Sunday, May 29; Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

  At the Eucharist we receive what we are, and we become what we receive.

                                                                                                                     --St. Augustine

We receive what we are; that is, the Body of Christ.   Was it not Augustine who also said that “He is nearer to us than we are to ourselves”?  And in “Holy the Firm” Annie Dillard writes that “We are held, held fast by love.”   It all speaks of the Mystery we honor this Corpus Christi Sunday; the mystery we receive and, mysteriously, are.

When studying Sacramental Theology, I was taught by the French Benedictine, Philippe Roulliard; a very wise monk and teacher who spoke Italian (the language in which the course was taught) with a very French accent!  He said something that left an indelible mark upon my understanding; that, in the Sacraments, we do not receive something we do not have.  Rather, we awaken to what already is present: the mystery and reality of God without whom we could not exist.   Such insight resonates in Augustine’s words written centuries before, that “we receive what we are”.  Such awareness feeds life with meaning, purpose and hope when taken to heart.   Was that not true for Jacob who, after he awoke from his dream, said:  “Truly the Lord is in this place, although I didn’t know it”? (Gen. 28:16)

In the Eucharist, we receive what we are, and we become what we receive.  With the help of grace and through a receptive nature, we become more and more conscious of what we behold within our hands and what is hidden within the substance of our lives.  This is what the Eucharist and sacramental life wants to awaken within our own flesh because the Christian life is all about waking up.  Yet, often we live asleep; ignorant and unaware of what already is.  We can spend a lifetime tossing and turning from the Truth; from a God who is ever close.

The sculptor Michelangelo believed that, when chiseling a block of marble, he was simply releasing the form imprisoned within the stone so the stone might become what it was already.   By chiseling at a formless block of marble he released its true nature and what it was destined to become.  I believe something similar happens to us by the Eucharist and within the sacramental life.  As Christ, the Bread of Life, is placed within our hands we, too, place ourselves within his so, like some master artisan, he might free us from the prison of self and bring to light our true nature; that form made in God’s Image and Likeness.  To receive what we are, and become what we receive.  In his book “Abandonment to Divine Providence” the Jesuit J. P. de Caussade uses the image of such an artist with a block of stone when describing what ought to happen in the Christian life.  He writes:

Each blow from the hammering of the sculptor’s chisel makes it feel—if it could—as if it were being destroyed.  As blow after blow descends, the stone knows nothing of how the sculptor is shaping it.  All it feels is the chisel chopping away at it…

We might ask it: “What do you think is happening to you?” And it might answer:  “Don’t ask me.  All I know is that I must stay immovable in the hands of the sculptor, and I must love him and endure all…

But what I do know is that his work is the best possible.  It is perfect. 

                                                                                     (p.82 “Abandonment to Divine Providence”)

May the enduring presence of the Eucharist continue to form us into what we already are and help us become what we receive from God; daily and with each breath.  

 

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

 

 

 
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