The Second Priestly Duty: The Holy Eucharist
Eighth Meditation - Why the Mass was lnstituted
I. Why do I believe? In considering the purposes our Lord had in mind when instituting this wonderful Sacramental Sacrifice I shall discover a further motive of credibility, and not the least of them.
First purpose: To convert every square foot of earth and sea into a Calvary purpled with the steaming Blood of the Lamb. O Lover of this our earthly dwelling, it did not satisfy Thee to shed Thy Blood on one Golgotha, it was Thy desire to turn the whole earth into a Golgotha and an altar of Thy Sacrifice.
The very words of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, in their original Greek recording, This is my body which is being delivered unto you, would seem
to indicate an actual mystical Immolation there and then. From that day onwards the Sacrifice of the Cross was to be made a living and actual reality among us every hour of the day and night, in every nation, in every spot on earth; so that we can say of this globe of ours: but a microscopic point lost in the unfathomable abyss of the heavens, and yet Christ has turned it into His most sacred Altar; because everywhere, even in the most hidden and distant corners, the earth is at some time or another being bathed in the Blood of the Victim sacrificed for our sins.
II. Second purpose: To establish the New Covenant: Novum Testamentum.
Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins. (Matt. xxvi, 28)In these words of the consecration of the chalice it is evident that Christ alludes to the rites with which Moses ratified the Old Covenant:
And he took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people, and he said: this is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words. (Exodus xxiv, 8)The Old Covenant was made for the observance of the Law - which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words; - the New Covenant was made for the sake of pardoning sins, in virtue of the Redeeming Blood: in remissionem peccatorum.
Moses shed half of the victims' blood upon the ground, and with the other half he sprinkled the heads of the Hebrews. Christ, not satisfied with shedding all His Blood on Mount Calvary, wishes to seal with It every soul that enters into His Fold by Baptism.
Every Communion, dear Jesus, is a seal, a hallmark, an additional witness before heaven and earth, that I am Thine. After so many Communions, what atom remains of my person, body and soul, that does not exhibit Thy mark, that does not evoke the covenant I made with Thee?
III. Third purpose: To erect a monument to the greatest of all achievements: Christ's Passion and Death, the divine work of the Redemption: Hoc facite in meam commemorationem.
For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come. (l Cor. xi, 26.)A monument that will last as long as the human race. It is so natural for the human heart to want to erect lasting monuments! What are those monoliths, menhirs, mausoleums, pyramids, obelisks, and statues in materials like granite, marble, and iron, erected in every age to kings, travellers, pioneers, and inventors, but the unquenchable human longing to etemalize an achievement, to perpetuate a name?
And what monument will the King of Kings erect to His enterprise, the world's Redemption? What materials will He choose? Marble of Paros? Bronze from the old Colossi? Stones from the eternal wonders of Egypt? . . . No, Christ's monument will be unique: His porphyry, His diamonds, His bronze, will be but a tiny consecrated Host - the meager appearances of bread and wine.
And the pyramids will crumble, and the colossi will be thrown to the ground, and the marble statues will turn into dust, and the monoliths will be buried by the sands of the centuries; and even if cataclysms should fail to consume them, there will be the implacable beat of the weather eroding and pulverising them all. But the Monument to the Death of Christ, with all its fragile appearances, remains; with the passing of the years and after every hour It becomes still more gigantic; each Consecration and Communion is a new ashlar that nothing will move.
IV. Fourth purpose: To infuse into my being the germ of a New Life, the life of grace, eternal life, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost - scriptural terms for divine grace.
A divine Germ that is immersed not only in the depths of the soul, sanctifying it and making it a child of God, but also in the flesh, which it saturates, depositing in every molecule of its corruptible nature the seed of immortality and glory. In fact, Christ attributes precisely to this Sacrament the resurrection of our bodies:
He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood . . . has everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. (John vi, 55)The Father gave to the Son to have Life in Himself and to communicate this Life to us through our contact with His Flesh glorified by Its union with the Word.
1. I shall consider Holy Communion the most vital of all my actions, and therefore, I shall keep my soul and body every day of my existence in the holy dispositions required for receiving worthily the Life-giving God.
2. I shall ask Christ's forgiveness for the meanness, due to my indolence and lack of faith, with which I have distributed to the faithful the Bread of the children of God - as though the Tabernacle keys were entrusted to me to keep that Bread in cold storage, as it were, instead of giving It out lavishly to all God's good children who ask for It and need It.
Jesus, I promise Thee I shall exhort everyone, in season and out of season, to receive Holy Communion frequendy, just as I myself receive It daily; and each day I shall be less inclined to judge myself a worthier child of God than the rest of the faithful.
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.
Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!