By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Dec 24, 2008)
This Christmas many of us will join other family members for a big Christmas dinner, a joyful family feast. Yet there is another feast at this time of year that is even more important (and, by the way, it involves a much lower calorie intake): the Eucharistic Feast of the Nativity!
Over the last two weeks we have looked at several of the mysteries of Divine Mercy in the Mass, especially as expressed in the Diary of St. Faustina, and in the teachings of the Church's magisterium. The final goal of the intense Eucharistic union with our Lord to which St. Faustina and the Church repeatedly call us — nurtured by frequent reception of Holy Communion, special times of Eucharistic Adoration, and the frequent practice of "spiritual communion" — is that, more and more, we can actually become what we contemplate and what we eat! You will all be familiar with the old saying, "You are what you eat." Well, in this case there is a supernatural truth to those words. By spiritually and physically uniting ourselves with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in the three ways mentioned above, the goal is that we will be completely transformed into His likeness. We will become, as it were, "little Christs," "living Hosts," ready and willing to be distributed by Him to needy people everywhere as living channels of His grace and mercy to the world. That is our Lord's primary purpose in giving Himself to us in the Eucharist on the Feast of the Nativity, and indeed, every day of the Church year.
Over and over again in her Diary, St. Faustina repeated this wish to become a living Host, a little Christ, as one of the most passionate desires of her heart:
Oh, what joy it is to empty myself for the sake of immortal souls! ... O Jesus, outwardly I want to be hidden, just like this little wafer wherein the eye perceives nothing, and yet I am a host, consecrated to You (Diary, 641).
Once, the image [of The Divine Mercy] was being exhibited over the altar during the Corpus Christi procession ... when the priest exposed the Blessed Sacrament, and the choir began to sing, the rays of the image pierced the Sacred Host and spread out over the whole world. Then I heard these words: These rays of mercy will pass through you just as they have passed through this host, and they will go out through all the world. At these words, profound joy invaded my soul (Diary, 441).
O merciful Jesus, how longingly You hurried to the Upper Room to consecrate the Host that I am to receive in my life. Jesus, You desired to dwell in my heart. Your living Blood unites with mine. Who can understand this close union? My heart encloses within itself the Infinite One. O Jesus, continue to grant me Your divine life. Let your pure and noble Blood throb with all its might in my heart. I give You my whole being. Transform me into Yourself and make me capable of doing Your holy will in all things, and of returning Your love (Diary, 832).
Clearly, her heart's desire was to be transformed by the Eucharistic Jesus into a living Host herself, through which Jesus could live and act, and come to the aid of other souls. Indeed, sometimes she expressed this as a desire to be transformed into a little Eucharistic offering, in union with her beloved Jesus in the Sacrament. So deep was this desire within her that at the very end of her life, all her sufferings became part of this living, Eucharistic offering of herself:
When I had received Jesus in Holy Communion, my heart cried out with all its might, "Jesus, transform me into another host! I want to be a living host for You. You are a great and all-powerful Lord; You can grant me this favor." And the Lord answered me, You are a living host, pleasing to the Heavenly Father. But reflect: what is a host? A sacrifice. And so?
O my Jesus, I understand the meaning of "host," the meaning of sacrifice. I desire to be before Your Majesty a living host; that is, a living sacrifice that daily burns in Your honor. When my strength begins to fail, it is Holy Communion that will sustain me and give me strength (Diary, 1826).
In this three-part series on the Eucharist and Divine Mercy, we have hardly even begun to fathom all the mysteries Divine Mercy manifested in the Mass. My hope was simply to show you that St. Faustina was absolutely correct when she expressed in her Diary her wonder and awe at the presence of the merciful love of God in the Eucharist:
Oh what awesome mysteries take place during Mass! One day we will know what God is doing for us in each Mass, and what sort of gift He is preparing in it for us. Only His divine love could permit that such a gift be provided for us (Diary, 914).
In fact, Jesus summed up for us the great mystery of the Mass when He said to St. Faustina:
See, I have left My heavenly throne to become united with you. What you see is just a tiny part, and already your heart swoons with love. How amazed will your heart be when you see Me in all My glory. But I want to tell you that eternal life must begin already here on earth through Holy Communion. Each Holy Communion makes you more capable of communing with God throughout eternity (Diary, 1810-1811).
As we prepare for the great Feast of the Nativity this year, let's try to remember that the real feast spread out before us is not the baked ham, or the turkey and stuffing and all the trimmings (delightful as those things are, and to be thankful for as well!). Rather, the special "feast" spread out for us is the same as the true "gift" of Christmas: the Eucharistic gift of Jesus Himself, giving Himself to us under the simple, lowly, outer signs of bread and wine. This gift is ready for us whether or not we have a big Christmas dinner to eat later in the day, and whether or not we have loved ones near at hand to share it with. The miracle of Christmas is simply this: We have Him to share it with, and the whole company of heaven to join us in the celebration too!
And our eyes at last shall see Him
Through His own redeeming love,
For that child, so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He has gone!
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.