Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ's humanity
God the Father bestows on us indescribable blessings through the humanity of His Son.
-- St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa of Ávila was a contemplative nun who lived in the 16th century. The Church has declared her a Doctor of the Church, which means she is a great teacher whose writings illuminate the mysteries of our faith and help us better understand what we believe. St. Teresa was a contemporary of St. Ignatius Loyola, and with him she gave powerful witness to the Catholic way of life at a time when reform was urgently needed.
Unlike St. Ignatius, who formed a veritable army (the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits) dedicated to defending the faith in academic circles, in preaching and in the foreign missions, St. Teresa spent most of her adult life behind four walls, in the cloister, seeking to restore Carmelite spirituality to its fundamental richness and authenticity. We are the beneficiaries of St. Teresa's intense spirituality. We also have access to this holy woman's writings, which offer profound insights into the depth and power of our Church's teaching.
Because my articles this summer are dedicated to reflections on the holy Eucharist, and the women and men whom we call "eucharistic saints" because of their powerful witness to this great sacrament, I'd like to share with you some of what St. Teresa of Avila wrote about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I am particularly struck by St. Teresa's keen sense of the way the Lord's humanity is revealed in our reception of this holy sacrament.
"Once after receiving Communion," St. Teresa wrote, "I was given understanding of how the Father receives within our soul the most holy Body of Christ, and of how I know and have seen that these Divine Persons are present, and how pleasing to the Father this offering of His Son is, because He delights and rejoices with Him here--let us say--on earth. For His humanity is not present with us in the soul, but His divinity is. Thus the humanity is so welcome and pleasing to the Father and bestows on us so many favors."
What a powerful insight! In our reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we become connected to Christ's humanity. We are united with God-made-man and experience the most intimate communion possible between two human persons. He becomes one with us, and we are united with Him. We are right to wonder at this great mystery of our faith! We can say nothing more profound than thank you (which is what the word "eucharist" means in Greek) when we experience the indescribable blessings that result from our communion with God's only Son.
St Teresa wanted everyone to understand and experience this great mystery of our faith. She wanted us to recognize the power of the holy Eucharist to unite us with God and with our fellow human beings, the sisters and brothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we receive holy Communion, we receive the humanity of Jesus fully united with His divinity. We connect at the most intimate level with the God who is Love Incarnate, our brother in the flesh and our soul's delight!
How can we take this mystery for granted? How can we fail to thank God with all our hearts for the great gift that He bestows on us each time we receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? How can we neglect to kneel before Him who is really present in this Blessed Sacrament?
Saints like Teresa of Avila remind us how blessed we are. They help us remember that the bread and wine we receive at Mass have been radically changed by the power of God's grace and are now nothing less than the Body and Blood of Christ. St. Teresa invites and challenges us to be fully aware that the Eucharist is nothing less than Jesus Christ. His divinity and His humanity are fully united in the sacrament we receive. The bread we eat and the wine we drink are nothing less than the flesh and blood of our Savior and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our human weakness takes all this for granted. Too often we go through the motions reflecting only the faintest acknowledgement of the wonderful thing that is happening to us as we receive holy Communion.
Let's renew our sense of wonder and amazement at the "indescribable blessings" we receive when Christ's humanity becomes one with ours. Through this great sacrament we encounter the person of Jesus Christ in the most intimate way. As a result, we partake in His divinity and our souls are renewed in Him.
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- St. Cyril articulated teaching on the Eucharist
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