Ecstatic Love and Real Presence

Editor’s note: Today Dr. Anthony Lilles continues a series of posts on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  We invite you to read more about how the Eucharist is the antidote for death and the demands our belief in the Eucharist makes of us.


Ecstasy is a total going out of oneself.  It is an abandonment of all else save for what has captured the heart. It is a getting caught up in the beauty, the glory of something–someone outside of myself. Ecstasy is to be rendered fully present to the other–the beloved before me captures my attention until I am aware of nothing else.

There are many kinds of ecstasy. For example, a kiss shared by husband and wife conveys ecstasy.  It is a sign of the gift of self that one has made for the other–the expressed desire to render one’s whole life in the service of the other. To say that a marital kiss conveys such suffering passion for the other is to say that this ecstasy is born anew moment by moment in real life sacrifices that each spouse makes for the sake of the other. Each is delighted to receive but even more devoted to give – no matter the cost. For ecstasy loses sight of self-preservation.

The unfolding exigencies of ordinary life for such a couple invite new ways to surrender themselves for the sake of the other but never is it enough.  In each new surrender, no matter the cost, they confirm over and over the ecstasy of the kiss that they share. Their kiss, because of the whole way of life, seals the mutual presence that they have already suffered to render one to the other.  If spouses do not find and take advantage of these daily opportunities, a kiss becomes nothing other than a mediocre intention, or worse–a lie.

If a kiss conveys ecstasy, the Real Presence evokes an even more profound going out of self. The most profound going out of self ever known is the Cross.  Established, revealed and sealed by the passion and death of the Risen Lord, the Real Presence is the Divine Ecstasy of the Word made Flesh into His Mystical Body, into Sacrament, into the space and time of our personal history. The Great Mystery – the love of Christ of the Church – is confirmed by this ultimate presence, this irrevocable gift of self for our sake and for the glory of the Father.

To speak of the Real Presence unveils the unreserved and radical outpouring of the Son of God into our lives. His Eucharistic Presence is so powerful that He completely enters into our human reality to be present to us in the alienation and loneliness of life.  In this sacrament, He overthrows the claim our personal sin holds over us and robs death of its sting–not only at the end of our lives but even now, in this present moment.

In a pouring forth of his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, Christ touches, illumines, and sustains each of those who seek Him. He has suffered all things to come to us and to dwell in our midst. His closeness is such that if we but gaze on Him in this sacrament– we are already caught up in His own ecstatic going out of self. In the reverent awe that He invokes, we can lose ourselves in His Love and there, finally find ourselves.

This ecstatic love is excessive, without measure. The only proper way to respond to such excess is to love excessively. Yet, we know our weakness and how often we have failed. We feel threatened by our own inadequacies, and we feel limited by our short-comings and self-contradictions. We are tempted to believe more in our sin that we do in His power to save. This is exactly why we need the Real Presence of Jesus: only His Real Presence can answer our doubts and help us find the courage to love as freely as He has loved us.

Because the ecstatic presence of the Risen Lord is “Real”, He evokes a real ecstasy in us when we come before Him. We cannot be indifferent before the rejected and ignored ecstasy by which He has allowed Himself to be seized: He loves and He is not loved. How can we remain reserved in His regard when He has been so unreserved toward us?  Indeed, if the Fountain of Life is so completely surrendering Himself to me, what does it mean for my own personal existence if I only half-heartedly and distractedly respond? If we will be true to the greatness of our humanity, we must respond with love no matter the cost. His Real presence is without compromise, and this means that we must learn to present ourselves to Him likewise–without compromise.

This means ecstasy.


This post originally appeared on and is used with permission.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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