Third in a Series on the Reasons of the Eucharist
Fr. Albert Tesnière, S.S.S.
The Eucharist Keeps the Remembrance of the Passion and Death of the Saviour alive in the World.
It is an article of faith that the Eucharist was instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ to perpetuate the memory of His passion and of His death, consequently of the love which made Him accept the one and the other for our salvation. "Do this for a commemoration of Me," the Saviour said when, as it were, annihilating under the appearance of bread and wine His body and His blood, and when burying Himself wholly in the shroud of the sacred species. St. Paul also said, according to the revelation which the Lord had made to him in person: "For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord until He come."
It is in fact a matter of great importance that the memory of the death of Jesus should always be kept alive amongst men, because only by the invocation of the suffering Christ and the application of the merits of His death can we be saved. Besides, death embraced for those whom we love being the greatest proof of love, Jesus, who knows that our hearts cannot be really gained except by His love, wills that the testimony and the manifestation which He gave of it in His passion should always be present before our eyes.
The Eucharist then ought to repeat to all men in all centuries that Jesus suffered and died for them. How does it accomplish this mission? By showing the death of Jesus every day, as is done in the holy Mass, where the priest calls down from the height of heaven, by the all-powerful words of the consecration, the living and triumphant Christ, and encloses Him, as it were, devoid of movement, devoid of speech, and devoid of life, in the inert bonds of the Eucharistic species. Is not then the divine Saviour in a state like unto death? He is here, under the Eucharistic veils, in the perfect possession of His life of Man-God; faith teaches us that since His resurrection Christ can no more die. But what is it, then, to possess life and not to be able to perform any exterior act, not to be able to give any sensible proof of it? It is to be in a state similar to death, to be in the condition like unto a corpse. Such is Jesus in the Sacrament; as such He appears and shows Himself. In order to comprehend it, it is only necessary to believe and to see; to believe that, beneath the veils of the Sacrament, the Son of God, made man, resides, and to see that there is no trace whatever of anything which we call life. Neither freedom of motion to go from one place to another, nor to fly from His enemies; nor speech by which to converse with His friends, or to call for help when He is profaned, nor power to perform any exterior action, not even the form, or human appearance, which enables us to distinguish a human being - nothing!
He is given up, as He was during His Passion, to the will of those who keep Him in custody; in the chains of powerlessness; nailed upon the cross, unrecognizable, to such a degree that even His friends might say with the prophet, "I have seen the consecrated host, and nothing, nothing whatever has permitted me to distinguish it from another." Could the Saviour better perpetuate the memory of His passion and of His death on Calvary than by this state of death?
Adore, then, in the Sacrament, this divine, patient victim, this meek, crucified one; never look at the sacred host without recalling to yourself Jesus crowned with thorns, nailed upon the cross and expiring for love of us.
In recalling to mind the passion of the Saviour, the Eucharist by that very fact recalls also the memory of the infinite love which led Him to embrace it, the sweet patience with which He bore it, and the merciful pardon which He bestowed upon His executioners and upon all sinners in general.
This love, which led Him to embrace the dreadful torments of His passion and the ignominious death of the cross, when He had in His power a thousand other means wherewith to satisfy the justice of His Father - do you not see that same love shine with added splendor in the Eucharist, where Jesus, without being obliged to do so, but spontaneously and only for our good, delivers Himself up to us forever, wholly, without reserve and without condition? Do you not feel His tender, loving kindness pierce like a sunbeam through a cloud, rendering the Sacrament so healing to the distractions of your mind, the coldness of your heart, the irreverence of your dissipated senses, the tepidity of your whole life? And does He not there pardon all who betray Him, maltreat and profane Him, as He did Judas in the garden, Peter in the court of the Pretorium, and His executioners on Calvary? The silence of the host, so meek and so humble, is a prayer which continues throughout the ages the sublime pardon of Calvary: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Take delight in and enjoy the loving kindness of the Sacrament, that you may understand and find delight in the loving kindness of Jesus in His Passion.
In order to be assuredly convinced that the Eucharist perpetuates the passion and the death of the Saviour, see if Jesus be not in it the victim of the same treacheries, of the same violence, of the same humiliations. The sight will excite in your souls that compassion which the Saviour so greatly desires to receive from those for whose sake He gave Himself up.
Treason: - is it not betraying the Eucharist as Judas did, if it be received with a soul stained with mortal sin? Is it not to betray it like Peter, if it be disowned in the practice of life, whether it be in presence of a mocking glance, or whether it be to avoid an injury or a sacrifice? Violence: - tabernacles profaned, hosts trodden under foot, given up to the sacrilegious treatment of infidels, pierced or covered with filthy spittle; did Jesus endure more than this in His Passion? Humiliation: - the smiles of the incredulous, the blasphemies of the impious, the ignorance of so many Christians; the ingratitude of so many others, the scandalous falls of certain of His friends. Ignominies: - the guilty negligence, the habitual irreverence, the carelessness and impropriety which border upon contempt and too closely recall to mind Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, the insulting genuflections of the Pretorium, the crown of thorns, and the reed; is not all this the Passion?
Henceforth let pious women still draw near and weep over the patient victim of the Sacrament; let Veronica wipe His face and lift Him up from His ignominy; let Simon help to carry His cross and let John stand at the foot of the cross; let Mary be there to compassionate Him and to suffer in her heart, through sympathy, all that He suffers Himself. The Saviour, continuing to endure the same Passion, is in need of the same sympathy.
The remembrance of the passion and of the death of the Saviour is holiness, is consolation, is strength, is salvation; but in order to be all this, it is requisite that the memory of it should be so profoundly impressed on the mind, so sufficiently present to the spirit, so powerful enough to attach us to Jesus Christ, as to make us hate sin and fly from the occasion of it.
It is in order to give to the mystery of His Passion all its efficacy that the Saviour perpetuates Himself in so loving a manner in the Eucharist. Ask the Sacrament, then, to produce in you this effect of its institution; ask it as the fruit of the Communion when you receive it, of the Mass when you assist at it, of the hour of adoration which you will do well often to renew, whilst feeling all its importance.
Apply, in your ordinary meditation, the circumstances of the Passion to the Eucharistic state of the Saviour, that you may derive more fruit from it.