Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for the Feast of Corpus Christi: "The Eucharist is not a right."

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, May 31st, 2018
Hoc est corpus meum…This is My body…

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

After the feast of Pentecost, when the coming of the Spirit fulfilled the Father’s promise, according to which the Apostles would not remain orphans, after meditating last Sunday the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the feast of Corpus Christi contemplates again the mystery of the Blessed Eucharist. We have already commemorated the institution of this Sacrament during the Mass in Cœna Domini,on Maundy Thursday, at the beginning of the Triduum. 

As she places us again before this mystery, the Church presents the Sacrament in itself, and no longer in its institution. Which lights might we hope to get on such a great mystery? Before God’s mysteries, there are two temptations, neither of which respects the mysteries. This word, “mystery,” indicates that beyond what is visible, the reality of the Eucharist contains an invisible and impossible to understand dimension.

A natural feature of the human intelligence is to strive to understand, and even to understand everything. Yet, if we deem that we can explain everything through a theological reflection, and are satisfied with the feeling that our intelligence is fulfilled, it means both that we don’t respect the mystery, and that we miss out on its reality. It is the maximalist temptation, which would hoist the mind to the point where it understands God. Yet, can we ever hope to lock God away within the boundaries of our minds, and conceive as we wish His mystery?

The other temptation, the minimalist one, consists for the intelligence in giving up all effort, by reducing the mystery to the ordinary categories of the mind. Therefore, we will consent to conceive that in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread and the wine represent, signify the body and blood of Christ, but we won’t accept that the body and blood of Christ are really present in the Sacrament.

Who can speak of this mystery?

St. John has kept the strong words of Jesus, in what is customarily called the Discourse on the Bread of Life:

For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me: and I in him. […] This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread shall live for ever. (Jn 6:56.59)
But who could offer us to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Lord?

St. Paul told the Corinthians the words of the Lord, such as he himself had received them, when the Lord instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist:

The Lord Jesus […] took bread, and giving thanks, broke and said: “Take ye and eat: This is My body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of Me.” In like manner also the chalice, after He had supped, saying: “This chalice is the new testament in My blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of Me.”(1 Co 11:24-25)

According to the very words of the Lord, after the consecration, there are, under the signs of the bread and wine, His very body and blood, not those of a corpse, but of a living creature, the Living One, Christ Who abides in His glorified humanity beside God, Himself God. This presence is not linked to the subjective belief of him who is looking at or adoring the Sacrament, but to the objective existence of the Lord, and to the command He gave the Apostles to do this again.

Heresies concerning the Eucharist have not lacked in the history of the Church. The outcome of the discourse on the Bread of life does show that the words of Jesus, far from being understood as a wide-open invitation to partake of this new kind of meal, led many disciples to forsake the Lord, as they said, “This saying is hard; and who can hear it?” (Jn 6:60) These disciples had indeed understood that the words of the Lord were true, without any metaphor. Yet, these men and women were lacking the faith and humility to accept theplan of God.

It is also the conscience of the truth of these words that has led the Church to state precise conditions concerning the admission of other non-Catholic Christians to this Sacrament: a grave necessity arising, “provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions.” (CEC, n. 1401;cf. CIC, can. 844, § 4)

As St. Paul reminded the Corinthians:

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself. (1 Co 11:29)

The Eucharist is not a right to be vindicated. It is a Sacrament for those who are humble, who accept the great mystery unveiled by the discourse on the Bread of life, for those who accept to fed as the Lord wanted to feed them. It is the viaticum for those who toil on the road, who beseech for an increase of the life of God in themselves. Receiving the Eucharist implies that we should want to live and be able to live consistently with God’s commandments.

On Easter Wednesday, April 4th, the Holy Father gave the following conclusion to the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the Mass, which he had begun last year on November 8th:

[…] We celebrate the Eucharist in order to become Eucharistic men and women. What does this mean? It means allowing Christ to act within our deeds: that His thoughts may be our thoughts, His feelings our own, His choices our choices, too. And this is holiness: doing as Christ did is Christian holiness. St. Paul expresses it clearly, in speaking of his own assimilation to Jesus, and he says this: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20). This is Christian witness. […] Christians are men and women who, after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, allow their souls to expand with the power of the Holy Spirit. 

May Mary, the Eucharistic Woman and the Mother of the Church, guide her children, and lead them to receivewith humility this mystery.

Amen, Alleluia.