By Rev. Henry Brinkmeyer
ACCORDING to Clement XIII, one of the aims of the devotion to the Sacred Heart is to inspire us with love for the Blessed Eucharist by recalling to our minds the unspeakable love which instituted it. The divine Sacrament of the Eucharist has been called the last effort of the boundless love of our Saviour for man. It may be considered under four heads: first, as a Memorial; secondly, as a Sacrament; thirdly, as a Sacrifice, and fourthly, as the Real Presence.
Every tabernacle is surmounted by a cross, because the Blessed Sacrament is a blessed memorial of our Lord's Passion and death. "As often as ye shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, ye shall show forth the death of the Lord until He come." Why? First, because it was given as a parting gift on the eve of the passion, and secondly, because it contains our Lord and perpetuates Him as the Victim of the Cross.
In the first place it was given as a parting gift. Let us recall the touching episode of the Last Supper. Jesus and His apostles are seated at the table for the celebration of the Paschal solemnity. It is the last meal they are to take together, for He is about to leave them. They have lived in His company for almost three years. He has been the kindest of masters and truest of friends, and now He is to part from them. Their hearts are filled with sorrow. Our Lord is sorrowful too. He knows how they will miss Him. He knows their weakness. "You shall all be scandalized in Me," He says to them. Every farewell makes a pathetic scene. He is going to meet death; to-morrow evening at the same hour He will be in His grave, and they will have shamefully forsaken Him; their head and chief will have even thrice denied Him. Jesus foresees all this, yet He will not cast them off. "Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end." Even in those last hours of His life, when His soul is sorrowful unto death, He will give them a token of His undying love. He will give them a pledge of affection which shall compel them to remember Him. A death-bed gift is always a precious gift, more especially if it be a souvenir to which the heart of the dying one clings, and around which entwine all the tenderest memories of the dear departed one. What gift will He bestow in that last hour? The Father had so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. What will the Son bequeath to us,—He who is not only God, but also man, whose kind human Heart with all its human love is shrinking from the impending separation, and bleeding to leave those He loves alone, like poor sheep scattered without a shepherd? "My delight is to be with the sons of men !" "O Lord," we may exclaim, "abide with us. The greatest gift Thou couldst bestow would be Thy lasting presence in our midst! Alas! that cannot be since Thou art to die and return to Thy Father. But lo! Thy loving pledge we hear: 'I am with you all days, even to the consummation of ages. ' "
Yes, love makes all things possible,—His presence amongst us is indeed the gift He is about to confer upon His children. He is to die, and yet to remain living amid these scenes until the end of time. Listen to His words: "I am the living Bread that came down from heaven. . . . Whosoever eateth Me, the same shall live by Me. . . . Take ye and eat, this is My Body. Drink ye all of this, for this is My Blood." And then He adds: "Do this; do as you have seen Me do. You also take bread and wine and consecrate them into My Flesh and My Blood, and do this in memory of Me." And, "As often as ye shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, ye shall show the death of the Lord till He come!" O Lord, is it possible? is such Thy dying gift ? Ah! yes, we too shall be Thy guests. Blessed be Thy holy name! This very morning we have gathered at Thy Banquet. Thou hast fed us as Thou didst feed Thy apostles and disciples, and Thou art still as truly, really, and substantially present here, as Thou wert that blessed night with Thy chosen ones in Jerusalem's "upper room."
The Blessed Eucharist is a Memorial because it is the parting gift of our Lord to the apostles and to us. But it is also a Memorial because it contains our Lord as the Victim of the Cross; it perpetuates Him, as it were, in that state. How does it do this? We shall have an opportunity of studying this more profoundly, when later we consider the Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrifice. For the present, let us dwell upon one or two ways in which it perpetuates amongst us the Victim of the Cross. First of all, that Victim was silent. It had been prophesied of Him: "He shall be dumb as a lamb before His shearers and He shall not open His mouth." He was reviled, but He did not revile; He suffered, but He threatened not; He was cursed and blasphemed, but He cursed not His guilty blasphemers. And when He was dead, His ears did not hear the wails of His Mother and of the women, His eyes did not see the tears of the dear ones around Him; a corpse feels not, hears not, speaks not. Such is the state of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He speaks not. Of course, no one doubts that He could speak miraculously, if He chose, but day and night there reigns perpetual silence in and about His tabernacle. He never breaks the stillness around His altar throne. In many a church and chapel He remains a whole day, sometimes a whole week without receiving the homage of a single heart, but He utters no complaint. In some churches,—let us blush to acknowledge it,—He is neglected, His tabernacle is enveloped in dust, yet no murmur falls from His sacred lips. He sees His children frivolous and irreverent even during the celebration of the divine mysteries, still He does not rebuke them. He beholds some before His very face polluting their souls with mortal sin, but not a word of indignation escapes Him. The unworthy communicant approaches, opens his sacrilegious lips, receives Him and hands Him over to the demons of sin in his Judas-like soul: but Jesus is silent, except perhaps for a whisper of reproach breathed to that conscience stained with the infamous crime committed against His patient, long-suffering Lord. It is night; all is peaceful in the church; the little lamp alone sends a few trembling rays of light into the dark aisles. Suddenly the gates of the church are forced asunder by lawless, ungodly men. The tabernacle door is ruthlessly opened, the ciborium seized, and He is made a mockery of, He is cast upon the floor, He may be trampled upon amid diabolical laughter, and then He is left alone to be wept over in anguish by His angels, His priests and His people: but He is silent, for He is none other than the Christ who died on Calvary, the ancient Victim of the Cross.
Again, as man Jesus was, until His Passion, the most attractive and the most beautiful of the children of men. But behold Him on the cross, behold Him dead in the arms of His weeping Mother. All His beauty has departed, the light has vanished from His sacred brow. Was ever a body bruised and rent as His? His face is disfigured with welts and blots of clotted blood, ashy, pale and haggard beyond description because of the terrible agony He has endured. His whole body is disfigured by cruel blows, by piteous falls, by lash and scourge, by hunger and thirst, and by the sharp wind blowing that day over the Mount of Sacrifice. The words of the Prophet Isaias have found their fulfillment: "There is no beauty or comeliness in Him, and we have seen Him, and there was no sightliness in Him that we should desire Him. . . . He was despised and the most abject of men." Poor outraged Jesus! Now glance at the Blessed Eucharist and behold Him there. Where is His beauty? Where His strength? Where His awful majesty? Where the splendor of His glory? He is under the species so small that I carry them daily in my hand. He is so concealed that He does not show the form of a human being. At the foot of the cross in the arms of Mary, we do not see His divinity, we see at least His body,—mangled, horribly disfigured, it is true,—still it is His body. But here He cannot be seen at all. We perceive a little white veil, nothing more. Faith alone has power to penetrate the folds of that veil. O silent Dweller of the tabernacle, Thou art indeed a hidden God, Thou art here, more than ever, the Victim of the Cross!
My dear friends, when we look at the Blessed Sacrament, let us recall that pathetic word of our Lord, "Remember Me!" Let us reflect that it is a Memorial of the greatest sorrow men ever witnessed, a Memorial of the greatest pain a creature on earth ever endured, a Memorial of the tenderest, most faithful, most unselfish, most heroic love the world shall ever know—the last gift of a Heart that fears to be forgotten. Oh, yes! Lord, we will remember Thee! "May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, and my hand wither and rot away, if I should ever forget Thee!"