Meditating on the Blessed Sacrament
Adoration of the Eucharist is the peak of creation. What did John see when taken up to heaven? He discovered worship – pure, undefiled, total worship. All the host of heaven, the saints and angels, bowed down in worship, in wonder and adoration of God. “They fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen’” (Rev. 7:10-12). This too is our experience. Heaven is not some place far off. Heaven is here, in the kingdom where we live. Though our eyes are cloudy and we cannot see, we too stand at the same place as the angels. We too are one with heaven adoring God, for here in the Blessed Sacrament is God, forever and ever.
Adoration of the Eucharist is the summit of life. Do we comprehend the Eucharist? Can we even begin to understand our Lord’s words, “Take and eat; this is my body,” and, “Drink from it, all of you, this is the blood of the covenant” (Mark 26, 26-27)? In our Gospel today, Christ told us, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him…he who eats this bread will live for ever” (John 6:56-59). St. Augustine explained that when Christ held the bread in his hands, he held his body that hung on the cross.
St. John Chrysostom marveled saying: “This Fountain [of the Holy Eucharist] is a fountain of light, shedding abundant rays of truth. And beside it the angelic powers from on high have taken their stand, gazing on the beauty of its streams, since they perceive more clearly than we the power of what lies before us and its unapproachable dazzling rays.” The angels have never sinned. They worship God in utter purity. Yet, the angels do not dare to approach the Eucharist. Only the adopted sons of God may approach. We touch the Eucharist. We consume the Eucharist. Do we know what we are doing?
St. John continues, “The wise men adored this body when it lay in the manger…they prostrated themselves before it in fear and trembling…. Now you behold the same body that the wise men adored in the manger, lying upon the altar…you also know its power. How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.” This is the gravity of what we do when we come to church.
We are celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi. What can you even say in light of this holy mystery, the Blessed Sacrament? Every word falls short. We can simply adore.
It is too easy for us Christians to loose reverence for the Eucharist. The human soul is a wonder. Angels tremble at sight of the Eucharist, but we can pop it in our mouths with as little thought or reverence as if we were eating lunch on the go. We must learn, little by little, to change our hearts. In fact, our whole life as Christians is little more then this, to simply learn to adore God in the Sacrament.
In every Orthodox prayer book, there are prayers to be said before and after receiving the Eucharist. In most traditions in our Church, it is required that we pray these every time we commune. In our archdiocese, they are merely suggested. Each individual has to work out one’s own unique prayer rule with one’s confessor. However, all of us need to spend some time each week meditating on the Eucharist, and preparing our heart for this holy supper.
I want to take a minute to look at these prayers. One of these prayers is by St. Bonaventure:
“O fairest Lord Jesus, transfix the affections of my inmost soul with that most sweet and healthful wound of thy love.” In Latin, the prayer reads: “Transfige…medullas et viscera animae meae…” Transfige, or ‘transfix,’ is not a word that you hear every day. It means to ‘pierce’ or ‘impale.’ Furthermore, the translation, ‘the affections of my inmost soul’ does not quite do credit to the latin. Medullas more closely means ‘bone marrow’ and vicera animae meae can be translated ‘the tender place of my soul.’ One commentator writes, “unlike the conventional ‘heart and body,’ medullas and viscerae denote hidden, intimate and vulnerable parts of the human anatomy…strict body/soul dualism is exploded by the ‘embodiment’ of the soul, lost in translation.’ In this prayer, we are begging God to impale the very bone marrow and the most tender places of our body and soul. Further on, the prayer continues, “Let me ever desire thee, and faint for thy courts, and long to be dissolved and to be with thee.” We pray that God floods through us, melts us, into His consuming love.
As the prayer continues, it reads: “Grant that my soul may hunger after thee, the Bread of Angels, the Refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super-substantial Bread, who hast all sweetness, and every pleasurable delight.” We often say, “I don’t love God the way I know I should.” In this prayer, we are asking God to pierce into the depths of our desires, to rebuild us so that we can love and want Him the way He loves and wants us.
Another famous Eucharistic prayer is commonly known as the Rhythm of Thomas Acquinas. You will all recognize it:
Humbly I adore thee, Deity unseen,
Who thy glory hidest ‘neath these shadows mean;
Lo, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
Transcend as it beholds thee shrined within the cloud.
Jesu, whom now veiled I by faith descry,
What my soul doth thirst for, do not, Lord, deny,
That thy face unveiled I at last may see,
With the blissful vision
Blest, my God, of thee.
The prayers of the Church are powerful because they were written by the saints closest to God. They understood the soul and the needs of the soul. When we pray these prayers, again and again, the coldness in our hearts begins to thaw.
We must become adorers of the Holy Eucharist. We must learn to contemplate the Eucharist, to wonder at the Eucharist, to approach the Eucharist with joyful trembling. Our life is fulfilled by simply adoring this Sacrament. By doing so, we will be saved.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.