Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Preparation for Death - Consideration XXXV

Dwelling of Jesus on our Altars.
“Come to me all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” – Matt. xi. 28.
Jesus makes Himself Accessible to Every One.
Having to depart from this world after he had completed the work of redemption, our loving Saviour did not wish to leave us alone in this valley of tears. “No tongue,” says St. Peter of Alcantara, “can express the greatness of the love which Jesus Christ bears to our souls. Hence, that his absence from us might not be an occasion of forgetting him, this spouse, before his departure from this world, left, as a memorial of his love, this Most Holy Sacrament, in which he himself has remained. He did not wish that between him and his servants there should be any other pledge than himself, to keep alive the remembrance of him.” This effort of love on the part of Jesus Christ merits great love from us; and, according to the revelation said to have been made to his servant, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, he wished that in these latter times a festival should be instituted in honor of his Most Sacred Heart, in order that, by our devotions and affections, we might make some return for his loving dwelling on our altars, and thus compensate the insults which he has received in this sacrament of love, and which he receives every day from heretics and bad Catholics.
Jesus has left himself in the Most Holy Sacrament, first, that all may be able to find him; secondly, to give audience to all; thirdly, to give his graces to all. He, in the first place, remains on so many, altars, that all who wish may be able to find him. On the night on which the Redeemer took leave of his disciples to go to his death, they shed tears of sorrow at the thought of being separated from their dear Master; but Jesus consoled them, saying (and the same he then said also to us): My children, I am going to die for you, in order to show you the love which I bear you. But at my death I will not leave you alone: as long as you are on earth, I will remain with you in the Most Holy Sacrament. I leave you my body, my soul, my divinity: I leave myself entirely to you. As long as you remain on earth, I will not depart from you. Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.1 The Saviour, says St. Peter of Alcantara, did not wish to leave his spouse alone at such a distance, and therefore he has left this sacrament, in which he himself, the best of all companions, has remained with her. The Gentiles have invented so many gods; but they could never imagine a god more loving than our God, who remains nigh to us, and assists us with so much love. Neither is there any other nation so great, that hath God so nigh them, as our God is present to all our petitions.2 The holy Church applies this passage of Deuteronomy to the festival of the Most Holy Sacrament. – Resp. ii. Noct. iii.
Behold, then, Jesus Christ remains in our tabernacles, as if confined in so many prisons of love. His priests remove him from the tabernacle to expose him on the altar, or to give Communion, and afterward put him back to be again shut up; and Jesus is content to remain there day and night. But why, my Redeemer, dost thou remain in so many churches, even during the night, when the faithful lock the doors, and leave Thee alone? It would be enough for Thee to remain during the day. No; he wished to remain also during the night, though left alone, that, in the morning, all who seek may instantly find him. The sacred spouse went in search of her beloved, saying to every one she met: Have you seen him whom my soul loveth?3 And, not finding him, she raised her voice and exclaimed; My spouse, tell me where thou art. Show me . . where thou feedest, where thou liest, in the mid-day.4 The spouse did not find him, because then the Most Holy Sacrament was not instituted; but, at present, if a soul wishes to find Jesus Christ, it has only to go to a church in which the Holy Eucharist is preserved, and there it will find its beloved expecting it. There is not a town nor a convent in which the Holy Sacrament is not kept; and in all these places the King of Heaven is content to remain shut up in a case of wood or of stone, often almost without a lamp burning before him, and without any one to keep him company. But, “O Lord!” says St. Bernard, “this is not suited to Thy Majesty.” No matter,” Jesus replies; “if it becomes not my Majesty, it well becomes my love.”
What tender devotion do pilgrims feel in visiting the holy house of Loretto – the Holy Land – the stable at Bethlehem – the hill of Calvary – or the holy sepulchre, in which Jesus Christ was born, or lived, or died, or was buried! But how much greater tenderness should we feel in a church, in presence of Jesus himself in the Blessed Sacrament? The venerable Father John D’Avila used to say that he knew no sanctuary capable of inspiring greater devotion or consolation than a church in which Jesus remains in the Holy Eucharist. Father Balthazar Alvarez would weep in seeing the palaces of princes filled with courtiers, and the churches, in which Jesus Christ dwells, solitary and abandoned. O God! if the Lord remained only in one church – for example, in St. Peter’s in Rome – and only on one day in the year, oh! how many pilgrims, how many nobles, how many princes would endeavor to have the happiness of being there on that day, to pay court and homage to the King of Heaven descended again upon the earth! Oh, what a splendid tabernacle of gold, adorned with gems, would be prepared for the occasion! Oh, with what an abundance of lights would the dwelling of Jesus Christ on the earth be celebrated on that day! But, says the Redeemer, I do not wish to remain only in a single church, or but for a single day: nor require either such riches, or such a profusion of lights. I wish to remain continually every day, and in all places in which my servants are found; that all may easily find me at all times, and at any hour they wish.
Ah! if Jesus Christ had not invented this excess of love, who could have ever thought of it? Should a Christian, after the ascension of the Redeemer into heaven, say to him, Lord, if Thou wishest to show us Thy affection, remain with us on our altars under the appearance of bread, that we may be able to find Thee whenever we wish: would not such a demand be regarded as the extreme of temerity? But, what no man could ever even imagine, our Saviour has invented and accomplished. But, alas! where is our gratitude for so great a favor? If a prince came from a distance to a village for the purpose of being visited by a peasant, how great would be the ingratitude of the peasant if he refused to visit his sovereign, or if he paid him only a passing visit!
Affections and Prayers.
O Jesus, my Redeemer, O love of my soul! how much has it cost Thee to remain with us in the sacrament? To be able to remain on our altars, Thou hadst first to suffer death; afterward, in order to aid us by Thy presence, Thou hadst to submit to so many grievous insults in this sacrament. And, after all this, we are so slothful and negligent in visiting Thee, though we know that Thou so ardently desirest our visits for the purpose of enriching us with Thy graces when Thou seest us in Thy presence. Lord, pardon me; for I too have been one of these ungrateful souls. From this day forward, O my Jesus! I wish to visit Thee often, and to remain as long as I can in Thy presence, to thank Thee, to love Thee, and to ask Thy graces; for it is for this purpose that Thou remainest on earth shut up in our tabernacles, and made our prisoner of love. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O God of love! I love Thee, O sovereign Good! amiable above every good. Grant that I may forget myself and all things, in order to remember only Thy love and to spend the remainder of my life wholly occupied in pleasing Thee. Grant that from this day forward I may relish no pleasure more than that of remaining at Thy feet. Inflame my whole soul with Thy holy love. Mary, my mother, obtain for me a great love for the Most Holy Sacrament; and whenever Thou seest that I am negligent, remind me of the promise I now make of going every day to visit the Holy Sacrament.
Jesus Gives Audience to All at all Times.
In the second place, Jesus Christ, in the Blessed Sacrament, gives audience to all. St. Teresa used to say that all cannot speak with the sovereign. The poor can scarcely hope to address him, and make known to him their necessities, even through a third person. But to speak to the King of Heaven, the intervention of a third person is not necessary: all, the poor as well as the nobles of the earth, may speak to him face to face in the Sacrament. Hence Jesus is called the flower of the fields. I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys.5 The flowers of gardens are enclosed and reserved; but the flowers of the fields are exposed to all. “I am the flower of the field,” says Cardinal Hugo, in his comment on this passage, “because I exhibit myself to be found by all.” With Jesus, then, in the Holy Sacrament, all may speak every hour in the day. Speaking of the birth of the Redeemer in the stable of Bethlehem, St. Peter Chrysologus says that princes do not always give audience; that when a person goes to address the king, the guards send him away, saying that the hour or day for giving audience is not yet arrived,. and telling him to come at another time. But the Redeemer wished to be born in an open cave, without a door and without guards, in order to give audience to all, at all hours: there is no attendant to say, “It is not the hour.”6 The same happens in the Holy Sacrament. The churches are always open: all can go to converse with the King of Heaven whenever they wish. Jesus desires that we speak to him with unbounded confidence: it is for this purpose that he remains under the species of bread. If Jesus appeared on our altars, as he will on the day of judgment, on a throne of glory, who among us would dare to approach him? But, says St. Teresa, because the Lord desires that we speak to him, and ask his graces with confidence and without fear, he has therefore clothed his majesty with the appearance of bread. He desires, as Thomas à Kempis says, that we converse with him as one friend does with another.7
When a soul remains at the foot of the altar, Jesus appears to address it in the words of the Canticles: Arise, make haste, my love, my beautiful one, and come.8 Arise, arise, O my soul, and fear not. Make haste, approach to me. My love, you are no longer my enemy; for you love me, and you repent of having offended me. My beautiful one, you are no longer deformed in my eyes: my grace has made you beautiful. And come, tell me what you want; I remain here on purpose to hear your prayers. What joy should you feel, dear reader, if a king called you into his cabinet and said to you: What do you wish for? what do you stand in need of? I love you, and I desire to promote your welfare. This, Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven, says to all who visit him: Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.9 Come, all you that are poor, infirm, or afflicted; I am able and willing to enrich you, to heal you, to console you. For this purpose I remain on your altars. Thou shalt call, and he shall say: Here I am.10
Affections and Prayers.
Since then, my beloved Jesus, Thou remainest on our altars to hear the supplications of the miserable who have recourse to Thee, hear the prayer which I, a miserable sinner, present to Thee. O Lamb of God! sacrificed and lifeless on the cross, I am a soul redeemed by Thy blood; pardon me all the offences I have offered to Thee, and assist me by Thy grace, that I may never lose Thee again. Impart to me, O my Jesus! a portion of the sorrow which Thou didst feel in the garden of Gethsemane for my sins. O my God! that I had never offended Thee! My dear Lord, had I died in sin, I could never more love Thee; but Thou hast waited for me that I might love Thee. I thank Thee for the time which Thou givest me: and since I can now love Thee, I wish to love Thee. Give me the grace of Thy holy love, but of a love which will make me forget all things, to think only of pleasing Thy most loving heart. Ah, my Jesus! Thou hast spent Thy whole life for me: grant that I may spend at least the remainder of my life for Thee. Draw me entirely to Thy love; make me all Thine before I die. I hope for all graces through the merits of Thy Passion. I also hope in thy intercession, O Mary! Thou knowest that I love thee: have pity on me.
Jesus only Wishes to bestow his Graces.
Jesus, in the Holy Sacrament, gives audience to all in order to bestow his graces on all. St. Augustine says that the Lord has a greater desire of communicating his graces to us than we have of receiving them.11 The reason is, that God is infinite goodness, and goodness is naturally diffusive; therefore, it desires to impart its goods to all. God complains when souls do not come to ask his graces. Am I, he says, become a wilderness to Israel, or a lateward springing land? Why, then, have my people said, We are revolted; we will come to thee no more?12 Why, says the Lord, will you come to me no more? Have you, when you asked my graces, found me like a barren or lateward springing land? St. John saw the Lord with his breast full of milk – that is, of mercy – and girded with a band of gold – that is, with the love with which he desires to dispense his graces to us. I saw one like the Son of man . . . girt about the paps with a golden girdle.13 Jesus Christ is always ready to bestow his favors upon us; but the disciple says that, in the Holy Sacrament, he dispenses his graces in greater abundance. And, according to Blessed Henry Suso, it is in the Holy Eucharist that Jesus most willingly hears our prayers.
As a mother whose breasts are full of milk goes in search of infants to give them suck in order to be relieved of the burden, so our Lord from this sacrament of love cries out, and says to us all: You shall be carried at the breasts. . . . As one whom the mother caresses, so will I comfort you.14 Father Balthassar saw Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, having his hands full of graces, to dispense them to men; but found no one to ask them.
Oh! happy the soul that remains at the foot of the altar to ask graces of Jesus Christ! The Countess of Feria, afterward a religious of the Order of St. Clare, remained as long as she could before the Blessed Sacrament, and was therefore called the spouse of the sacrament. She continually received treasures of graces at the foot of the altar. Being asked one day how she was employed during so many hours before the tabernacle, she answered: “1 would remain there for all eternity. I am asked what I do before the Blessed Sacrament. And what do I not do? What does a beggar do in the presence of a rich man? What does a sick man do before his physician? What do I do? I thank my Saviour, I love him, I ask his graces.” Oh! how precious these last words are to make us draw fruit from our visits to the Holy Sacrament!
Jesus Christ complained to the servant of God, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, of the ingratitude of men to him in this sacrament of love. To make her understand the love with which he dwells on our altars, he showed her his heart in a throne of flames, surrounded with thorns and surmounted by a cross, and said to her: “Behold that heart, which has loved men so tenderly, which has reserved nothing, and which has been even consumed to show its love for them. But, in return, the greater part of them treat me with ingratitude by their irreverence and by their contempt of my love in this sacrament. And what is most painful to me is, that they are hearts consecrated to me.” Christians do not visit Jesus Christ because they do not love him. They spend entire hours in the society of friends; and they feel tediousness in conversing half an hour with Jesus Christ. Some will say: Why does not Jesus Christ give me his love? I answer: If you do not banish the world from your heart, how can divine love enter it? Ah! if you could say with sincerity, what St. Philip Neri said at the sight of the Holy Sacrament – Behold my love! behold my love! – you should not feel tediousness in spending hours and entire days before the Blessed Sacrament.
To souls enamoured of God, hours spent before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament appear moments. St. Francis Xavier labored the whole day for the salvation of souls; and what was his repose at night? It consisted in remaining before the Holy Sacrament. St. John Francis Regis, that great missionary of France, after having spent the entire day in preaching and hearing confessions, went at night to the church. And having sometimes found it shut, he remained outside the door, exposed to the cold and wind, to pay homage, at least at a distance, to his beloved Lord. St. Aloysius Gonzaga wished to remain always before the Holy Sacrament; but was forbidden to do so by his Superiors. In passing by the altar, he felt himself drawn by Jesus to remain, but was compelled by obedience to depart. Hence he would lovingly say to his Saviour: “Withdraw from me, O Lord! withdraw.”15 Lord, do not draw me; allow me to depart; obedience obliges me to go away. If, my brother, you do not feel this love for Jesus, endeavor at least to visit him every day: he will certainly inflame your heart. Do you feel cold? Approach the fire, says St. Catharine of Sienna. Ah happy you, if Jesus, by his grace, inflames you with his love. Then you will certainly no longer love; on the contrary, you will despise all the goods of this world. “When,” says St. Francis de Sales, “a house is on fire, all that is within is thrown out through the windows.”
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Jesus! make Thyself known, make Thyself loved. Thou art so amiable, Thou canst do nothing more to induce men to love Thee; how then does it happen that so few among them love Thee? Alas! I have been among these ungrateful wretches. I have been sufficiently grateful to creatures, who have bestowed no gift or favor upon me: to Thee only, who hast given me Thyself, have I been ungrateful, so as often to offend Thee grievously, and insult Thee by my sins. But I see that, instead of abandoning me, Thou continuest to seek after me, and to ask my love. I feel that Thou continuest to propose to me this loving precept – “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.” Since, then, Thou didst wish to be loved even by me after my ingratitude, I desire to love Thee. Thou wishest for my love, and at present through Thy grace, I desire only to love Thee. I love Thee, my love, my all. Through that blood which Thou hast shed for me, help me to love Thee. My beloved Redeemer! I place all my hopes in this blood, and also in the intercession of Thy most holy Mother, whom Thou wishest to assist me by her prayers in the work of my salvation. O Mary, my Mother! pray to Jesus for me. Thou inflamest all thy lovers with the divine love; I love thee tenderly; procure it also for me.

1“Ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus, usque ad consummationem sæculi.” – Matt. xxviii. 20.
2“Non est alia natio tam grandis, quæ habeat deos appropinquantes sibi, sicut Deus noster adest nobis.” – Deut. iv. 7.
3“Num, quem diligit anima mea, vidistis?” – Cant. iii. 3.
4“Indica mihi . . . ubi pascas, ubi cubes in meridie.” – Cant. i. 6.
5“Ego flos campi, et lilium convallium.” – Cant. ii. 1.
6“Non est satelles qui dicat: Non est hora.” – In Ps. iv.
7Sicut solet dilectus ad dilectum. – l. 4, c. 13.
8“Surge, propera, amica mea, columba mea, formosa mea, et veni.” – Cant. ii. 10.
9“Venite ad me, omnes qui laboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos.” – Matt. xi. 28.
10“Ego ipse qui loquebar. Ecce adsum.” – Isa. lii. 6.
11“Plus vult ille dare, quam nos accipere.” – Serm. 105, E. B.
12“Numquid solitudo factus sum Israeli, ant terra serotina? Quare ergo dixit populus meus:. Recessimus, non veniemus ultra ad te?” – Jer. ii. 31.
13“Vidi præcinctum ad mamillas zona aurea.” – Apoc. i. 13.
14“Ad ubera portabimini. . . . Quomodo si cui mater blandiatur, ita ego consolabor vos.” – Isa. lxvi. 12.
15Recede a me, Domine, recede.


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