The Sacrament of Union
Presence of God – O Jesus, You who nourish me with Your Body and Blood, grant that I may live by You, live of Your Life.
In His discourse on the “Bread of Life,” Jesus Himself spoke of the Eucharist as the Sacrament of our union with Him. “He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me and I in him” (John 6:57). It is a true interpenetration: Christ is in us and we are in Christ. Of course, His life and ours, His person and ours, remain distinct; and yet, He so penetrates us with His life, with His Spirit, with His divinity, that we remain immersed in Him and He in us. St. Hilary affirms that “having received, the Body and Blood of Christ, we are in Christ and Christ is in us…. He Himself is in us by His Flesh and we are in Him, and—O marvelous consequence!—with Him, all that we are is in God.” We are never so close to Jesus, so penetrated by Him, transformed, deified, and plunged into the divinity as at the moment of sacramental Communion: “with Him, all that we are is in God.”
By faith and grace we are united to Christ and are in Him as His members, but this union which began at Baptism, is increased each time we receive the Eucharist worthily. By this Sacrament, Jesus “desired even to make Himself one with us; so that not by faith only but in every deed He makes us His own Body” (St. John Chrysostom). Our union with Christ by faith and grace is a real union, but in Holy Communion we have, in addition, physical union with Christ. Then, at least for a few moments, we have Him within us, as the Blessed Virgin had Him in her pure womb for nine months. And if, to this physical union is joined moral union, consisting in the full conformity of our will and our aspirations to God’s will and good pleasure, Holy Communion actually becomes the moment of closest union with God that we can reach on earth.
“O Lord, how far has love brought You? It has brought You even so far as giving Yourself to Your creature, leaving Your Body and Blood for his Food and Drink. And for how long? Oh! my God, You Yourself have said it: “until the consummation of the world,” so that we can possess You not only once, not once a year, once a month, or once a week, but every day, every morning that we wish we can receive You, we can have You within us and remain with You as much as we like. O infinite bounty of the Word, my Spouse! How wretched I am! I have so many riches and I draw so little fruit from them! Still more miserable is he who does not know this gift, who cares not if he is deprived of it for many years, or who receives it in the state of mortal sin, so that the Bread of Life becomes for him the food of death. For these souls I pray, O Lord; do not look upon their sins, but only upon Your own goodness; convert them so that they may realize the great wrong they are doing to themselves, and to Your infinite bounty.
“But O Lord, when a soul receives You with the right dispositions, may it not be said of it as was said of the Virgin Mary: ‘Blessed art thou, because thou bearest within thee Him whom the heavens cannot contain!’ Like unto Mary, a soul who receives You is clothed with the sun, for You are the Sun, the Sun of Justice, Christ, our God.
“As for me, O Lord, I think I am more obliged to You because You have left Yourself to me as my Food, than because You have created me, for what would I have done if You had created me, but had not given Yourself to me? In the Eucharist, You show how much You wanted to communicate Yourself to us, for You were not content to give Yourself to men only during the thirty years You were on earth; in addition to this, You wanted to leave us Your Body and Blood, so that we might be continually in You and You in us. Thus when You are in a soul, You deify it, so to speak, transforming it into Yourself; You communicate Yourself to it unceasingly and keep it united to Yourself” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).
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Art for this post on the Sacrament of Union: Communion of the Apostles, Luca Giordano, circa 1659, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.