The Legion and the Eucharist
Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi or to give it its proper title, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Whenever this feast is celebrated the whole Church fixes its attention on the extraordinary gift of the Eucharist. And one of the great secrets of an authentic spiritual life is to synchronise our life with the liturgical life of the Church. In this way we really participate in all the mysteries of Our Lord’s life, death and resurrection. And as the years go by we are gradually transformed into Christ and become more deeply members of his Mystical Body, the Church. So it is fitting that we legionaries reflect once more on the role of the Eucharist in our personal lives and apostolate.
The sections on the Eucharist in the Handbook are truly magnificent. First, the Eucharist is centre and source of the holiness and apostolate of every legionary. ‘The Eucharist is the centre and source of grace: therefore, it must be the very keystone of the legionary scheme. The most ardent activity will accomplish nothing of value if it forgets for a moment that its main object is to establish the reign of the Eucharist in all hearts. For thereby is fulfilled the purpose for which Jesus came into the world. That purpose was to communicate Himself to souls so that he might make them one with Him. The means of that communication is chiefly the Holy Eucharist. “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Jn 6:51-52)
Do we always remember that the main object of every Legion activity is to establish the reign of the Eucharist in all hearts? Why is the Eucharist so fundamental to the Legion? Well, the Eucharist is not like a statue or a holy picture however beautiful. It is not just an object however sacred. It is not like the relic of a Saint however great they may be. It is a Person. It is Someone. It is the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. That is the drawing power of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we have the glorified humanity of Christ and therefore His human heart directly and personally focussed on each one of us in Holy Communion and in adoration outside the time of Mass. And we have the infinite, intimate life of the Trinity offered to us to share in. The generosity of God in the Eucharist is staggering.
I think of the words of Pope John Paul II: ‘As we contemplate the Eucharist we are filled with the wondering faith, not only concerning the mystery of God and his boundless love, but also concerning the mystery of the human person. In the presence of the Eucharist the words of the Psalmist come spontaneously to our lips. ‘What is man that you care for him?’ What great value the human person has in the eyes of God, if God himself feeds him with His Body! What vast spaces the human heart conceals within itself if they can be filled only by God! You have made us for yourself, O God’ we confess with St. Augustine, ‘and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’ When a legionary leads a person to the Eucharist he leads them to Jesus Christ in Person. We cannot do anything more fundamental and precious than that. To meet Jesus is to meet all our deepest needs and to know what it really is to be loved. In the Eucharist we are not only brought intimately into the presence of God but we are also invited to eat and drink at his table. He feeds us with his very own life.
In this little allocutio I am only briefly reflecting on the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ. At another time we will speak about other aspects of the Eucharist especially the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass from which we derive all the graces we need for progress in our union with Christ and all the graces we need for our apostolic work for the salvation of souls. Even so we are only hinting at some of the riches of the Eucharist as the Real Presence. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not just a physical and real nearness of Jesus to us. It is a relation of person to person through the mediation of the Body of Christ. It is a spiritual rapport with Jesus, full of personal attention to us, full of love and willingness to help and to befriend us. So the Real Presence is both personal and relational. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of friendship between Jesus and us mediated through his bodily presence.
Mary wants nothing more deeply than to facilitate our total union and friendship with Jesus in the Eucharist. It is because of our true devotion and union with Mary that we too seek this goal. Let me conclude with the words of Pope John Paul II in his Letter ‘Redemptoris Mater’ (Mother of the Redeemer) quoted by the Handbook. “Her motherhood is particularly noted and experienced by the Christian people at the Sacred Banquet - the liturgical celebration of the mystery of the Redemption - at which Christ, His true Body born of the Virgin Mary, becomes present.
The piety of the Christian people has always very rightly sensed a profound link between devotion to the Blessed Virgin and worship of the Eucharist: this is a fact that can be seen in the liturgy of both the West and East, in the traditions of the Religious families, in the modern movements of spirituality, including those for youth, and in the pastoral practice of the Marian Shrines. Mary guides the faithful to the Eucharist”. (Rmat 44) That too is the ultimate purpose of the Legion of Mary.