By Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.
Spiritual Director to the Legion of Mary
The Eucharist in Union with Mary
In preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress that takes place in Dublin in June 2012 we have been reflecting on Chapter 8 of the Handbook on The Legionary and the Eucharist. It is certainly true that the Eucharist is the source of all authentic renewal in the Church and therefore is the source of all genuine renewal in the Legion too. If the Eucharist remains at the centre of the life of the Legion, it will not only survive but thrive in all the dioceses of the world. That is why we are spending so much time on Chapter 8 and the IEC.
Today we want to reflect on the Eucharist in union with Mary. If anyone knows anything about the Legion of Mary it would surely be summed up in the great spiritual principle: To Jesus through Mary. The legionary does everything in union with and in dependence on Mary in order to be more effectively and radically rooted in Christ. The Handbook tells us: 'Legionaries perform their actions in union with Mary; especially does this apply to their taking part in the Eucharistic celebration.' The reason for this must be obvious. The role of Mary in the divine plan for the salvation of the world is to give Jesus to the world. Surely the most effective way of giving Jesus to each individual and to the Christian community is through the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus so Mary has an overwhelming desire to lead us all to the Eucharist. 'Mary guides the faithful to the Eucharist.' (John Paul II) Therefore it is also a primary goal of the Legion too.
We have seen how the celebration of the Eucharist is divided into three major and essentially interconnected parts: the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Holy Communion. Let us take them briefly one by one as treated in the Handbook. Mary does everything according to God's Word, not only at the Annunciation but throughout her whole life. She ponders every word of our Lord in her heart but especially the words in Sacred Scripture. We see that her prayer life as made manifest in the Magnificat is a personalised mosaic of Old Testament prayers. The Handbook quotes Pope Paul VI from Marialis Cultus: 'As we participate in the celebration of the word, Our Lady is our model for she is 'the attentive Virgin who receives the word of God with faith, that faith which in her case was the gateway and path to the divine motherhood.'
To understand the place of Mary in the celebration of Mass, we need to recall two fundamental principles. First, Our Lord did not begin the work of our redemption without the consent of Mary solemnly asked and freely given. Likewise he did not complete it on Calvary without her presence and consent. The simple words of St. John have inexhaustible meaning: 'By the Cross of Jesus stood his Mother.' She not only freely surrendered her maternal rights over her Son but she also offers herself together with Him for the salvation of the world. She participates in an unsurpassable way in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
Presupposing these truths, the Handbook goes on to say: 'She stood by the Cross of Jesus on Calvary, representing all mankind there and at each new Mass the offering of the Saviour is accomplished subject to the same conditions. Mary stands at the altar no less than she stood by the Cross. She is there as ever, cooperating with Jesus - the Woman, foretold from the beginning, crushing the serpent's head. A loving attention to her ought, therefore, to form part of every Mass rightly heard.' We know that it is the whole Church in heaven and/or earth that offers the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross at Mass but the words of the Liturgy stress our communion with Mary: 'In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.'
Nowhere has Our Lord received a warmer and deeper hospitality than in the womb and heart of Mary. She is the woman of Eucharistic hospitality and we must habitually ask her to give us some share in her dispositions of welcome and adoration of Our Lord in the Eucharist. There is a lovely quotation in the Handbook concerning the title Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament that sums up much of what I want to say to you. It goes as follows: "Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament is Mary receiving in her capacity as universal dispenser of grace the full and absolute disposal of the Eucharist and of the graces which it comprises. For this Sacrament is the most efficacious means of salvation, the most excellent fruit of the redemption brought by Jesus Christ. Consequently it is for her to make Jesus known and loved in this Sacrament. It is for her to spread the Eucharist all over the world, to multiply churches and to plant them among infidel peoples, to defend the belief in the Eucharist against heretics and the impious. It is her work to prepare souls for Communion, to move them to visit frequently the Blessed Sacrament and watch constantly before it. Mary is the treasury of all the graces which the Eucharist contains, of all which lead to it, of all which flow from it." (Tesnière: Mois de Notre-Dame du T.S. Sacrement).
It would be a great blessing for us Legionaries to remember why John Paul II referred to Our Lady as the Woman of the Eucharist. I think you could sum up his teaching with three reasons. Firstly, because Our Lord in the Eucharist is the fruit of her womb. Secondly, Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces and especially of the greatest of them, namely the Holy Eucharist. Thirdly, because she is the woman who can most perfectly show us and help us to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.
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