The season of Advent is a time of preparation in order to fruitfully receive the Risen Lord in Eucharist
"In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God's image and likeness, and becomes our companion along the way. In [the sacrament of Eucharist], the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom. Since only the truth can make us free, Christ becomes for us the food of truth" -- Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis 2
St. Jerome receives the Eucharist: the sacrament of sacraments, and the source and summit of the Church.
We are called, drawn by the salvific will of the Father, to both realize and actualize our membership in the divine family through a life of true Christian discipleship; we are invited to give our fiat now and into eternity with the same sincerity, intensity and fidelity as did the sweet and holy Virgin Mary; we are moved to say, aided by the sublime and regenerative grace of the Holy Spirit, along with St. Andrew, "We have found the Messiah" (Jn 1:41).
Ultimately, Advent finds its completion in our union with God, as we are swept up into the supernatural life of the Holy Trinity. Yet such an incomparable event is not something which merely dwells in a yet-to-be-realized future; nor is it something accessed only after we pass through the thin veil of death which soon awaits us all. As members of holy mother Catholic Church, our thirst for communion with the Triune God is satisfied by the Risen Lord himself, who both announces the great eucharistic feast at his altar as well as provides for it, in order to enable us to consume his own flesh and blood -- the food of eternal life.
"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you" (Jn 6:27).
So critical is the reception of the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Risen Lord in the Eucharist that Christ said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53).
Advent: Circumcise The Heart
Preparation, of course, presupposes repentance and conversion. In preparing to receive the Risen Lord in the Eucharist, we would do well to meditate upon St. Paul's warning that whoever eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgement on himself, because he fails to distinguish the body of the Lord (see 1 Cor 11:27 ff.). Therefore, for Catholics the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is an intrinsic element of that total conversion of heart (metanoia) in which we cry out in union with the Prodigal Son: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants" (Lk 15:18-20).
In his book, God Is Near Us, then Cardinal Ratzinger observed that Jesus' Last Supper "was not one of those meals he held with publicans and sinners," it was made "subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that this meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared, by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (see Jn 13:10), to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him" (60).
The Eucharist is "the sacrament of the reconciled," continued Cardinal Ratzinger, "to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family. That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment. . . . The Eucharist is the sacrament of those who have let themselves be reconciled by God, who have thus become members of his family and put themselves into his hands. That is why there are conditions for participating in it; it presupposes that we have voluntarily entered into the mystery of Jesus Christ" (ibid.).
It is through the sacrament of Penance that we are reconciled with God and Church: our feet are washed by the healing and regenerative forgiveness of Christ through the Holy Spirit; we are embraced and kissed by the ever-compassionate, tender and loving Father; the familial ring is again placed on our finger, the fatted calf is killed and the celebration is begun (cf. Lk 15:20 ff.).
Eucharist: Life-Blood Dynamic of The Christian
As people of the Church, nourished in the womb of Christ's immaculate Bride, we reside in the holy dwelling place of the minister of salvation, a loving embrace of truth and unity in which the Holy Spirit both reveals the Son to us and guides us along our destined path. Here, in the arms of the city of truth who is the Church, the Redeemer of humankind gives to men his sacred flesh as spiritual food. Advent calls us to receive as gift the Gift given as Gift.
In the words of Blessed John Paul II, the Eucharistic "sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had ...
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