The Priesthood and Perfection by Garrigou-Lagrange - Chapter 13

Eucharistic Worship and Priestly Perfection

1. Eucharistic worship and the interior life It is usually said that the Eucharist nourishes the interior life of every Christian because it is the food of faith, hope, charity, religion, and the other virtues.

It is the food of faith, because it is, in a sense, the crown of the mysteries of faith, because it presupposes the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, and therefore the mystery of the Trinity, and the mystery of the elevation of the human race to the life of grace. The Eucharist is also the pledge of eternal life. Thus a single miracle which confirms the truth of the Eucharist by that very fact confirms also all the other mysteries which are presupposed by the Eucharist.

The Eucharist nourishes hope, because hope trusts in the divine help of grace. But the Eucharist contains not only grace but the author of grace also, and so it is the greatest of all the sacraments.

The Eucharist nourishes charity, because Holy Communion unites us to Christ and increases both affective and effective charity toward God and toward our neighbor. The Eucharist is therefore the bond of charity uniting the various members of each Christian family, poor and rich, the wise and ignorant, in the same holy table. It unites all Christian peoples. In this way, two principles are verified: good of its very nature diffuses itself; and the greater this good is, the more fully and abundantly does it diffuse itself. Several people cannot at the same time fully possess material goods. But spiritual goods can at the same time be possessed by several people. They are then even more possessed by each person, and if any one person wished to exclude others he would lose charity and simultaneously the possession of the spiritual good. We can all at the same time, therefore, possess the same truth, the same virtue, the same Christ substantially present in the Eucharist, and the same God present obscurely in our souls.

The Eucharist nourishes religion, because the greatest act of religion is sacrifice, an act which at the same time is internal, external, and public. But the Eucharistic sacrifice is the sacramental continuation of the boundlessly rich sacrifice of the cross. Why? Because the principal priest, Christ, cannot be more united to God, or more holy, or more united to His people who form His Mystical Body, or more united to the victim, because He offers Himself. And, finally, both victim and principal offerer are of infinite value.

2. The Eucharist and priestly perfection

We may summarize the teaching of Blessed Julian Eymard under three headings:1

A. The Priesthood and the Spirit of Christ

B. Eucharistic Worship and Priestly Perfection

(a) The Four Ends of Sacrifice

(b) The Eucharistic Christ, Model of All Virtues

(c) Prayer to the Eucharistic Heart of Christ

C. The Eucharistic Vocation

(A) The Priesthood and the Spirit of Christ.

A priest must offer the unbloody sacrifice of infinite value, absolve penitents, give them birth, as it were, in the life of grace, and lead them to eternal life; in particular, he must bring the Gospel to the poor. For this, he must have purity, humility, meekness, and burning love for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. He must follow the example of the Apostles who, when they ordained deacons to minister the works of mercy, said: But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). If prayer is absent, external work will be valueless. Moreover, the priest must say with St. John the Baptist: He must increase, hut I must decrease.

To achieve this purpose, he must live in the spirit of Christ: "He who adheres to the Lord is of one spirit with him" (I Cor. 6:17). "If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). But this spirit is the spirit of truth: "For this I came into the world, to give testimony of the truth" (John 18:37). "You are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). "You shall be witnesses of me" (Acts 1:8). This spirit is the spirit of love who manifests himself through meekness ("Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart" [Matt. 11:29]), and through zeal, even unto death ("Christ loved me and gave himself for me" [Gal. 2:20]). This spirit, therefore, is the spirit of sacrifice: "He who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me"; "He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." But that sacrifice will reap a hundredfold reward. "To him that overcometh, I will give the hidden manna" (Apoc. 2:17).

(B) Eucharistic Worship and Priestly Perfection.

The worship of latria is given to God by a worthy celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, which ought to be celebrated each day with greater faith, greater hope, and greater devotion. It is given also by Eucharistic Communion, and even by visiting the Blessed Sacrament, in an adoration of reparation, supplication, and thanksgiving.

On earth there is no other worship which is greater, holier, more liturgical, or any worship in which are better exercised toward Christ, hidden under the species, the virtues of faith, hope, charity, religion, humility, and the corresponding virtues of the Holy Spirit all of which constitute priestly perfection.

All, even those who are weak and imperfect, can and should aspire to this perfection, so that they may become true adorers of Christ present in the Eucharist. To reach a place of distinction in society to be, for example, an advocate, doctor, professor, priest one must work hard. But the most modest priests and simple faithful can worship God in the Eucharist. If they are truly humble they can make great progress in it, as our divine Lord said: "Come to me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you." Holy Communion nourishes a person's soul so that he can avoid sin, resist the temptations of the flesh and of the devil, and love God increasingly "with his whole heart and with his whole soul, with all his strength and with his whole mind." The seven gifts and docility to the Holy Spirit are also increased with this progress in charity through communion and adoration.

Two things in particular should be considered, (a) The four ends of sacrifice, and (b) the virtues of which Jesus gives us an example in the Blessed Eucharist.

(a) The Four Ends of Sacrifice.

The first end of sacrifice is adoration. Holocaust is directed to adoration as the principal object of sacrifice. Men often forget to adore God: they adore their bodies, riches, progress in knowledge, reason or themselves. And so we have society-worship, state-worship, and rationalism. Christ the Saviour is often abandoned by men, not only by unbelievers or those who are indifferent but even by ungrateful believers, sometimes even by His own ministers who seem to love Him not as sons, but as mercenaries, because of some reward; they seem to love Him not for His own sake but for themselves. Their adoration does not spring from charity because there is so little charity.

In some parishes, Christ, present in the Eucharist, is alone almost for the entire week, whereas He could be a daily source of grace. At times none of the faithful come to Mass except on Sunday, and there is never a visit made to the Blessed Sacrament. This reveals not only small charity but small faith and hope also, because these virtues are normally manifested in the virtue of religion which they command.

Adoration of Christ the Saviour, present in the Eucharist, is therefore very much to be commended. In itself, this adoration repairs many ingratitudes, great indifference and lack of care for our salvation.

The second end of the sacrifice of the Eucharist is thanksgiving for all the favors which God has given us, for creation and the elevation of the human race to the order of grace and glory, for the redemptive Incarnation, for the institution of the Blessed Eucharist itself, and for all the graces which flow from it, for the unnumbered Masses and Communions which for a thousand years have strengthened souls.

Many men, never thinking of these benefits, are supremely ungrateful. Since the gift is so valuable and universal, the ingratitude for it is all the greater. Normally children show some gratitude to their parents, and yet many men show no gratitude to God, the source of all good things.

Because this ingratitude is collective, and not individual only, the thanksgiving also should be collective and public. This is the second end of the Eucharist, and the one from which it has taken its name. The Eucharist brings to our mind all the very great benefits which God has given to us, and which are presupposed by the Eucharist the Incarnation and the Redemption and it continually applies to our souls the blessings of the Redemption. As St. John Fisher, the English martyr, used to say: The Mass is like a spiritual sun which warms us and illuminates us every day. These new gifts of the Mass and Holy Communion call for a new expression of thanks. The essential purpose of the worship of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus is to thank God for the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. This institution clearly demands a special expression of thanks.

The phrase "Eucharistic Heart of Jesus" signifies particularly the Heart of Jesus, who has given us the Blessed Eucharist and each day gives it to us again.

The third end of sacrifice is reparation for sins committed against God and particularly for those sacrileges carried out under the inspiration of the devil. Only God knows the monstrosity of certain sacrileges almost equal to that of Judas. To atone for these abominations, the Mass should be worthily celebrated and the Eucharist should be adored in public.

In this way, the external glory which is denied to God and to Christ by these sins is restored. This reparation gives Christ that accidental joy which many deny Him. And it reminds us of what St. Veronica did during the passion when she wiped the face of the Lord with the handkerchief in which remained the image of Christ.

This public reparation, therefore, will prevent great public castigations by God which the world, because of its sin, deserves. At the same time we ask mercy for sinners that they may return to the way of salvation and to penitence. Among those who perfectly understand this purpose of sacrifice, some offer themselves as victims and they particularly help to remove the terrible castigations of God. We read in the Canticle of Tobias (13:5): "He has chastised us for our iniquities, and he will save us for his own mercy." Reparation through Eucharistic worship obtains this mercy. In this worship is continued the reparation offered on the sacrifice of the cross.

The fourth end of sacrifice is supplication, to obtain the divine help and those graces necessary for salvation in particular the grace of final perseverance, something wholly unmerited, but a pure gift which can be obtained through the prayer of petition and especially through the supreme prayer contained in the oblation of the Sacrifice of the Mass. There we have a continuation of "the intercession of Christ who lives always to intercede for us." And we ought to unite ourselves with His intercession, just as we unite ourselves with His adoration, reparation, and thanksgiving. In this way, the value of our actions will be considerably increased.

Christ's intercession in the Blessed Eucharist continues even after Mass has ended. We must join wholeheartedly our Saviour's prayer by praying for ourselves, for the Church, for her pastors, for peace, for the conversion of sinners and unbelievers, and for the salvation of all men.

Among those who have a firm grasp of this end of sacrifice some are of the more contemplative kind, Mary Magdalens at the feed of the Saviour; others are consumed with a fiery and zealous love, like St. Paul; others resemble our Lady in the supper room after the Ascension of her Son, persevering in prayer and asking God's help for the Church.

The consideration we have just made of the four ends of sacrifice serves a practical purpose. By it we see that adoration involves contemplating God in eternity; thanksgiving, a glance to the past and heartfelt gratitude for benefits received; reparation, sorrow for the sins we have committed and a resolution to make amends; petition and supplication, an eye to the future by asking God's help.

Eucharistic worship, so conceived, unites us intimately to Christ the priest, to His infinitely redemptive adoration, to His intercession, and to His thanksgiving.

(b) The Eucharist Christ, Model of All Virtues.

Here we must first note a few facts of theology. Christ, present in the Eucharist, is Christ the King gloriously reigning in heaven, Christ who is no longer in this world, who suffers not nor increases merit, Christ who yet exercises those virtues that will remain in heaven. The Eucharistic Christ adores, intercedes for us, makes thanksgiving and reparation; He realizes what is being done on earth and is conscious, therefore, of the Eucharistic worship which gives Him external glory and of all the sacrileges which rob Him of His due.

We must remember, with St. Thomas,2 that neither faith nor hope remain in heaven. The Beatific Vision takes the place of faith, and the possession of God, a possession never to be lost, that of hope. Charity, however, remains, and with it all the moral virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In short, the formal nature or proper ordering of the moral virtues endures; the material element disappears: "there will no longer be any place for concupiscence, or the pleasures of food, or those of sex; nor shall there be fear or daring in the face of dangers of death, nor shall there be that distribution and communication of things which we have in this life."3

Against this background we may easily understand what Blessed Julian Eymard says when he distinguishes what is strictly true and what is metaphorically true. In the Eucharist, strictly speaking, Jesus no longer has an external life; He no longer visits those who are sick; He no longer preaches. He remains in the tabernacle "as a prisoner of love," of His own will, and He does not see with bodily eyes those things surrounding the Eucharist. But He knows all these things in a most perfect way in heaven because of His infused knowledge and the Beatific Vision. In the Eucharist, Christ has a great and perfect interior life; He teaches us solitude, silence, recollection. Christ wishes to give us an example of many virtues: of charity toward His Father and our neighbor; of religion, for He is always adoring His Father, giving thanks to Him and interceding for us; of humility and obedience, for He is perfectly subject to the will of His Father; of meekness, for He is completely free from anger and hate.

The interior life of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist is, as Blessed Julian Eymard emphasizes, a life of love, love for His Father to whom He continually offers His actions, His sacramental state, His passion, now a thing of the past, but daily remembered in the Mass. His life is one of love for all men, as He wills their salvation. His heart is the center of all hearts.

The Blessed Virgin Mary had this Eucharistic devotion in an excellent degree. Her heart was drawn to the Tabernacle as iron to a magnet. Because some saints had the miraculous privilege of preserving uncorrupted in themselves until their next communion the sacramental species, we should not deny this privilege to our Lady.

With these as his principles Blessed Julian Eymard rightly speaks of Eucharistic humility, Eucharistic poverty, Eucharistic faith, Eucharistic charity. He says: "In the Eucharist the divinity, glory, power and even the humanity of Christ are hidden; Jesus is in a very poor state. He works continually for the sanctification of souls, but silently and mysteriously. . . . The soul intimately united to Christ present in the Eucharist has an intense interior life of love, but remains externally poor, meek, humble. Interiorly he sometimes rejoices, but he does not show his joy externally. His life is hidden with Christ in God. . . . The virtues of his soul must be sublime and perfect and their form simple and ordinary; in short, their perfection should be like the glow under the ashes."4 The heart of Christ is, therefore, a burning furnace of charity hidden quietly under the sacramental species.

In addition to humility, Christ, present in the Eucharist, exercises a charity that is consoling, patient, kind. It consoles, in particular, the poor and the afflicted; it is patient in waiting for us; it is kind toward all. It helps all, even the most wretched and most violent enemies of Christ, back to God. Jesus remains in the Eucharist even as a Victim of love, offered in an unbloody way in the Mass. In this way He draws many faithful souls to a life of reparation.

(c) Prayer to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.

All these thoughts are beautifully expressed in the litanies of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, litanies resembling ladders, beginning with the state of humiliation in which Christ lives in the Eucharist and ending with that deep and intimate union with God to which generous souls are called.

The following prayer is particularly suitable for adoring the Blessed Sacrament:

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, loving companion of our exile,
I adore you. Eucharistic Heart of Jesus,
Solitary Heart, humiliated Heart, abandoned Heart,
Forgotten Heart, despised Heart, outraged Heart.
Heart, repudiated by men,
Heart, the lover of our hearts,
Heart, seeking to be loved,
Heart, patiently waiting for us,
Heart, ready to hear us,
Heart, wishing to be asked favors,
Heart, eternal source of graces,
Silent Heart, wishing to speak to souls,
Heart, consoling refuge of the hidden life,
Heart, master of the secrets of union with God,
Heart of Him who sleeps but is always awake,
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, have pity on us.
Jesus, Victim, I wish to console you,
I unite myself to you, I immolate myself with you,
I annihilate myself before you,
I wish to forget myself in order to think of you,
To be forgotten and despised, for love of you,
To be understood and loved by you alone.
I will be silent in order to listen to you and I will leave myself to love myself in you.
Grant that in this way I may ease your thirst for my salvation, your burning thirst for my sanctification, and that, purified, I may love you purely and truly.
I do not wish to weary you any more by having you wait for me; take me, I give myself to you.
I give over to you all my work: my soul, that you may illuminate it; my heart, that you may direct it; my will, that you may fix it; my misery, that you may help it; my soul and my body, that you may nourish them.
Eucharistic Heart of my Jesus, whose blood is the life of my soul, grant that I may no longer live, but that you may live alone in me. Amen.

(200 days' indulgence for each recitation, Leo XIII, Feb. 6,1899)

(C) The Eucharistic Vocation.

From Christ, really present in the Blessed Eucharist, come actual efficacious graces which perfect the soul. After His resurrection, Christ said to Peter, in order to have him make amends for his denial: "'Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?' He said to him: 'Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee!'" (John 21:16). Then Christ said to him: "Feed my lambs; feed my sheep," and foretold his martyrdom. This prophecy was made at the same time as He gave the grace of enduring martyrdom to Peter. Christ, present in the Eucharist, has a similar influence, but in a hidden way, an influence which inspires efficacious and persevering love.

Faith is often proved by trials. Blessed Julian Eymard, for example, was looking for vocations. None came, and the one boy with him had gone away. When Blessed Julian noted this, he remained before the Blessed Sacrament and said: "Lord, I will remain here on my knees until my son returns." Three or four hours later he returned. Many excellent boys then came to him, so that his Congregation flourished not only in France, Italy, and other parts of Europe, but even in North and Central America. It is by testing faith that a soul is led to perfection. Who are particularly called to sanctity in this way? They are those who have received a Eucharistic vocation. Jesus says: "Nobody comes to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him" (John 6:44). The Father draws all to sanctity, but not always in the same way. All Christians, priests in particular, are called indeed to Eucharistic worship, but from among them some are specially called.

What, according to Blessed Julian Eymard, is a Eucharistic vocation?

It is a calling through a special grace, gentle and strong at the same time, as if the Lord were to say: "Come to My sanctuary." If there is no resistance, this attraction gradually gains dominance.

If one answers this call faithfully, he finds peace, he finds his ideal home, one made specially for him, and his own spiritual food: "I have found the place of my rest." Books, spiritual direction, are no longer of sufficient help, and he needs profound prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Finally, this attraction of grace leads a person to give himself completely to the service of the Eucharist so that he may be a true adorer of Jesus Christ present in the Sacrament. And he does this not only that he may be saved, that he may acquire virtue; he does it not only to save souls but to answer the invitation of the Saviour: "True adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him" (John 4:23).

What St. Thomas, with other writers, called divine contemplation is included in this idea of adoration, because this contemplation proceeds from living faith illuminated by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and it imperates the virtue of religion, whose highest act is sacrifice, in particular, the sacrifice of adoration.

Eucharistic worship, therefore, profoundly conceived, leads to a true priestly perfection by which the priest, under the continual influence of the Eucharistic Christ, becomes in truth another Christ.

Many, by walking along this road, have in fact become saints. We, therefore, must humbly and confidently look to the same goal, daily asking special and efficacious grace for this purpose, so that we may give more glory to God and save more souls.


1. See Blessed Julian Eymard, Meditazioni per Esercizi Spirituali ai Piedi di Gesu in Sacramento, vol. 3.

2. See S.T., 1-2, q. 67.

3. J bid., a. 1.

4. Blessed Julian Eymard, op. cit., pp. 94-95.


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