"Not only do the priests offer the sacrifice, but also the faithful: for what the priest does personally by virtue of his ministry, the faithful do collectively by virtue of their intention."
Pope Innocent III, De Sacro Altaris Mysterio, c. 1200
Dear Parents, Students and Colleagues:
The following is an excerpt from Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s work entitled – Christus Vincit:
When we speak about the Eucharist, we have to focus on the essence of the liturgy, on the mystery of the Eucharist, and this is Christ, the living Christ, our Incarnate God, who is really living with his mind, his heart, his soul, and his divinity in the Sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist. But in this mystery, he is veiled, as his divinity was veiled when he walked on the earth with his people, teaching and speaking with them. Since he was so simple and looked like an ordinary man, though the fulness of his divinity was present in him, many people did not recognise him and rejected him - the Pharisees, and scribes, and others because of his humble appearance. St. Paul says of our Lord Jesus Christ: “He took the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. “ (Philippians 2:7)
In a deeper and more radical manner the same happens in the mystery of the Eucharist, which is an extension of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is continued because now not only is Christ’s divinity veiled by his humanity, but the Eucharistic species of bread and wine veil both the humanity and the divinity of Christ.
Christ is veiled, but he continues to be the same; he lives here on earth in the same reality of his Incarnation, but in a different mode. It is now a sacramental mode. His humanity in the Eucharist is already a glorified humanity, but the glorified humanity is real and can be touched. When Jesus rose from the dead he could be touched; he had a real body, a transfigured body. The same is true of the Eucharist: his real body, real soul, and the whole plenitude of his divinity are veiled under the appearance of a small piece of bread.
This presents a continuous challenge to our faith, our love. We are challenged to renew our love for the Incarnation, by continually exercising our faith when we see the consecrated host. This is our Incarnate God. Now he dwells among us even more deeply and more humbly and more mysterious, really, in the same realistic way that he walked on the earth, but in another mode. It is real; that is why we speak of the Real Presence. This is our faith: that under the veil of the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, the plenitude of our Lord’s humanity and divinity is present...
Faith in the Eucharist and faith in the Incarnation are inseparably linked. Thus, it is a continuous act of faith in the Incarnation, and in the supernatural because it is supernatural, because the divinity is so close to us. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist our Lord deigned to veil himself beneath these external, weak elements of matter. There is nowhere in the entire world, in the entire history of the world, in the entire universe, where God is so close, where the divinity is as close to his creatures, as in the mystery of the Eucharist.
This could only have been invented by love. The Eucharist is a divine invention. It could not have been invented by a creature, by anyone. He reserved this to himself because of his unending of love for us, and therefore this is the ‘sacramentum caritatis’ , and at the same time the Eucharist is the ‘sacramentum fidei’, the ‘mysterious fidei’. Love desires to be close to the beloved. There is no way to be closer to us, there’s no more humble, fragile, vulnerable, and defenceless way than the Eucharist.
It can only be an invention and a maximum expression of divine love towards us.
Through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus Christ says to us: “I love you. Not only do I want to be close to you, I want to enter into you through the Eucharist, into your body, into your soul, in the most profound way possible. I want to be united in your soul by my divinity, to visit you, to enter even into your body, and to sanctify you, to dwell in you. The Incarnate God not only dwelt among us on earth. He is now dwelling on our altars at the moment of consecration in the Mass and he is dwelling in the tabernacle... This is the Eucharist. This is love. There could not be a mode that was closer to us, more real and more “incarnational” than the Eucharist.
I have chosen to begin this New Year 2020 with a reflection on the Holy Eucharist. I have done so because it occurred to me as we celebrated our Advent Mass, which Cardinal Collins graciously offered for us, how important it is in holding together all that our faith calls us to believe and all that our school community represents. All benefit from this sacrament, a living and salvific action in time, including those who have doubts or don’t understand its essence and mystery. Further, it benefits even the non-believers as our commitment and devotion to the unifying sacrament of this sublime expression of thanksgiving, gives a strong testimony of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. This is the primary, on-going and ultimate end of a Catholic education.
It troubles me that educators in Catholic schools get so busy about the affairs of academia and athleticism that we don’t dedicate enough time to the essentials. This is understandable given our tendencies and inclinations. Let us try in this new year to focus or re-focus on what is most important in the building of community and the development of souls. I am convinced that the Eucharist provides this focal point.
I am hopeful that those who have fallen away from the Church for whatever reason, will feel drawn back to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Perhaps, giving yourself a challenge this year to go to Mass individually or as a family, is a good first step in rediscovering the nourishment we need. Let us never deprive our young people of this treasure because of our doubts and opinions. Martin Mosebach wrote concerning Pope Benedict’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum that “Against overwhelming opposition, he opened a floodgate. Now the water has to flow, and no one who holds the liturgy to be an essential component of the Faith can dispense himself from this task. The liturgy IS the Church.” The beauty of the various rites of the celebration of Mass enrich us and bring us closer to the love and mercy of Christ.
The liturgy, when celebrated with true devotion and beauty for God, is invincible in the face of fears, troubles and the catastrophes of our time, and of any time.
The words of St. John Paul II also are a good piece of advice we can all take to heart as we start another year – “Put aside a little time in the evening especially for praying meditating, for reading a passage of the Gospel or an episode in the life of some saint. Create a zone or desert and silence for yourself in that way."
As I write this reflection on the eve of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we ask our Blessed Mother to give renewed strength and vigour, especially to families. The family is under unprecedented assault, as is Christian marriage, and human sexuality. Later this year, we will, as a school community, rededicate our mission to Mary, the Mother of God, asking Her maternal protection and help. We lift up our hearts to our heavenly Mother, now and every day of the New Year.
"Reign over our men’s minds, that they seek only what is true; over their wills, that they will follow solely what is good; over their hearts, that they may love nothing but what you yourself love."
Pope Pius XII, Exercise of the Royalty of Mary, November 21, 1954.
Brother Domenic Viggiani, fsc