lunes, 14 de julio de 2008

How To Approach The Blessed Sacrament, Part 1

Two news stories concerning the Blessed Sacrament have caught a lot of people's attention and generated enormous controversy in recent days: the first was the story of the University of Florida student who desecrated the Eucharist by stealing a consecrated host from Mass and holding it hostage for several days. The second is the story of the professor from the University of Minnesota Morris who has pledged to desecrate the Eucharist in support of the Florida student. It's a sign of how depraved a culture has become when this kind of behavior produces any reaction other than revulsion. There was a time, I am told, when civilized individuals were able to maintain respect for the ideas and beliefs of others, even if they did not personally agree, and turning up at a Mass to heckle and harass (as in the case of the Florida student), or to threaten to deliberately desecrate a religion's most sacred rites, would have been universally condemned. It seems the culture is unravelling faster than I thought.

Father Miguel Gonzalez of the Diocese of Orlando called for acts of reparation in response. As my own particular act of reparation, I thought it might be worthwhile to post the following excerpts from a reflection on the nature of the Blessed Sacrament and the proper dispositions with which one ought to approach it by one of the lesser-known Church Fathers, John Mandakuni, a disciple of the 5th century Armenian bishop St. Mesrob who later became bishop himself. This reflection is excerpted from a marvellous book of meditations entitled "Glimpses of the Church Fathers" by Claire Russell, which, I have been informed by John Powers at Scepter Publishers, has just been re-published in paperback. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a readable, non-academic introduction to the doctrine and spirituality of the Church Fathers.

... Did you know that when the Blessed Sacrament comes onto the altar the heavens above are opened and Christ descends and arrives, that the angelic choirs fly from heaven to earth and surround the altar where the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord is, and are filled with the Holy Spirit? ...

The Real Presence

I do not look upon it as simple bread, nor do I have or consider it be wine; for this wonderful mystery is invisible. Its power is spiritual, for Christ no longer visible has given us something spiritual in the Eucharist and in Baptism. We see the chalice, but we believe the divine Word, who says: This is my body ... this is my blood ... Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them (Matt. 26:26-28; John 6:54-58). With true faith we know that Christ dwells on the altars, that we approach Him, that we gaze on Him, that we touch Him, that we kiss Him, that we take Him and receive Him into our hearts, that we make ourselves on body, members and children of God (cf. 1 Cor. 10:17).

Son of man, take a look at your room and consider where you are, whom you are contemplating, whom you kiss, whom you are introducing into your heart. You will find yourself among heavenly powers. You will praise with the angels. you bless with the seraphim. You contemplate Christ, you kiss Christ, you receive and enjoy Christ, you are filled with the Holy Spirit and you are illuminated and continuously fortified by divine grace. Those of you who are priests are ministers and dispensers of the of this Blessed Sacrament: approach it with fear, guard it with anxiety, administer it in a holy way and serve Him with warmth; you have a real treasure; take care of it, and guard it with great awe ...

Keep your heart pure for the moment of Communion and do not neglect it from one day to the next. It is no effrontery to receive communion many times, with a pure heart, for with it you clean your soul and give it new zest more and more. But if you were unworthy and were to have something for which your conscience reproaches you and were to receive communion just once, this would be the death of the soul ...

(Glimpses of the Church Fathers, by Claire Russell, pp. 443-444. Copyright 1994. Reprinted with permission from Scepter Publishers, New York.)

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