The Second Priestly Duty: The Holy Eucharist
St. John, the Priest's Model in his Dealings with the Holy Eucharist
I. Let us re-read St. John's Gospel and his other writings. So steeped was he in the profound mysteries of his Divine Master's Heart that, when he takes up the pen to relate the Life story of Christ, the very first thing that comes to his mind is Christ's Divinity: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John i, 1)
"With God" - from the Latin apud Deum - seems to have lost the force of the original Greek, where the preposition pròs before "Theón," means not only "with God" but also "in God," "within God," "towards God."
When St. John deals with the Eucharist, instead of relating Its institution in detail, as the three Synoptists and St. Paul do, he tells us, in Christ's own words, only the chief fruits of this Sacrament:
If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever;Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God! How truly this is fulfilled in the beloved Disciple!
. . . abideth in me and I in him.
. . . and I will raise him up in the last day. (John vi)
II. We should learn from St. John how to deal with Jesus Christ hidden under the Sacramental Species.
The essential purpose of the priest is to offer sacrifice. There is no priesthood without sacrifice. So the more perfectly we perform this essential duty the better priests we are, and the better priests we are the nearer our approach to the Holiness and Greatness of the Victim we offer and of the Father to Whom It is offered.
For the victims and oblations of old have vanished like shadows before the Light of the New Covenant, which, in abrogating them, substituted in their place the one Clean Oblation prophesied by Malachias (i, 11), Christ our God, the Holy One born of the Virgin Mary, the Divine Victim of our altars.
To offer this Divine Victim is the essential reason for my priesthood, my first ministerial duty, my sublimest occupation, and, I may well add, the primary purpose of my existence on earth.
Is my life adjusted to the requirements of this, my lofty destiny?
III. Why not examine today, at this moment, quite leisurely, the daily treatment which my Lord Jesus Christ, Victim and Sacrament, receives at my hands? Is there nothing on my conscience that puts me to shame? . . .
What was the secret of that poignant sorrow in the Heart of the Saviour at the Last Supper? What disturbed Him most? He trembled, perhaps, not so much at the vision of the agony of His impending Passion and death with all the scourgings, crown of thorns, and nailing to a cross, as because He saw, with infinite dread, that from that hour, having instituted for all ages the Sacrament of His love, He had given Himself into the hands of His priests.
From the gentle hands of His Mother, which had fondled Him in infancy and boyhood; from the hands of His Aposdes and Disciples, who with all their uncouthness were fundamentally good and loved Him sincerely; from those hands He passed into the hands of so many, many priests, some of whom were to imitate the traitor Judas. And alas! He saw Himself surrendered to my hands, these hands of mine, perhaps soiled, maybe even cynical!
Not the least of Thy torments, dear Lord, to which Thy love constrained Thee!
Solicitous and loving concern for everything that relates to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, especially within the church, will henceforth be classed as one of my chief acts of piety, and will receive the same measure of careful attention which I expect from those who look after my personal and priestly belongings.
If I do this, I shall have every right to proclaim before the assembled congregation, when purifying my fingers at the Offertory, the boast of the psalmist: Domine, dilexi decorem domus tuae, et locum habitationis gloriae tuae (Ps. xxv, 8): Lord, how well I love thy house in its beauty, the place where thy own glory dwells!
Let the faithful learn from my example that the very first act of Christian piety looks towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!
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!