We begin our Sunday celebrations this month with the wonderful feast of Corpus
Christi. In our lives as Catholics, we have no greater privilege than to
encounter Our Lord in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Each year on this sacred feast
day we praise God in the ‘Tantum Ergo’:
Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory,
of his Flesh, the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
destined, for the world’s redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.
Certainly, none of us deserves to receive Christ in the
Eucharist. Holy Communion is always a completely unmerited gift that we receive
as a result of God’s grace. Nothing we can do by our own initiative makes us
worthy that the Lord should enter our hearts. All we can do is try to be ready,
try to ‘stay awake’ and be attentive, and try to be truly grateful when our
Lord gives himself to us in the great Eucharistic mystery.
St Augustine admonishes us to live as if we deserved
Christ’s sacrificial gift to us. He challenges us to change our lives, as he did,
and to see our lives as a progressive journey of hope in which we ‘seek the
face of the Lord continually’. Augustine knew from personal experience that
conversion is a lifelong process. We struggle mightily to be worthy of the love
of Christ and the great gifts that we receive from him every day.
All these gifts—life and love, freedom and happiness, truth
and hope—come to us freely from the abundant generosity of our God. We do
nothing to earn God’s grace. We receive it freely because, as Pope Emeritus
Benedict XVI has said, God’s very nature is to give generously, demanding
nothing in return, simply because he loves us.
Of all God’s gifts, nothing can compare to the holy
Eucharist. Why? Because it is a gift of self, an intimate communion between the
Son of God and his sisters and brothers. Through our baptisms, we have become
members of his body, the Church. Through our reception of holy Communion, we
are joined to him in the most perfect way imaginable—becoming one with him,
body and blood, soul and divinity.
Our imperfections are made perfect by his union with us. Our
sinful natures become pure and holy because he enters our hearts and transforms
us by his grace. No wonder the familiar words of the ‘Tantum Ergo’ urge us to
‘fall down in adoration’ before the sacred Host. It is right to feel
overwhelmed by the power of the Lord’s presence—not in an oppressive or fearful
way but with hearts full of amazement and joy!
In the end, as St Thomas Aquinas knew, the divine mystery
defies all understanding. Faith alone fills in the gaps ‘where the feeble
senses fail’ and allows us to know, love and serve God—in partial and
preliminary ways here on Earth, but fully and perfectly in the everlasting joy
The Eucharist is the summit of our Catholic faith. May we
Catholics in Melbourne continue to fall in love with this most precious Sacrament.
Let us allow ourselves to be fed by divine grace, so that we
will have the strength to love God above all else and to teach and serve others
as he commanded us to do.
† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne