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Dwelling of Jesus on the Altars

ON THE LOVING DWELLING OF JESUS CHRIST ON THE ALTARS OF THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT

“Come to me, all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.”
Matthew 11:28

Having to depart from this world after he had completed the work of redemption, our loving Savior did not wish to leave us alone in this valley of tears.

“No tongue,” says St. Peter of Alcántara, “can express the greatness of the love which Jesus Christ bears to our souls. Hence, that his absence from us might not be an occasion of forgetting him, this spouse, before his departure from this world, left, as a memorial of his love, this most holy sacrament, in which he himself has remained. He did not wish that between him and his servants there should be any other pledge than himself, to keep alive the remembrance of him.”

This effort of love on the part of Jesus Christ, merits great love from us; and, according to the revelation said to have been made to his servant, sister Margaret Mary Alacoque [now St. Margaret Mary Alacoque], he wished that in these latter times a festival should be instituted in honor of his most holy heart, in order that, by our devotions and affections, we might make some return for his loving dwelling on our altars, and thus compensate the insults which he has received in this sacrament of love, and which he receives every day from heretics and bad Catholics.

Jesus has left himself in the most holy sacrament:

  • First, that all may be able to find him;
    • Secondly, to give audience to all;
      • Thirdly, to give his graces to all.

He, in the first place, remains on so many altars, that all who wish may be able to find him. On the night on which the Redeemer took leave of his disciples to go to death, they shed tears of sorrow at the thought of being separated from their dear Master; but Jesus consoled them, saying (and the same he then said also to us), My children, I am going to die for you, in order to show you the love which I bear you. But at my death I will not leave you alone; as long as you shall be on earth, I will remain with you in the most holy sacrament, I leave you my body, my soul, my divinity; I leave myself entirely to you. As long as you shall remain on earth, I will not depart from you. “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20). The Savior, says St. Peter of Alcántara, did not wish to leave his spouse alone at such a distance, and therefore he has left this sacrament, in which he himself, the best of all companions, has remained with her. The Gentiles have invented so many gods; but they could never imagine a God more loving than our God, who remains nigh to us, and assists us with so much love. “Neither is there any other nation so great, that hath God so nigh to them as our God is present to all our petitions” (Deuteronomy 4:7). The holy Church applies this passage of Deuteronomy to the festival of the most holy sacrament (Resp ii. Noct. iii).

BudapestBazylikaSwStefana09TabernacleBehold, then, Jesus Christ remains in our tabernacles as if confiined in so many prisons of love. His priests move him from the tabernacle to expose him on the altar, or to give the communion, and afterwards put him back to be again shut up; and Jesus is content to remain in there day and night. But why, my Redeeemer, do you remain in so many churches, even during the night, when the faithful lock the doors, and leave you alone? It would be enough for you to remain during the day. No; he wished to remain also during the night, though left alone, that, in the morning, all who seek may instantly find him. The sacred spouse went in search of her beloved, saying to everyone she met, “Have you seen him whom my soul loveth?” (Song of Songs 3:3). And, not finding him, she raised her voice, and exclaimed, My spouse, tell me where you are. “Show me…where thou feeedest, where thou liest in the midday” (Song of Songs 1:7). The spouse did not find him, because then the most holy sacrament was not instituted; but, at present, if a soul wishest to find Jesus Christ, she has only to go to a church in which the holy Eucharist is preserved, and there she shall find her beloved expecting her. There is not a town or a convent in which the holy sacrament is not kept; and in all these places the King of heaven is content to remain shut up in a case of wood or of stone, often almost without a lamp burning before him, and without anyone to keep him company. But, O Lord, says St. Bernard, this is not suited to your majesty. “No matter,” Jesus replies, “if it becomes not my majesty, it well becomes my love.”

5286-20080123-jerusalem-holy-sepulchre-stairway-golgothaWhat tender devotion do pilgrims feel in visiting the holy house of Loretto–the Holy Land–the stable at Bethlehem–the hill of Calvary-or the Holy Sepulchre; in which Jesus Christ was born, or lived, or died, or was buried! But how much greater tenderness should we feel in a church, in presence of Jesus himself in the Blessed Sacrament! The Venerable Father John D’Avila [now St. John of Avila] used to say, that he knew no sanctuary capable of inspiring greater devotion or consolation than a church in which Jesus remains in the holy Eucharist. Father Balthazar Alvarez would weep in seeing the palaces of princes filled with courtiers, and the churches, in which Jesus Christ dwells, solitary and abandoned. O God! If the Lord remained only in one church, for example in St. Peter’s in Rome, and only on one day in the year, O, how many pilgrims, how many nobles, how many princes would endeavor to have the happiness of being there on that day, to pay court and homage to the King of heaven descended again upon the earth! O, what a splendid tabernacle of gold adorned with gems should be prepared for the occasion. O with what an abundance of light should the dwelling of Jesus Christ on the earth be celebrated on that day! But, says the Redeemer, I do not wish to remain only in a single church, or but for a single day; neither do I require so much riches, nor such a profusion of lights. I wish to remain continually all days, and in all places in which my servants are found, that all may find me with facility at all times and at any hour they wish.

Ah, if Jesus Christ had not invented this excess of love, who could have ever thought of it? Should a Christian, after the Ascension of the Redeemer into heaven, say to him, Lord, if you wish to show us your affection, remain with us on our altars under the appearance of bread, that we may be able to find you whenever we wish–would not such a demand be regarded as the extreme of temerity? But what no man could ever even imagine, our Savior has invented and accomplished. But alas! Where is our gratitude for so great a favor? If a prince came from a distance to a village for the purpose of being visited by a peasant, how great should be the ingratitude of the peasant if he refused to visit this sovereign, or if he paid him only a passing visit.

Affections and Prayers

O Jesus, my Redeemer, O love of my soul, how much has it cost thee to remain with us in the sacrament! To be able to remain in our altars, thou hadst first to suffer death; afterwards, in order to aid us by thy presence, thou hadst to submit to so many grievous insults in this sacrament. And after all this, we are so slothful and negligent in visiting thee, though we know that thou so ardently desirest our visits for the purpose of enriching us with thy graces when thou seest us in thy presence! Lord, pardon me; for I too have been one of these ungrateful souls. From this day forward, O my Jesus, I wish to visit thee often, and to remain as long as I can in thy presence, to thank thee, to love thee, and to ask thy graces; for it is for this purpose that thou remainest on earth shut up in our tabernacles, and made our prisoner of love. I love thee, O infinite Goodness; I love thee, O God of love; I love thee, O Sovereign Good, amiable above every good. Grant that I may forget myself and all things, in order to remember only thy love, and to spend the remainder of my life wholly occupied in pleasing thee. Grant that from this day forward I may relish no pleasure more than that of remaining at thy feet. Inflame my whole soul with thy holy love. Mary, my mother, obtain for me a great love for the most holy sacrament; and whenever thou seest that I am negligent, remind me of the promise I now make of going every day to visit the holy sacrament.

Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).

Art: Budapest – St. Stephen basilica – tabernacle, Andrzej Otrebski, own work, 15 July 2010, CCA-SA; Holy Sepulchre Stairway to Golgotha, adriatikus, own work, 2008-01-23, CC; both Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, and the FireLight Student Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Patricia

    St. Therese loved a poem about this very topic: loving Jesus who stays in the Tabernacle out of love for us. This is why she is called “the little flower”. Here are a few verses.

    The Divine Prisoner’s Little Flower, St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s Favorite Childhood Poem

    Oh! My divine Master, in the depths of the tabernacle, For 1800 years a prisoner out of love,
    Despite our coldness, through a constant miracle, Near us You have fixed Your dwelling place;

    And there, more abandoned, even more alone
    Than the poor prisoner whose neglected state I pity,
    Your tenderness implores, yea, begs for the hearts
    Of Your perverse children, those ingrates who refuse You this gift….

    The whole poem can be found at: http://site.paracletepress.com/samples/exc-divineprisoner.pdf

    • Joan

      Patricia, thank you for the link to that lovely poem! I have just read it now and it is beautiful. Happy Easter!

  • Graham-Michoel

    Far too many churches have taken Jesus from the centre of their buildings and placed him in another room, sometimes no bigger than a cupboard. And, in some cathedrals that place of honour has been replaced with the bishop’s chair.

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