Fourteenth Conference on the Most Sacred Heart
Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer
In the consecrated Host, Jesus is really present under the species of bread. His divinity and His humanity, His body and His soul, His flesh and His blood: all are there as really, as truly, as substantially, as they are this moment in heaven. Within the little circle of that white Host is the human intellect, the human will, the human memory of Jesus. That old love with all its human and impassioned tenderness, which made Him weep over the children of Jerusalem because they spurned the gift of salvation He came to offer them, that old love is still there in the Eucharist throbbing and trembling in the same kind human Heart. The body which Mary cradled on her bosom that far-off Christmas night, the lips which breathed to the Magdalen, "Go in peace and sin no more," the eyes which rested lovingly upon the rich young man who turned from his high vocation, the hand which blessed little children and traced the mystic writing on the sand, the brow which bled beneath the crown of thorns, the members which yielded to the piercing nails, the gaping wound which told of a heart broken for the sins of men; all are there in the Host which abides ever in its tabernacle home.
When we kneel before the altar, the meek eyes of Jesus are fixed upon us as once they were upon Simon Peter. He reads our poor hearts and He knows if we love Him. With His human ears, He heard the cry of the penitent thief, "Lord, remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." With these same human ears, he hears every prayer that falters on our lips. "I will not leave you orphans," our Lord said to his apostles. He has kept His word. He has not left us, He is with us forever, to welcome our coming, to listen to our pleadings, to breathe sweet comfort to our weary souls.
There is never a moment that we may not speak to Him, heart to heart. "Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." We may take to Him the burden of our sorrows, we may confide to Him the secret of our cares. We may choose our own time, and we may linger in His Presence as our love inclines. If our hearts are cold and dry, and we know not what to say, He will take delight even in our silence. He loves us, therefore our mere companionship is a comfort and a joy to this Lover of human souls.
He is our chief Priest: we can confess to Him our sins, our shameful falls, our manifold transgressions, our humiliating weaknesses, our cowardly shrinkings from the claims of duty.
He is our Judge: before Him, we can examine, unblinded by self-love, our daily lives with all their hidden tendencies to the base things of earth.
He is our Father: trustful as little children, we can reveal to Him our most cherished hopes, our loftiest aspirations.
He is our Counselor: we can ask Him for light to guide us in the perplexing questions that demand from us prudence and decision.
He is our Good Shepherd: when we have strayed away from His loving care and have fed our hungry souls on husks of sin, we can return to Him in sorrow, assured of receiving from His blessed lips the kiss of pardon and peace.
He is our Spouse: He belongs to us, and we belong to Him. Dilectus meus mihi, et ego illi! "Neither is there any other nation so great that hath its gods so nigh unto them, as our God is present to us!"
He is our God: how completely, then, we can annihilate ourselves before Him, worshipping His infinite Perfections, acknowledging Him to be the Master, the Creator, the Lord of life and death - in a word, giving to Him the homage of our soul's profoundest adoration.
How can all this be explained, save by love? There are no obstacles that love cannot surmount, no chains that it cannot sever, no sacrifices that it cannot embrace, in truth, nothing is impossible to love. It requires a miracle for Jesus to be present in all the consecrated Hosts, and in every part of each Host: love works that miracle. It requires a miracle for a body to be without weight, color and extension: love works that miracle. It requires a miracle for flesh and blood to nourish a soul: love works that miracle. It requires a miracle to have the outward appearances of bread without the substance of bread, to have the species of wine without the substance of wine: love works that miracle. It requires a miracle for a human body to be placed at once in different positions, to be borne to the right and to the left, to be laid in linen folds and to be held up before the gaze of the worshippers, to remain in the chalice and to enter the breast of the communicant, but love works that miracle as well.
"Love is stronger than death," and the wounded Heart of Jesus is a victim of love. No wonder that He says by the mouth of His prophet: Deliciae meae esse cum filiis hominum. "My delight is to be with the sons of men." And even though they abandon and despise Him, wandering far into paths of sin, yet does He remain ever in the tabernacle watching for the return of His prodigal sons. This is the reason of the Real Presence in our midst.
The saints understood this. All, without exception, had an intense attraction for the Blessed Sacrament, finding their delight to be in Its presence. Saint Liguori recounts many touching instances of devotion to the Holy Eucharist. At one time for some reason, Saint Aloysius was forbidden to remain long in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. But whenever he passed before It, he felt himself so drawn by the sweet attractions of our Lord, that only with the greatest efforts could he tear himself away; and when constrained to de part he would cry: "O Lord! Let me go. O Lord! Let me go!"
There it was also that Saint Francis Xavier found refreshment in the midst of his arduous labors in India. During the day, he was engaged in traveling, preaching, instructing, visiting the sick and administering the sacraments. At times, indeed, he was so exhausted that it was necessary to support his weary arm while he baptized the Indian neophyte. Yet, at night, he was wont to pass hour after hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
Saint Francis Regis had the same tender love for Jesus on the altar. Ofttimes on finding the church closed, he remained at the door on his knees, exposed to the elements, and there he worshipped our God hidden in the Host.
How tender, above all, was the devotion of Saint Wenceslaus to the Blessed Sacrament! It was his custom to gather the wheat and the grapes to make, with his own hands, the wafers and wine to be used in the Holy Sacrifice. Even on winter nights he frequently sought a church to visit the divine Guest of the tabernacle. These visits, says Saint Liguori, enkindled in his fervent soul such flames of holy love, that this ardor imparted itself to his very body, taking from the snow upon which he walked, its wonted cold; for it is related that the servant who accompanied him on those nightly excursions suffered much from the rigors of the season. On one occasion the holy king, perceiving this, was so moved to compassion, that he ordered the attendant to follow in the foot steps; the servant obeyed and marvelous was the result, for at once a genial warmth was diffused through all his frame.
Oh, how dear every chapel should be to the Christian heart. It is our Lord's dwelling-place; there He remains day after day, to console, enlighten, protect and defend us, to nourish and strengthen our famished souls. Each sacramental shrine is the home and the heaven of myriads of angels who ever surround, like a faithful guard, our patient Eucharistic King. Why may not the children of men find likewise there a paradise of pure delights? Si scires donum Dei. "If thou didst know the gift of God."
O Faith! O Love! I draw near, and weep with angels in the shadow of Christ's altar throne. "Could you not watch one hour with Me?" That voice, trembling down the ages, gives its echo to the silence which lingers around the sanctuary. The generations of earth pass heedlessly by, unconscious of the Prisoner waiting there, bound by chains of love divine. Illumined by His grace, we have seen behind the veil which shrouds Him from the worldling's gaze. We have heard the pleadings of His Sacred Heart. We know His longings to repair the glory of His Father, we know His yearnings to reclaim the souls that stray in paths of sin.
"Behold this Heart which hath so loved men, that It has exhausted and consumed Itself to testify to them Its love." With these words sounding in our hearts, let us offer ourselves to our injured God as victims of reparation and of love. With generosity of spirit let us promise Him to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor with the holy joy of knowing that we do His ever blessed will, and that one day He will be our exceeding great reward.