Second in a Series on the Reasons of the Eucharist
Fr. Albert Tesnière, S.S.S.
The Eucharist continues the admirable example given by the earthly life of the Incarnate Word.
Adore Our Lord Jesus Christ, truly and personally present and living upon the altar, and listen to the consoling words issuing from the depths of the Sacrament: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me does not walk in darkness." "I am the way, the truth and the life; learn of Me who am meek and humble of heart." "I have given you an example, that as I have done so you yourselves may also do." When Our Saviour said these words, He testified to one of the greatest blessings, one of the most important ends of His mission upon earth. Humanity had perverted the notion of natural virtues and it was totally ignorant of supernatural ones. Without the revelation of Christ, the Saviour, of the "holy One of God," who taught by His words and by His example the real idea and the perfect practice of virtues, the world would have continued to live in darkness, and to walk in the evil paths of moral corruption, soiled with all the infamy of paganism.
The idea of virtue taught by such clear words, and sustained by such encouraging examples as those given by the Incarnate Word, is therefore an immense boon. It is He who taught the world what the love of God is, what love towards our neighbor is; in fine, what are chastity, humility, patience, obedience, and all other virtues. By first practising them, the Saviour rendered them amiable and attractive; He counteracted by His example our repugnance against making any efforts. By rendering Himself the recompense of every act of virtue performed through love of Him, He has given to our combats in the cause of virtue such magnificent compensations that man has reached the point of joyfully embracing the greatest sacrifices that he may practise it.
The Eucharist perpetuates before the eyes of all generations the virtues of the terrestrial life of the Incarnate Word; it suffices to look at it, to know what faith teaches in regard to the Sacrament, in order to behold, shining in it, the most sublime, the most heroic virtues, those which come forth from the very Eucharistic state itself and seem to be the condition of it.
Who is it that remains in such a state of inertia in a poor tabernacle under such humble appearances? The all-powerful Man-God, the triumphant king. But, then, what poverty, what humility! Who is it that obeys the words of the consecrating priest; who is it that gives Himself to the prayers of the communicant? The King of kings, the sovereign Master! But, then, what ready obedience, what unreserved submission! Who is it that bears in silence the irreverence, the outrages, the sacrileges by which the Sacrament is daily attacked? The God of majesty, the God whom the angels adore in trembling! But, then, what heroic patience! Who, lastly, is it that gives the Eucharist with all its graces to all, always, and without end? The God that owes nothing to anyone, the Saviour who finished His task on earth down to the last iota. But, then, how sublime is His devotedness in the Sacrament! What charity, what forgetfulness of Himself!
Thus, all the virtues are taught and practised by the Saviour in the Eucharist, where He perpetuates in His sacramental life the teaching and the examples given during His human life.
Adore, then, Jesus in the Sacrament; praise Him and contemplate Him as the master of all virtues; penetrate your soul fully with this truth, which is one of the most important in regard to Eucharistic piety.
It would not be possible for you to meditate upon this consoling truth without your soul feeling itself to be penetrated with gratitude for the sweet kindness, the touching condescension of Our Lord. For if the teaching of virtues is absolutely necessary in order that we may comprehend them, is it not infinitely kind of Him to perpetuate, in the Sacrament, the virtues of His earthly life, so that all may see them there practised before them in all their perfection? Doubtless it is much to read of them in the Gospel, but is it not more efficacious still to see the practice of them continued in our presence?
And the examples are so striking that the most simple among us can easily understand them. The poverty of the tabernacles; the fragility of the sacred species; the silence and the patience observed by the Saviour in the Sacrament, where He is forgotten, where injuries are inflicted on Him, or where He is maltreated; the readiness He shows to give Himself to all of us, friends or enemies - all this is visible, accessible, palpable to everyone; it suffices to have the faith of the catechism which teaches that Christ, God and man, is present under the veils of the Sacrament. If He accepts and submits to all the conditions of such a state, poverty, patience, humility, sacrifices, it is evident that He wills them, that He has chosen and adopted them; these conditions are therefore virtues which He practises and of which He gives us the example. Therefore, there is nothing to do, in order to understand it all, but to place ourselves before the Eucharist, and to recall to mind the precept of St. Peter: "Behold and do!"
But His goodness, which places before our eyes such luminous and perpetual examples, does still more: it gives us the Sacrament itself as nourishment, which means that, by the Communion, we receive grace, strength, and the means of practising what is taught us. The Communion gives to the soul power to practise what has been taught us by example. The Master of virtues descends into us, unites Himself to us, practises His virtues with us; He gives us, by His presence in our souls, the power and the facility of virtue, of its sacrifices and of its combats. It is more than example, it is the divine strength infused into the depths of our soul, appropriated to our faculties. And as the Communion is offered to us all the days of our life, in all the situations in which we may be placed, it is therefore in an uninterrupted manner that the Eucharist communicates to us the grace of Christian virtues, even as it is without interruption that it shows us the examples of them.
Oh, abundance of the riches of our God, bestowed so lavishly in the Sacrament! Who is able to understand thee sufficiently in order to praise thee worthily?
Two thoughts ought to furnish reparation in regard to this subject. The first is that the example of the virtues of Jesus continued before our eyes so mercifully, and its succor so abundantly diffused in our souls, render our vices, our sins, our cowardice in doing what is right, our voluntary defects, incomparably more disfiguring, more guilty and more worthy of chastisement. To be what we are, in presence of what He is, and of what by His grace and His example He labors so perseveringly to render us - oh shame! oh horror! oh stupidity! How can we sufficiently despise ourselves?
The second source of reparation springs from so few Christians thinking of the virtues of Jesus in the Eucharist; nearly all of them neglect the treasure which Jesus offers us at the price of immense sacrifices imposed upon His glory, His honor, and His royalty. It is sad, painful, and lamentable that so great a masterpiece of wisdom and of love should be so ignored and so neglected. We cannot but deplore it for ourselves and for others, and take opportunity from it to compassionate the Saviour, "ignored by those in the midst of whom He lives," and so really too!
Let us ask for grace, and let us make the resolution henceforth to live in nearer and more loving relations with the Eucharist; to study in it the virtues of Jesus; to apply to them, in order the better to understand them, all that the Gospel relates of them; lastly, in the contemplation of the Eucharist, to derive from it examples of the virtues of our state; and on the reception of the Communion, the graces and succor necessary to reproduce in us these divine examples. May the Eucharist be to us indeed, "the way, the truth, the life!"
Never meditate upon a virtue without studying the way in which Jesus practises it in the Sacrament, and the help Holy Communion offers to us for the practice of it.