TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF MONSEIGNEUR DE LA BOUILLERIE, Archbishop of Perga, Coadjutor of Bordeaux.
The Gospel places before us a valuable and faithful witness of the institution of the sacrament of love: S. John. When the Apostles were seated at the Last Supper S. John placed himself beside his Master, he bends his head over the Sacred Heart, he leans upon It, and he listens. He listens, O Christian soul, and he hears these beautiful words, which came less from the lips of Jesus Christ than from His Heart: "Having so loved my own which were in the world, I would love them more at the end."* These words are the revelation of the Eucharist. Yes, It comes from the Heart of Jesus. Ah ! doubtless the whole life of the Saviour manifests His love to us. The Manger is love; the Cross is love. But before ascending the cross to die, He wished to give His love an eternal life. He would Himself die, but His love should live — should live in the sacred Host, should live in the Tabernacle, should live everywhere in the bosom of the Church. The love of Jesus, always living, always present,—this is the Holy Eucharist.
It comes from the Heart of the Saviour. Is it surprising, then, that it should appeal chiefly to our hearts ? In truth, I repeat it, the chief work of the sacrament of the altar is to form a Christian heart in us.
How is it formed ? One would say that the Eucharist wished to imitate what God did in creating the first man. God took a little clay, He breathed into this clay an immortal soul, and reproduced His Divine Image. In a similar manner the God of the Eucharist comes to the clay of our hearts. He touches this clay no longer only with His Breath, but with His own Heart. The clay of our heart united with the Heart of Jesus, this is the Christian heart. And behold how excellent is the effect produced in us by this ineffable union!
In considering our nature and our fallen nature, one sees in the heart of man three great defects—three great miseries : debasement, hardness, weakness. The Eucharist corrects these defects, and is' a remedy for these miseries.
Debasement. —I liked to define the heart as the power we have of going to God. And, in truth, God is the centre of the heart of man. He is his end; He is his chief good; and sin, I remarked, is nothing else than the reverse movement which takes us away from God. Is it nothing, then, for our heart, O Christian soul, to stray away from its centre, to pursue a path contrary to its end, to prefer perishable good to Him who is the Chief Good ? Ah, it is nothing less than great disorder; and for the heart, the sting of this disorder is the depth to which it falls. Suppose for a moment one of the planets circling round the sun and borrowing from him its light, kept in its place by him—suppose, I say, one of these planets straying away from its centre:—there is no more light for it; and from the height of heaven it falls into the bottomless abyss. So it is with our poor heart. Who will be able to rescue it from the abyss? Repentance, certainly, but especially in the repentant heart the presence of the Eucharist. " How art thou fallen, O heart of man, thou who didst arise in the morning so brilliantly ?"Thou art fallen to the earth : and thou canst no longer find thy Sun! But He Himself will come to thee, and concealing Himself, the better to wait for thee, under the Eucharistic veil, He embraces, He warms, He illuminates, He raises thee ! Arise, O heart of man, and take again thy place in heaven.
The Eucharist is a remedy for the debasement of the heart. It also corrects its hardness. The Christian heart should not only love God above all, but it should also love everything in reference to God. And this it is which gives it its incomparable goodness, its incomparable tenderness, and its incomparable attraction. Look at the heart of the Saints. It is true the Saints are entirely devoted to God, but at the same time they are loving to all, and it is for this reason that they merit the praise of the sacred writer of being "approved before God and men,"— Oh! how large and tender is the heart of the Saints. The entire human race does not suffice for their tenderness, and it suffuses itself upon the whole of nature. The Saints see God in the twinkling star, in the verdant grass, in the rippling brook* They love the star, the grass, the brook. Like S. Francis of Assisi, they call each created thing my brother or my sister; and think not that this simple tenderness of theirs is only the poetry of the heart. No, it is rather the religion of the heart, which has its source in God Himself.