This Sunday is Corpus Christi—Body of Christ—Sunday, the Body of Christ experienced particularly in the Eucharist (Communion). Now, you may have noticed that the Eucharist is a gift that we cannot give to ourselves at home. It can be argued that it is the reason that we gather in church. We gather in church, as Church, because God “assumed” a human body, now shared in the Church, in a special way, in the Eucharist. Of course, Jesus shares with us his entire self.
Corpus Christi is perhaps most profoundly captured in Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life in John’s gospel chapter 6 (verse 51): I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. Jesus’ declaration is a bit overwhelming if taken more than symbolically. It prompted many of the disciples in his hearing to part ways with him. In this part of the Universal Church, we take it more than symbolically. Indeed, a mysterious gift is bestowed, a gift that communicates to us divine love. Divine love makes of us Sisters and Brothers, the Mystical Body of Christ. We do well to give thanks.
St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) writes beautifully about this gift.
O precious and wonderful banquet,
that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness!
Could anything be of more intrinsic value?
…Here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food.
What could be more wonderful than this?
No other sacrament has greater healing power;
…the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.
It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead.
…In the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament,
in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source,
and in which is shared that surpassing love for us
which Christ reveals in his passion.
It was to impress the vastness of this love
more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful
that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper.
In thanksgiving with you for this gift,
Dearest Parishioners and Friends,
On this Trinity Sunday, I offer to you a most beautiful prayer, composed by a young French Carmelite nun, Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity (+1906)-declared "Blessed" in the Roman part of the Church. Pray it during the week. Print it perhaps, and post it somewhere it might be a prompt to pray, or tuck it into your purse or wallet....
In the name of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in you, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from you, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of your mystery! Pacify my soul! Make it your heaven, your beloved home and place of your repose; let me never leave you there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and entirely given to your creative action.
O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, would that I might be for you a spouse of your heart! I would anoint you with glory, I would love you - even unto death! Yet I sense my frailty and ask you to adorn me with yourself; identify my soul with all the movements of your soul, submerge me, overwhelm me, substitute yourself in me that my life may become but a reflection of your life. Come into me as Adorer, Redeemer and Saviour.
O Eternal Word, Word of my God, would that I might spend my life listening to you, would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from you; in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, may I ever keep my eyes fixed on you and abide under your great light; O my Beloved Star, fascinate me so that I may never be able to leave your radiance.
O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend into my soul and make all in me as an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to him a super-added humanity wherein he renews his mystery; and you O Father, bestow yourself and bend to your little creature, seeing in her only your beloved Son in whom you are well pleased.
O my `Three', my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in whom I lose myself, I give myself to you as a prey to be consumed; enclose yourself in me that I may be absorbed in you so as to contemplate in your light the abyss of your Splendour!
Dearest Parishioners and Friends,
This Sunday is Pentecost (from the Greek for fifty). Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit in manifest fashion. "The disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and...divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them." (Acts 2:1-3). Quite a sight! Quite an experience!
We are invited to receive and experience this Holy Spirit, totally given to us by the Father and the Son. He is to animate our hearts and lives. He is to enable us to live in the victory of divine love. He is to introduce us into the very life of God. As Saint Paul says (today's second reading), "All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." (Romans 8:14).
Let us hope-fully beseech the Holy Spirit-perhaps making use of a portion of an ancient litany:
Come Holy Spirit
Author of all good
Source of Heavenly water
Spirit of truth
Spirit of wisdom and understanding
Gift of God the Most High
Who fills the universe
Come Holy Spirit
Yours in the Spirit,
The Gospel according to John, chapter 17, is an intimate conversation between the Son and the Father. We, of course, only hear what the Son says. Indeed, we are privileged to hear Jesus express His desires for us: perfect oneness and the vision of glory. What more could we ask for?!? If we bear in mind that Jesus always makes possible what He desires for us and what He asks of us, then we can be full of hope that His desires for us will be realized. That we be one in Christ, that we love one another as different as we may be, that forgiveness be the currency in the life of the Universal Church and of our parish, is within reach because “there’s a wideness in God’s mercy”, as Frederick William Faber (+1863), English priest and noted hymn writer, expresses in the opening verse of his hymn of the same name. The rest of what he says further speaks to this truth. Here are three stanzas:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.
Yours in our Risen Lord,
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153) is one of 33 “Doctors of the Church” in the Anglican Communion. Such a title is bestowed upon those whose insights are particularly illuminating for the Universal Church. Bernard was born in Burgundy, France, near Dijon (yes, where in the famous mustard originated in 1856!). At a young age, he was already conspicuous for his remarkable faith and interior life and his avid interest in theology. After the death of his mother, he resolved to embrace the newly established and rather austere Cistercian Order (reform of the Benedictine Order), of which he was destined to become one of its brightest lights. He also persuaded several of his brothers and his friends to follow his example. In fact, in 1113, along with thirty young men, Bernard presented himself to the Abbot at Citeaux. After his formation and ordination, he was sent with twelve other monks to found a new monastery, which would become known as the celebrated Abbey of Clairvaux. He was at once appointed Abbot.
St. Bernard otherwise founded numerous other monasteries. Several Bishoprics were offered him, but, in order to protect his monastic calling, he refused them all. He was commissioned by Pope Eugene III to preach the second Crusade. Finally, he was endowed with the gift of miracles. But, his love for Jesus and for Mary surely shines most brightly in in his contemplative prayer expressed in his writings. He spent eighty-six sermons explaining the first two chapters of the Song of Songs. In one of them, he says the following, which perhaps captures well Jesus in today’s gospel, in which Jesus movingly responds to a man so sick that he is unable really to engage Jesus. We witness the gratuitousness of love. Jesus loves this man because, well, this is what Jesus does. “God is love”. (I John 4:8)
Love is sufficient of itself.
It gives pleasure by itself and because of itself.
It is its own merit, its own reward.
Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself.
Its profit lies in its practice.
I love because I love.
I love that I may love.
From the desk of the Rector