Circular Letter: Summer 2024

“Living” the Eucharist with the Holy Angels

As our country celebrates the first National Eucharistic Congress in 87 years, we want to meditate on, renew and deepen our own Eucharistic spirituality with the help of the Holy Angels. In the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in Rome in October 2005, the Synod Fathers stated that “the Christian faithful need a fuller understanding of the relationship between the Eucharist and their daily lives. Eucharistic spirituality is not just participation in Mass and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It embraces the whole of life” (Propositio 39). First of all, we want to ask, what is the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Mass, what does the Church teach us? As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of Communion with the Lord’s Body and Blood. But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through Communion. To receive Communion is to receive Christ Himself who has offered Himself for us” (CCC 1382).

Participation in the Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion are not simply a weekly (or even better, a daily) event, a time set apart for worshipping God and then we get on with our “own” lives. No, the Eucharist should form, change and renew our whole life, our very being. Pope Benedict XVI taught,

The Eucharistic Sacrifice nourishes and increases within us all that we have already received at Baptism, with its call to holiness, and this must be clearly evident from the way individual Christians live their lives. Day by day we become “a worship pleasing to God” [cf. Rom 12:1] by living our lives as a vocation. Beginning with the liturgical assembly, the Sacrament of the Eucharist itself commits us, in our daily lives, to doing everything for God’s glory. (Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis = SCa, 79)

As His Mystical Body, Jesus takes us up in the Holy Mass into His worship of the Father, into His Sacrifice for the remission of sins. “The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the Incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 13). In Holy Communion, He gives His very Self to us, unites us to Himself, takes us into Himself, into His “being for God”, that we may learn to “love as I have loved you!” (Jn 15:12). Thus, the Holy Eucharist should change and renew our very being and the way we live, should make us authentic “Christ-ians”, bearing fruit in holiness of life, in a life lived for God’s glory, in a life of love. As “a mystery to be ‘lived’, it meets each of us as we are, and makes our concrete existence the place where we experience daily the radical newness of the Christian life” (SCa 79).

To “live” this mystery of the Holy Eucharist, we must participate in and receive it with proper dispositions, that we may be united ever more perfectly with Jesus and allow Him to transform and renew us in His new life of love. The first disposition which prepares us to participate fruitfully is of course a living faith. “The Church’s faith is essentially a Eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist. …Faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith” (SCa 6). When we approach the Lord’s Table with a conscious awareness of entering into Christ’s sacrifice, of going out to meet Him in His Word, on the Cross made present at the Holy Consecration and in Holy Communion, then He Himself will strengthen our faith and make it living, responding to our efforts with the gift of His Spirit. By faith we await the moment of Holy Communion with longing and love. By faith we enjoy these precious moments of intimate communion with Jesus, speak with Him from the heart and bask in His love.

Faith and Childlike Trust

Our holy Guardian Angel can help to awaken our faith and our love, if we consciously invite him at the beginning or before Holy Mass to pray with us, to open our minds for God’s word and our hearts for His love. Praying the Sanctus with our Guardian Angel and other Angels before Holy Mass, we enter already into their song of praise which they sing continually before the throne of God and the Lamb. “Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come!’” (Rev 4:8). As the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed, the Holy Mass itself is in fact a participation in the heavenly liturgy with all the Hosts of God about His throne, “a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors [Angels] of the heavenly army” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 8). That the Holy Angels cooperate in the Sacred Mysteries is expressed in the Roman Canon itself, as the priest prays, “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.” From this we see that the Holy Angels present the sacrifice of Christ to the Father, and bring blessings and grace back to men. Therefore, we want to be conscious of the presence of the Holy Angels during Holy Mass and pray and adore God with them.

Approaching Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist with the simplicity and loving trust of a child also disposes us to receive all the gifts God wishes to bestow on us in this Sacrament. We are all borne down (made old!) by worries and preoccupations. But just as in India, the Philippines and in other Asian countries, one leaves his sandals outside the door before entering the Church, so also we want to leave any disordered cares and concerns outside the Church door in order to be free to approach our Father as little children, to concentrate on and love Him alone, trusting He will care for all who are ours and for all our needs. Can we not trust Him who is All-powerful, All-wise, All-loving to give us who approach Him with confidence all that we need? “He who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?” (Rom 8:32). That is not to say He will take away all our trials and sufferings, for they are for our good and lead to the glory of heaven, for ourselves and those entrusted to us in God’s plan. But He will give us the strength and courage to bear them according to His will. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us!” (Rom 8:16-18). So already at the beginning of Holy Mass, let us surrender ourselves as little children into the Father’s hands.

And as Our Lord teaches, we do not want to approach the altar without having first reconciled with, or at least forgiven in our hearts, all those who have hurt or offended us, all of them (cf. Mt 5:25).  For the Lord has forgiven us (cf. Eph 4:32).

Purity, detachment and burning love

Imperative for receiving Our Lord fruitfully is purity of heart. Mary was the Immaculate Virgin who became the Ark of the Covenant, carrying the Incarnate Word in her womb for nine months. She is for us a model of purity, of bearing the Lord within, of holy fear of the Lord which does not want to offend God in anything. All sin is impurity, darkness, uncleanness. It is a disordered turning to and attachment to self or creatures, and at the same time a turning away from God. While it is clear that we may not approach the Blessed Sacrament in a state of mortal sin, we also want to purify our hearts of even venial sins, character faults and habitual sins in order to be fully open and ready to receive Jesus, to love Him with all our heart for His own sake. (Hence arises the importance of frequent Confession!) The more we realize who God is – All, and who I myself am of myself –a humble creature, the more we will fall in reverence before His Divine Majesty and Goodness, the more we will fear to offend Him, and the more we will thank Him for this great gift of the Holy Eucharist! The Holy Angels behold God face to face, and prostrate themselves before the Infinite God in the little white Host. They can and will mediate to us this holy reverence and gratitude, the realization that “we stand before the infinite Majesty of God, who comes to us in the lowliness of the sacramental signs” (SCa, 65). “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word…”

“Seek the Lord and you will find Him!” (cf. Deut 4:29). If we strive to detach ourselves more and more from disordered affections and desires, we will become free and empty; then the Lord will fill us with Himself and with His Divine Love! The Lord wants us to love Him with our whole heart, our whole strength, with all our mind and being (cf. Lk 10:27). This is not to say that we may or ought not to love our neighbor, our spouse or the beautiful creation around us. But these other loves must be rightly ordered, that is, we are to love others not along with God, but in God, for His sake. Then it is an ordered love. St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes, “Whosoever loves God aright loves all God’s creatures. Such love is pure, and finds no burden in the precept bidding us purify our souls, in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren (cf. 1 Peter 1:22)” (On Loving God, ch. 9). Thus we want to strive to meet the Lord with a purified heart and burning love, which burns away all disordered attachments.

But conversely, it is especially through the Holy Eucharist, as the source and summit of Christian life and all graces that our love is purified and elevated and ordered. “As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins. By giving Himself to us Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in Him” (CCC 1394). Then we will love creatures rightly and they will in no way impede our love for the Lord. To the contrary, we will have an even greater longing for the Lord and for His love, which so surpasses all other loves in this life!

Since Christ died for us out of love, when we celebrate the memorial of his death at the moment of sacrifice we ask that love may be granted to us by the coming of the Holy Spirit. We humbly pray that in the strength of this love by which Christ willed to die for us, we, by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, may be able to consider the world as crucified for us, and to be ourselves as crucified to the world…. Having received the gift of love, let us die to sin and live for God. (St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Contra Fab. 28)

Love seeking union

Love seeks union, and precisely this is what the Lord seeks in the Eucharist. He wants to give Himself, to unite Himself ever more intimately with us. And this should also be our longing: union with the Lord, to be one with Him through love! Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me, and I in him” (Jn 6:56). Holy Communion affords us the existential possibility to cultivate this real, living union of life and love with Jesus. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me” (Jn 6:57). At this time we do not want to be looking around or singing a communion song. We want to immerse ourselves in Jesus who has honored us with a visit, and pray to Him in the silence of our hearts.

The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant. (CCC 2563)

When Jesus enters our heart, therefore, this “place of encounter”, we want to be there with Him!

Put off the obligatory prayers as long as possible and converse with the Lord avidly and earnestly and enthusiastically like a child. This is what He likes to hear best.… Immerse yourself in His sight, His majesty and grandeur, now that this Divine Majesty makes Himself the prisoner of your love. (Mother Gabriele, An Instruction)

This intimate, loving communication with Jesus in the heart should not end with the end of Holy Mass. It should flow into life, into a loving consciousness of the presence of Jesus within me: when I awake in the morning, when I prepare breakfast or go to work, in the conversations I have with others, especially those of greater importance. Blessed Carlo Acutis (who died in 2006 at the age of 15 and was already beatified in 2020) writes, “Everyday I live Holy Communion as a constant dialogue with Jesus, an authentic hope. The Eucharist is my highway to heaven!” We want to speak with Jesus within us, and He in turn will speak with each of us personally, enlightening us in all our trials, concerns and challenges, in every good work and act of charity. This awareness of Jesus within can become habitual when we practice short but loving ejaculations, turning again and again to Him in our heart. We can say with gratitude, “For love of You who became Bread for me!” in every joy, in every trial, every sacrifice, every renunciation out of love. Mary is our model, she who kept all His words in her heart (cf. Lk 2:51) and said “Fiat” in every trial. In faith, in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, she was aware of Jesus’ presence within her, even after He had ascended to the Father.

Offering ourselves and being transformed by Christ

Jesus came as the model of all that is authentically human, as the model of the perfect man for our imitation (cf. Vat. II, Gaudium et spes 22). In the Eucharist He progressively unites and configures us more and more to Himself in all aspects of our being, to the glory of God. Pope Benedict writes, “The Church’s great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the Liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one’s life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world” (SCa 64). Already at the offertory, therefore, we want to unite ourselves consciously, our lives, work, sufferings and joys, to the sacrifice of Christ. We lay on the paten and place in the chalice ourselves and all who are dear to us, all for whom we should pray, the world, the Church, the Holy Father, Bishops and priests, so that at the Holy Consecration they may be mysteriously transformed by the sacrifice of Christ. Pope Benedict wrote,

There is nothing authentically human – our thoughts and affections, our words and deeds – that does not find in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the full.… Worship pleasing to God thus becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment of which is lifted up, since it is lived as part of a relationship with Christ and as an offering to God. The glory of God is the living man (cf. 1 Cor 10:31). And the life of man is the vision of God. (Cf. Saint Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., IV, 20) (SCa 71)

When we are consciously aware and prayerfully follow the mysteries being celebrated – the making present of the Crucifixion-sacrifice of Christ and the sharing in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion – God fills us with His grace and through the Holy Spirit transforms us more and more into the image of His Son.

“He who eats Me will live because of Me” (Jn 6:57). These words of Jesus make us realize how the mystery “believed” and “celebrated” contains an innate power, making it the principle of new life within us and the form of our Christian existence. By receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ we become sharers in the divine life in an ever more mature and conscious way. (SCa 70)

Participating consciously and prayerfully in the Holy Eucharist, we are gradually configured above all to the charity of Jesus. “As I have loved you, so you are to love one another” (cf. Jn 15:12). “Especially in the Eucharist: by sharing in the sacrifice of the Cross, the Christian partakes of Christ’s self-giving love and is equipped and committed to live this same charity in all his thoughts and deeds” (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 107). Indeed, “Eucharistic Communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 14). Thus we want not only to participate weekly or even daily in the Holy Eucharist, but also to make it a way of life, like Mary and with the holy Angels, to “live the Eucharist” in a life of love for God expressed in concrete charity for our neighbor, to God’s glory!


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