THE FOURTH CUP
Transcript of a taped address by Dr. Scott Hahn, former Presbyterian
minister and Professor of Theology at The Fransiscan University of
Steubenville The original tape was distributed by Catholic Answers.
I'd like to cover a lot, and I'd like to tell you in advance what I'm going to tell you. I'd like to move from one to another to a third area. The first area I'd like to focus on is how it is that Christ in the Last Supper and in the Eucharist offers himself up as the new covenant Passover, and how the Eucharist and the Old Testament passover are in a sense two sides of the same coin. The second focus of our time will be on the nature of the Mass, then, as a sacrifice. That was big problem for me, and that's a big problem for lots of people outside the church and I think for some people in the church too, who wonder about how it is that after calvary we can still speak of any activity that is performed on earth as being a sacrifice of Christ. And then finally the third area for our consideration will be on what our proper response would be to our Lord in the Eucharist, in the blessed Sacrament. In other words, why should we adore our Lord in the Eucharist as opposed to just any old place we happen to be? In other words, we'll conclude on the note of Eucharistic adoration, and why that is a fit, proper, and very necessary act of devotion in the family of God, the Catholic Church.
Let's go back to the first, the Eucharist as Passover. What I'd like to share in this first part is not what theologians would call de fide; it isn't infallibly defined dogma that binds the conscience, the intellect and will of every Catholic believer. Instead, what I'd like to do is just to share my own Scripture study in sort of an abbreviated form that led me to see something that I didn't think was possible, let me to see that the Last Supper and Christ's sacrifice on calvary and the Eucharist are all of one piece. Some scholars might dispute this. You can't find all Scripture scholars agreeing on anything these days, so I don't lose much sleep over the fact that there might be some scripture scholars who dispute this point. But through my own study_and I've checked this with others who are more qualified and better trained scholars than me_it helps. It's been an explanation that has provided insight for others as well. It's not entirely original, but for me it was a discovery of my own before I discovered it in the writings of other great and holy and wise authors.
When we think about how Christ instituted the Eucharist, we're obviously taken back to the Upper Room. And just recall if you will some well known facts. He and the disciples were celebrating what well known feast? The Passover. Probably the most important feast in all the Jewish calendar back then, because it signaled the event_it signified the salvation deed of God, the work of God. Centuries, over a thousand years before, when Moses and the twelve tribes of Israel found themselves found themselves in bondage down in Egypt. And you know how it was that God called Moses from the burning bush and said, "Go and tell pharaoh the following: 'Israel is my firstborn son.'" Now that's a very interesting statement to begin with, because that idea of firstborn son is very essential to the Passover itself. "Israel if my firstborn son." God is saying something to Egypt and to all the other nations: 'You are enslaving and ignoring and mistreating your eldest brother' It almost implies that all the nations in God's eyes are like sons, but that Israel back then held a kind of primacy, like the oldest brother. "Israel is my firstborn son. Go tell pharaoh that Israel is my firstborn son. Let him go to serve me or else I will slay your firstborn sons." And you know the story about the plagues and how they came upon Egypt and pharaoh kept hardening and turning away from God and wouldn't listen, or he would listen and act like he was going to give in but at the last minute he'd turn away and harden his heart some more. Until finally the tenth plague came, which was the plague of the angel of death visiting death upon the firstborn sons in Egypt. All firstborn sons would have died, not just the Egyptian firstborn sons, except for one thing_the Passover. If you and your household through the father took a lamb and slew that lamb and sprinkled the blood on the doorpost and ate the meal you would wake up and your firstborn son would be alive. And of course the Egyptian families didn't, the Israelite families did and with that they were brought up in the exodus out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where God made a covenant with them, where He, like a father, entered into a loving relationship with the son. It's almost like a bridal....it's like a marriage encounter.
That's the Old Testament background. What it all meant was that this was the covenant event. In other words, what God was interested in doing was to restore the family purity and the family communion of His children, the people of Israel. The Passover was the bonding agent that brought it about, through the blood of the lamb, that sacrifice. And so it was celebrated for thousands of years, and still is by Jews, as the sign of the Mosaic covenant. Now remember, a covenant is a sacred family bond; it's more than just a contract. And remember also that firstborn sons were marked for destruction. In other words, Egypt offered up a sacrifice and so did Israel. Egypt's sacrifice was unwilling: their firstborn sons. Israel's sacrifice was voluntary: the unblemished lamb. All of this is key, I believe, to understand the New Testament context of the Last Supper and our own Holy Eucharist, because when Christ institutes the Eucharist, as I said, it takes place in the upper room at the Last Supper. And what are they doing but celebrating the Passover? Luke 22:15: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you." So likewise in Mark chapter 14: "His disciples said to him, 'Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?' And he gave them instructions and the disciples set out and entered the city and found it as he had told them and they prepared the Passover."
And you know the circumstances and details surrounding the Last Supper. I won't recount all of them, but let's just go over the more salient features. In Mark 14:22ff we read, "And as they were eating he took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them and said, 'Take; this is my body. And he took a cup and when he had given thanks [the Greek word for that is eucharisto] he gave it to them and they all drank of it, and he said to them, 'This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many.'" And then he adds a kind of unusual statement: "Truly I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." And then, when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the night to the Mount of Olives. Now that might not seem very significant to you but to scholars who study the gospel accounts of the Passover in the upper room, there's a big problem. Why? Because we know the way the Passover has been celebrated for centuries, for millenia; it's a very ancient liturgy, it's well known, it's no secret. Jews still celebrate it according to the same structure. There are four cups that represent the structure of the Passover. The first cup is the blessing of the festival day, it's the kiddush cup. The second cup of wine occurs really at the beginning of the Passover liturgy itself, and that involves the singing of psalm 113. And then there's the third cup, the cup of blessing which involves the actual meal, the unleavened bread and so on. And then, before the fourth cup, you sing the great hil-el psalms: 114, 115, 116, 117 and 118. And having sung those psalms you proceed to the fourth cup which for all practical purposes is the climax of the Passover.
Now what's the problem? The problem is that gospel account says something like this: after the third cup is drunk Jesus says, "I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I am entering into the kingdom of God." And it says, "Then they sang the psalms." Every Jew who knows the liturgy would expect: and then they went ahead and said the grace and the blessing and had the fourth cup which climaxed and consummated the Passover. But no, the gospel account say they sang the psalms and went out into the night.
I'm sure this doesn't seem like a big problem and for a long time it didn't seem big to me, but it ha led many scholars to question whether he was celebrating a Passover at all because you just don't blow apart the liturgy that way. You don't just sidestep the most important part. It would be like saying the Mass and skipping the Eucharist, forgetting the words of consecration. So why did Jesus do it? Other scholars say, well back them there must not have been a fourth cup. But ancient revered traditions like that don't just spring up overnight and then cover the globe like the Passover liturgy has, with all four cups. And so it seems likely that there might be a better explanation. But where? Why did he skip the fourth cup? After all, he was raised a Jew, he'd been celebrating the Passover every year of his life since he was a little boy according to the strictest laws of Moses. Well, maybe there's a psychological reason. Maybe he was so anxious, so uptight about what he knew he was going to do, he - for instance, we read in Mark 14:32, "They went out to a place called Gethsemane and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took with him Peter, James and John and began to be greatly distressed and troubled, and he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful even unto death.'"
That's what our Lord was feeling, so some have said that maybe he just wasn't alert enough to get all the way through the liturgy; he was distracted. Doubtful, very doubtful. He wouldn't skip over something so essential and climactic as that. Everything else functioned according to plan. They sang the psalms and then they went out into the night. I think the answer lies elsewhere. Where did they go? Well, we just read, Gethsemane. And what did he do? He prayed, because his soul was so distressed. Notice what he prayed, and why, and how he did it. Three times he fell down to the ground and said to his Father, he cried out. "Abba, Father!" He fell to the ground and three times said to the Father, "Abba, Father." The most intimate of terms. "All things are possible to Thee. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt." Remove this cup. Take away this cup. What is this cup? Now, some scholars suggest that this harkens back to an image used by Isaiah and Jeremiah to speak about the cup of God's wrath that the Messiah, God's suffering servant, must drink. There's certainly some connection that can be made there, but much more likely, I think, is a connection between an interrupted liturgy that had been followed strictly up until the very end and this heartfelt, earnest plea and prayer of our Savior. Remove this cup. He also said, though, "I shall not taste of the fruit of the vine again until I enter into the kingdom."
So what do we see as the drama unfolds? Well, in Mark 15:23, on the way to calvary, after being beaten and scourged and abused, what do some people offer our Lord? In Mark 15:23 they offer him wine mingled with myrrh, which was an opiate, a painkiller, but he wouldn't take it. Why not? Well, certainly because he was there to accept the suffering for the sins of the world. But he had also said, "I will not taste of the fruit of the vine again until I come into the kingdom." So He wouldn't take the wine. But then we turn to John, chapter 19_If you have a Bible, turn with me to John 19. If you don't have a Bible you're probably a cradle Catholic [laughter] Sorry, one of those convert jokes; shame on me! [laughter]_John 19 describes in unique detail the sacrifice of our Lord. There's no mistaking the fact that St. John, the beloved disciple, understood our Lord's sacrifice as the culmination, the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover. For instance, why is that Jesus happened to be wearing a seamless linen garment at the cross, when just coincidently that's what the priest was legislated to wear when he sacrificed the Passover? Here is the true priest, as well as the true victim. And when he was crucified, unlike the two thieves whose legs had to be broken to expedite death, his bones were not broken. Why? To fulfill the scripture where it says, "None of his bones shall be broken." What's that talking about where it says, "None of his bones shall be broken"? One of the things is that if you took a lamb to sacrifice for the Passover and you discovered that it had a broken bone, you had to throw him out and get another one. The only fit sacrifice was a lamb without broken bones. John sees in this so much more than we can get into, but one thing in particular. Verse 28, "After this"_at the very end of his cruel sufferings_"Jesus, knowing that all was now finished said, in order to fulfill the scriptures, 'I thirst.'" Now, he's been on the cross for hours. Is this the first moment of thirst. No, he'd been wracked with pain and dying of thirst for hours. But he says, in order to fulfill the scripture, "I thirst." Why? To fulfill the scripture.
"A bowl of sour wine stood there. They put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch_the same kind of branch the Israelites had to use to sprinkle the lamb's blood on the doorpost, coincidently enough_and held it to his mouth. Before when they offered him wine, what did he do? He refused it: "I will not taste of the fruit of the vine I am coming into the kingdom." He skipped the fourth cup and then he went to pray, 'Remove this cup, not as I will will, but as thou wilt,' And now he has gone and fulfilled that will to the uttermost, in perfect suffering obedience to the Father, in an act of unspeakable love.
"They put a sponge full of the sour wine on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine he said the words that are spoken of in the fourth cup consummation, "It is finished." What is the it referring to? That grammatical question began really bothering me at some point. I asked several people and their response was usually, "Well, it means the work of redemption that Christ was working on." All right, that's true, I agree it does refer to that, but in context. An exegete, a trained interpreter of the word is supposed to find the contextual meaning, not just import a meaning from a theology textbook. What is Jesus speaking of when he says, "It is finished?" I mean, our redemption is not completed once he - he's not yet raised. Paul says, "He was raised for our justification."
So what is the it talking about? He said, 'It is finished', and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit, his breath. The it, of course you realize by now, is the Passover sacrifice. Because who is Jesus Christ? He is the sacrifice of Egypt, the firstborn son. Remember, the Egyptians involuntarily had to offer up their firstborn sons as atonement for their own sins and wickedness. Christ dies for Egypt and the world. Plus, he is the Passover lamb, the unblemished lamb, without broken bones who offers himself up for the life of the world. This fits with John's gospel, because as soon as Jesus was introduced in chapter 1 of the fourth gospel by John the Baptist, what did John say? He said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." And here is the lamb, headed for the altar of the cross, dying as a righteous firstborn and as an unblemished lamb. I believe that it's best to say in light of scripture that the sacrifice of Christ did not begin with the first spike, it didn't begin when the cross was sunk into the ground. I began in the upper room. That's where the sacrifice began. And I would also suggest that the Passover meal by which Jesus initiated the new Covenant in his own blood did not end in the upper room, but at calvary. It's all of one piece. The sacrifice begins in the upper room with the institution of the Eucharist and it ends at calvary. Calvary begins with the Eucharist. The Eucharist ends at Calvary. But in another way of thinking, it ain't over yet! Cause it ain't over till it's over. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, "Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, therefore"_what?_we don't need to have any more sacrifice? Therefore we don't need to have any more ritual, therefore all we have to do is have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and invite him into our hearts and everything else is taken care of? No, he's too knowledgeable about the Old Testament to say any of that. He says, "Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed; let us therefore celebrate the feast." What feast? The whole Passover feast. It's not complete yet. What do you mean?
Well, go back to the Old Testament, to the book of Exodus. Suppose that night as head of my household and father, I sacrificed an unblemished lamb with no broken bones, and I sprinkled his blood on the door post, and then I said, "Family, we're safe, let's go to bed', and we went to bed. I'd wake up in the morning to tragedy. My firstborn would be dead. Why? You had to eat the lamb. It isn't enough to kill him. That is the satisfaction for sin, but the ultimate goal of sacrifice is not blood and gore and God making sure He sees the death. The ultimate goal is to restore communion, to have fellowship with God restored. And that's what's signified by eating the lamb. Who shares a common meal? Family. What is this a sign of? Covenant. And what is a covenant? A sacred family bond. In the Old Testament any family that sacrificed a lamb and sprinkled the blood had to eat the lamb. It wasn't enough to say, 'Well we don't like lamb do we, kids? Why don't we make lamb cookies? Little lamb wafers that symbolize the lamb? We'll eat those and those'll be enough, right? Symbolic presence of the lamb, and all that?' No, you'd wake up and you'd be dead. You ate the lamb and you burned what was left. But you ate the lamb to reestablish and restore communion with your heavenly Father through His firstborn Son and Lamb. That's the way it was in the Old Testament, and St. Paul recognizes that it's still the way it is in the new covenant, only in spades, only with more glory. Why? Because Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Once and for all on calvary he's been put to death, therefore_what? Therefore we've nothing to do. Just celebrate the sacrifice, which is over and done with_ No, something's missing. We need to eat the Lamb. We need to receive the Lamb to restore communion and to complete the sacrifice and to keep the feast . It's proper, and we now judge it to be necessary. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, "Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed and now let us celebrate the feast." And the next five chapters in many ways St. Paul describes how the Eucharist is to be celebrated, because it's the culmination of the Passover sacrifice.
This is a true sacrifice. It's an unbloody sacrifice, because we're not killing Jesus again. This was something I never really understood as a Protestant anti-Catholic. I thought for sure that because you speak of sacrificing in the Mass, that therefore in some way you believe we're killing Jesus again and again and again, as though one dying is not enough. So we just assumed and I always taught that there was suffering imposed upon Christ supposedly in the Mass. This is blasphemous because his one act of dying wasn't enough and we had to continue to have him die and bleed and suffer, which is what the Mass is for. No way! That's anti-Catholic. No Catholic can believe that because the sacrifice of the Mass involves no bleeding , no dying and no suffering of the person of Christ, who is enthroned in glory and reigning triumphant in heaven. He is resurrected. He is ascended. He is enthroned, and he rules as king of kings.
How is it that he's enthroned? The New Testament answers that question in a very revealing way. At least it was revealing for me. I turned to the book of Revelation. In chapter 5:5-6 where John sees the scroll that is sealed seven times and he begins to cry because no body can break it open; no body can break open the seals to read the book. And the cry goes out, "Lo! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David has conquered . the lion of the tribe of Judah is worthy to open up the seals to read the book." The lion of the tribe of Judah; the root of David; the conquering king, right? So John turns to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah and you expect to see this great lion with a dazzling mane like in Narnia or something, some beautiful royal beast and instead he turns and what does he see? In verse 6 John says, "I saw a lamb standing there as though it had been slain." The conquering king, the lion of the tribe of Judah , the root of David ruling and reigning in the new and glorified Jerusalem, up in heaven, and when you see him what's he look like? A lamb, looking as though he'd been slain. Why? because Revelation 5, and then 6 and 7 and 8 all describe what St, John saw in spirit on the Lord's Day up in heaven. And guess what? It's what you see in the spirit on the Lord's day down on earth. A Eucharistic liturgy. And the Lamb leads all of the saints and the angels and the people of God in this beautiful heavenly liturgy.
In the early Church fathers it went without argument, it went without saying that the liturgy on earth was patterned after the vision that St. John had of the heavenly worship. But notice the appearance of our conquering king. He's a lamb looking as though he'd been slain. Why? Because the Holy Spirit resurrected the body of Jesus and it was ascended into heaven and it was enthroned and it appears as a lamb because the sacrifice continues. Because the Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament was not complete until all of God's people who trusted the Lord and wanted to obey the ordinance received the Lamb and received the covenant and the sacred family bond of the Lamb. And so likewise the New Covenant, the heavenly family the spiritual supernatural bond that unties us as brothers and sisters_we are more brothers and sisters than your own earthly, biological siblings with whom you share a family for 60 or 70 years_we've got 70 trillion years and that's just the beginning. We are God's family; that isn't just quaint sentimental pastoral metaphors. That isn't just a nice emotional analogy that stirs our hearts and makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. That's more real than anything in this room. We are God's children, purchased with the Lamb's blood, and that Lamb is there for us to receive. The Lamb is a continual celebrant in heaven. He is our high priest and he is our king. He is our teacher, our prophet, and he is the one celebrant who leads the whole liturgical worship of the entire universe as an act of continual praise and offering through the Sacred Heart to the Father. All of us who are united to Him as members of His Mystical Body, our worship is only acceptable because of His sacrifice. He has covered our sins, he's made an expiation, and yet for the sacrifice to be complete, what must we do? We must receive him.
This fact was taught us long before the crucifixion. For instance in John chapter 6, let me read from verse 50 and following and see how it is that Jesus prepared the way and instructed his disciples so that they would know exactly what they were to expect. John 6:50, let's go back to 6:4: "Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews was at hand." In other words the backdrop for the entire bread of life discourse was the Passover season. Jesus says, "This is the bread that comes down from heaven that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he will live forever and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." Passover season. The one who was introduced in John 1 as the 'Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world', at Passover time he tells us that, "The bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly'_in the original it's Amen, amen: we usually close our prayers with amen, but he begins this with it because he knows it's going to be so important, so true_"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him." And what response does he get? "Many of his disciples when they heard it said, 'This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?' But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at him, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this?'" And we read on and find that many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.
What did Jesus say? Come on, guys, I was only speaking in symbols, huh? I was only using an image. I don't mean to offend you. Come on back. I'm about to lose a few thousand here; come on, Twelve, help me. No, he turned to the Twelve and he said to them, "Do you also wish to go away?" He's not going to water down the truth. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life."
Underneath that tone of voice we hear, 'We might think about leaving, 'cause what you've said is rather incomprehensible if not downright offensive. Any advice on alternate messiahs? Who shall we go to if we leave you? Since there are no others, we'll stay by your side, uncomprehending.' Like many of his sayings, they didn't understand it until after he was raised, after he ascended, and after they had a vision of their risen, glorified and enthroned king. Enthroned as a lamb, 'looking as though he had been slain.' Because he bears those scars, and he continually postures himself before his Father on our behalf and for our sake as a sacrificial victim, uniting himself with us so that as members of his own mystical body we might join in with that sacrifice. St. Paul says in Romans 8 that we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered for God's sake, not just the Lamb, but we all enter into him and become identified with that sacrifice of the Eucharist in the Mass. So, what is the sacrifice? There's a once-and-for-all sacrifice on Calvary. Once and for all. Once and for all time it continues on into eternity as the one perfect sacrifice. I used to take it to mean once and for all and therefore it needs no repetition; it needs no representation. But then you read in Revelation 5 that Christ is continually re-presenting his paschal sacrifice as the Lamb of God, looking as though he'd been slain, before the Father forever, for our sake.
That's the significance of our earthly liturgy, of the Eucharistic banquet, of the Eucharistic Passover, whereby God's firstborn Son, the Lamb of God, has taken away our sins and calls us to unite ourselves with him. Baptism is the sacrament of faith in which we unite ourselves and receive the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is the sacrament of hope in which we gain the extra power to overcome the sin which we begin to consciously commit, because in confirmation we have solid reason for hoping that God's grace will overcome our sin. But faith, hope are nothing, are profitless, without love. And the Eucharist is the sacrament of love. It's an oath that God has sworn: "I love you. You don't believe me? I swear to God."
You know how people swear an oath: 'Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye,' as little kids say? 'Cut my heart into four pieces and gouge out my eyes?' An oath is a self-curse. "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me, God." Meaning, 'I need your help, God, or I might perjure myself. And if I do and only you know, may the curses in this Book come down upon me. And if I tell the truth but am accused of lying and found guilty, may the blessings here come down upon me from heaven.'
That's what an oath means. God says, "I love you; do you believe me? Yyeeaaahh, sortta. "I swear by myself." He swears by Himself. He'll accept a curse upon Himself for our sake, so that we know He loves us. And then He calls us to unite ourselves with Him and He says, "Do you love me?" We believe you, we're baptized, we hope that Your grace and power is sufficient to overcome our sin, and so we're confirmed. And then when we receive the Eucharist we receive the sacrament of love by which we swear ourselves to God. We say, 'Swear to God, I love you, so help me, God. Give me the grace I need to overcome my defects.' That's what the Eucharist is. One of the passages that many people sidestep that I want to call to your attention is in 1 Corinthians 11. St. Paul says in verse 27, "Whoever, therefore, who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. And that is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died." Because they received the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. Now do you really believe that Paul really believes that people are weak and sick and dead because they received the Eucharist in mortal sin? It's exactly what he believes and teaches us to believe. He goes on, "But if we judged ourselves truly we should not be so judged, but when we are judged by the Lord we ar chastened so that we are not condemned along with the world." If I tell you a big story about my 12 kids all of whom are doctors and lawyers it'd be a lie, right? It wouldn't be appropriate in a place like this, but it'd just be a lie and I couldn't get in any more trouble than to get my reputation discredited. But suppose that this were a different kind of place, a courtroom, and this were a different kind of setup here and this was a witness stand and I proceeded to tell those same things. What would you call it then? A lie? Perjury. Lying's a sin. Perjury's a crime. I couldn't go to jail for a sin like lying; why could I go to jail for a sin like perjury? As the judge in Perry Mason says, "I remind you, you're still under oath." The Latin word for oath is sacramentum. Jesus Christ says to all of us, 'I remind you you're still under oath. You have sworn yourself to me.' You say, 'So help me, God, I promise to live the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me, God. You know me, God, better than I know myself. Help me, God! And if I play games with you and the world doesn't know, I know you do, and I won't be surprised if I become weak or ill or die. So help me, God! Help me because you've pledged yourself to me and now assist me in pledging myself to you.' That's what the Eucharist is all about It's a sacrifice because sacrifice is the essence of love. You don't just give your things, you give yourself. Christ continues to give himself because Christ continues to love us so much. So what can we make of all this? First we can see that the new covenant Passover is the Eucharist which is a re-presentation of Christ's once and for all sacrifice on Calvary. We don;t kill him again, he doesn't suffer and bleed, he's not humiliated again on the cross on Calvary. That was once and for all that he died, and now his death and resurrection are re-presented forever in heaven as the Lamb leads them all in worship, and it's re-presented here below as the Eucharistic Lamb leads all of us in worshipping the Father as good faithful children in His family. That's the heart and soul of our faith, that's the ground of our hope; that is the soul of our life as Christians, as the mystical body of Christ, the corpus Christi. We are what we eat.
Let's renew and deepen our commitment to Christ by renewing and deepening our commitment to the Holy Eucharist in the blessed sacrament of the altar. This isn't superstition or hocus-pocus. I was teaching class earlier this week, and about 30 of my students were there and I said to them, "Suppose you're in your dorm room tonight and you were watching the six o'clock news and all of a sudden you saw Roger Mudd come on and say, 'There's evidence now, the report is confirmed now, that Jesus Christ is back on earth and is walking the streets of Jolliot about two blocks from the College of St. Francis.' You're hearing this and you're sitting back with your feet up on a chair and suppose your roommate came in and said, 'What's that?' You say, 'They say Jesus is walking around a couple of blocks from here, and they're trying to get an interview with him.' What would you do?" They all said spontaneously, "I'd run to see him." Now what would you say to your roommate if he replied, 'Aw, Jesus is God and God is everywhere; I can talk to Jesus right here or in the bathroom or out in the country, so why go out and see him?' No, no, if you love Jesus and he's really there two blocks away, you'd go rush to see him. If you love him. And then I said to my students what I'm going to say to you: He's less than two blocks away.
Do we really believe that? I don't understand why it is that in thousands of parishes across this country people receive the Eucharist, sit down and then do the hundred yard dash to the parking lot even before the blessing is finished. Why? Some people have to leave even before they sit down. I call that the Judas shuffle. He received out Lord and then went out into the night. They receive our Lord and go out into the morning or afternoon. Do we really believe that we're receiving the second Person of the blessed Trinity, the Logos, the Creator, the Redeemer, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? He has just entered into our body and soul, we've just received him body and blood, soul and divinity. Do we believe that? Do we act like it? Is there enough evidence to convict us of such a belief? God, I hope so. If not, let's start stockpiling more evidence, let's make the case against ourselves much easier for the world so they look at us and say, 'They really do believe that they're receiving the God-man.
The early Church was accused of cannibalism; the world saw and understood_partially. It's not cannibalism, he's alive in glory, with power_for us who need it most_if we love and believe that much. The Eucharist is our oath, our pledge and God's assistance. So what about Eucharistic adoration? Is it pre-Vatican II? Is it an outmoded, medieval rite? Is it some meaningless ritual just for those old fuddy-duds who like the old Latin Mass and need everything the way it was a hundred years ago? No. it's for every man, woman and child of God. Why? Why is adoration of the blessed Sacrament so important? Because it's Christ whom we adore_the most adorable being in the whole world.
I want to read to you some things that occurred to me last night in prayer and study. I came across a statement by St. Cyril of Alexandria who said about the early Church_this is a belief that goes way back to the beginning_"Neither Christ is altered nor his body changed, but the force and power and vivifying grace always remain with it_the Eucharist." St. Augustine: "No one eats the Flesh without first adoring it. Not only do we not commit a sin by adoring it, but that we do sin by not adoring it." St. Augustine taught as a Doctor of the Church that we do sin by not adoring the Eucharist. Pope Paul VI: "Such visits are a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, an acknowledgment of the Lord's presence. The pope recalled Vatican II. Pope John XXIII once said, "To keep me from sin and to prevent me from straying from Him, God has used devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the blessed Sacrament. My life seems destined to be spent in the light radiating from the tabernacle, and it is to the heart of Jesus that I must go for the solution of all my problems."
St. John Vianny_the Cur_ of Ars_said, "To pray well there is no need to talk a lot. One knows that the good God is there in the holy tabernacle. One opens his heart to him, one rejoices in his presence; this is the best prayer." Pope John Paul II, our Holy Father said, "I wish to reaffirm the fact that Eucharistic worship constitutes the soul of all Christian life. The visit to the blessed Sacrament is the great treasure of the Catholic faith. It nourishes social love and gives us opportunities for adoration and thanksgiving, for reparation and supplication. It becomes a prefect and yet simple, loving prayer."
Our Lord is just a few feet away. He is no less real here and now that he was two thousand years ago on the dirty streets of Judea. It's only our five senses that block our view. The eyes of faith can see it, and we are the ones who walk by faith and not by sight. Do we really believe that? Do we really love him? Will we really commit ourselves to receiving all that we need as we tell him, 'I solemnly swear to live the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, God.'
Someone once said, "He hides his adorable humanity in the humble appearance of ordinary bread and wine so that we might find that peace and joy that comes from being despised and rejected as he was in his life." He hides his adorable humanity. Do we adore it? In the humble appearance of ordinary bread and wine? He will sustain our soul and the life of the Spirit like bread and wine sustain the life of the body. So that we might find that peace and joy that comes from being despised. The world would laugh at such a statement. The Eucharist is proof that it's true. Peace and joy that comes from being despised and rejected as he was in this life. In the Eucharist he is forgotten, rejected and sacrilegiously received and profaned, yet he remains there to nourish us with his precious body and blood." When I first read those words of Brother Francis Mary right before Christmas, having received this mailing from Marytown, I had to leave the room and confess my sins and I cried, and I'm not that emotional. But I tell you, the Sacred Heart of Jesus calls out to us to deepen our love, and if we don't have what it takes, he says, 'Come and get it.' It's free. It ain't cheap, but it's free. He says, 'It cost me my life, but I give it to you for free, just for the asking and seeking.'
Do we love him that much? Do we believe him that much? Let us pray. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our Father in heaven, we thank you for the glory of the gospel. This world is too small to contain it. Our bodies are too small to live it and to contain it in its fullness, so spend us, Lord, and take us a living sacrifice united with Christ, so that through his holy and acceptable offering we might be holy and acceptable, that through our life, through our suffering, through our loving, through our words and deeds, Christ might live and die and be raised in the world around us, in his mystical body. These truths, Lord, are not truths that we sense or see. Increase our faith and help us adore You more, and help us to commit ourselves with resolution and consistency to regular time of adoring You in the holy Eucharist., We thank You for this holy and august sacrament. Impress upon our hearts and minds how incomparable it is, inestimable in value, that it might be the treasure that we store up in heaven, and it might be that for which we live and work on earth. Hear us, Lord, as we join together in the family prayer that our Lord taught us so long ago. Our Father.....
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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