Nicholas Cabasilas: “It is no longer I who live: it is Christ who lives In me” Saturday, May 5 2012 

We approach the Holy Table, the consummation of our life in Christ, which leaves no further happiness to be desired.

Now it is no longer a question of sharing in Christ’s death or burial or in a higher kind of life, but of welcoming the risen Lord himself.

It is no longer the gifts of the Spirit that we receive, insofar as we are able, but our benefactor himself, the very temple that enshrines all gifts.

Christ…leads communicants to his Table and gives them his body to eat he completely transforms them, raising them to his own level.

This is the last Sacrament we receive because it is impossible to go beyond it or to add to it anything whatever.

We remain imperfect even after Baptism has produced in us its full effect because we have not yet received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are given in Chrismation.

[…] Yet even among those who had been filled with the Spirit and who prophesied, spoke in tongues and displayed other such gifts, there were some in the time of the Apostles who were so far from being divine and spiritual as to be guilty of envy, rivalry, contention, and other similar vices.

This is what Paul referred to when he wrote to them: You are still unspiritual and are living on a purely human plane.

They were indeed spiritual by reason of the graces they had received, but these graces did not suffice to free them from all sinfulness.

With the Eucharist, however, it is different.

No such charge can be brought against those in whom the Bread of Life, which has saved them from death, has had its full effect and who have not brought to this feast any wrongful dispositions.

If this Sacrament is fully effective it is quite impossible for it to allow the slightest imperfection to remain in those who receive it.

If you would know the reason for this, it is because through communion, in fulfilment of his promise, Christ dwells in us and we in him.

He lives in me, he said, and I in him.

When Christ lives in us, what can we lack? When we live in Christ, what more can we desire?

We at once become spiritual in body and soul and in all our faculties because our soul is united to his soul, our body to his body, our blood to his blood.

The consequence is that the higher prevails over the lower, the divine over the human.

As Paul says, referring to the Resurrection: What is mortal is swallowed up by life.

And elsewhere he writes: It is no longer I who live: it is Christ who lives in me.

Nicholas Cabasilas (1319/1323–after 1391): The Life in Christ, 4 (PG 150:582-583); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Eastertide, Year 2

Robert Hugh Benson: Mary Magdalen and the Risen Jesus Tuesday, Apr 10 2012 

“Mary!”

“Rabboni!”

But there is still one more lesson for her to learn.

As she throws herself forward, speechless with love and desire, to grasp His Feet

– to assure herself even by touch that it is these same feet indeed which she kissed in the Pharisee’s house, and on the Cross of Calvary

– that it is Himself, and no phantom

– He moves back from her.

“Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”

“Do not touch me.” . . .

That Friendship is not what it used to be: it is infinitely higher.

It is not what it seemed to be, since the limitations of that Sacred Humanity are gone

– those limitations by which It was here and not there; by which It could suffer and grow weary and hunger and weep

– limitations that endeared It to Its lovers, since they could indeed minister to It, comfort It, and hold It up.

And Its expansion in Glory is not yet consummated – “I am not yet ascended to my Father” –

that expansion of the Ascension and the Nine Days’ Journey through the Heavenly Hierarchy, from the position “a little lower than the angels” to the Session and Coronation at the right Hand of the Majesty on high

– that expansion of which the Descent of the Holy Ghost is the expression, and the Sacramental Presence of that same Humanity on a hundred altars the result.

And then, Mary, the Friendship shall be given back in “good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over.”

Then that which thou hast known on earth confined by time and space shall be given back to touch and handling once more.

Again thy Friend shall be thine own.

The Creator of Nature shall be present in that Nature, unlimited by its limitations.

He who took Humanity shall be present in Humanity.

He who spoke on earth “as one having authority” shall speak again in the same accent.

He who healed the sick shall heal them in the Gate called Beautiful; He who raised the dead shall raise Dorcas in Joppa; He who called Peter in Galilee, shall call Paul in Damascus.

A Friend again He shall be, as never before: a Creature exercising the power of the Creator: a Creator clothed with the sympathy of the Creature; God suffering on earth, and Man reigning in Heaven.

But a Friend, first and last, in Alpha and Omega; a Friend who has died in the humiliation of Friendship; who has risen and reigns in its Eternal Power.

Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914): The Friendship of Christ, chapter13.

Nicholas Wiseman: He Came Down from Heaven as Our Divine Physician Saturday, Aug 13 2011 

Reflect how unreasonable it would be for a man, grievously sick, to send for a physician, and express his eager desire to be restored to health, and kept in it, and yet obstinately to resist every measure proposed, and refuse to take such remedies as the physician had been at the pains to prepare for him with his own hands.

[…] Precisely such, or worse, is our conduct as regards our sanctification, if we neglect to use frequently and well the sacraments which Jesus Christ has left us for that end.

He came down from heaven as our Divine physician; He knows all our weaknesses, sores, and ailments;  He has studied our case most minutely, and through His own painful experience;  He has made up for us sovereign remedies, in which His own Blood is the principal ingredient.

These remedies He offers to us in the sacrament of Penance.

Can we indeed be said to dislike and lament our state of illness, or to desire seriously our recovery, so long as we neglect to apply to that means of cure?

Further, our Lord has laid up in the Most Holy Sacrament of His Body and Blood a rich and inexhaustible store of blessings and graces, pledges and instruments of eternal life.

Can we be said to desire earnestly the sanctification they are designed to bestow, if we are slothful, negligent, or cold in the use of that adorable institution to which they are attached?

Such, then, are the sacraments left by our Lord for the sanctification of His followers; and they are precisely such as are best adapted for the purpose.

For, first, the great impediment to our sanctification is our constant frailty, which by daily and hourly falls prevents the grace of God from fully possessing our souls, and reigning therein sovereign and supreme.

What could we hope for, unless God, in His mercy, had prepared for us a saving remedy, accessible to us as often as we need it; wherein our offences are forgiven, and their consequences repaired in our souls?

But besides this repeated diminution of strength by accidents, there is a constant evaporation and wearing out of our vigour, by our contact with the world, by the action of our passions and earthly desires, and by the very inertness of our mortal natures, which cannot long together keep steadily to what is good.

[…] God…hath given us a strengthening bread, a succulent nourishment, which confirms and consolidates the spiritual man, and pours new vigour into his soul, and restores all its wasted energy.

How then can we hope spiritually to live that is, to be in a state of grace or sanctification if we have not frequent recourse to this banquet, ever spread for us, in which grace and holiness ever dwell?

Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman (1802–1865): Daily Meditations, pp. 301-302.

Alphonsus Liguori: “You shall Draw Waters with Joy out of the Saviour’s Fountains” Monday, Aug 1 2011 

Behold the source of every good, Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, who says If any man thirst, let him come to Me (John 2:27).

Oh, what torrents of grace have the saints drawn from the fountain of the Most Blessed Sacrament!

For there Jesus dispenses all the merits of his Passion, as it was foretold by the Prophet: You shall draw waters with joy out of the Saviour’s fountains (Isaiah 12:3).

The Countess of Feria…on being asked how she employed the many hours thus passed in the presence of the Holy of Holies, answered:

“I could remain there for all eternity. And is not there present the very essence of God, who will be the food of the blessed?

“Am I asked what I do in his presence? Why am I not rather asked, what is not done there? “We love, we ask, we praise, we give thanks. We ask, what does a poor man do in the presence of one who is rich? What does a sick man do in the presence of his physician?

“What does a man do who is parched with thirst in the presence of a clear fountain? What is the occupation of one who is starving, and is placed before a splendid table?”

O my most amiable, most sweet, most beloved Jesus, my life, my hope, my treasure, the only love of my soul; oh, what has it cost Thee to remain thus with us in this Sacrament!

Thou hadst to die, that Thou mightest thus dwell amongst us on our altars; and then, how many insults hast Thou not had to endure in this Sacrament, in order to aid us by Thy presence!

Thy love, and the desire which Thou hast to be loved by us, have conquered all.

Come then, O Lord! Come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee.

Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being.

[…] Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar.

[…] Let all who will, seek other treasures; the only treasure that I love, the only one that I desire, is that of Thy love; for this only will I ask at the foot of the altar.

Do Thou make me forget myself, that thus I may only remember Thy goodness.

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787): The Holy Eucharist, pp. 127-128.

F.W. Faber: The Precious Blood Is Living in the Chalice Monday, Jul 18 2011 

We need not go to Jerusalem, we need not have lived eighteen hundred years ago, to find the Precious Blood, and worship it.

[…] We actually worship it every day in the chalice at Mass. When the chalice is uplifted over the altar, the Blood of Jesus is there, whole and entire, glorified and full of the pulses of His true human life.

The Blood that once lay in the cave at Olivet, that curdled in the thongs and knots of  the scourges, that matted His hair, and soaked His garments,  that stained the crown of thorns and bedewed the Cross…;

that same Blood is living in the chalice, united to the Person of the Eternal Word, to be worshipped with the uttermost prostration of our bodies and our souls.

When the beams of the morning sun come in at the windows of the church, and fall for a moment into the uncovered chalice, and glance there as if among precious stones with a restless timid gleaming, and the priest sees it, and the light seems to vibrate into his own heart, quickening his faith and love, it is the Blood of God which is there, the very living Blood whose first fountains were in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

When the Blessed Sacrament is laid upon your tongue, that moment and that act which the great angels of God look down upon with such surpassing awe, the Blood of Jesus is throbbing there in all its abounding life of glory.

It sheathes in the sacramental mystery that exceeding radiance which is lighting all heaven at that moment with a magnificence of splendour which exceeds the glowing of a million suns.

You do not feel the strong pulses of His immortal life. If you did, you could hardly live yourself. Sacred terror would undo your life.

But in that adorable Host is the whole of the Precious Blood, the Blood of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, and Calvary, the Blood of the Passion, of the Resurrection, and of the Ascension, the Blood shed and re-assumed.

As Mary bore that Precious Blood within herself of old, so do you bear it now.

It is in His Heart and veins, within the temple of His Body, as it was when He lay those nine months in her ever-blessed womb.

[…] The whole of the Precious Blood is in the chalice and in the Host. It is not part: it is the whole. We may well tremble to think what sanctuaries we are, when the Blessed Sacrament is within us.

Frederick William Faber (1814—1863): The Precious Blood, pp. 23-34.

Thomas Aquinas: To Impress the Vastness of this Love more Firmly upon the Hearts of the Faithful Saturday, Jun 25 2011 

Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods.

Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation.

He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation.

He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin.

But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness!

Could anything be of more intrinsic value?

Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but 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; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.

It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all.

Yet, 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 we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed 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.

As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion.

It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Opusculum 57, in festo Corporis Christi, lect. 1-4, from the Office of Readings for the Feast of Corpus Christi @ Crossroads Initiative.

Ephrem the Syrian: May the Spiritual Waters of Your Love Cleanse the Effects of Mortality from Our Hearts Thursday, Jun 9 2011 

Lord, shed upon our darkened souls the brilliant light of your wisdom so that we may be enlightened and serve you with renewed purity.

Sunrise marks the hour for men to begin their toil, but in our souls, Lord, prepare a dwelling for the day that will never end.

Grant that we may come to know the risen life and that nothing may distract us from the delights you offer.

Through our unremitting zeal for you, Lord, set upon us the sign of your day that is not measured by the sun.

In your sacrament we daily embrace you and receive you into our bodies; make us worthy to experience the resurrection for which we hope.

We have had your treasure hidden within us ever since we received baptismal grace; it grows ever richer at your sacramental table.

Teach us to find our joy in your favour! Lord, we have within us your memorial, received at your spiritual table; let us possess it in its full reality when all things shall be made new.

We glimpse the beauty that is laid up for us when we gaze upon the spiritual beauty your immortal will now creates within our mortal selves.

Saviour, your crucifixion marked the end of your mortal life; teach us to crucify ourselves and make way for our life in the Spirit.

May your resurrection, Jesus, bring true greatness to our spiritual self and may your sacraments be the mirror wherein we may know that self.

Saviour, your divine plan for the world is a mirror for the spiritual world; teach us to walk in that world as spiritual men.

Lord, do not deprive our souls of the spiritual vision of you nor our bodies of your warmth and sweetness.

The mortality lurking in our bodies spreads corruption through us; may the spiritual waters of your love cleanse the effects of mortality from our hearts.

Grant, Lord, that we may hasten to our true city and, like Moses on the mountain top, possess it now in vision.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Sermon 3, from the Office of Readings for the feast of St. Ephrem, June 9th @ Crossroads Initiative.

Columba Marmion: If We Allow It to Penetrate Our Souls, We shall Feel the Love and Desire for this Divine Food Increase Within Us Friday, May 6 2011 

Now see in what terms the sacred writer, the instrument of the Holy Spirit, speaks to us of the manna.

You fed your people with the food of angels, and gave them bread from heaven prepared without labour, having in it all that is delicious and the sweetness of every taste.

For your sustenance showed your sweetness to your children, and serving every man’s will, it was turned to what every man liked.

The Church in the office of the Blessed Sacrament applies these magnificent words to the Eucharist.

We are about to see with what truth and fullness they express the properties of the Eucharis­tic Bread.

We shall see with how much more reason we can sing of the Sacred Host what the inspired author sings of the manna.

Like manna, the Eucharist is a food, but a spiritual food. It is in the midst of a meal, under the form of food, that Our Lord chose to institute it.

Christ Jesus gives Himself to us as the nourishment of our souls: My Flesh is meat indeed: and My Blood is drink indeed.

Again like the manna, the Eucharist is bread come down from heaven.

But the man­na was only an imperfect figure; that is why Our Lord said to the Jews who recalled to him the miracle of the desert:

Moses gave you bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

Of all the properties that Holy Scripture attributes to the manna, there is one which is particularly remarkable.

The manna was a food which accommodated itself to the taste and wishes of the one who partook of it: serving every man’s will, it was turned to what every man liked.

In the heavenly Bread, the Eucharist, we can also find, if I may thus express myself, the savour of all the mysteries of Christ, and the virtue of all His states.

We are not here considering the Eucharist any longer as a memorial, but as source of grace, and this is a fruitful aspect of the Eucharistic mystery.

If we allow it to penetrate our souls, we shall feel the love and de­sire for this divine food increase within us.

These are some of the marvels figured by the manna and brought about, for the life and joy of our souls, by the wisdom and bounty of our God.

How can we fall to surround these sacred mysteries with all our reverence and adoration?

Grant us, we beseech you, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of your body and blood!

Columba Marmion (1858-1923): Christ in His Mysteries, 2.18.2-3; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Second Week of Eastertide, Year 1.

Columba Marmion: Christ is Upon the Altar with the Divine Life which Never Ceases Sunday, Feb 27 2011 

The Eucharist is then truly the memorial that Christ has left to us of his Passion and his Death. It is the testament of his love.

Wherever the bread and wine are offered, wherever the consecrated Host is found, there appears the remembrance of Christ’s immolation: do this for a commemoration of me.

The Eucharist recalls to us above all the memory of the Passion of Jesus.

It was on the eve of his death that he instituted it. He left it to us as the testament of his love.

But it does not exclude the other mysteries.

See what the Church does. She is the Bride of Christ. None knows better than she the intentions of her Divine Head.

In the or­ganisation of the public worship which she renders to him, she is guided by the Holy Spirit.

Now what does she say? Directly after the Consecration, she first of all recalls the words of Jesus:

As often as you do these things, you shall do them in remembrance of me.

And at once she adds, to show how closely she enters into the sentiments of her Spouse:

Wherefore, O Lord, we your servants together with your holy people, in memory of the blessed Passion of the same Christ Our Lord, and of his Resurrection from hell, also of his glorious Ascension into Heaven,

offer unto your most excellent Majesty…the holy bread of eternal life, and the chalice of everlasting salvation.

After the mention of “the Ascension to the right hand of the Father”, the Greeks likewise add, “that of the second and glorious coming of Christ”.

So then, although the Eucharist recalls the Passion of Jesus, it does not exclude the remembrance of the glorious mysteries which are linked so closely to the Passion of which they are, in a sense, the crown.

Since it is the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive, the Eucharist supposes the Incarnation and the mysteries which are founded upon or flow from it.

Christ is upon the altar with the divine life which never ceases, with his mortal life of which the his­torical form has doubtless ceased, but of which the substance and merits remain, with his glorious life which shall have no end.

All this, as you know, is really contained in the Sacred Host and given in Communion to our souls.

In communicating himself to us, Christ Jesus gives himself in the sub­stantial totality of his works and mysteries, as in the oneness of his Person.

Columba Marmion (1858-1923): Christ in His Mysteries, 2.18.1; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

John Henry Newman: Do Not Despair – He Gives Grace by Little and Little Monday, Oct 18 2010 

And if you are conscious that your hearts are hard, and are desirous that they should be softened, do not despair.

All things are possible to you, through God’s grace. Come to Him for the will and the power to do that to which He calls you.

He never forsakes anyone who calls upon him. He never puts any trial on a man but He gives Him grace to overcome it.

Do not despair then; nay do not despond, even though you do come to Him, yet are not at once exalted to overcome yourselves.

He gives grace by little and little. It is by coming daily into His presence, that by degrees we find ourselves awed by that presence and able to believe and obey Him.

Therefore if any one desires illumination to know God’s will as well as strength to do it, let him come to Mass daily, if he possibly can.

At least let him present himself daily before the Blessed Sacrament, and, as it were, offer his heart to His Incarnate Saviour, presenting it as a reasonable offering to be influenced, changed and sanctified under the eye and by the grace of the Eternal Son.

And let him every now and then through the day make some short prayer or ejaculation, to the Lord and Saviour, and again to His Blessed Mother, the immaculate most Blessed Virgin Mary, or again to his guardian Angel, or to his Patron Saint.

Let him now and then collect his mind and place himself, as if in heaven, in the presence of God; as if before God’s throne; let him fancy he sees the All-Holy Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

These are the means by which, with God’s grace, he will be able in course of time to soften his heart—not all at once, but by degrees; not by his own power or wisdom, but by the grace of God blessing his endeavour.

Thus it is that Saints have begun. They have begun by these little things, and so become at length Saints. They were not saints all at once, but by little and little.

And so we, who are not saints, must still proceed by the same road; by lowliness, patience, trust in God, recollection that we are in His presence, and thankfulness for His mercies.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Catholic Sermons of Cardinal Newman, 3: The Calls of Grace.

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