The Real Presence and the Present Moment

therese relic

If you have time for one article today, read this instead.

In front of the tabernacle (what a blessing!) today:

I’ve been told time and time again that a way to improve in sanctity hidden in plain sight is to do the small things of life with great love. St Thérèse, whose feast it is today, was the first to communicate this to me as such; I recall reading the first half of Story of a Soul those first few months of becoming Catholic that I spent largely in bookstores. Though I don’t think I understood it at all. “It seems a bit remote. Where’s my broom to quietly sweep the convent with? What’s my convent?” I asked, and not stopping to ponder the obvious answers to my questions, I moved on – though thankfully St Therese didn’t move on from me. Since then, other saints added their little nudges of grace. St Benedict’s Holy Rule did seem to complement St Therese’s Little Way quite well. I had an attraction to both, but in my present circumstances where was my monastery? I read some time last year Father Willie Doyle’s saying, “Do everything for His sweet love alone.” It was posted again on the website dedicated to him, in context:

Don’t dwell on what you have not done, for I think that want of confidence in His willingness to forgive our shortcomings pains Him very much, but rather lift up your heart and think what you are going to do for Him now. You know the secret of making a short life very long in His eyes, and a life of few opportunities crammed full of precious things. Do everything for His sweet love alone.

And of course there is always Our Lady, who says “Ecce, fiat, magnificat.” Perhaps it was the graces of the preparation for consecration (almost there!) but all of these things started to make sense, practically, in my thick skull. It took me long enough – years – to realise at least partially what this little way might entail. If what I want is the perfection of my actions, doing them well will become part of it, but since I am seeking the perfection of love, it is enough, as a beginning, to simply make an act of love and offering before every action. Prayer precedes action and makes it fruitful. There are so many things I do each day: sleeping, waking, getting ready for the day, walking up and down stairs, eating, my daily work, my daily prayer, my conversations, my breaks. They are all there available to be offered. Would it not be helpful for me to offer them all, each discrete action, to keep up a continuous chorus of offerings, small as they might be, in imitation of the angels who live for the continuous praise of God? Those moments are all I have; they are my life, strung together. Why not make them into all love? Wouldn’t that be delightful?

Another term came to my attention, “the sacrament of the present moment”, in a chapter talk on the Rule of St Benedict (I now find that it is the title of a book I have not yet read). The impression I got was that the Will of God is, for us, accessible in our now, in our present. There is no point worrying about the future or dwelling on failures of the past. We are called to love God in our present, whatever that present might be.

Hands full with all these fresh gatherings from the garden of Catholic spirituality, I was in front of the tabernacle. If God’s Will is present in our now, and if the face is an equivalent term for presence, then we can say that in our daily offerings of moments our object of love and the aspect (aha! aspice.) of God which we are closest to is the Face of God, which is in fact the Human Face of Christ. This little way of St Thérèse, which had been making quiet little nudges at me, now seems to be a profound meditation on the Incarnation.

But it goes further (so I gaze at the tabernacle door). The present moment may reveal, in its multifarious ways, the Face of Christ. But isn’t the Eucharist the sacrament of the Face of Christ par excellence – since it is Christ Himself? Don’t we talk about the Blessed Sacrament in terms of the Real Presence? Isn’t there some intrinsic connection, then, between all three: a devotion to loving God in every little act of the present moment, the Holy Face of Christ, and the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? Why, of course! The Real Presence in the tabernacle may be confined locally, spatially, to the appearances of bread. (I…hopefully expressed that correctly.) But this sacrament is also, in some mysterious way, present to anyone, anywhere, who desires it and calls upon the Name of Christ, just as within it are present, folding up space and time, all of the mysteries of Christ’s life and Passion. So in the end, the Little Way is Eucharistic. My broom, my convent, my monastery, they are found in my waking, my working, my walking, my thinking; and what ought to be at the centre of this little monastery? Why, the Blessed Sacrament, of course. And in living life according to the Rule of the Host, always under the gaze of the Eucharistic Face of Christ, perhaps I can become, in time, a little Host, a little sacrifice. St Thérèse, pray for us!

Advertisements

Night adoration

Here’s a little corner of my room. At night, the construction next door quiets. So does my mind. It’s easy to spend that time before sleep on the introspection and worry that accompany the silence – or on distracting myself from that prospect – but I’d had enough of that. Why not turn my mind outwards towards the King of Love? So I knelt before this little shrine, leaving no light on but the electric candles lighting the Holy Face of Manoppello along with faces from my current roster of heavenly friends and the Pope. And keeping that mysterious gaze from the Holy Face in mind, I transported myself to the chapel where I first encountered Jesus at great length: a humble “chapel of reservation” with glass for walls, a twenty-four hour access code, a back facing the murmuring midnight traffic of a sprawling town, a smattering of chairs, one kneeler, and the only thing that mattered, the One Thing Necessary, Christ hidden in the tabernacle. I prostrated myself before Him as if I were there in person. It was like coming home.

Or, in a sense, it was like getting to work. Leaving myself open for Christ to work in me. Joining Christ as He commenced His great work, the Passion, in the dark garden, and perhaps offering Him some little consolation. Joining others, like Fr. Macrae, when they offer Mass or awaken in the night to flee to Christ’s arms. Working, somehow, for those who left Christ in their despair or who never found Him in the first place, who now lie awake without peace. For these Christ held vigil and died. But for Christ’s mercy I would be there myself, again.

And when my life didn’t turn out how I thought it would, I felt here the impulse to dredge up my list of failures lessen. For in the invisible radiance of His Face I found Him upon Whom my life turns.

It is Thy Eucharistic Face, O Lord, that I seek

It is Thy Face, O Lord, that I seek;
hide not Thy Face from me.

Thus says the Psalmist. Now the Face of Christ has appeared among us: the icon of the invisible God, the figure of His substance, and the brightness of His glory. His human Face, hypostatically united to His Godhead, remains with us after His Ascension in a sacramental and hidden way – namely in the Blessed Sacrament. Thus in the chaplet of the Eucharistic Face of Christ we say:

It is Thy Eucharistic Face, O Lord, that I seek;
hide not Thy Face from me.

But what are we asking for as we repeat this prayer on our rosary beads? Not for an apparition, though the truth of the Eucharistic Face has appeared in a special way for adorers at times, such as in St. Andre de la Reunion in 1904 –

– but rather, one might say, we are asking for the theological virtues. First of all we are asking for faith. The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is the Sacrament of faith. God hides Himself within the veil. The reality is that we do see Him whenever we look on the Host, but without this virtue we would be blind to what is in front of us. Faith pierces through to Heaven – the Heaven of the Blessed Sacrament. In faith we have a foretaste of it.

Hide not Thy Face from me. Help my unbelief for without Your gift of faith I cannot see You.

Next we are asking for hope. We hope for the Beatific Vision, in which we will find all our joy in the Vision of the Face of God unveiled. On that day the promise of faith will be fulfilled.

Hide not Thy Face from me. Save my soul from the clutches of hell that I may live to see Your Face when I die.

Finally we are asking for charity. The human face shows forth the human heart. In the Sacred Humanity of Christ, His Holy Face shows forth His Sacred Heart. Beholding Jesus we desire that our faces be transfigured into His likeness – and thus that our hearts become His, full of the radiant fire of love. In the Beatific Vision, there will be no need of faith and hope. All that will be left is pure charity, the pure Love of the Holy Trinity.

Hide not Thy Face from me. Help me to love Your countenance wherever I find it: in the Eucharist, in my neighbour, in Your starry sky. Make me Yours.

Disfiguration

Recently I have thought a little on how sin has disfigured my nature.  I know it in my mind – that we are wounded by original sin and by our personal sins – but its reality has hit hard recently as I have experienced abhorrence and frustration at the same old sinful habits wrenching my life apart and grieving the Heart of Jesus.  It feels like even the patterns of my mind have been corrupted, disoriented, self-serving.  If you could see the face of my soul, you might ask me where the two black eyes, broken and bloody nose, cut lips, and bruised cheeks came from, and I would tell you that no, I didn’t get in a fight, I merely fell – and that’s actually true, and it happens a lot.

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, a few days hence, comes this line: “See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.”

Dare I hope that Jesus can heal me?  Yes.  The proof is in his Face, which bears the marks that I have given it through my sins, lovingly accepted and offered by him to the Father.  Through the disfiguration of the Passion he refigures us – indeed, transfigures us – into his own image.  I consider the gaze of the Holy Face of Manoppello (above) – is that not a look of Love?  It is captivating to my soul.  I trust in that gaze and in those bruises.  I have nowhere else to go, nowhere else to look.

May I learn to walk with Jesus the way of suffering and love.