Eucharistic Amazement: To Gaze at Christ and Be Transfigured
Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S.
Let us acknowledge our need to experience transfiguration. We need to see Christ, our Savior and King, in a magnified light in order to persevere through the difficult challenges of daily life. Christ is the same yesterday, today and always. But our vision of Jesus, like that of Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor, can be elevated to see the Lord in his glorified reality: to fall in love again with his radiant Beauty. Deeper transformation into Christ will strengthen us to pick up our cross daily and follow him without counting the cost. Daily, discipleship is becoming more costly.
We feel the pressure of a non-Christian world pressing against the Catholic Church. Areas that were once permeated with Catholic thought and devotion are now devoid of the faith. In my travels to Europe, I often observe majestic Catholic cathedrals used as museums to host a myriad of things other than the Mass and pious prayer. In a recent EWTN program, Dr. Scott Hahn speaks of young American Catholics beginning their studies at Franciscan University of Steubenville who are in need of basic catechesis. John Paul II’s program for rekindling Eucharistic amazement is essential for rebuilding the Church. The time for returning to lives of prayer and sacrifice is now.
Jesus promised the Apostles that the Holy Spirit would instruct the Church in His teachings. This is part of the promise of Pentecost. Pentecost was not a single event relegated to a particular time and place. Pentecost is a perpetual event for the Church. The Holy Spirit has not ceased to descend in power! It seems we have simply left the Upper Room: the place of the Eucharist, Priesthood and Pentecost. The Spirit descends to find no one praying around Mother Mary!
Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia points to this:
- Contemplate Christ (adoration, prayer).
- Contemplate Christ with Mother Mary (Marian devotion, rosary).
- Frequently gather around the Eucharistic Banquet (Mass).
- Be empowered by the Body and Blood of Christ (Eucharistic transformation).
- Receive the power of the Holy Spirit; be witnesses to Christ to the ends of the earth (Pentecost).
- Return to the Upper Room: the place of Priesthood, Eucharist and Pentecost (vocations).
- Be vigilant in the face of growing enemies of the Eucharist (spiritual warfare).
- Correct liturgical abuses and growing disrespect for the Eucharist (spiritual warfare and intercession).
- Grow in gratitude for the Eucharist (Praise God for the gift of his Son)
- Grow in amazement (Allow yourself to be a child who finds God amazing!)
What is Eucharistic Life?
Christ’s Eucharistic teachings are at the heart of the Gospel, which is our compass for life. In John’s Gospel, the Lord’s catechesis on the Eucharist repeatedly mentions the word “life” because the Eucharist (Christ) affects the life of a person and the world:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from Heaven that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from Heaven: if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:47-51).
What is the life that the Gospel promises the people of God? The life of Christ who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit—Trinitarian life. Love!
The question we might ask is, “Are we living a life in abundance with Christ or have we settled for something less?” Ideally, we would never take the Blessed Sacrament for granted. In reality, we can grow cold in our appreciation of the Eucharist. We may think that we appreciate the Eucharist enough. Perhaps we are very active in ministry, active in the parish, and do charitable works. Perhaps we are well advanced in the way of prayer and have been living the spiritual life for decades. Do we sometimes think that we have enough of God in our lives?
Do you know what St. Augustine said about the word “enough”? “The interior life, like love, is destined to grow. If you say ‘enough,’ you are already dead.” Are there any areas of life, spiritual or otherwise, that are already dead? Eucharistic amazement may be the catalyst that awakens those areas. Come to the abundant life! Christ asked, “Why look for me among the dead” (Luke 24:5)? He called his Father “the God of the living” (Matthew 22:32). Jesus manifests his loving presence in fulfillment of his promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
John Paul II’s Ecclesia de Eucharistia encompasses all aspects of the Eucharist: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and the Eucharistic vocation of the people of God. In it, he addresses the grace of Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass:
The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.... It is the responsibility of pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species.
It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. John 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer,” how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!
This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium, is supported by the example of many saints. Particularly outstanding in this regard is St. Alphonsus Ligouri, who wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us.” The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace. A Christian community desirous of contemplating the face of Christ in the spirit which I proposed in the Apostolic Letters Novo Millennio Ineunte and Rosarium Virginis Mariae cannot fail also to develop this aspect of Eucharistic worship, which prolongs and increases the fruits of our communion in the body and blood of the Lord.1
Here, Pope John Paul II reminds us that Eucharistic adoration prolongs and increases the fruit of our communion with the body and blood of Christ. The Eucharist is a priceless treasure not only celebrated at Mass but also outside of Mass. Doing so connects us to the wellspring of grace. We need to draw from Jesus every day. How else shall our thirst for Love be satisfied? Are we not dying of this thirst? Run with haste to the divine wellspring and drink of living water! Then we will be like the Samaritan woman at the well, a credible witness of Christ! Pope John Paul II also shares that he experienced renewal, strength, consolation, and support in his time spent in silent adoration and spiritual conversation with Christ. There is no substitute for Eucharistic devotion, no other remedy that will affect our life as thoroughly for the good.
The more we learn about the exquisite beauty of the Church’s liturgy, the more we are able to appreciate the gift of God that we receive in the Eucharist. Imagine if someone gave us a priceless pearl as a gift, but we did not know just how priceless it was? How could we value it as we should? Jesus offers us a treasury of priceless gifts to enrich our walk with him.
Spending time in contemplation of the Blessed Sacrament is anything but selfish (as some people argue). Time spent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament compels us to move out toward the service of others. It is not an empty hand that you offer to someone in need. What do you hold in your hand? It is the Lord’s bounty that you offer others. His hand holds everything a person needs. A Eucharistic life connects the two: Christ and others. We become servants of all, like Christ became a servant of all.
A servant of the Eucharist lives Jesus and his cross! If you live a Eucharistic lifestyle, you are a burden bearer like the Lord. You take up your cross daily and follow him. It means you are a victim, but not a victim of oppression. When all hell broke out against the Lord atop Calvary’s hill, he was not a victim of oppression. He was a victim of Divine Love and conqueror of our oppression. He defeated our enemy! The Eucharist empowers us to also be victims of love. We do not seek after suffering. We lay down our lives for others. There is a cost to discipleship. One needs to pay the price. Eucharistic love is heroic! When was the last time the measure of our love was heroic?
God invites us to draw near. Our free will is ours to surrender. He will not violate it. The measure of his transformation in us is to the degree that we desire and allow it. Will we let the Lord transform us according to his plan? Will we prefer his way over our way? Death to self is not easy. It requires trust. We grow in trust by spending time with the Lord - a lot of time!
May the disposition of our hearts never be, “Enough Lord!” but always, “More, Lord!” If we desire more of God, how do we get it? Know that Jesus is one to effect this new amazement for you. Let us not limit Him by refusing his invitation to spend more time in his Eucharistic Presence. Let us not set boundaries for the Lord that we refuse to cross over. What if we became fools for Christ? The history of the Church is filled with people who became fools for Christ. We call them “saints.” These fools for Christ are still alive as Church Triumphant. Christ asks us, “Will you surrender? Will you allow me to act in all my glorious power?”
Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S., is the Co-founder and President of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests. This reflection originally appeared in her book Rekindle Eucharistic Amazement: Healing and Holiness through the Mass and Holy Hour (Queenship Publishing, 2008).
1 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 25.