Eucharistic Meditation

We, therefore, are taught, through the slight want of faith shown by the blessed Thomas, that the mystery of the Resurrection is effected upon our earthly bodies, and in Christ as the firstfruits of the race. He was no phantom or ghost, fashioned in human shape, and simulating the features of humanity, nor yet, as others have foolishly surmised, a spiritual body that is compounded of a subtle and ethereal substance different from the flesh. For some attach this meaning to the expression “spiritual body”. For since all our expectation and the significance of our irrefutable faith, after the confession of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, centres in the mystery concerning the flesh, the blessed Evangelist has very pertinently put this saying of Thomas side by side with the summary of what preceded. For observe that Thomas does not desire simply to see the Lord, but looks for the marks of the nails, that is, the wounds upon His Body. For he affirmed that then, indeed, he would believe and agree with the rest that Christ had indeed risen again, and risen again in the flesh. For that which is dead may rightly be said to return to life, and the Resurrection surely was concerned with that which was subject unto death

‘Commentary on the Gospel of John’ 12.1. Commentary on the Gospel according to S. John, S. Cyril Archbishop Of Alexandria Vol. II: S. John IX—XXI. A Library Of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior To The Division Of The East And West. Translated By Members Of The English Church (London: Walter Smith, 1885), 682–3.

Eucharistic Meditation

But lest they should suppose that eternal life was promised in this meat and drink in such manner that they who should take it should not even now die in the body, He condescended to meet this thought. For when He had said, “He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life,” He immediately added, “and I will raise him up on the last day.” That meanwhile, according to the Spirit, he may have eternal life in that rest into which the spirits of the saints are received; but as to the body, he shall not be defrauded of its eternal life but, on the contrary, he shall have it in the resurrection of the dead at the last day.

Augustine of Hippo

Adapted from ‘Tractate XXVI’ on the Gospel of John’ 16. Philip Schaff (ed.), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Vol. 7 (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1886), 428.

Eucharistic Meditation

The soldiers … pierced his side with a spear and now insulted the dead body. O abominable and accursed purpose! Yet, beloved, do not be confused or despondent. What these men did from a wicked will fought on the side of the truth, since there was a prophecy that spoke concerning this very circumstance: “They shall look on him whom they pierced” [Zech. 12:10]. And not only this, but this deed would become evidence to confirm the faith of those who should afterwards disbelieve, as it was for Thomas those like him. With this too an ineffable mystery was accomplished. For “there came forth water and blood”. Not without purpose or by chance did those fountains spring forth. Rather, it is because the church consists of these two together. And those who have been initiated know this, being regenerated indeed by water and nourished by the blood and the flesh. And so, the mysteries take their beginning. In this way, when you approach that awesome cup, you may so approach as though you were drinking from his very side.

Abbreviated and adapted from ‘Homilies on the Gospel of John’ 85.3. Joel C. Elowsky (ed.), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, Vol. IVb: John 11–21 (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007), 328–9.

Eucharistic Meditation

Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert (1593–1633)

Eucharistic Meditation

We believe that the Word became flesh and that we receive his flesh in the Lord’s Supper. How then can we fail to believe that he really dwells within us? When he became man, he actually clothed himself in our flesh, uniting it to himself forever. In the sacrament of his body he actually gives us his own flesh, which he has united to his divinity. This is why we are all one, because the Father is in Christ, and Christ is in us. He is in us through his flesh and we are in him. With him we form a unity which is in God.

The manner of our indwelling in him through the sacrament of his body and blood is evident from the Lord’s own words: This world will see me no longer but you shall see me. Because I live you shall live also, for I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. If it had been a question of a mere unity of will, why should he have given us this explanation of the steps by which it is achieved? He is in the Father by reason of his divine nature, we are in him by reason of his human birth, and he is in us through the mystery of the sacraments. This, surely, is what he wished us to believe; this is how he wanted us to understand the perfect unity that is achieved through our Mediator, who lives in the Father while we live in him, and who, while living in the Father, lives also in us. This is how we attain to unity with the Father. Christ is in very truth in the Father by his eternal generation; we are in very truth in Christ, and he likewise is in us.

Christ himself bore witness to the reality of this unity when he said: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him. No one will be in Christ unless Christ himself has been in him; Christ will take to himself only the flesh of those who have received his flesh. He had already explained the mystery of this perfect unity when he said: As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so he who eats my flesh will draw life from me. We draw life from his flesh just as he draws life from the Father. Such comparisons aid our understanding, since we can grasp a point more easily when we have an analogy. And the point is that Christ is the wellspring of our life. Since we who are in the flesh have Christ dwelling in us through his flesh, we shall draw life from him in the same way as he draws life from the Father.

Hilary of Poitiers (c. 310–c. 367), On the Trinity, Book 8:13–16. Source: Crossroads Initiative

Eucharistic meditation

Just as at one time circumcision, in so far as it had to do with effecting the remission of sins, took the place of baptism, and the Red Sea presented a likeness and figure of the same, so the paschal lamb lamb, whose flesh was eaten by the people and by whose blood the posts of the houses were marked, preceded in the figure of of the sacrament of the body of Christ. …

Finally we eat the flesh of the lamb when by taking His true body in the sacrament we are incorporated with Christ through faith and love. Elsewhere what is eaten is incorporated. Now when the body of Christ is eaten, not what is eaten but he who eats is incorporated with Him whom He eats. On this account Christ wished to be eaten by us, that He might incorporate us with Him. This is the sacrament of the body of Christ and the substance of the sacrament of the body of Christ.

Hugh of Saint Victor on the Sacraments of the Christian Faith, translated by Roy. J. Deferrari (Eugene, OR: 2007), 307.

Eucharistic Meditation

If, then, the mass is a testament and sacrament in which the forgiveness of sins and every grace of God are promised and sealed with a sign, it follows self-evidently what is the best preparation for it. Without doubt the mass is given to them that need it and desire it. But who needs forgiveness of sins and God’s grace more than just these poor miserable consciences who are driven and tormented by their sins, are afraid of God’s wrath, judgement, death, and hell, and would be eager to have a gracious God, desiring nothing more greatly than this? These are truly they who are well prepared for the mass. For with them these words have found force and meaning, when Christ says, “Take and drink, this is my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Where such a soul believes these words, as it ought, it receives from the mass all the fruits of the mass, that is, peace and joy, and thus is thereby well and richly fed in spirit.

But where there is no faith, there no prayer helps, nor the hearing of many masses. Things can only become worse. As Psalm 23 says, “Before my eyes thou hast prepared a table for me against all my affliction.” Is this not a clear verse? What greater affliction is there than sin and the evil conscience which is always afraid of God’s anger and never has rest. Again, Psalm 111 says, “He has caused his wonderful works to be remembered, and has provided food for those who fear him.” It is certain, then, that for bold and satisfied spirits, whose sin does not prick them, the mass is of no value. For they have as yet no hunger for this food, since they are still too full. The mass demands and must have a hungry soul, which longs for the forgiveness of sins and divine favour.

But because this despair and unrest of conscience are nothing but an infirmity of faith, the severest malady which man can have in body and soul, and which cannot at once be speedily cured, it is useful and necessary that the more restless a person’s conscience, the more should he go to the sacrament or hear mass. He should do this in such a way as to picture to himself therein the word of God and feed and strengthen his faith by it; never to make a work or sacrifice of it, but let it remain a testament and a sacrament, out of which he shall take and enjoy a benefit freely and of grace. Thereby his heart may become sweet toward God and obtain a comforting confidence toward him. For so sings the Psalter, Psalm 104, “The bread strengthens man’s heart, and the wine gladdens the heart of man.”

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 35 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 109–110.

Eucharistic Meditation

“When he had fasted forty days and forty nights.” You see, brothers, that the forty-day fast is not a human invention. Its authority is divine. … The God and man in you fasts, starves for your sake—you, who do not know how to eat and therefore cannot even starve. Therefore, when Christ fasts for your sake, he starves for your sake. … Feeling hungry and overcoming hunger are human work. There is no hunger in God’s power. Therefore Christ did not faint from fasting or starve. He was hungry so that the Devil would have a reason to tempt him.

Hear what the Devil offered to the hungry one: “Command these stones to become bread.” He offers stones to the hungry. Such is always the nature of the enemy. This is how the originator of death and envier of life shepherds. “Command these stones to become bread.” Devil, your foresight failed. He who can change stones into bread can also turn hunger into abundance. You wretch know how to be evil but you are not able to tempt with vessels, and are unable to offer the hungry something fine rather than something austere.

… See, Tempter, how all your tricks have been destroyed in the presence of Christ. He who turned water into wine is surely able to turn stones into bread. But signs are performed for faith, not for plots.

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord.” Hear and understand the word of the Father, to eat for your hunger the words of our salvation instead of bread, so that man may live forever.

Peter Chrysologus (c. 380—c. 450), Sermo XI

Liturgically Pro-Life

I am guilty of liturgical innovation.

I have added a few words to the Litany (Lutheran Service Book version):

“To strengthen and keep all sick persons and young children; to free those in bondage; to protect the unborn, the disabled and all who are vulnerable; and to have mercy on us all;
We implore you to hear us, good Lord.

May God in mercy hear our prayer!

Eucharistic Meditation

False in every respect are those who despise the entire dispensation of God, and deny  the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption. But if the body indeed does not attain salvation, then neither did the Lord redeem us with His blood, nor is the cup of the Eucharist the communion of His blood, nor the bread which we break the communion of His body. For blood can only come from veins and flesh, and whatsoever else makes up the substance of man—which the Word of God was actually made. By His own blood he redeemed us, as also His apostle declares, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation (and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills). He has acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as His own blood, from which He moistens our blood; and the bread (also a part of the creation) He has established as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter II