Tuesday, February 8, 2011
On Holy Communion
I have been ravenously devouring the words of Caryll Houselander in the past few months as I make my way through all of her books. This passage from her autobiography, A Rocking Horse Catholic about her second Holy Communion after a long bout with psychological illness speaks to my heart today...
"On the night before He died, when He instituted the Blessed Sacrament, He gave Himself for all time into the hands of Peter-and into the hands of Judas. A further reason why this way, the way of Communion with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, is of such great value to those who are tortured by psychological suffering, is because it necessarily involves other human beings; someone must bring Christ to the sufferer, someone must give Christ to him. There are other ways, too, by which Christ has made Himself man's gift to man; the Mystical Body is planned for that. But this way, through sacramental communion and the Sacred Host, is at the heart of the mystery of God's love, and from it flows every other communion and Christ-giving between men.
It is because the psychological sufferer is always cut off, isolated by his self-torment, from his fellow creatures, that this is so valuable to him. God must be brought to him by another man; only God can reach that centre of his soul that must be touched if he is to be made whole, but God chooses to come to him in Communion only if he will receive Him from the hands of a fellow man."
How beautiful that we can only receive God through the hands of another human, and yet how terribly difficult this can be! For in our awareness of our sin, don't we feel most unworthy of not only the presence of Christ but also of the presence of our fellow human beings whom we most often sin against with our words and our actions?
Like Peter I want to cry out "Depart from me Lord, for I am sinful!" (Luke 5:8) And then I hide my face behind the crook of my arm, unable to bear the beauty of the Lord that is being offered to me. And Jesus gently pries my arm away from my face, and looks deeply into my eyes. He whispers "Don't be afraid, and don't hold back. It is precisely because of your sin that I am here for you."
How blessed we are that our Lord chooses to come to us, to live within us and to unite us to those from whom we often pull away because of our wretched sinfulness. It is only through His love given to us by others that we can taste heaven right now, here on earth.