THE BLESSED SACRAMENT is the soul of the Church, the life of the priesthood, the center of all our love and all our affections. The BLESSED SACRAMENT is Jesus, and Jesus is our all. Jesus is our first beginning and last end. He created us; he regenerated us anew in the waters of baptism; he is our strength in youth, our support in old age. He is our life in living, and our hope in dying; in death he will be our judge, and in Heaven we hope our reward.
Though love began in the creation, the greatest manifestation of the love of God to man is contained in the sacred mysteries of the Incarnation and Blessed Sacrament. God's love for man could go no further. All God's love, power, and wisdom are centered in the Divine Babe and Host. Were the Divine Babe and Divine Host better known, they would be better loved. Did we but meditate on the infinite love and mercy of Jesus in the Incarnation and Blessed Eucharist, our cold hearts would warm into love for Jesus, and We would shudder at even the thought of offending Jesus.
How awfully solemn are the inspired words that express these two sublime mysteries :
"THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH."
"THIS IS MY BODY."
"THIS IS MY BLOOD."
"The Word was made Flesh!" What more sacred words on the tongues of men or angels! All they convey! The food of holy thought and meditation they bring to the mind! By them we are reminded of man's fall, the depth of the malice of his guilt, and the price paid by the Almighty to raise him up again.
When Adam fell, God promised a Redeemer; but what teaches the enormous guilt of even one mortal sin, God in his wisdom delayed for the long period of four thousand years to fulfill his promise. May we all learn from this to hate and avoid mortal sin. During these long and dark years, the patriarchs prayed, and the prophets sighed, that the "just One" might come, the days of man's captivity be shortened, and the gates of Paradise opened again. How they looked out for the Blessed Virgin, the woman who was to crush the head of the serpent that seduced Eve! They cried out in the beautiful language of the inspired text, "Send forth, O Lord, the Lamb, the ruler of the earth." - Isa. xvi. 1 "Oh. that thou wouldst break through the heavens, and come down." Isa. lxiv. 1. And again, they wept, sighed, and prayed, day and night, that "the heavens would drop down their dew, and the clouds rain the just, and that the earth would be opened, and bud forth a Savior." Isa. xlv. 8. "Stir up thy might and come to save us." Ps. lxxix, 3.
God heard these holy prayers offered with tears and sighs. "The weeks of years were shortened." "The Word was made flesh." How full of mystery and mercy these sacred words! They tell us the Just One is come; the Lamb, the Ruler, is sent down; the Savior is budded forth. They tell more. God's justice yields to his mercy; he fulfills his promises; the doors of heaven, closed for four thousand years, are thrown open; a ray of the glory of Paradise beams on the elect in Limbo; angels weep with joy that the vacant benches, forfeited by the fallen spirits, are to be filled up; that more voices may swell the chorus to the greater glory of God. The Redeemer, the Messiah is Incarnate.
The Incarnation suggests other holy thoughts to the mind sweet thoughts of the Mother of God. Jesus and Mary, the Son and Mother, are never separated. The woman so long expected, she who was to crush the serpent's head, is born some years; she is still unknown amidst the maids of Israel, for blushing modesty and exalted sanctity are always hidden. The wonder of ages, a Virgin Mother, foretold by the prophet, is a reality. "A virgin," said Isaias vii. 14, "shall conceive, and shall bring forth a son,. who shall be called God with us." And what a virgin! She is "full of grace;" she has "found favor with God;" she is "blest, amongst women." No stain of sin ever sullied her pure soul. "Thou art all fair, and there is no spot in thee." Cant. iv. 7. "Thou art fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array." Cant. vi. 9.
O Immaculate Conception! Our days have witnessed its solemn definition. A thousand thanks to heaven high, that we can say with Catholic and divine faith: Mary conceived without sin, pray for us! This is a singular privilege of the Blessed Virgin, that original sin never sullied her immaculate soul. Even for one instant she was never the enemy of God., or under the dominion of the devil. And all this in honor of the Incarnation.
We are not surprised that God, by a special privilege, preserved her from original sin, and from the slightest actual sin, when we call to mind that of the pure flesh of Mary was formed the sacred and adorable body of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
To prepare her for this, God in his Omnipotence lavished upon her all the choicest treasures of heaven, all the graces that a pure creature is capable of, to beautify and adorn her soul.
The time is come. The eye of the adorable Trinity looks down with complacency upon the beautified soul of Mary. The adorable Trinity, who held counsel to make man "let us make man to our image" holds counsel, so to speak, to redeem man. The Father sends the Son. The Holy Ghost cooperates. The Son is willing. From amidst the countless millions of adoring spirits who surround the throne of God, one of the brightest, the archangel Gabriel, is charged to bear a message of glad tidings to earth. He obeys. With breathless, profound reverence he hears the mystery. Entrusted with the most solemn embassy ever given to a creature, he wings his flight from heaven to earth. The palaces, the courts of the great and noble, have no attraction for him. The attention of heaven is riveted upon one soul in the city of Nazareth. The angel finds the Virgin absorbed in holy prayer. He salutes her: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women." Luke i. 28. The timid, blushing Virgin is alarmed: "she is troubled at his saying."
The angel comforts her: "Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found grace with God." "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus." Luke i. 30 31. The virgin is now more puzzled. Long since she had registered in heaven a vow of perpetual chastity - consecrated her soul and body to the living God. She hesitates. What glory and honor to be the mother of God! But how violate her vow? "I know not man." To relieve her from all difficulty, the angel says to her: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee." Luke i. 35 Virgin, assured that her vow of chastity would be respected, bows and consents, saying: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word."
What a supreme Moment! Heaven opens wide! The Word Eternal, the Son of God, equal in all things to the Father, descends on earth. A human soul is created; a body is formed out of the pure flesh of Mary Immaculate; the body and soul are united, and to this body and soul is joined hypostatically the Word, the Eternal Son of God, thus forming One Divine person and two distinct natures, all dwelling in the holy tabernacle of the chaste womb of the Blessed Virgin. This is the dignity, the sanctity of the Mother of God. This is the beginning of man's redemption. This is the awful and divine mystery "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; the glory, as it were, of the onlybegotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John i. 14.
Solemn and holy are the words expressing the incarnation of the Son of God; but not less solemn and holy are the words expressing the consecration in the Blessed Sacrament. "This is my body." "This is my blood." What thoughts they suggest to the mind! The infinite Sacrifice and holiest Sacrament of the New Law. Jesus, the daily victim on thousands of altars. Jesus, the daily Food of millions of souls. Jesus, ever living and loving in countless tabernacles. Jesus in the viaticum, wafting the departing souls to Paradise.
True, the tongues of men cannot tell that love and mercy that forced, so to speak, the Son of God to leave the bliss of heaven, and on earth to clothe himself with human flesh; nor can the tongues of men or angels express the love and mercy that bring down countless times this selfsame God from heaven's glory, and on our altars clothe himself with the still more lowly form of bread!
Adorable mysteries of the Incarnation and Eucharist! How like! In the incarnation, Jesus took flesh in Mary's womb; in the Eucharist, he takes flesh in the priest's hands. "Oh!" cries out St. Augustine, "to be venerated the dignity of priests, in whose hands, as in the womb of the Virgin, the Son of God becomes incarnate." In Ps. xxvii.
Men and angels will stand amazed for all eternity at the humiliations of the Son of God in the Incarnation. St. Paul says (Phil. xi. 6): " Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but debased himself by taking the form of a servant." In the Blessed Sacrament our Divine Lord debased himself lower still; for he takes not the form of a "servant," but the more lowly form or species of bread. In the Incarnation, the Divinity is concealed beneath the Humanity, in the Blessed Sacrament, both the Divinity and Humanity are hidden. The Son of God conceals the splendor of his glory and majesty, and confines his Immensity in the smallest particle of the Sacred Host! Well might the holy Council of Trent say: "In the Eucharist Jesus poured out all the riches of his love for men." Sess. xvi. C. 2.
My soul, it was for thy salvation that the Eternal Word was made Flesh. It was to bring thee to heaven that the Son of God left heaven, and clothed himself with human flesh in Mary's chaste womb. Wilt thou ever forget his goodness, mercy, and love?
My Blessed Lord Jesus, I will not forget thy goodness, mercy, and love; hence I resolve to recite piously, three times every day, on bended knees, at the sound of the bell, "The Angelus" (the Incarnation Hymn), in honor of the Word made Flesh. Good Jesus, grant me grace to keep this holy resolution.
THE more we meditate on the Divine mysteries of Jesus the more we hate sin and love him. Every moment of his divine life suggests subjects for holy thought, and motives of holy love. These most powerful motives are contained in the wonders of the Incarnation and Blessed Sacrament. Let us continue the comparison from the last chapter.
We have said the humiliations of our Divine Lord are not less in the Blessed Sacrament than in the Incarnation. In the Incarnation, the Eternal Word descended once, in one place, becoming man in Mary's womb. In the Blessed Sacrament, the same Eternal Word descends not only once, but as often the number is countless as masses have been said, and will be said, from the Last Supper to the end of the world! Not in one place only, but in every clime and every land, from the rising to the setting sun. "From the rising of the sun" (says the prophet Malachias i. 10), "even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation, saith the Lord of Hosts." O Divine Sacrifice of the Mass! stupendous mystery of Divine love! offered daily on tens of thousands of altars making great the name of the Lord among the Gentiles, and giving infinite glory to the Lord of Hosts. The mass is the real clean oblation foretold by the prophet.
The Son of God become incarnate obeyed the Eternal Father. The same Son of God present in the Eucharist obeys the voice of a simple mortal, his own creature, a poor, weak, alas! imperfect priest! Who can avoid exclaiming, O infinite love of Jesus in the Babe and Host! imprint on the souls of men these divine mysteries, that all may know thee and love thee.
Jesus is unknown and forgotten. "He came into the world, and the world knew him not." Mary alone on earth knew the moment "the Word was made Flesh;" for yet Joseph knew not the Virgin had conceived. How like the Host! The priest celebrates even when there is no congregation; the Word is made flesh in his hands; the priest like Mary, is the only adorer.
Where was accomplished the grand mystery of man's redemption? Was it in a great city? In a gorgeous palace? In a splendid mansion? No. That everything might be in keeping with humility of the Handmaid of the Lord, it was in the village of Nazareth; obscure enough, and in a still more obscure cottage. In this humble, modest dwelling, since aptly called "The Holy House," and to this day preserved with veneration at Loretto, the archangel found the Holy Virgin absorbed in prayer, and announced to her the mystery of the Incarnation. "While all things were in quiet silence, thy Almighty Word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne." Wis., xviii. 15. Such was the first dwelling of the Divine Babe in Mary's womb!
How like the Divine Host on our altars! Sometimes, no doubt, the greatest genius of man, obeying the noblest aspiration of the soul, exhausts its powers in designing churches, altars, and tabernacles; and enriches them with the most precious of earthly gifts, as dwellings for the "Holy of Holies." But how often is the home of the Sacred Host more humble than the "Holy House" of the Divine Babe! How often is Jesus born in the cot, in the bog, and on the mountain's side! O infinite love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! This touches every heart: but to us, the children of St. Patrick, it comes home more than to others. Shall we or can we ever forget thy love in the Blessed Sacrament? It was Jesus in the Holy Eucharist that kept alive the faith of our fathers in the dark midnight of persecution. The heretic and the stranger razed to the ground our churches, monasteries, and altars monuments of the faith and piety of our forefathers. Jesus had no earthly home for his children to adore him: "He had not whereon to rest his head." The Lamb of God despised not their poverty, but breathed love upon his children. In the mountain's fastnesses, in the bog, and in the forest, Jesus came down from glory, the heavens his canopy, the rude rock his altar! He forgot not his poor children in the dark hour of their sorrows. He came to give them courage to fight the battles of their faith; to steel their hearts against the terrors of persecution and the seductions of the tempters. The Blessed Eucharist fed the lamps of faith ever living in their souls, and gave them strength and courage to live and die for Jesus; to despise sorrows, sufferings, exile, nay, death in its fiercest shapes, for the faith of St. Patrick. Divine love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! in behalf of our forefathers, who, strengthened by the Bread of Angels, transmitted to us the faith, as pure as it fell from thy divine lips, we give thee thanks, O Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and pray that the children of St. Patrick, at home and abroad, may be ever faithful like them.
In the Incarnation, we have said with St. Paul (Phil., ii. 7), "our Divine Lord emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as man." In the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus has emptied himself more still, if it admits of degrees, retaining not the form, likeness, or habit, of man, but the species of bread and wine.
The Babe of Bethlehem has a winning attraction of love for the devout soul. The long journey over a mountainous country, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, fatigued Mary and Joseph. Wearied and exhausted they arrive in the evening, but, alas! there is no lodging for them, for the inns were all full. They go from house to house, humbly begging shelter even for one night. They are spurned at the doors, despised for their poverty. O dear Jesus, will nobody receive thee and thy Mother? Dear Lord, we too have often shut the doors of our hearts against thee, and expelled thee thence by mortal sin. Accept now the lodgings of our hearts, with their affections forever.
Fatigued, but resigned, Mary retires from the dwellings of men into a cave made in a rock, the stable of the ass and ox; and then, "while all things were in deep silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, thy Almighty Word came down from heaven from thy royal throne." Wisd, xviii. 14, 15. Then was born the Messiah, the "desired of the eternal hills." Gen., xlix. 26. O humility, O poverty of the Son of God! Allow us, O Lord, to approach with reverence, and look with the eyes of faith on the Divine Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
The Babe is weak, but he is the Omnipotence by "whom all things were made." He is helpless; his very breath sustains, as it produced creation! He is in Mary's arms, yet planets and systems revolve in his Immensity. Poor! the heavens and the earth are full of the majesty of his glory. Without homage! all the angels of God adore him. "Adore him, all you his angels." Ps., xcvi. 7. "For all the angels of God adore him." Heb., i. 6.
But let us return to the Blessed Sacrament. Sanctify, O Lord, our eyes, that we may presume to behold thee; and whilst we contemplate thee, save us from being overwhelmed by thy glory. "He that is a searcher of majesty shall be overwhelmed by glory." Prov., xxv. 27. In the Sacred Host is more weakness, more helplessness, more poverty. Here the Eternal, too, is born in time; the Immense is circumscribed to narrower limits; and the essentially Independent more subject to the will of his own creatures! We can only say with St. Thomas of Villanova: "O strong wine of charity! Thou hast conquered the Invincible; the Almighty is become thy captive. O true excess of charity!"
Amid all the humiliations and poverty of the crib or manger, still a gleam of the glory of heaven, now and again, shone upon earth, to announce to the world the birth of the Messiah. Swift and willing messengers were dispatched to convey the glad tidings. The glory of heaven with great brightness, shone round the holy shepherds. The heavenly messenger said to them: "Fear not; for behold I bring you tidings of exceeding great joy. This day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you: You shall find the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest." Luke, ii. 10, 11. And again, the Almighty sent another messenger to the wise men of the East, to announce the birth of the Redeemer. The miraculous star conducted them, shone upon their path from the East, "until it came and stood over where the Child was." Matt., ii. 9. Well may "they rejoice with exceeding great joy, and, falling down, adore him."
How different the Sacred Host! To announce his birth, no gleam of Heaven's glory shines round the altar, no angel sent to convey the glad tidings; no heavenly army to sing, Glory be to God in, the highest, no miraculous star to shed its beams on the Host. By faith alone we fall down and adore him. Let us say, with St. Thomas of Aquin, "the Sacrament is not only the greatest of all God's miracles, but an abridgment of all the wonders he has ever wrought." The humiliations of the Son of God are greater in the Blessed Sacrament than in the Incarnation.
My soul, neither thou nor an angel can conceive the sacredness of these holy words: Divine Babe, Incarnation, WordmadeFlesh, Infant Jesus; or Sacred Host, Blessed Sacrament, Blessed Eucharist, Holy Communion. They are so full of awe and love, mystery and reverence. Hast thou ever profaned them?
Jesus! my Divine Redeemer! I know these words are too holy even for an angel's tongue! Who is not guilty of irreverence to thee? How often art thou not blasphemed! To try to make reparation for my own irreverences, and for the blasphemies of the wicked, I resolve, as often as I read or hear these sacred words Incarnation, Word made Flesh, Jesus, Sacred Host, Blessed Sacrament, Blessed Eucharist, Holy Communion, etc. to bow my head in reverence, and in my heart to make an act of adoration and love.
Infant Babe! grant me help to keep this pious resolve.
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