Tag: Eucharist

Seven Ways To Deepen Our Relationship With God

Seven Ways To Deepen Our Relationship With God

Having a good relationship with God is the greatest thing that can happen to any Christian but sometimes we may not even know what nor how to go about it. Here a few steps that can help us draw closer to God.

1. Seek Humility

Humility is to the spirit what material poverty is to the senses: the great sanctifier.  Humility is the first step to sanity.  We can’t really see – much less love – anyone or anything else when the self is in the way.  When we really believe in our own sinfulness and irrelevance, many other things become possible: repentance; mercy, patience, forgiveness of others.  These virtues are the basic stones of that other great Christian virtue: justice.  No justice is ever achievable in a spider’s web of mutual anger, recrimination and hurt pride.

2. Cultivate Honesty

Absolute honesty is only possible for a humble person. The reason is simple.  The most painful but important honesty is telling the truth to ourselves about our own intentions and our own actions.  The reason honesty is such a powerful magnet is because it’s so uncommon.

Contemporary life is too often built on the marketing of half-truths and lies about who we are and what we want.  Many of the lies are well-intentioned and not even very harmful — but they’re still lies.  Scripture praises the honest woman and man because they’re like clean air in a room full of smoke.  Honesty permits the mind to breathe and think clearly.

3. Seek To Be Holy

Holy does not mean nice or even good, although truly holy people are always good and often – though not always — nice.  Holiness means “other than.”  It’s what Scripture means when it tells us to be “in the world, but not of the world.”  And this doesn’t just miraculously occur.  We have to choose and search for holiness.

God’s ways are not our ways.  Holiness is the art of seeking to commit all of our thoughts and actions to God’s ways.  There’s no cookie-cutter model of holiness, just as piety can’t be reduced to a specific kind of prayer or posture.  What’s essential is to love the world because God loves it and sent his Son to save it, but not to be captured by its habits and values, which are not godly.

4. Pray

Prayer is more than just that portion of the day when we advise God about what we need and what he should do.  Real prayer is much closer to listening, and it’s closely tied to obedience.  God surely wants to hear what we desire, love and fear because these things are part of our daily lives, and he loves us.  But if we’re doing the talking, we can’t listen.  Note too, that we can’t really pray without humility.  Why?  Because prayer demands us to lift up who we are and everything we experience and possess to God.  Pride is too heavy to lift.

5. Read

Scripture is the living Word of God.  When we read God’s Word, we encounter God himself.  But there’s more: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Georges Bernanos and so many others – these were deeply intelligent and powerful writers whose work nourishes the Christian mind and soul, while also inspiring the imagination.  Reading also serves another, simpler purpose: It shuts out the noise that distracts us from fertile reflection.  We can’t read The Screwtape Letters and take network television seriously at the same time.  And that’s a very good thing.

By the way, if you do nothing else in 2019, read Tolkien’s wonderful short story, Leaf by Niggle.  It will take you less than an hour, but it will stay with you for a lifetime.  And then read C.S. Lewis’ great religious science-fiction trilogy – Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.  You’ll never look at our world in quite the same way again.

6. Believe and Act.

Nobody “earns” faith.  It’s a free gift from God.  But we must be willing and ready to receive it.  We can discipline ourselves to be prepared.   If we sincerely seek truth; if we desire things greater than this life has to offer; and if we leave our hearts open to the possibility of God — then one day we will believe, just as when we decide to love someone more deeply, and turn our hearts sincerely to the task, then sooner or later we usually will.

In the real world, feelings that last follow actions that have substance.  The more sincere we are in our discipleship, the closer we will come to Jesus Christ.  This is why the Emmaus disciples only recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the bread.”  Only in acting in and on our faith, does our faith become fully real.

7. Nothing is more powerful than the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist in leading us to the God we seek

God makes himself available to us every week in the confessional, and every day in the sacrifice of the Mass.  It makes little sense to talk about the “silence of God” when our churches are made silent by our own absence and indifference.  We’re the ones with the cold hearts – not God.

He’s never outdone in his generosity. He waits for us in the quiet of the tabernacle.  And he loves us and wants to be loved completely in return.

The best form of receiving the Holy Eucharist; mouth or hand?

The best form of receiving the Holy Eucharist; mouth or hand?

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Reception of Holy Eucharist

The “Sacrament of Unity,” the Eucharist, demonstrates great diversity. In its celebration, ritual families from Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, Armenia, and Rome make their own unique cultural contributions. Indeed, the “mystery of Christ is so unfathomably rich that it cannot be exhausted by its expression in any single liturgical tradition” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1201).

Within these traditions, the faithful may receive Holy Communion in a variety of ways. In the Latin Church alone, legitimate options include the communicant’s posture of standing or kneeling. In addition, the minister may distribute the Blood of Christ directly from the chalice, by intinction (dipping the host in the Precious Blood), or—even if not customary for most Catholics—“by means of a tube or a spoon” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal[GIRM] 245). The consecrated host can also be received in multiple ways, “either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant” (GIRM 160).

Communion in the hand, while relatively new to today’s Latin Church, is acknowledged as an “ancient usage” by the Holy See (see the 1969 Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship’s Memoriale Domini, “Instruction on the Manner of Distributing Holy Communion”). The U.S. bishops, in their Vatican-approved norms on the distribution and reception of Holy Communion, invoke the oft-cited remarks of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 368):

When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost. 

Despite the “ancient usage,” however, and even within the boundaries of the current discipline, the Church has made clear that Communion on the tongue is the preferred practice. (Consider especially the entire 1969 text of Memoriale Domini, as well as Pope John Paul II’s 1980 Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae 11). The Church’s preference for Communion on the tongue is nearly always justified by notions of reverence, devotion, humility, respect, adoration, and decorum. And while Pope John Paul II acknowledges those “who, receiving the Lord Jesus in the hand, do so with profound reverence and devotion” (Dominicae Cenae 11), permission for Communion in the hand is accompanied by warnings of potential disrespect, profanation, weakening of Eucharistic faith, and indifference.

But more needs to be said about these connections between the manner of reception and potential reverence or abuse. Potential for abuse is often not sufficient reason to forego a valid option. Instead, a positive theology for reception of Communion on the tongue is more helpful. Why, for instance, might Communion on the tongue help one’s Eucharistic faith, increase devotion, and better express one’s love to Jesus in the Sacrament? Conversely, whydoes receiving Communion in the hand risk profanation, weakened belief, or signify a possible lack of Eucharistic faith? Indeed, I have received Communion in the hand many times and should like to think I am among those mentioned by St. John Paul II who receive “with reverence and devotion.” Similarly, reception on the tongue does not necessarily guarantee fidelity and a grace-filled spiritual life. Still: how can I more clearly understand the Church’s preference for Communion on the tongue and, more importantly, how can I benefit spiritually from this preferred practice?

Whether receiving Communion on the tongue, in the hand, or each way from time to time, every communicant should reflect upon how the outward manner of reception expresses and fosters his or her Eucharistic faith.

The Passive Action of Communion

An ancient maxim of the Church teaches that “the law of prayer is the law of belief” (lex orandi, lex credendi). Belief and prayer—and prayer and belief—are integrally connected to one another. We pray, for example, in the name of the Father and of Son and of the Holy Spirit because we believe that God is one substance in three persons. Similarly, our belief that Jesus is truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament is deepened by humble prayer on our knees during periods of adoration (See CCC 1124 and Pius XII’s Mediator Dei 46-48).

This liturgical law clarifies the Church’s discipline regarding the reception of Holy Communion. Like most things liturgical—words, music, postures, time, ministers, architecture—the manner of receiving Communion should be understood and carried out in light of our belief. Our reception—whether on the tongue or in the hand—ought to reflect our Eucharistic faith and, at the same time, foster that same faith within us and in the Church.

So, what does the Church, and we as her members, believe about Holy Communion? While there are many (perhaps innumerable) dimensions to receiving the Eucharist, I find three particular notions enlightening to the question of Communion in the hand or on the tongue.

  • First, in Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 

“On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church,” the late pontiff offers a remarkable comparison between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Communicant. “There is a profound analogy,” he says, “between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived ‘through the Holy Spirit’ was ‘the Son of God’ (Lk 1:30-35). In continuity with the Virgin’s faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine” (55). He goes on to liken Mary to a tabernacle—“the first ‘tabernacle’ in history” (ibid.).

If there is a lesson for the communicant, it is that, like Mary, our reception of Jesus is characterized by lowliness, humility, and docility.

  • A second consideration of Eucharistic Communion stems from the texts of the Roman Missal. At the end of the preparatory rites prior to the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest commands us to “Pray that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”

This notion of sacrifice, says Pope Benedict, is “a concept that has been buried beneath the debris of endless misunderstandings” (The Spirit of the Liturgy 27). While it is tempting to think of “sacrifice” as essentially pain, loss, suffering, and deprivation, at its heart sacrifice is union with God, divinization, and “becoming love with Christ” (76).

Consequently, if Eucharistic Communion is the fruit of Christ’s—and our own—sacrifice, that is, his action of selfless turning to the Father, our manner of reception likewise needs be characterized by our heartfelt desire to unite to God our entire freedom, memory, will, and all we possess (“Prayer of Self-Offering,”* St. Ignatius of Loyola, found in the Roman Missal).

Finally is the amazing insight of St. Augustine. Recounted by Pope Benedict in his exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, “Augustine imagines the Lord saying to him: ‘I am the food of grown men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall be changed into me.’ It is not the Eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it” (70).

If we believe that this “mysterious food” (ibid.) has the power to change us—if we believe as St. Augustine and Pope Benedict believe—our manner of eating must signify such belief. Eucharistic food is “not something to be grasped at” but is received with humility and obedience (Phil 2:7-8). Only then will we be, like Christ, “highly exalted” (Phil 2:9).

The three above reflections offer a number of common elements relative to Eucharistic Communion: humility, docility, fidelity, selflessness. Which manner of receiving (the lex orandi) best expresses and fosters these truths (the lex credendi)?

Even though, as Pope John Paul acknowledges, Communion in the hand can be carried out with reverence and devotion; and even though reception on the tongue is no guaranteed symbol of fidelity and humility; Communion on the tongue is, all things being equal, the most suitable manner of reception.

In certain cultures, including our own, the bride and groom often receive from the hand of the other a piece of wedding cake at the wedding banquet. When done with love and devotion and faithfulness, the small gesture signifies not only the care one pledges to the other, but also the concern a vulnerable spouse can expect from the other. At the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, our humble reception of the fruits of his saving work likewise show our devotion to him, our Spouse, and express our abandonment into his care.

The Power of Eucharistic Preaching

The Power of Eucharistic Preaching

Homily for the Eucharistic Gospel Sequence, Year B

The Jews gossiped about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven, “
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop gossiping among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever has faith has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

-John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

-John 6:41-51

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were hearing him said,
“This saying is hard; who can adhere to it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were gossiping about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the start the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”
Consequentially,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer followed him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter replied him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are made to believe that you are the Holy One of God.”

-John 6:60-69

Who is the best preacher of the faith? Various people have different thoughts about the homiletic style and content of various priests. But one thing is certain: our Savior must have been the best preacher ever. After all, he asserted without hesitation, “I am the Truth.” That would have to mean, if nothing else, that his preaching was as impeccable as he was!

Of course, there are those among the clergy and the laity who are able to find fault even with a homily given by Truth himself. Go figure. But what is the variation between Our Lord’s perfect preaching and his hearers’ very imperfect reply to his preaching? We can see the answer in the model homily and dialogue given here.

The power of preaching is in attraction to the person of the preacher and his message. If his hearers are badly disposed to him or suspect him or, even more, are simply afraid of him, they will not accept his teaching. As any seasoned preacher will tell you, you cannot make people like you or made to believe  them by verbal persuasion alone. Something else has to happen first. We have been told by psychologists over and over again that most of human communication is nonverbal. The good preacher keeps this in mind and accepts from the outset that his words alone will not suffice to do the good he intends in preaching. Something else has occur.

We are drawn by things that give us joy. Attraction is based on the expectation of a delight or a pleasure or a peace in coming close to the one to whom one is attracted. So when Our Lord tells the Jews to stop gossiping among themselves about his well known and humble origins and lack of power, he does not stop them; rather, he simply says both the beginning and the end of his work. First, that no one comes to him unless the Father draw him (that’s the beginning and encouragement of the work) and once he is effectively drawn, he will be raised up on the last day (that’s to enjoy eternal bliss, the bliss the Son sent by the Father came to give us).

This is the difficult truth: openness to the message of salvation is a sign of God’s effective grace to save us. Hardened, murmuring hearts are a sign that the hearers are not at all— or at least not yet—on the way to heaven. These Gospel passages we have been hearing in the last few weeks teach us this clearly: for this discourse on the Bread of Life is the point at which the Savior starts to lose some disciples, who follow him no more because they cannot accept his teaching.

If the bread from heaven “containing in itself all sweetness” does not attract and delight you, then you will not accept the Lord’s teaching. The only way to overcome such a spiritual dullness is by a powerful grace whereby the Father draws us to the Son. Twice now in his Eucharistic discourse in this sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, Our Lord has told us that without the Father’s drawing we cannot come to him.

This is a very touching truth, for if we want the bread of life, if we are attracted to the Blessed Sacrament, then it means that the eternal Father is drawing us through love for his Son. This goes for all the truths of the Faith that have been showed to us through Christ: we acknowledge them because we love him, because we are drawn to him by a faith informed by charity, a faith that, as St. Paul says, works through love.

Can’t we hear the accents of love in the words of St. Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go [you who are so loveable, attractive, magnificent, beautiful, powerful!]? You have the words of everlasting life [which I accept because I have been drawn to you so as to be raised up on the last day]!

And this truth have another consoling truth: if we know someone who is not attracted to the Savior and his gifts, our job is to pray for him and show him love. We can leave the verbal persuasion to that happy day when he starts to be drawn to Jesus by the working of grace. Prayer and loving presence first, and then the words will follow.

Is this not particularly the technique of the Savior, the greatest of preachers, who day and night lives in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, loving us and “ever living to intercede for us” without speaking a word. The silence of the sacrament is the greatest homily of all, the most loving and everlasting “non-verbal” communication of the Truth himself.

Is the Eucharist a miracle?

Is the Eucharist a miracle?

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Eucharist as a Miracle – A bleeding Host

Date of Eucharistic miracles

 In Christianity, a Eucharistic miracle is any miracle involving the Eucharist.

In general, reported Eucharistic miracles usually consist of unexplainable phenomena such as consecrated Hosts visibly transforming into myocardium tissue. This was being preserved for extremely long stretches of time, surviving being thrown into fire, bleeding, or even sustaining people for decades.

Verification of Eucharistic miracles often depends on the religious branch reporting the supposed miracle, but in the case of the Catholic Church, a special task-force or commission investigates supposed Eucharistic miracles before deciding whether they are “worthy of belief.

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Eucharist Cups and Host

Supposed “Eucharistic miracles” are often pointed to by Roman Catholics as evidence for the “real presence” and/or transubstantiation in the Eucharist. Most of the claimed Eucharistic miracles involved one or both of the elements miraculously being turned into literal blood or literal human flesh. Some of the reputed events are as follows:

Sienna, Italy – August 17, 1730: Consecrated Hosts remain perfectly preserved for over 250 years. Rigorous scientific experiments have not been able to explain this phenomenon.

Amsterdam, Holland – 1345: The Eucharist thrown into fire overnight miraculously is miraculously unscathed.

Blanot, France – March 31, 1331: The Eucharist falls out of a woman’s mouth onto an altar rail cloth. The priest tries to recover the Host but all that remains is a large spot of blood the same size and dimensions as the wafer.

Bolsena-Orvieta, Italy – no date specified: A priest has difficulties believing in the “Real Presence,” and blood begins seeping out of the Host upon consecration. Because of this miracle, Pope Urban IV commissioned the feast of Corpus Christi, which is still celebrated today.

The Roman Catholic Church has connected many so-called miracles to what they call the “Presence” (the actual body of Jesus Christ) in the “Host” (the piece of bread taken as communion). This teaching, called “transubstantiation,” is absolutely not biblical, even though scriptural references are applied—misinterpreted and out of context—to support it.