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

Eucharistic Meditation

According to its substance, therefore, the mass is nothing but the aforesaid words of Christ: “Take and eat, etc.”, as if he were saying: “Behold, O sinful and condemned man, out of the pure and unmerited love with which I love you, and by the will of the Father of mercies, apart from any merit or desire of yours, I promise you in these words the forgiveness of all your sins and life everlasting. And that you may be absolutely certain of this irrevocable promise of mine, I shall give my body and pour out my blood, confirming this promise by my very death, and leaving you my body and blood as a sign and memorial of this same promise. As often as you partake of them, remember me, proclaim and praise my love and bounty toward you, and give thanks.”

From this you will see that nothing else is needed for a worthy holding of mass than a faith that relies confidently on this promise, believes Christ to be true in these words of his, and does not doubt that these infinite blessings have been bestowed upon it. Hard on this faith there follows, of itself, a most sweet stirring of the heart, whereby the spirit of man is enlarged and enriched (that is love, given by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ), so that he is drawn to Christ, that gracious and bounteous testator, and made a thoroughly new and different man. Who would not shed tears of gladness, indeed, almost faint for joy in Christ, if he believed with unshaken faith that this inestimable promise of Christ belonged to him? How could he help loving so great a benefactor, who of his own accord offers, promises, and grants such great riches and this eternal inheritance to one who is unworthy and deserving of something far different?

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 36: Word and Sacrament II, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 36 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 40–41.

Eucharistic Meditation

It was highly necessary to instruct the people that the true worship and honour of Christ and of his Holy Sacrament does not consists in such external gestures or services alone, also that our dear Lord Christ did not institute this venerable Sacrament for the sake of seeing and worshipping or being present there for that purpose, but so that we would partake of it, as the Lord’s words say, “Take, eat; take, drink,” etc. These words have power and avail so much as to say, “This is My body; this is My blood; this do in remembrance of Me.” … Therefore, the Word is most important, through the power of which, from the institution of the Lord, the true body and blood of Christ are there. The Word teaches us what kind of treasure we have there, what we should use it for, and why Christ is there, so that true invocation and spiritual worship are enkindled in us.

Now, here we are not saying that one should not worship our dear Lord Jesus Christ in this Sacrament, being present, or that one should not hold this Sacrament with all honour and reverence. On the contrary, since these divine, almighty, true words are believed, all of this follows of itself, and not only in external gestures but also both externally and, first and foremost, in the heart, spirit, and truth. On account of this, such adoration of Christ is not thereby cancelled, but much rather, confirmed. For where the Word is rightly seen, considered, and believed, the adoration of the Sacrament will happen of itself. For whoever believes that Christ’s body and blood are there (as there is plenty of evidence so to believe, and it is necessary so to believe), he cannot, to be sure, deny his reverence to the body and blood of Christ without sin. For I must confess that Christ is there when His body and blood are there. His words do not lie to me, and He is not separate from His body and blood.

Georg III von Anhalt, Fourth Sermon on the Sacrament of the Altar. Translated in The Treasury of Daily Prayer

Eucharistic Meditation

Let us then return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which He has shown for us. Parents often entrust their offspring to others to feed. “But I,” says He, “do not so: I feed you with My own flesh, desiring that you all be nobly born, and holding forth to you good hopes for the future. For He who gives out Himself to you here, much more will do so hereafter. I have willed to become your Brother, for your sake I shared in flesh and blood, and in turn I give out to you the flesh and the blood by which I became your kinsman.”

This blood causes the image of our King to be fresh within us, produces beauty unspeakable, permits not the nobleness of our souls to waste away, watering it continually, and nourishing it. The blood derived from our food becomes not at once blood, but something else; whereas this blood does not so, but immediately waters our souls, and works in them some mighty power. This blood, if rightly taken, drives away devils, and keeps them afar off from us, while it calls to us Angels and the Lord of Angels. For wherever they see the Lord’s blood, devils flee, and Angels run together. This blood poured forth washed clean all the world; many wise sayings did the blessed Paul utter concerning it in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This blood cleansed the secret place, and the Holy of Holies. And if the type of it had such great power in the temple of the Hebrews, and in the midst of Egypt, when smeared on the door-posts, much more the reality. This blood sanctified the golden altar; without it the high priest dared not enter into the secret place. This blood consecrated priests, this in types cleansed sins. But if it had such power in the types, if death so shuddered at the shadow, tell me how would it not have dreaded the very reality? This blood is the salvation of our souls, by this the soul is washed, by this is beautiful, by this is inflamed, this causes our understanding to be more bright than fire, and our soul more beaming than gold; this blood was poured forth, and made heaven accessible.

St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46 on the Gospel of  John, Chapter 6