By Paul Fahey Thursday, August 29
You come to me and unite Yourself intimately to me under the form of nourishment. Your Blood now runs in mine, Your Soul, Incarnate God, compenetrates mine, giving courage and support. What miracles! Who would have ever imagined such!
– Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe
The Holy Eucharist is possibly the greatest distinguishing aspect of faith between Catholicism and other denominations of Christians, but do Catholics really understand the significants of this most blessed of Sacraments. I believe it was Dr. Scott Hahn who said something to the likes of “Protestants wait in the hallway not knowing what they are missing while Catholics sit at the banquet table not knowing exactly what they are feasting on.”
In any case, this will not be an apologetic on the Eucharist. Rather, I simply wish to reflect on the effects of receiving Holy Communion, namely, Eucharist as elixir and as nourishment. However, for one to need an elixir one must first be sick, or if one requires nourishment one must be in some way malnourished. In other words, we need to start with the problem.
What distinguishes homo-sapiens from the rest of the natural world is our rational soul. The rational soul is characterized by having an intellect and a will. Therefore, what makes us truly human is our intellect and our will. In the beginning, before the original sin of our first generation, our soul, our intellect and will, was directed perfectly to God. In other words, we lived in rightly ordered relationship with God. Because of this right relationship with God we also lived in right relationship with others, ourselves, and the rest of the natural world.
However, sin “bent” our soul, to the point that our intellect and will are no longer directed toward the Creator but rather toward creatures or toward ourselves. Thus, after the dawn of sin, we no longer live in right order, it is here that we find ourselves needing an elixir. Keeping this in mind, remember the prayer that we say at Mass before receiving Communion:
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
It is the Eucharist that slowly “bends” our soul back into right order with God. And as our intellect becomes more attuned to seeking the Truth and our will more desiring to do the Good, all of the other relationships in our lives slowly move back into right order. We are able to love not just our neighbors but our enemies. We are able to see ourselves as made in the image and likeness of God. We are able to live in harmony with the natural world. Not only are we being healed, but through us the cosmos as a whole is being healed. This Blessed Sacrament is truly medicine for the soul.
However, it does not end their, Christ promises us much more than a place back in Eden. In his homily on last Sunday’s readings, Fr. Barron said that the gateway to Heaven is indeed narrow, it’s shaped exactly like Christ. Jesus Himself says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved…” (John 10:9). Thus we need to be made into an image of Christ in order to be saved. However, this is not done by our own means but by God’s Grace. And what is a Sacrament but a physical sign instituted by Christ that gives grace?
It is here we again find the Eucharist, not only as medicine but also as nourishment. Real food that transforms us into that which we are consuming (and I’ll give you a hint, we’re not eating the body of Adam). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods” (CCC 460).
This is what Christ promises, inheritance in God’s Kingdom, adopted sonship, deification. And a principle means by which this is accomplished is Holy Communion, the means that Jesus chose to intimately unite us to Himself and to His entire body, the Church.
In other words, do yourself and the world a favor, and get your butt to Mass.
Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and catechist. He has a BA in Theology with minors in History, and Catholic Studies and is currently studying at the Augustine Institute for a MA in Theology.