The Real Presence
Presence of God – “Hidden God, devoutly I adore Thee, truly present beneath these veils: all my heart subdues itself before Thee, since all before Thee faints and fails” (cf. Adoro Te Devote).
“Verbum caro factum est” (Jn 1:14). The Incarnation of the Word, the ineffable mystery of the merciful love of God, who so loved man that He became “flesh” for his salvation, is, in a way, prolonged and extended through the ages, and will be until the end of time, by the Eucharist, the Sacrament by means of which the Incarnate Word became Himself our “food.” God was not content with giving us His only Son once for all, willing Him to take flesh in the womb of a Virgin–flesh like ours, so that He might suffer and die for us on the Cross–but He wished Him to remain with us forever, perpetuating His real presence and His sacrifice in the Eucharist. Aided by the Gospel narrative we can reconstruct and relive in our heart the sweet mysteries of the life of Jesus. Had we nothing but the Gospel, however, we would have only nostalgic memories; Jesus would no longer be with us, but only in heaven at the right hand of the Father, having definitively left the earth on the day of His Ascension. With what regret we would think of the thirty-three years of our Savior’s earthly life passed centuries ago! Oh, how different the reality! The Eucharist makes the presence of Jesus with us a permanent one. In the consecrated Host we find the same Jesus whom Mary brought into the world, whom the shepherds found wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; whom Mary and Joseph nurtured and watched over as He grew before their eyes; the Jesus who called the Apostles to follow Him, who captivated and taught the multitudes, who performed the most startling miracles; who said He was the “light” and “life” of the world, who forgave Magdalen and raised Lazarus from the dead; who for love of us sweat blood, received the kiss of a traitor, was made one enormous wound, and died on the Cross; that same Jesus who rose again and appeared to the Apostles and in whose wounds Thomas put his finger; who ascended into heaven, who now is seated in glory at the right hand of His Father, and who, in union with the Father, sends us the Holy Spirit. O Jesus, You are always with us, “yesterday, and today, and the same forever!” (Heb 13:8). Always the same in eternity by the immutability of Your divine Person; always the same in time, by the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
“O Lord, wealth of the poor, how admirably You can sustain souls, revealing Your great riches to them gradually and not permitting them to see them all at once. When I see Your great Majesty hidden in so small a thing as the Host, I cannot but marvel at Your great wisdom.
“O my God, if You did not conceal Your grandeur, who would dare to come to You so often, to unite with Your ineffable Majesty a soul so stained and miserable? Be forever blessed, O Lord! May the angels and all creatures praise You for having deigned to adapt Your mysteries to our weakness, so that we might enjoy Your treasures without being frightened by Your infinite power. Otherwise, poor, weak creatures like ourselves would never dare to approach You.
“How would I, a poor sinner, who have so often offended You, dare to approach You, O Lord, if I beheld You in all Your Majesty? Under the appearances of bread, however, it is easy to approach You, for if a king disguises himself, it seems as if we do not have to talk to him with so much circumspection and ceremony. If You were not hidden, O Lord, who would dare to approach You with such coldness, so unworthily, and with so many imperfections?
“Besides, I cannot doubt at all about Your real presence in the Eucharist. You have given me such a lively faith that, when I hear others say they wish they had been living when You were on earth, I laugh to myself, for I know that I possess You as truly in the Blessed Sacrament as people did then, and I wonder what more anyone could possibly want” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 38 – cf. Way of Perfection, 34).
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Art: Detail from The Virgin Adoring the Eucharist, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1852, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.