01 June 2010

Awesome is the Altar

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite, this Thursday is the feast of Corpus Christi; and this coming weekend in the Ordinary Form is the celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Thus for this week it seems especially appropriate to focus our meditations on the precious gift of Our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Up first is this reflection from Saint John Chrysostom which is part of the Carthusian hour of Matins for this incredible feast.

We are one Body, and members of His Flesh and of His Bones (cf. Ephesians 5:30). In order then that we may become this not by love only, but in very deed, let us be blended into Our Saviour’s Flesh. This is accomplished by the Food which He has freely given us, desiring to show the love which He has for us. On this account He has mixed up Himself with us; He has kneaded up His Body with ours, like a body joined to a head. This is the witness and sign of a greater love. Job implied this, speaking of his servants, by whom he was loved so exceedingly, that they desired to cleave unto his flesh. For they said, to show the strong love which they felt, ‘Who will give us of his flesh that we may be filled’? (Job 31:31). Wherefore this also Christ has done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show His love for us; He has given to those who desire Him, not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His Flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy all their love.

Let us then return from that Eucharistic table like lions breathing fire, able to terrify the devil, thinking of our Head, and on the love which He has shown for us. Parents often entrust their offspring to others to feed; but Jesus could say that He feeds you with His own Flesh, desiring that you all be nobly born, and holding forth to you good hopes for the future. For He who gives out Himself to you here, much more will do so hereafter. He has willed to become our Brother, for our sake He shared in flesh and blood, and in turn He gives out to you the Flesh and the Blood by which He became your kinsman. This blood causes the Image of our King to be fresh within us, produces unspeakable beauty, and permits not the nobleness of our souls to waste away, watering it continually, and nourishing it.

The blood derived from our usual food becomes not at once blood, but passes through intermediate changes. But the Blood of the Saviour straightway waters our souls and works in them mighty power. The Blood of Christ, if received worthily, casts out demons, while it calls to us angels and the Lord of angels. For wherever they see the Lord's Blood, devils flee, and angels rush together. This Blood poured forth washed clean the whole world. In the Letter to the Hebrews, this Blood cleansed the secret place, and the Holy of holies. In the midst of Egypt, when smeared on the door-posts, they were spared of death. If that foreshadowing was so powerful, how much more effective will be the Reality of Christ’s Blood?

Blood sanctified the golden altar; without it the high priest dared not enter into the secret place. This blood consecrated priests, this blood symbolically cleansed sins. But if it had such power in the types, if death so shuddered at the shadow, tell me how would it not have dreaded the very Reality? The Blood of Christ is the salvation of our souls, by this the soul is washed, by this is beautiful, by this is inflamed, this causes our understanding to be more bright than fire, and our soul more beaming than gold; this Blood was poured forth, and made heaven accessible. Awesome in truth are the Mysteries of the Church; awesome in truth is the Altar.