Year of the Eucharist

As we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Christ, we are reminded of Luke 2:7:

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (NAB)

The infant Jesus is laid in a manger, a trough designed to hold food for livestock.  Just as the animals should approach the manger for fodder, so should we approach Christ who is to satiate our souls with His Word, His Body, and His Blood.

Dear Lord, we welcome you into our hearts today and always.  Help us to know that our true food lies in the Eucharist.

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We await the coming of Our Lord during this liturgical season.  Let us call out to the Eucharist in the words of this Advent hymn:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Come, Jesus, present in the Eucharist.  Let us find our rest in You.  You are our strength and consolation.  You are the joy of every longing heart.

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This Advent season let us await the coming of Christ with the Blessed Mother, who invites us to share in the True Presence of her Son.  At the words of Pope Saint John Paul II: “Let us listen to Mary Most Holy, in whom the mystery of the Eucharist appears, more than in anyone else, as a mystery of light.  Gazing upon Mary, we come to know the transforming power present in the Eucharist.  In her we see the world renewed in love.  Contemplating her, assumed body and soul into heaven, we see opening up before us those ‘new heavens’ and that ‘new earth’ which will appear at the second coming of Christ.  Here below, the Eucharist represents their pledge, and in a certain way, their anticipation: ‘Veni, Domine Iesu!’”

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In celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, let us ponder a meditation inspired by Saint John Vianney:

If anyone could put his hand into liquid gold, says St. John Chrysostom, he would draw it out covered with gold.  The Eucharist does more for our souls. . . . You who receive this Blood are clothed with the Royal Robe of Jesus Christ.  What do I say?  They are clothed with the King Himself. This Blood makes shine in us the royal image of Christ.  It produces an incredible beauty, and when the soul is often watered and nourished, its nobility is never tarnished.  From the earthly Paradise there burst out a spring which produced rivers; from this table there pours forth a stream which is the source of all grace — grace overflowing without stint or limit.

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In his encyclical Mysterium Fidei, Pope Saint Paul VI reminds Catholics of the importance of frequent participation in the Mass:

“It is desirable to have the faithful in large numbers take an active part in the sacrifice of the Mass each and every day and receive the nourishment of Holy Communion with a pure and holy mind and offer fitting thanks to Christ the Lord for such a great gift. They should remember these words: ‘The desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church to see all the faithful approach the sacred banquet each and every day is based on a wish to have them all united to God through the Sacrament and to have them draw from it the strength to master their passions, to wash away the lesser sins that are committed every day and to prevent the serious sins to which human frailty is subject.’ And they should not forget about paying a visit during the day to the Most Blessed Sacrament in the very special place of honor where it is reserved in churches in keeping with the liturgical laws, since this is a proof of gratitude and a pledge of love and a display of the adoration that is owed to Christ the Lord who is present there.”

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This week, let us return to the words of Pope Benedict XVI about the Eucharist being at the heart of our life with God:

“Today this should once more sink into our hearts:  God is here.  God knows us.  God is waiting for us in Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.  Let us not leave him waiting in vain!  Let us not, through distraction and lethargy, pass by the greatest and most important thing life offers us . . . Let us not pass it heedlessly by.  Let us take time, in the course of the week, in passing, to go in and spend a moment with the Lord who is so near. . . . This is what is lovely about Catholic churches, that within them there is, as it were, always worship, because the Eucharistic presence of the Lord dwells always within them.”

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The Eucharist is a gift from God, and the sacrifice of the Mass is an offering of worship that we present to God.  This week, let us meditate upon the rich dialogue between man and God that is found in the Eucharistic Prayer: “Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation. . . . In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God:  command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.

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Blessed Carlo Acutis was beatified last Saturday.  The late fifteen-year-old Italian was recalled by Pope Francis to be “a young man in love with the Eucharist.”  Indeed, during his life, Carlo created a website devoted to Eucharistic miracles (www.miracolieucaristici.org).  Carlo once said, “The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”  Like Carlo, may we have a desire to frequently adore the Eucharist and receive Holy Communion.  Like Carlo, may we always remember that the Body of Christ Jesus is True Food and that His Blood is True Drink.  And like Carlo, may our lives be centered around that which is pleasing to God.  Blessed Carlo Acutis, pray for us!

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Saint Faustina lived a life centered around her love for the Eucharist.  In her diary, we can learn much about her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.  Let us meditate on the prayer which Saint Faustina wrote about total self-abandonment when receiving Holy Communion: “Jesus-Host, whom I have this very moment received into my heart, in this union with you I offer myself to the Heavenly Father as a sacrificial host, abandoning myself totally and completely to the most merciful holy will of my God. From today onward, your will, Lord, is my food. You have my whole being; dispose of me as you please . . . I no longer fear any of your inspirations, nor do I probe anxiously to see where they will lead me . . . I have placed all my trust in your will which is, for me, love and mercy itself.”

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In his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope Saint John Paull II urges the Church to adore Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament:

“The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church.  This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. . . . It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in his heart.  If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the ‘art of prayer’, how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament?  How often, dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!”

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At the climax of the Mass is the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy, during which the power of Christ’s words and the power of the Holy Spirit together make sacramentally present the Body and Blood of Christ under the species of bread and wine.  But why bread and wine?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps to illuminate the rich Scriptural relevance of bread and wine:

“In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgement to the Creator.  But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus:  the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises.  The ‘cup of blessing’ at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension:  the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.

The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.  The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification.  It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.” (CCC 1334-1335)

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us how vital the Eucharist is to our worship of God:

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”  “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.  For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being.  It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.” Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all. (CCC 1324-1326)

The Eucharist is the summary of our Catholic faith, and in receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we participate in the “heavenly liturgy”.  We are united with the holy angels and saints of heaven.  We join them in worshipping the Trinity, offering our praises “to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.”  The Eucharist is, indeed, the Bread of Life.  The Eucharist is a precious gift from the eternal God and a true taste of eternal life with Him!

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On Holy Thursday 2020, Cardinal Seán implemented a Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Boston.  This celebratory year – which will come to a close on the Feast of Corpus Christi 2021 – is, at base, a commemoration of the Truth that Jesus Christ is truly, really, sacramentally present in the Eucharist.  In holding to the reality of the True Presence, though, the Year of the Eucharist becomes more than a simple tribute.  It becomes a joyful, grace-filled opportunity for us as Catholics to understand our own identities.  By partaking in the sacraments, the Eucharist becomes a part of us.  Our Lord, present in the Most Holy Eucharist, is to be the center of our lives.  He is our very existence!

We are called to adore Jesus in the Eucharist, to invite Him into our hearts, and to allow Him to rest there with us.  And if we cannot do this while being physically present before the Eucharist, we can do this spiritually, interiorly, silently.  And this, brothers and sisters, this interior adoration of our Eucharistic Lord is surely pleasing to God.  May the words of the beautiful English hymn fill our hearts:  Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all!  How can I love Thee as I ought?  And how revere this wondrous gift, so far surpassing hope or thought? 

St. Paul’s Parish invites you during this Year of the Eucharist to explore the wonders of the Blessed Sacrament.  We will be including a weekly bulletin piece for you to meditate on the Church’s teachings about the Eucharist.  Let us pray to know God more fully and to love Him most purely by accepting our identity as a Eucharistic people.  Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore!  O, make us love Thee more and more!  O, make us love Thee more and more!

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Cardinal Seán O’Malley has announced a Year of the Eucharist to bolster the faith of those who already believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and to encourage those who struggle with this belief. Over the course of the next year, the Cardinal invites all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston to learn more about the Eucharist and to spend more time before the Eucharistic Lord, asking Him to reveal Himself to you.

Learn more at https://www.bostoncatholic.org/yearoftheeucharist.

Check back soon for more information about plans for the Year of the Eucharist at St. Paul’s.