The Sacred Triduum begins. Today Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us Himself in the Holy Eucharist by instituting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Catholic Priesthood to continue His saving work. For Our Lord, His Love was so great that it wasn’t enough that He died a most gruesome and agonizing death for our eternal salvation, He also left us His very Self under the appearances of bread and wine. To represent Him on earth, He left us the Priests to continue His everlasting Priesthood and to act in His Name. Let us give thanks to God for His great Love for us!
The following is a meditation on the Institution of the Eucharist by St. Peter Julian Eymard:
Cum dilexisset suos qui erant in mundo, in finem dilexit eos.
Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end. (John xiii. 1.)
How good is the Lord Jesus! How loving! Not satisfied with having become our Brother by His Incarnation and our Savior by His Passion, not satisfied with having delivered Himself up for us, He wants to strain His love to the point of making Himself our Sacrament of life!
With what joy He prepared this great and supreme gift of His love!
With what happiness He instituted the Eucharist and bequeathed it to us as His last will!
Let us observe this Divine wisdom at work preparing the Eucharist. Let us adore His power, exhausting itself in this act of love.
Jesus revealed the Eucharist long beforehand. He was born at Bethlehem, the house of bread, domus panis. He lay on the straw which then seemed to bear an ear of the true wheat.
At Cana and in the desert, when He multiplied the loaves, He revealed the Eucharist and also promised it. It was a public and formal promise.
He promised with an oath that He would give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. That was the remote preparation.
The time had come for the more immediate preparation of the Eucharist. Jesus wanted to see to these preparations Himself. Love does not unburden itself of its obligations on others. Love does everything itself. That is its boast.
Jesus selected the city: Jerusalem, the city of the sacrifices of the Old Law. He selected the house: the Cenacle. He chose His attendants in this undertaking: Peter and John, Peter, the disciple of faith, and John, the disciple of love. He appointed the time: the last hour of His life He could freely dispose of.
Finally, He came from Bethany to the Cenacle; He was full of joy; He quickened His step; He could not get there soon enough. Love welcomes sacrifice.
THE time for the institution of the august Sacrament had come. What a moment! The hour of love had struck. The Mosaic Pasch was about to be consummated, the true Lamb to take the place of its figure in the Old Law, and the Bread of life, the Bread from heaven, to be substituted to the manna of the wilderness. Jesus sat down at table with a grave simplicity. They had to eat the new Pasch sitting down, in the repose of God. A deep silence came over them all; the Apostles looked on very attentively.
Jesus became meditative. He took some bread in His holy and venerable hands, raised His eyes to Heaven, gave thanks to His Father for this hour He had so desired, stretched out His hand, blessed the bread. . . .
And while the Apostles, filled with respect, dared not ask the meaning of symbols so mysterious, Jesus pronounced these beautiful words. as powerful as the creative word of God: Take ye and eat. This is My Body. . . . Drink ye all of This. This is My Blood.
The mystery of love was consummated. Jesus had fulfilled His promise. He had nothing more to give but His mortal life upon the Cross. He would give it and would rise again to be our perpetual Host of propitiation, the Host of our Communion, the Host of our adoration.
Heaven was enraptured at the sight of this mystery. The Most Holy Trinity contemplated it with: love. The Angels, struck with awe, adored it.
And with what a frantic rage were not the demons seized in Hell!
Yes, Lord Jesus, all is consummated! Thou hast now nothing more to give man to prove him Thy love. Thou mayest die now; Thou wilt not leave us, even by dying. Thy love is perpetuated on earth. Go back to the Heaven of Thy glory; the Eucharist will be the Heaven of Thy love.
O Cenacle! Where art thou? O Holy Table which bore the consecrated Body of Jesus! O Divine fire which Jesus kindled on Mount Sion, burn, spread thy flames, and set the world on fire!
Heavenly Father, Thou wilt always love men; they possess Jesus Christ forever! Thou wilt not lay waste the earth anymore with storms and floods, the Eucharist is our rainbow. Thou wilt love men since Thy Son Jesus Christ loves them so much!
What a love this good Savior had for us! Did He not love us enough to deserve our gratitude? What more do we need to consecrate our affections and our lives to Him in return?
Have we other desires still unsatisfied? Do we require further proofs of our Lord’s love?
Alas! If the love of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament does not win our hearts, Jesus is vanquished! Our ingratitude is greater than His goodness; our malice is more powerful than His charity! Oh! No, my good Savior, Thy charity presses me, torments me, binds me!
I want to devote myself to the service and glory of Thy Sacrament. By dint of love I want to make Thee forget that up to this day I have been so ungrateful; by dint of devotedness I want to obtain forgiveness for having loved Thee so late! . . .
The following is St. John Vianney’s sermon on the Holy Priesthood:
My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God–a man who is invested with all the powers of God. “Go,” said Our Lord to the priest; “as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations. . . . He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me. ” When the priest remits sins, he does not say, “God pardons you”; he says, “I absolve you. “At the Consecration, he does not say, “This is the Body of Our Lord;” he says, “This is My Body.” St. Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest–always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.
Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, “Go in peace; I pardon you.” Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!
The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home. When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.
When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, “Where are you going?” you might answer, “I am going to feed my soul. ” If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, “What is that golden door?” “That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept.” “Who has the key? Who lays in the provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?” “The priest.” “And what is the Food?” “The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord.” O God! O God! how Thou hast loved us! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world. . . . Someone said, “Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Cure of Ars?” Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.
If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, “There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul. ” At the sight of a church tower, you may say, “What is there in that place?” “The Body of Our Lord.” “Why is He there?” “Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass.”
What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.