Sitting in the Presence of the Lord
Deacon Joseph R. Ferrari Comments Off on Sitting in the Presence of the Lord
This year, the U.S. bishops called for the focus of the National Eucharistic Revival to be centered on parishes. The Eucharistic Revival is to help remind us of the real presence of Christ at the sacrifice of the Mass, present in the host. So, I have been praying and reflecting on “what does all this mean” for me as a Christian — as a deacon. In one of the two parishes I assist, Thursdays are devoted to Benediction and adoration, and in both parishes, first Fridays have adoration hours. Like you, I find it peaceful and comforting to sit in the quiet before Christ, just praying and talking to him.
Other times, I visit the adoration chapel of the neighboring parish. The chapel is modern and simple, with 20 chairs and stained-glass windows. Against a brick wall is a mounted gold tabernacle with candles on the wall and a marble altar beneath it. On either side are two large wooden carved statues of angels. One angel has its head bowed and hands folded in prayer; the other angel has its eyes looking up and its hands open. I see them as “worship” and “works,” respectively, both sides of our Christian identity. Simple, elegant, peaceful, comforting, soothing and just plain “nice.”
And sitting in front of the Host I reflect on the physical real presence of Christ.
‘Many Grains of Wheat’
I read once that Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia de Eucharistia that the host “is completely one, though made of up many grains of wheat” (No. 23). These many grains of wheat are blended to form unleavened bread. John Paul stated that the Host reflects all people coming together. We are a mixture of saints and sinners — different races; different calls in life; different aptitudes, skills, talents, backgrounds and goals. We are the Church mixed, coming together before Christ at the sacrifice.
Like the host, once mixed, we can’t be separated into different grains of wheat. The host is all one together. In science, we say it is a compound and not a mixture. In a mixture, we still identify the separate components [2 + 3 = 5 separate pieces]; but in a compound, something new emerges that is different from the pieces individually [2 x 3 = 6, something more than just the separate pieces].
Such is the Host, the body of Christ.
And we are unleavened bread longing to rise. We come to God broken and needing to be healed. We are not formed (unleavened), but we are forming. We come to the table to be joined together and to rise; to rise and be made holy.
At the presentation of the gifts at Mass, the host is brought from the people to the table of sacrifice. It reflects all of us coming together, presenting ourselves to God at the altar. I wonder if the reason the presider, after the consecration, breaks the Body (the Host) is because it reflects that we, like Christ, are broken. The body of Christ broken before us is many grains of wheat.
I am reminded of the apostles: 12 ordinary men with different aptitudes and skills, different careers and families. Yet they were mixed to form one set of disciples. At their last Passover meal with Jesus, they were together. One piece of bread would break off from the whole — that is, Judas would betray Jesus — but the bread stayed together beyond that night.
We are like Christ, yet we also are like the prophet David. We are a royal people, a chosen priesthood (like King David), but we are broken and sinful, fallen with errors (like King David). We strive to be that perfect Host, but we will always have a piece missing (like Judas who betrayed Jesus leaving the other 11 apostles). And that is OK — God accepts us. I think that is one of the things I love about God — no matter how broken I am, he smiles and welcomes me with open arms.
Broken: Do we want broken things? If we break an item in the store, often it is removed (or purchased) because we don’t want broken things around. But when we are broken, God runs to us (like the father to the prodigal son), God runs to hug us and hold us close. What an awesome God.
All are welcomed in his place because we are all part of the Host. And, all are always welcomed in his place.
Even Behind Closed Doors
Returning to the neighboring adoration chapel, I recently stopped in “for a visit,” as my mom would say, and found the tabernacle door closed. Christ was still behind those closed doors but not exposed. A sign said the door would be closed on Mondays and Fridays (sadly) because not enough people committed to sit for an adoration hour.
After my brief visit (the only one present), I thought of a song I listened to as a teenager in 1973 by Charlie Rich, an American country singer who blended rockabilly and gospel. The refrain would say no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.
But we do know what goes on behind this closed door.
Even if the tabernacle door is closed, Christ is present. Christ continues to work on impacting the world, through worship and works. Christ continues to pull together his people to the table. It does not matter if you are broken or whole, we all “come to the table.” We are saints and sinners mixed in the host — the wheat and the weeds growing together in the fields to be sorted later by the harvesters (cf. Mt 13:24-30). Only God and his angels separate out the good from the rotten fish (cf. Mt 13:48-49). In the Host before Christ, we are something more, a compound.
Come to the table — taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
DEACON JOSEPH R. FERRARI, Ph.D., is a permanent deacon serving the Joliet, Illinois, diocese parishes of St. Margaret Mary in Naperville and St. Bernard’s in Homer Glen. He is a St. Vincent de Paul Distinguished Professor of Psychology (social and community) at DePaul University, Chicago.
MEET HIM IN ADORATION
“In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love: The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.”
— Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1380