Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19:27
I have been reading Saint John Paul the Great’s encyclical, Ecclesia De Eucharistia, and it is a thing of beauty. I wanted to reflect on some of what is said as I pondered what he wrote.
Christ gave totally of himself on Calvary. His death on the cross took on our sins and brought heaven and earth back together again, healing the broken bond that original sin had brought. Our bodies and our souls were never meant to be separated. But Adam and Eve at the taste of original sin, “knew they were naked” and invited the corruption and disunity into the world.
At each Mass, we again have the opportunity for heaven and earth together. We pray for the Resurrection of the Body in our Creed. In Chapter two paragraph 22 of the encyclical, Saint John Paul the Great states, “We can say that each of us not only receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us.” I would like to expound on this. Christ gifted himself on the cross and at the Eucharistic table so that we may be invited back into union with God. This is a divine action, God becoming incarnate, taking on our sins, leaving us a way to tangibly become in union with Him. In our human nature, we were given total free will. If we gift ourselves freely back to the God who sacrificed himself for us, that is, if we approach the Eucharist with a total gift of ourselves to God, our will can become one with His. He can receive us to Himself and conform our will to His. Interestingly, it is said that in Eucharistic miracles His blood has been tested and is AB – the universal receiver. This suggests to me, that we are to give ourselves freely to Him and He receives us, making us one with him.
Paragraph 23 states, “Eucharistic communion also confirms the Church in her unity as the body of Christ.” If we were each gifting ourselves back to God, uniting our DNA to the DNA of God, we become a body of Christ that permeates love. One that does not shy away from sacrifice, even unto death, for the sake of one another. This kind of self-giving love is reflective of the Trinity. We would become in union with God.
The last chapter of the Encyclical addresses the very person who the Church looks to as having union with God, Mary, our Mother. The encyclical states in chapter 6 paragraph 53, “Mary can guide us towards the most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with it.” It goes on to say in paragraph 54, “Mary is a ‘woman of the Eucharist’ in her whole life.” And in paragraph 55 continues, “she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God’s word.” Indeed one could infer that during the Incarnation, Mary said to God, “this is my body, given up for you,” as she chose freely to be the vessel that brought our Lord to the earth to save us. Mary has a very unique relationship with the Eucharist, as she too sacrificed herself for God’s sake, so then in turn He could sacrifice Himself for all of us. She is indeed a co-redemptrix. And because of our ability to gift ourselves back to God in union with the Eucharist, we too can partake in this. It extends to us.
For every mother who bears a child or cares for a child, she says, “this is my body given up for you.” For every husband and wife who freely give to one another in the marital act, “this is my body given up for you.” For every parent who works with “the work of human hands” to provide for their family, “this is my body given up for you.” For every child who cares for an elderly parent, “this is my body given up for you.” For every Priest who lives the vow of celibacy, “this is my body given up for you.” I could go on, and how much better would the world be if we all lived this Eucharistic way of life. It is a life of thanksgiving that is willing to sacrifice. We should be living the Mass in all that we do everyday of our lives.
Conversely, the world twists this beautiful notion, buying into the same Father of Lies that deceived in the Garden. As Peter Kreeft so adeptly pointed out, turning this sacrifice of oneself into a demonic parody, women now chant, “this is my body — I will not give it up for you.” And we use birth control to break that which has been beautifully made. The serpent would like nothing more than for us to not even exist, and we have bought into it. But unity is what God wants for us. Body and Soul in harmony – and an acceptance of self-sacrifice. This is true love.
This is the very idea of family. Each one sacrificing for the other. As I have stated before Mary is all things relationship with the Trinity. She sacrificed herself to each. It is no wonder that the Father of Lies hates her and wants to attack the family. But she wants to be, “Our Lady Healer of Families,” she wants us to be a Eucharistic family. It is in following this human creatures FIAT, that we can find the Eucharistic example, begun at the Incarnation, and completed on the cross. It is why at the Ascension and the Assumption, God and the Mother of God had unity between body and soul. I think our incorruptible Saints give us but a small glimmer of this.
If we all give freely of ourselves back to God, we become a Eucharistic people who permeate the world with love. The Gospel of John, chapter 6 makes clear the Eucharist is of central importance, and like John if we take Mary into our homes, we can live by her example. Once we know this, then like Peter, we can conclude that we have no where else to go, because these are the words of eternal life. If we live what the Eucharist is, His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.