A eucharistic transformation
There is an anomaly between the nourishment of our natural and supernatural lives. The natural food we consume is transformed into our body and blood. The supernatural nourishment of the body and blood of Christ should transform us into him.
Such a grace is emphasized in sacramental theology: “The Eucharist immediately effects man’s union with Christ, through charity transforming him to Christ … assimilating us to him … This it accomplishes by arousing the fervor of love to the performance of acts of charity toward God and neighbor, by diminishing our self-love, and by bestowing the actual graces necessary for our perseverance” (“Christ and His Sacraments,” Priory Press, p .391).
In his apostolic letter “Stay with us, Lord,” announcing the Year of the Eucharist from October 2004 to October 2005, Pope John Paul II points out that “We are constantly tempted to reduce the Eucharist to our own dimension, while in reality it is we who must open ourselves up to the dimension of the Mystery “ (#14). In #18 he calls attention to some sources for such a correction. “Let us deepen through adoration our personal and communal contemplation, drawing upon aids to prayer inspired by the word of God and the experience of so many mystics, old and new.” These persons, by the contemplative gifts of the Holy Spirit — namely, wisdom, understanding and knowledge — penetrate the various aspects of a mystery and plumb its depths.
The first canonized saint of this millennium, St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), has left us a record of such mystical comprehension of the mystery of the Eucharist. She was given the mission of propagating a special devotion to the Divine Mercy intimately related to the Eucharist. Almost every page of her diary with its 1803 entries has a reference to this Blessed Sacrament.
Several passages express her eucharistic love of Christ which inspired fervent desires for a transformation in Christ. In #483 she wrote: “Make of me, Jesus a pure and agreeable offering before the Face of Your Father. Jesus, transform me, miserable and sinful as I am, into Your own self (for You can do all things), and give me to Your Eternal Father. I want to become a sacrificial host before You, but an ordinary wafer to people. I want the fragrance of my sacrifice to be known to You alone. O Eternal God, an unquenchable fire of supplication for Your mercy burns within me. I know and understand that this is my task, here and in eternity. You Yourself have told me to speak about this great mercy and about Your goodness.”
Here we see how St. Faustina has assimilated into her personal spirituality what the Church prays liturgically when the priest prays at the Third Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, “May he make of us an everlasting gift to you.”
The vehemence of her charity has her exclaim further in #1289: “O most sweet Jesus, set on fire my love for You and transform me into Yourself. Divinize me that my deeds may be pleasing to you. May this be accomplished by the power of the Holy Communion which I receive daily. Oh, how greatly I desire to be wholly transformed into You, O Lord!”
St. Faustina fulfilled the desire of Jesus when he said, “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22.19). She lived the Eucharist. She exercised the priesthood of the faithful (not to be confused with the ministerial priesthood). The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” explains that privilege in this way: “The whole community of believers is priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king” (#1546).
St. Faustina, a farm girl who did not finish grammar school, knew how to transform her routine work as a convent portress and cook by uniting herself daily with the sacramental sacrifice of Christ.
Father Stan Smolenski is co-director of the Diocese of Charleston Office of Volunteers.