Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for Corpus Christi 2019: "The Eucharist is a folly that sprung out of the blazing love of God’s heart!"

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, June 20, 2019

Cibavit eos ex adipe frumenti.
He fed them with the finest of wheat.
Ps 80:17

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

It may not come amiss to begin the homily of this day, consecrated to the adoration of God present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, by recalling the wonderful text “to the glory of God most holy and of our Lord Jesus Christ”, commonly called the Credo of Paul VI, and solemnly pronounced on June 30th, 1968.

We shall limit ourselves to the passage concerning today’s feast (the emphasis is ours):

We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real, and substantial presence. […] Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine, as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body. The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word Whom they cannot see, and Who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.

The words used by that Pope are fraught with sense: a true, real, and substantial presence of Christ in His glory, so as to give Himself to us as a food, and associate us to the unity of His mystical Body; a presence which it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore. Yet, can God give Himself as a food? Can He debase Himself by giving Himself as a food to human beings?

If human religiousness has often considered the sacred meal as a means to get united in a rather remote way to a divinity, the food that was consumed in such a meal was never considered as being God. Jesus’ words, as recounted by St. John in today’s Gospel, are unambiguous:

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 6:56-58)

The Eucharist is a folly! After hearing these words and railing against them, many of the disciples went back and forsook Jesus

If the Eucharist is a folly, it is not the first folly that sprung out of the blazing love which God’s heart is. Why create the universe? Why put man at its summit and call him to take part in the divine life?

Even after man, through the disordered exercise of his freedom, opposed God with the folly of pride when he disobeyed, divine love was not vanquished: when the times reached their fulfillment, God took flesh, thus establishing a new propinquity with His creature. Through His death on the Cross, Christ offered His life as a ransom to redeem the many ones who would accept to enter into communion with Him, receiving His flesh as a food, and His blood as a drink.

Under the appearance of a little bread and a little wine, viz., common food, God comes to us, and He takes the chance that we should no longer discern His true body and true blood. Outwardly, the bread our fathers ate in the desert of Exodus and the bread we eat today are so close; yet, our fathers died, whereas he who will eat the body of Christ will live forever.

In the communion to the body and blood of His Son, God invites man to an utter newness. It is no longer we who live but it is Christ Who lives in us. God makes all things new, especially through this Sacrament. He stoops down to reach each of our human persons, as He did for the Samaritan woman near Jacob’s well:

He that shall drink of the water that I will give him shall not thirst for ever. But the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting. (Jn 4:14)
Giving Himself as a food, entrusting Himself to the hands of His priests, entails for God a certain amount of risk: in the sacrament of His love, Jesus meets in our churches, our communities, sometimes even in our own hearts, with carelessness, off-handedness, rejection, or even profanation. As many of the disciples after the announcement of this gift, we can so easily turn away from the Lord. Let us weep with humility on our own ingratitude.

Let us draw from the spring of new life which the sacrament of the Eucharist is, let us be renewed by an immense love, let us walk, rejuvenated with God’s eternal youth, towards today’s men and women, to invite them to enter into the fullness of communion which is the people of God. Adoring God in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, united with the angels, their Queen, and all the Saints in heaven, let us carry out already on this earth the act of heaven. Folly of the love of God, expecting from our miserable souls, which were loved at the expense of His flesh and blood, a shred of our love.

Amen, Alleluia.