Anybody who has ever attended benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will most likely have heard the last two verses of a beautiful hymn of praise called the Pange Lingua (better known as the ‘Tantum Ergo’) being sung. Composed by St. Thomas Aquinas, one line in particular speaks of the complete inability of our bodily senses to grasp the mystery of the Eucharist. ‘Sensuum defectui’ we sing, readily acknowledging that our eyes fail to see Christ truly present in what looks like bread. Tasting the Eucharist would yield a similar outcome. We could not know what we taste is anything more than bread merely by our sense of taste. However, St. Thomas believes that faith supplements our sensual shortcomings when he writes, ‘Praestet fides supplementum.’ Faith assures us of a reality our bodies cannot perceive.
How different it was for Peter, James and John as they adored Jesus on the mountain. Their bodily faculties were all too sensitive to the reality of whom it was they were in the company of. The Eucharistic sense of our Lord’s transfiguration is unmistakable. The mountain in a way, resembles a monstrance lifting our Lord on high to be worshipped. The Apostles were so amazed by what they saw. They were so captivated by what they heard from the cloud, they fell trembling on their faces. They felt Jesus’ touch as He told them not to be afraid. Peter even asked if he could build tents (tabernacula in the Latin text) to shelter our Lord but in a mysterious way, it was the Apostles who found shelter in the divine cloud. It is the same for us. When we consume Holy Communion at Mass, we are the ones consumed by God.
It may be a blessing for us that these sorts of tangible privileges are not granted to everybody. God’s presence is so immense that it is quite simply too much for our frail bodies to endure. Indeed after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus calls those people blessed ‘who have not seen and yet believe’ (John 20:29). How though, given our sensual limitations, can we appreciate more deeply Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist?
Faith is the key. Earlier in the Pange Lingua St. Thomas commented that our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is founded upon Christ’s own words, ‘This is My Body.’ Not everybody can accept this. We don’t claim to understand how Christ’s words change the very fabric of reality but we believe in His power to do it. Our faith is a confidence in Him, not in ourselves. We confess Him who first confesses to us. When we come to the Church for our holy hour we should try to say like Peter, ‘Lord it is wonderful for us to be here.’ Transfiguring our attitude to the Holy Eucharist will transfigure our lives.
The 2nd Sunday of Lent – (Matthew 17:1-9)