Stay with us, Lord!

Stay with us, Lord!

“He who eats My Flesh, and drinks My Blood, abides in Me and I in him… He who eats this Bread shall live forever. (St John 6: 57,59)”

Let us cast our minds back a number of weeks to Easter, to the appearances of Our Blessed Lord following His Resurrection. Call to mind the road to Emmaus, the disciples walking along the road, not perceiving the identity of their fellow traveller. Dusk is falling, the light is fading, and they see this Stranger is going to continue on after they have reached their destination for the evening, out of their presence, perhaps forever. But they are inspired to say “stay with us Lord”, “mane nobiscum, Domine”. Their companion joins them at table, and it is in the breaking of bread that they recognise Him to be Christ Jesus Himself. Had they only known how seriously He had taken their request to ‘stay with them’, they would have been filled with such awe at His love for them. And thus it is that we find ourselves contemplating this mystery of the Holy Eucharist; the Lord ‘stays with us’ through His abiding Eucharistic presence, to be our comfort and our sustenance. Dusk is falling on the world, the light of goodness is fading and all seems dark, but Our Blessed Lord is with us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, veiled under the appearances of humble bread and wine, as He was veiled from the eyes of the disciples on that road some nearly two thousand years ago. But it is the very same Christ Who was present to them Who is present now in our tabernacles! Stay with us Lord! And He has!

This special feast, whose ‘external solemnity’ we are observing today, comes just after we have finished our joyous Paschaltide and Pentecost celebrations, and reminds us of the Lord’s enduring presence in His Church. He has ascended into heaven, and has sent His Spirit to be with us. He has left us this “memorial of His Passion”, as we pray in today’s collect, so that we may venerate and adore Him in the flesh, and thus always “experience the effects of [His] Redemption”. We experience these effects through a worthy partaking of Holy Communion. “He who eats My flesh and drinks my Blood, abides in Me and I in him”; Christ gave to His disciples this hard teaching, which caused may to cease following Him. How can we possibly eat His flesh and drink His Blood? But the Lord provided us the way through this Sacrament. We are truly nourished by His very Body and Blood, and thus become one with Him, we come into union with Him through Holy Communion. By doing so, He promises us that we “shall live forever”. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ renews the offering of Himself to the Father in an unbloody manner; we are at Calvary when we assist at Mass. But the Holy Mas is also that sacred banquet of which St Thomas Aquinas wrote in his admirable office for this feast. At Vespers on Thursday evening, we sang this most beautiful antiphon, which sums up the Eucharistic mystery which we celebrate:

O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is received; the memory of His Passion is renewed; the mind is filled with grace and the pledge of future glory is given to us.

After having assisted at the Sacrifice, we receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, our minds, hearts and souls are filled with grace, and we receive the promise of our future heavenly life. This is an incredible grace which He gives us, and one of which we must always be on our guard lest we become overly familiar with it; St Paul rightly reminds us in today’s Epistle that he who “eats of this Bread and drinks of the Cup of the Lord unworthily” is guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. The Apostle urges us to “prove” ourselves, to prepare ourselves well to receive Holy Communion. Each day which we receive Holy Communion should be a little feast, for which we must take care to make ourselves ready; we are going to receive Our Lord and Saviour this day! We do this by frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance, by prayer, by observing the Eucharistic fast (at least one hour before Holy Communion, but preferably longer. Our ancestors, not that long ago, kept a fast from midnight, such was their respect for the Eucharistic Lord!) And after having received Him, we ought to give great thanks to Him for coming under our humble roof; this is the origin of ‘making one’s thanksgiving’ after Mass. For such a benefit conveyed to us by Our Lord, can we not give Him ten minutes of prayer after receiving Him, to talk to Him and welcome Him into our humble abode? St Teresa of Avila once said that we should treasure this time of thanksgiving after Holy Communion, and trust that Our Lord will not be remiss in paying handsomely for the hospitality shown to Him.

Ah, what a great gift, what a gratuitous gift; Our Lord did not have to give us this great Sacrament, yet He freely chose to remain with us, in a manner sensible to us poor creatures, because of His great love. He has heard the prayer of the disciples of Emmaus – stay with us Lord! Let us make this prayer our own, knowing that He has already heard it and desires just as much to be with us as we desire to be with Him.

Let us entrust ourselves to Our Blessed Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Eucharist, the first tabernacle, the first to receive within her Christ Jesus, that each time we receive Holy Communion, we may be made more and more like her Divine Son.