FROM JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST BY REV. FERREOL GIRARDEY, C.Ss.R.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS ON THE REAL PRESENCE
The Angelic Doctor so clearly and so beautifully elucidates the doctrine of the Real Presence, that it will not be thought inopportune or wearisome, to devote another article to quotations from his works on this vital subject, especially since our holy Mother the Church has made so prominent a use of them. After the Epistle of the Mass of Corpus Christi, the priest before proceeding to read or sing the Gospel, reads the following " Sequence,'or hymn of St. Thomas, in honor of the Blessed Eucharist:
"Praise, O Sion, thy Savior; sing hymns and canticles in praise of thy Guide and Shepherd. Praise Him with all thy might, for He is above all praise and can never be sufficiently praised. As a special theme of praise, there is this day proposed the living and life-giving Bread, which at that blessed supper Christ, it cannot be denied, gave to His twelve apostles. Let our praise be full and melodious, let the rejoicing of our mind abound in joyful and becoming strains, for this is the day when we solemnly celebrate the first institution of this Sacred Table. In this feast of the New King the New Pasch of the New Law puts an end to the passover of the Old Law. This new Feast puts the ancient to flight. Truth expels the shadow and day light displaces the darkness of night. That which Christ performed at His Last Supper, He declared should ever be done in remembrance of Him. Taught by His holy precepts, we consecrate bread and wine into the Victim of salvation. The Christians are taught that bread is changed into the flesh of Christ, and wine into His blood. That which thou graspest not and seest not, since it is outside the order of nature, thou shouldst believe with a lively faith. Under diverse species (of bread and wine), which are mere signs and not sub stances, there are hidden far more excellent things. The flesh of Christ is food and His blood is drink; and yet Christ is whole and entire under each species. He is not cut by those who receive Him, nor is He broken or divided (by the division of the species), but He is always received whole and en tire. One person receives Him; a thousand also receive Him; yet all and each one receive one and the same (neither more nor less) ; and when He is received, He is not consumed. The good receive Him; the wicked also receive Him, but with the different result, either of life or of perdition. He is death to the wicked, and life to the good; thus thou seest how different is the outcome of each, although both receive the very same food. When the Sacred Host is broken, do not waver, but remember that Christ is contained in the smallest part, as well as in the whole. There is no breaking of the substance (of Christ's body), but only the breaking of the sign (species), by which neither the state nor the size of the ' signified ' (the body of Christ) is diminished. Behold (then) the Bread of Angels, become the food of wayfarers (on the road to heaven, our true country, our true home); it is the real Bread of the children (of God), which should not be given to the dogs (to the unworthy, to those laden with mortal sin). It was prefigured in the immolation of Isaac, in the paschal lamb, and in the manna given to the Israelites. O Jesus, our Good Shepherd, truly (our) bread, have mercy on us; deign to feed us, deign to protect us, deign to make us see the good things in the land of the living (heaven). Thou who art omniscient and almighty, who here below feedest us mortals, deign to admit us into heaven, as coheirs and companions of its holy citizens, to share (there forever) in Thy Sacred Banquet. Amen."
Such is the grand hymn of St. Thomas explaining most clearly the doctrine of the Real Presence, which the priest reads in the Mass of the Feast of Corpus Christi, and which is called by its first words: Laud a, Sion. In Catholic countries, either on the Feast itself or on the Sunday following, there is a solemn triumphal procession with the Blessed Sacrament in the open air, during which the Lauda Sion, and other hymns in honor of our Eucharistic Savior are sung.
St. Thomas Aquinas also composed the antiphons for the Magnificat of first and second Vespers of the office of Corpus Christi. They are as follows:
1. " O Lord, how sweet is Thy Spirit, since in order to manifest Thy sweetness towards Thy children, Thou by bestowing the most sweet Bread from heaven, fillest the hungry with good things, and sendest away hungry the fastidious rich."
2. " O sacred Banquet in which Christ is received, the remembrance of His passion is recalled, the mind is filled with grace, and the pledge of future glory is given to us."
These antiphons remind us of the words of our divine Savior in His discourse promising the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. There is another hymn of St. Thomas in honor of the Blessed Eucharist, which, although not placed either in the Office or in the Mass of Corpus Christi, is found among the prayers recommended to be said by priests during their thanksgiving after saying Mass, and is well adapted to be recited during a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, or sung when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for the adoration and benediction of the faithful, and therefore we give it here.
"Devoutly I adore Thee, O hidden God, who truly remainest concealed under these species. My heart wholly subjects itself to Thee, because whilst contemplating Thee, it grows faint (with love). The sight, the touch, the taste are deceived in Thee; here we can trust our hearing only; wherefore what ever the Son of God has said, I firmly believe for there is nothing more true than this word of Truth itself. On the Cross Christ's Divinity alone was concealed; but here even His humanity is hidden; nevertheless, believing and acknowledging both, I pray for that which the penitent thief prayed for. Thy wounds, O Jesus, I do not, like Thomas, be hold ; nevertheless I own Thee for my God. Grant that I may evermore and more believe in Thee, hope in Thee and love Thee. O Memorial of the Lord's death, living Bread imparting life to man; grant that my mind may always live by Thee, and that it may always relish Thy sweetness. O loving Pelican, Lord Jesus, cleanse my impurities with Thy blood, a single drop of which is sufficient to save the whole world from its sins. O Jesus, whom I now behold veiled (in this Sacrament), grant, I beseech Thee, that which I thirst for, that when I shall see Thy Face revealed, I may be made happy by the vision of Thy Glory. Amen."
In this hymn and in his prayers destined for priests before and after Mass St. Thomas shows that he is not a dry, learned philosopher and theologian, but that his piety is as tender as his learning is great. This will be apparent to our readers from two of his prayers recommended especially to priests by the Church, the one before, and the other after Mass, which all of us may well use before and after holy Communion.
1. BEFORE COMMUNION. " O almighty and eternal God, behold me approaching the Sacrament of Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; I come to It as a sick man goes to the Physician of life, the unclean to the Fountain of mercy, the blind to the Light of eternal splendor, the poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Wherefore I beseech the abundance of Thy immense bounty to deign to heal my infirmity, to wash my uncleanness, to enlighten my blindness, to enrich my poverty, to clothe my nakedness, so that I may receive the Bread of Angels, the King of kings; the Lord of lords, with such reverence and humility, with such contrition and devotion, with such purity and faith, with such good purpose and intention as is conducive to the salvation of my soul. Grant me, I beseech Thee, to receive not only the Sacrament of the Lord's body and blood, but also the reality and virtue of this Sacrament. O God of meekness, grant that I may so receive the body of Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, which He took from the Virgin Mary, that I may deserve to be incorporated into His mystical body and numbered among His members. O most loving Father, grant that I may for ever contemplate face to face Thy beloved Son, whom I propose to receive concealed in this Sacrament. Amen."
The foregoing prayer of St. Thomas before holy Communion is addressed to the heavenly Father to obtain from Him the graces we need to receive His divine Son worthily and profitably for our salvation.
In like manner, the Saint addresses his thanksgiving after holy Communion to the eternal Father also, for giving him the body and blood of His only-begotten Son as the food of his soul, and beseeches Him to grant that he may derive therefrom the fruits of eternal life:
2. AFTER COMMUNION. " I give Thee thanks, O holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, who, without any merit on my part, but solely through Thy merciful condescension, didst deign to satiate me, a sinner and Thy unworthy servant, with the precious body and blood of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I beseech Thee to grant that this holy Communion be not to me a source of punishable guilt, but a wholesome intercession for pardon; may it be to me the expulsion of my evil habits, the extermination of my concupiscence and lust, an increase of charity and patience, of humility and obedience, and of all the virtues; a firm defense against the snares of all my enemies, both visible and invisible; the perfect appeasement of all my emotions, both carnal and spiritual; may it be to me a firm clinging to Thee, the one and true God, and the happy con summation of my end. And I beseech Thee to deign to lead me, a sinner, to that ineffable Banquet, nowhere Thou with Thy Son and the Holy Ghost, art to Thy Saints the true light, the complete fulness, everlasting joy, consummate pleasure and perfect happiness. Amen."