The Eucharist: Heaven on Earth
by Sr. Mary Ann Fatula, O.P. – Catholic Exchange
Our loving reception of the Lord in the Eucharist is the most intimate way in which the Trinity allows us to taste heaven on earth. This precious sacrament truly is the “pledge of future glory.”
In writing about her first Holy Communion, St. Therese tells us that “all the joy of Heaven” entered her heart when she received the Lord. Unable to hold back her tears, she realized that when she received the Lord in the Eucharist, “heaven itself” was in her soul.
Because Jesus is “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), the Eucharist is the very cause of our eternal life in heaven: “Whoever eats of this Bread will live forever” (John 6:51).DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
Since the Lord is the font of all grace (John 1:16), devoutly receiving the Eucharist also deepens sanctifying grace and charity within us, “inebriating” us with heavenly delight. Meditating on the Scriptural words that “blood and water came out” of the pierced side of the crucified Lord (John 19:34), St. Thomas Aquinas reiterates the sentiments of St. John Chrysostom: “When you draw near to the awe-inspiring chalice, approach as if you were going to drink from Christ’s own side.”
Closeness with Jesus:
St. Thomas Aquinas loved the Lord’s beautiful words at the Last Supper, at which He instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist: “I do not call you servants any longer . . . but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).
We naturally want to spend time with a beloved friend, and only our friend’s physical presence is enough to content our heart. In a special way, we treasure deeply the presence and final words of a beloved friend. It is at this precious time, when a loved one is about to die, that his or her words are seared into our memory, and our most profound affection is enkindled deep in our soul.
This is why the Lord chose to give us the sacrament of His most sacred Body and Blood at the Last Supper, before He was about to suffer His Passion and death for us.“Those who eat my flesh, and drink my blood, abide in me, and I in them.” (John 6:56).
Sharing a Heavenly Communion:
In the Eucharist, the Lord unites us to the faithful here on earth as well as to those in heaven. St. John Chrysostom urges us to come with profound faith and love to the Table of the Eucharist, where the gifts are not only joy but also “harmony, peace, and union of soul.” When we devoutly receive the Lord in the Eucharist, we receive also the grace to be more closely united to those we love here on earth, in a love that is itself a foretaste of heaven. This precious sacrament is thus the sacrament of the Church’s unity, for “the common spiritual good” of the entire Church is contained in the Lord given to us in the Eucharist. The more lovingly we receive the Lord Jesus, the more united we become to those dear to us here on earth, especially to those with whom we are blessed to share the Eucharist. Our receiving of the Lord in this sacrament also unites us more deeply with all the members of the one Mystical Body of the Lord, in a foreshadowing of the loving union that will be ours in heaven.
Taste of Heavenly Joy:
Another wonderful effect of the Eucharist is a deepening in our souls of a profound spiritual delight and “sweetness” that allow us to taste heavenly joy even now: “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). This deep contentment, even in the midst of trials, continues after we receive the Eucharist and especially can be savored when we spend time in adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
St. John Paul II tells us of his own intimate experience: “It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the beloved disciple (John 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart.” The pope reminds us of how much every one of us truly needs this time in adoration and love before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. “How often, dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!”
Presence of the Trinity:
Still another wondrous fruit of devoutly receiving the Lord in the Eucharist is a deepening of the presence of the entire Trinity within us. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10). And where the Father and the Son are, there also is the Holy Spirit.
Although it is the Lord Jesus who comes to us sacramentally, the presence of the entire Trinity thus deepens in our souls when we receive the Eucharist. The power of this sacrament is so great that even when we are unable to receive it but long to do so, grace is increased in our souls, and we become even more dearly the home and heaven of the Trinity.
St. Catherine of Siena recounts how, during the Consecration at Mass, she “tasted the depths of the Trinity.” Surely this was the grace given to her every time she desired to receive the Lord, which was daily. She assures us that this blessing can be ours. So, too, when we receive the Eucharist, the “power” of this sacrament, which is the “warmth of divine charity,” remains deep within our souls.