Jesus Present Before Me: The Beauty of the Eucharist
Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 1:51pm
As a result of a very generous person who reads my blog and has recently shopped in my Amazon Wishlist, I am sitting here tonight sipping on a nice Chilean white wine and reading Jesus Present Before Me: Meditations for Eucharist Adoration, by Father Peter John Cameron, O.P. What an excellent book this is and I am very grateful for the gift.
One of the things that I often reflect on is the beauty of the Eucharist and particularly how we capture the beauty of it when it is celebrated in Mass. Liturgy and ritual has a lot to do with getting a glimpse of this concept of beauty found in Eucharistic celebration that is to take us beyond the appearances and to the Something of love found in beauty. It is for this reason that I would like to see a bit more regaining of the theological/liturgical notion of worshipping in the beauty of holiness. ‘One thing that I ask,’ says the psalmist, ‘to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the Lord’s beauty.’ Father Cameron’s meditation on this point of beauty in the Eucharist is very moving and worthy of the time to type it all.
It is crucial for us that the Eucharist be “beautiful.” Why? Because, as the Catechism teaches, it is the human person’s ‘openness to truth and beauty…his longings for the infinite and for happiness,’ that prompt the human being to question himself about God’s existence.
Our fascination with beauty leads us to God. Beauty makes us believers. The playwright Jean Anouilh commented that beauty is one of the rare things that does not lead to doubt about God.
At the same time, our need for beauty shows us the greatness of ourselves–that we are made for something “more.” For beauty is a kind of sign that refers beyond itself to something else, and we are designed to detect that. As Monsignor Luigi Giussani, founder of the Communion and Liberation, has observed only the relationship “beyond,” with “something more,” makes the adventure of life possible. Our will to penetrate the beyond gives us the energy to seize the here and now. The beautiful is what gives us that will, that energy. In fact, Giussani continues, the only thing that moves us to say yes to something new that comes into our life is beauty. Only beauty has the power to suppress all our preconceptions, our cynicism, our negativity. Beauty draws out our heart, preventing is from decaying into nothingness.
For beauty possesses a winning attraction. What attracts us is something attractive is not the thing itself but the “Something inside something.” That is why, in looking at what seems to be a nondescript wafer of bread, we refuse to stop at “appearances.” We see the Beyond of the Eucharist…and it is pure Beauty. Saint Bonaventure tell us that in Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendor at their source.
The truest beauty, says Pope Benedict XVI, is the love of God–that is the Something within the something of the sacrifice of the Eucharist. The effects of receiving Holy Communion confirm the ability of the Eucharist’s beauty to transfigure our lives. Saint Proclus of Constantinople said that Christ appeared in the world bringing beauty out of disarray, giving it luster and joy.
The Eucharist continues to beautify the disarray of our lives, giving it unimaginable luster and joy. And that is why we rejoice in the words of Pope John Paul II who said that beauty makes one feel the beginning of fulfillment. It seems to whisper to us: “You will not be unhappy; the desire of your heart will be fulfilled.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, the experience of beauty convinces me that I am loved by Someone who is as great as beauty is irresistible. Let me surrender myself completely to the attraction I find in you.
To hear Catholics balk at Eucharistic adoration as something no longer necessary for the Church is really missing this point about Beauty himself in the Blessed Sacrament. Looking beyond the appearances into the beauty of God’s heart is something irresistible when we see how God’s attraction for us causes him to surrender himself and his love completely for us.