Monday, June 19, 2006

Mystery of the Eucharist

Corpus Christi, a relative late-comer in my acquaintance with the Church feasts, is one of my favorite feasts in the Church liturgical year.

Yesterday was the first Procession I ever saw and took part in Singapore. It was just a walk around the Cathedral, but it was good to see so many people—including young people—faithfully following the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. Even passers-by stopped and looked with wonder.

Mysterium Fidei
That little humble bread that is Jesus has intrigued me since the days when I was a child (from a not-yet-Catholic family), made to go to frequent Masses in the convent school I attended. When my friends went for communion prep classes, the non-Catholic kids were left behind in our classrooms to play on our own. When we went for Masses, the non-Catholic kids would be left behind in the pew during Communion. When we went through religious classes, several things/teachings were simply incomprehensible to the non-Catholics because we did not attend catechism. But the most intriguing part was when I saw my Catholic friends, teachers bow and kneel to receive the little white Host with reverence. It was mindblowing to see grown-up, imposing and strict teachers as well as my naughty classmates, humble themselves before a tiny piece of bread. I felt a curiosity, which grew into a longing for Somebody they told me was in the bread.

In religious ed classes, we were taught that in the Eucharist is the real body of Christ. It was one of 'opaque' things we non-Catholic kids encountered; just another teaching of the Church my teacher said was inspired by God. How can it be? How could the logical mind ever ascertain whether the transubtantiation taught by the Church really happened? There were Eucharistic Miracles, yes, but it was long after I believed that I heard about those miracles. The real miracle was the gift of Faith which made me believe in the Eucharist, and the ever growing love for it.

I once read somewhere somebody said that Jesus humbled himself to be present in a substance that is known to mankind as a staple nourishment. Another said that no, God made bread such that even a little child could instinctively know God by identifying Him as the ultimate nourishment, without which we'd die a death that is as certain as actual death.

In the Eucharist, God entrusts His body to weak men and women, subject to the elements and abandonment as well as abuses. Two years ago, I discovered the practice of Eucharistic adoration. It was not as instinctive as recognizing God in bread that we eat. Amazed by the stories of saints who kept themselves close to and drew strength from the Eucharist, I was slowly drawn and I am hooked!

I don't know how the exact process was; it seemed to start as simply as being more reverential to the Eucharist while receiving the Communion and a short visit to the Eucharist after masses. And almost without my participation, I became ever more conscious of the unworthy things these hands of mine have done. And through that fear and trembling whenever I approach the table of the Lord, I am slowly learning to overcome my reluctance of going to regular confessions because again, I get reminded what a wretched sinner I am at every Mass and how my sins defile the Body of Christ.

Stopping to reflect, it's been an amazing journey seeking for God in the Eucharist. In the eucharist we see God empty Himself; it is in the eucharist we learn about the God who gave all, and we aspire to give a little better in our daily work, a little more generous, a little more patient, a little more loving until the day where we can truly become What (and one with Whom) we ate.

With fear and trembling we approach the altar of grace, always sure we are not worthy, but trusting that our Lord gives strength to recognize Him in our daily work and to go through this exiled life until we are truly reunited with Him in our true patria.

Thank You, Lord, for the most wondrous gift of the Eucharist. Lord, I believe, do Thou increase my faith!

Update: Two wonderful articles reflecting on the gift of Eucharist.


J.T. said...

On reflection, I think that the feast day of Corpus Christi is also a day for us to take stock of our actions, thoughts and how we live our faith. According to St. Paul, we, as a Church, constitute the body of Christ. So are we indeed worthy enough to be called that? Are we worthy enough to be able to receive the gift of the Eucharist?

Antonia said...

I can't say for everyone; but I never felt more conscious of being unworthy than when queueing to go up for Communion. I think it is with a great amount of faith (as well as knowledge that we haven't committed mortal sins without repentance & confession) that we trust we are not drinking the cup of judgement.

The church is very lenient, IMHO, to give the Host to the faithful who are not conscious of having sinned mortally. If all of us need to be as pure as the first snow to receive the Eucharist, then only saints and holy souls will receive it, and that only after their death!