other when our eyes are opened at the breaking of the bread – all with Jesus as our companion on our way.

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Eucharistic Adoration

Stop by Fountain of Elias for a beautiful post on Eucharistic Adoration.

http://fountainofelias.blogspot.com/2010/03/in-gethsemane.html

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