The Priest in Union with Christ by Garrigou-Lagrange - Part 2, Chapter 5

The Four Ends of Sacrifice and Priestly Perfection

Chapter Five


This chapter is based to a large extent on the teaching of Blessed Peter Julian Eymard, founder of the Congregation of the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament, who devoted much of his writings to a discussion of this particular question. He was specially inspired by God to establish for his own religious and for the faithful in general an almost continual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. From the outset he was afflicted with trials. He had but one companion who, as soon as he realized that no other vocations were forthcoming, left his friend with no intention of returning. Blessed Peter Eymard remained on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament and was inspired by God to say: "Lord, I will not rise unless my friend returns." Some hours later his friend did return, to be followed later on by many other fine vocations. Today this Congregation has spread throughout Europe and the two Americas, and is meeting with striking success.2

Before studying the teaching of Blessed Peter Eymard we must first remind ourselves of the general teaching concerning eucharistic worship and the interior life of all the faithful.

Eucharistic worship and the interior life

It is true for all Christians that the Eucharist is the divine sustenance of their interior life, for it nourishes their faith, hope, charity, religion, and all the other virtues.

The Eucharist nourishes our faith since it is the crowning mystery of faith, presupposing the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, the mystery of the Trinity, and the mystery of man's elevation to the life of grace; it is also the pledge of eternal life. In consequence, a single eucharistic miracle which sets its seal on the truth of this sacrament confirms at the same time both the truth of all the other mysteries which it presupposes and also the validity of the other sacraments which are ordered to the reception of the Eucharist. This would apply in particular to the validity of all the priestly ordinations and episcopal consecrations which have taken place without interruption since Christ's institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood of the New Law.

Similarly, the virtue of hope is nourished by the Eucharist since hope relics on the help of divine grace. Now the Eucharist contains not only grace but also the author of grace—hence its pre-eminence above all other sacraments.

The Eucharist nourishes also the virtue of charity, in so far as Holy Communion joins us to Christ and increases our charity towards God and our neighbour—a charity which is not mere sentiment, but is active and effective. The Eucharist is the bond of charity uniting together at the same divine banquet the members of every Christian family, the poor and the rich, the learned and the ignorant, all Christians throughout the world. And so in Holy Communion are verified the two principles: goodness is essentially diffusive, and, the loftier its nature, so much the more completely and abundantly does it give itself to others. Material goods cannot be completely possessed by several individuals at the same time, but spiritual goods can. In fact, they are then more completely possessed by each of the individuals, so that if anyone wished to reserve them exclusively for himself, he would thereby lose both charity and the spiritual goods. For that reason, everyone can possess at the same time the same truth, the same virtue, the same Christ present in the Eucharist after the manner of a substance, the same God hidden in our souls and clearly revealed in heaven.

Finally, the Eucharist nourishes the virtue of religion, because the supreme act of religion is the act of sacrifice, an act which is both internal, external, and public. The eucharistic sacrifice is the sacramental continuation of the sacrifice of the Cross, which is infinite in its value. The principal priest— Christ himself—could not be more closely united either to God or to the people who form his mystical body or to the victim which is himself. Therefore both victim and principal offerer are of infinite value.

The Priest and the Eucharist3

Summary, (i) The priesthood and the spirit of sacrifice.

(2) The four ends of sacrifice; Christ's interior life in the Eucharist, a model of the principal virtues of charity, religion, humility, poverty; belief in the Eucharist; confidence; charity; reparative charity in imitation of Christ the victim; Litany of the Eucharistic Heart.

(3) Conclusion. The Eucharist and priestly perfection; the Eucharistic vocation.

The priesthood and the spirit of sacrifice

It is the office of a priest to offer the bloodless sacrifice of infinite worth, to absolve sinners and thus regenerate in them the life of grace, to lead them to eternal life, and—especially— to preach the Gospel to the poor. For this he needs purity, humility, meekness, effective charity-—all of which he acquires for the glory of God and the saving of souls. He should imitate the example of the Apostles, who stated as their reason for ordaining deacons to look after the works of mercy: "We devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of preaching" (Acts vi, 4). Otherwise there will be plenty of outward activity but with little to show for it; tremendous strides but not in the right direction. Furthermore, the cry of St. John the Baptist should find an echo in the life of every priest: "He must become more and more, I must become less and less."

To this end he should live according to the spirit of Christ: "A man who unites himself to the Lord becomes one spirit with him" (I Cor. vi, 17): "A man cannot belong to Christ unless he has the Spirit of Christ" (Rom. viii, 9). This spirit is one of truth and love and sacrifice: truth, for Christ has said : "What I came into the world for is to bear witness of the truth" (John xviii, 37)—"You are the light of the world" (Matt, v, 14) —"You are to be my witnesses" (Acts i, 8); love, which manifests itself in meekness: "Learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart" (Matt, xi, 29), and in zeal which perseveres unto death—"Christ loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. ii, 20); sacrifice, "He is not worthy of me, that loves father or mother more. . . . He is not worthy of me, that does not take up his cross and follow me" (Matt, x, 37, 38). This sacrifice will be rewarded a hundredfold. "Who wins the victory? I will feed him with the hidden manna" (Apoc. ii, 17).

The four ends of sacrifice

The duty of divine worship is fulfilled by the worthy celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass, which should be offered each day with greater faith and hope and charity and fervour of the will, even if sensible fervour is lacking. We also adore God by Holy Communion, by visits to the Blessed Sacrament, by reparative worship, petition, and thanksgiving. It is impossible to find on earth a loftier or holier or more liturgical form of worship than this eucharistic worship, in which the priest is given unrivalled opportunities for cultivating the virtue of belief in Christ hidden under the species of bread and wine, and also the virtues of hope, charity, religion, and humility, together with the corresponding gifts of the Holy Ghost. And by the exercise of these virtues and gifts the priest attains to his perfection.

All priests, no matter how weak or imperfect their spiritual character, can and must desire this perfection so that they may become true adorers of Christ in the Eucharist. We know only too well the tremendous effort that is required to attain to a position of standing in civil society, to become, for example, an advocate, or a doctor, or a professor, or a jurist. But even the most unassuming of priests or the faithful can join in this eucharistic worship, and if they are sincerely humble and devout, they will find themselves making much progress in it: "Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest" (Matt, xi, 28); "I have come so that they may have life, and have it more abundantly" (John x, 10). Holy Communion gives the soul the strength it needs to avoid sin and to resist the temptations of the flesh and the devil, and also to increase in the love of God "with the love of thy whole heart, and thy whole soul, and thy whole strength, and thy whole mind." This growth in love through Holy Communion and adoration is accompanied by a corresponding growth in the seven gifts and docility to the Holy Ghost.

But there are two aspects of this eucharistic adoration which deserve special consideration—the four ends of sacrifice, and the virtues which Christ exemplifies in the Eucharist.

The first end of sacrifice is adoration; hence the holocaust is the principal sacrifice, since the purpose of its offering is adoration. Throughout the ages men have been quick to forget their obligation to worship God, while readily paying homage to the flesh, to wealth, to the progress of science, to reason, to themselves. They have thus prepared a fruitful soil for the deification of the state or of society, for rationalism which idolizes man's reason—and so on. This neglect of Christ the Saviour is not confined to unbelievers or to the indifferent, but extends to all ungrateful Christians—even, on occasions, to his own ministers who love him not as his sons but as mercenaries, interested only in rewards. They love him not for his own sake but for their own selfish interests. And once deprived of its ruling spirit of charity there can be little adoration.

It is not uncommon in certain parishes to find that the faithful do not go to Mass except on Sunday, and never pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Christ is left alone in the Eucharist for almost the entire week, whereas each day he could be an abundant source of grace. Such parishes present a picture not only of lack of charity but also of lack of hope and faith, which are normally revealed through the virtue of religion that they inspire.

For that reason, adoration of Christ our Saviour present in the Eucharist is to be highly recommended; this adoration will of itself make reparation for much ingratitude, indifference, and lack of care about salvation.

The second end of sacrifice is thanksgiving for all God's gifts to man, for the creation of the human race and its elevation to the order of grace and glory, for the redeeming Incarnation, for the institution of the Eucharist and the graces which flow from it, for the innumerable Masses offered and Communions received during the past twenty centuries for the strengthening of souls.

Many people never spare a thought for these divine gifts, and thus they sink to the lowest depths of ingratitude, since these gifts have been so precious and so widespread. Whereas children normally show some sign of gratitude to their parents for what they do, many people never so much as say "thank you" to their divine benefactor, who is the source of all the gifts in the world.

Since this scourge of ingratitude is not confined to individuals but has affected groups and societies, there must be collective and public thanksgiving. This is the second reason for the Eucharist and forms the basis of its name. In fact, the Eucharist commemorates all the unparalleled gifts which it presupposes— the Incarnation and the Redemption—and administers to us the fruits of redemption. In the words of St. John Fisher, the English martyr, the Mass is like a spiritual sun which radiates its light and warmth to us each day—words which were directed against the Lutherans who denied the Mass, and whose churches were cold for want of warmth from this spiritual sun. These additional gifts of the Mass and Holy Communion call for a further and special act of thanksgiving, and devotion to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus exists for this very purpose of thanking God for the institution of the Eucharist. The "Eucharistic Heart of Jesus" is to be understood as referring to the heart of Jesus who gave us the gift of the Eucharist and continues to do so daily.

The third end of sacrifice is reparation for the sins committed against God, especially for the acts of sacrilege sometimes so atrocious and clearly instigated by the devil. God alone knows the enormity of some of these acts of sacrilege which remind us of the treachery of Judas. In reparation for such abominable behaviour the Mass should be celebrated with reverence, and the Blessed Sacrament should be publicly exposed for adoration.

This act of reparation restores to God the Father and to Christ the accidental glory of which they are deprived by such sins, and it is also a source of joy to them—a joy which many have refused to give. It puts us in mind of the act of reverence paid by Saint Veronica during the Passion, when she wiped the face of Christ with a towel on which was left an impression of his countenance.

Public reparation wards off those heavy, public chastisements of God which the world has deserved by its sins; it also pleads for mercy for sinners, that they may return to the way of salvation and repent of their sins. All this is accomplished by the act of sacrifice. And among the souls who have fully grasped this purpose of sacrifice are some who offer themselves as victims. In saving the world from the dread chastisements of God they serve a purpose in the spiritual sphere similar to that of a lightning-conductor in the material sphere. "He it is that has scourged us for our sins; he it is that will deliver us in his mercy" (Tobias xiii, 5). This mercy is won for us by the act of reparation in eucharistic worship, which perpetuates the act of reparation offered in the sacrifice of the Cross.

The fourth end of sacrifice is to request the divine help and all the graces necessary for salvation, especially the grace of final perseverance. True, this grace cannot be merited but it can be obtained through the impetratory power of prayer, especially of the highest form of prayer contained in the actual offering of the sacrifice of the Mass, in which endures the intercession of Christ "living on still to make intercession on our behalf." We should unite ourselves to his intercession, just as we unite ourselves to his adoration and reparation and thanksgiving. The value of our own acts are thus increased beyond all measure.

Even after Mass Christ's intercession continues in the Eucharist. We should join in this prolonged act of prayer by making our own prayer less individualistic and more concerned with the Church, its bishops and priests, that God may give them the necessary zeal and courage; with the peace and concord of nations; with the freedom of the Church and the sanctification of souls; with the conversion of sinners and unbelievers. Such prayer is in harmony with the intentions of God, and, if it is offered by several at the same time humbly, confidently, and perseveringly, it is certain to bear abundant fruit.

We find amongst those who fully understand this particular purpose of sacrifice souls of a more contemplative disposition, like Mary Magdalen at the feet of Christ, or the angels adoring the King of Heaven. There are others who are consumed by an ardent love for the Church of Christ—living lamps, so to speak, burning in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Or perhaps they remind us of Our Lady in the upper room after the Ascension, whose prayer of intercession for the Church they are continuing. Other souls of a more active character take part in the worship of the Eucharist, in order to perfect their interior life which is the vital principle of a fruitful apostolate.

These, then, are the four ends of sacrifice, and their consideration is not without its practical value because it shows how we remember, in the first place, God's unending life by the act of adoration; secondly, the past by our act of thanksgiving for gifts received and by our act of reparation for sins committed; and, finally, the future by our request for divine help.

Eucharistic worship, when viewed in this light, unites us closely to Christ the priest, to his reparative adoration, to his intercession, and to his thanksgiving.

Christ's interior life in the Eucharist—a model of the principal virtues

In order to approach this question in a true theological spirit, we should remember that the Christ present in the Eucharist is the risen Christ reigning in glory in Heaven. He no longer suffers nor merits, but exercises those virtues which continue after death by his adoration, intercession, thanksgiving, and so on. Moreover, Christ in Heaven knows quite clearly what is happening on earth; he is fully aware of the eucharistic worship of the present time which increases his non-essential happiness, and also of the acts of profanation which deny him such happiness.

St. Thomas reminds us (Summa, la Ilae, q. 67) that in Heaven the virtues of faith and hope cease to exist; the Beatific Vision replaces faith, and the permanent possession of God replaces hope. But charity remains; so also do the moral virtues and the seven gifts. True, the material of the moral virtues will be missing in Heaven, but. not their formal element —their ordering of man towards sanctity: "There is no place in Heaven for inordinate desires and the pleasures of food and sex, nor for fear and daring in dangers of death, nor for the distribution and exchange of goods used in this life."

In the light of these principles it is easy to understand the distinction made by Blessed Peter Julian Eymard (loc cit., p. 88) between what can be said of the Eucharist with literal truth, and what is only metaphorically true. It is literally true to say that in the Eucharist Christ no longer leads an external life, he no longer visits the sick or preaches. He is present in the tabernacle as "a prisoner of love", a prisoner of his own choosing. He does not use any external sense-faculty to grasp the surroundings of the Eucharist; these he knows through his infused knowledge and the Beatific Vision. Therefore Christ's life in the Eucharist is entirely interior and yet most perfect, thus teaching us the virtues of solitude, silence, and recollection. He is most anxious to give us there an example of many of the virtues—charity for his Father and for souls, religion (insofar as he is adoring, thanking, and interceding with his Father unceasingly), humility and obedience in being completely subject to the divine will, meekness, since he never experienced any unruly passion.

But above all, as Blessed Peter Eymard says (p. 90), "the life of Christ in the Eucharist is a life of love for his Father, to whom he is incessantly offering his actions, his sacramental presence, his previous Passion now commemorated in the Mass. It is also a life of love for men who have to be saved. His heart is the centre of all hearts."

An excellent example of this devotion for the Eucharist is Our Blessed Lady: "her heart was drawn towards the Blessed Sacrament as iron is towards a magnet" (p. 93). And she should not be denied the miraculous privilege, granted to some of the saints, of preserving the sacred species incorrupt within herself from one Communion to the next.

Blessed Peter Julian Eymard is perfectly correct in speaking of eucharistic humility, eucharistic poverty, eucharistic piety, eucharistic charity. He says, for example, that in the Eucharist the divinity, power, glory, and even humanity of Christ are concealed; that he lives a life of poverty; that he labours unceasingly for the saving of souls, but mysteriously and in silence, so that the world hardly notices his activity. In consequence, anyone living in close union with Christ in the Eucharist is bound to lead an interior life of intense charity, but his external life must be poor and humble. There will be numerous occasions for inward joy, but he does not show it outwardly: "His life is hidden with Christ in God."

"The virtues of his soul should be lofty and perfect, but, in appearance, simple and ordinary; in a word, they should resemble a burning brazier hidden under ashes" (p. 95). The heart of Christ is a blazing furnace of charity hidden under the sacred species—the very antithesis to anything spectacular.

Christ's life in the Eucharist is one of charity as well as of humility—charity which is gracious, patient, beneficent. It is gracious towards the poor and afflicted, patient in waiting for us to visit him, beneficent to all—even to his enemies, whom he draws towards conversion. Christ is present in the Eucharist as the victim of love, immolated without the shedding of blood in the sacrifice of Mass, and attracting many souls to a life of reparation.

An excellent summary of all that we have said about devotion to the Eucharist is contained in the Litany of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, which rises from the lowly state of Christ in the Eucharist to the sublime union of intimacy which he extends to generous souls.4

Conclusion: the Eucharist and priestly perfection

Devotion to the Eucharist, when regarded in this light, is an effective means of attaining to priestly perfection. Cf. Blessed Peter Julian Eymard, loc. cit., p. 161, 180, 230, 232.

This follows from the fact that Christ, really present in the Eucharist, is the source of all the actual efficacious graces which perfect our spiritual life. This influence of Christ in the Eucharist is similar to that present in his meeting with Peter after the Resurrection. To enable him to make amends for his previous denial Christ asked Peter: "Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?" Peter replied: "Yes, Lord, thou knowest well that I love thee" (John xxi, 16). Finally, Christ said to him: "Feed my lambs and tend my shearlings", and then foretold his martyrdom. This prophecy was accompanied by grace, already preparing him to be constant under the trial of martyrdom. Christ's influence in the Eucharist is of a similar nature— although hidden—inspiring effective and persevering love.

For this reason our faith is often put to the test by a long period of sense aridity—as in the case of Blessed Peter Eymard when he was awaiting vocations, and none came. After his one and only companion had deserted him, he remained on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament: "Lord, I shall stay here on my knees until my friend returns." Three or four hours later he did return. Eventually many other excellent vocations arrived, so that the Congregation began to spread far and wide reaping a rich harvest in France, Italy, and other parts of Europe, as also in North and South America. This trial of faith leads many souls to perfection.

The Eucharistic vocation

Every follower of Christ—especially his priests—are invited to worship him in the Eucharist, but there are some who receive a special vocation to this devotion—the Eucharistic vocation. "Nobody can come to me without being attracted towards me by the Father who sent me" (John vi, 44). And the Father attracts everyone to salvation, but not necessarily along the same path.

What is this Eucharistic vocation, in the opinion of Blessed Peter Eymard? (p. 230). It is a special attraction of grace, gentle but compelling—as if Christ were saying to the soul: Come to my sanctuary. Provided no resistance is offered, this attraction gradually becomes supreme.

The faithful soul responding to this invitation finds peace, as though it had discovered at long last its natural home and spiritual food: "I have found my resting-place." Books and conferences no longer give the help required; this can only be found in more intense prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Ultimately this attraction of grace leads the soul to a complete offering of itself to the service of the Eucharist, in order to become a true adorer of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The individual docs not devote himself to this worship merely to save his own soul or to acquire virtue or even to save the souls of others; but, realizing that his love for God and for Christ should always have precedence over his love for his neighbour, he is simply anxious to respond to Christ's invitation: "True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; such men as these the Father claims for his worshippers" (John iv, 23). That is the order to be observed in charity, and the love of our neighbour will always grow in proportion to our love of God. But he is to be loved above everyone.

In this act of adoration is also included what St. Thomas and others used to call the contemplation of divine things, for this is the natural result of a living faith enlightened by the gifts of the Holy Ghost and it also commands the virtue of religion. Now the highest act of this virtue is sacrifice, especially the sacrifice of worship.

So it is clear that devotion to the Eucharist—as outlined above—-does lead to priestly perfection; the priest is transformed into another Christ in virtue of the continual influence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In fact, many are the souls who have attained to holiness in this way. Hence we must strive humbly and confidently each day for this spirit of devotion to the Eucharist, asking God to grant us the necessary efficacious grace, so that we may give glory to God and save souls.

1This question has already been discussed in my earlier work De sanctificatione sacerdotum secundum exigentias temporis nostri, but I am here considering it from the point of view of the priest's union with Christ, priest and victim.

2I have based my summary of the teaching of Blessed Peter Julian Eymard on his book Meditationes pro exercitiis spiritualibus, Turin, new edition, 1934—especially on the third volume.

3Cf. Blessed Peter Eymard, loc. cit., vol. Ill, pp. 43,82-87,98-112,161, 230-232.

4The following prayer is particularly appropriate for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.


Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, gracious companion of our exile, I adore you.

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus—lonely Heart—humiliated Heart—abandoned Heart—forgotten Heart—^despised Heart—outraged Heart—Heart ignored by men—Heart which loves our own hearts—Heart pleading for our love—Heart so patient in waiting for us—Heart so eager to listen to our prayers—Heart so anxious for our requests—Heart, unending source of new graces—Heart so silent, yet desiring to speak to souls—Heart, welcome refuge of the hidden life—Heart, teacher of the secrets of union with God—Heart of him who sleeps but watches always—Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Jesus Victim, I desire to comfort you; I unite myself to you; I offer myself in union with you. 1 regard myself as nothing in your presence. I long to forget myself in order to think only of you, to be despised and forgotten for love of you. I have no desire to be understood or loved by anyone but you. I will keep silent in order to listen to you, and I will abandon myself in order to lose myself in you.

Grant that 1 may thus satisfy your thirst for my salvation, your burning thirst for my holiness, and that once purified I may give you a sincere and pure love. I am anxious not to tire you further with waiting: take me, I hand myself over to you. I give you all my actions, my mind to be enlightened, my heart to be directed, my will to be stabilized, my wretchedness to be relieved, my soul and body to be nourished by you.

Eucharistic Heart of my Saviour, whose blood is the life of my soul, may I myself cease to live and you alone live in me. Amen.

Indulgence 500 days. Brief, February 6, 1899, Leo XIII; Sacred Penitentiary Apostolic, November 8th, 1934.