An Eucharistic Examen based on Ave Verum Corpus

Where do we begin on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ? Is there anything we can comprehend about Jesus’ complete gift of Himself to us? Deep, mind-spinning questions often flood our minds when we ponder the Mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood even momentarily. We get ‘stuck’ on questions such as “How can this be (remember somebody else early in Luke's Gospel asking this question)?” How can can I comprehend and explain transubstantiation? If this is true, why do so few participate in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist? Since the Holy Eucharist is a mystery and therefore I will never understand completely, why waste time talking and reading about this?

The questions are not necessarily bad or wrong, just misdirected. Theological questions are good provided they keep us responding to the Living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit with lives that give evidence of charity and service. The difficulty is that many of our questions want ‘to figure things out’ and once we ‘think’ we have figured things out, we stop searching for meaning because we think we have mastered the mystery of the unknown.

Wonderfully, Church’s rich heritage of liturgical music offers us an insight from the experience of worship and devotion. Our repertoire of sacred chant and music stirs the mind and heart, creating an environment ready to receive and to cooperate with the abundance of life and love the Holy Spirit showers upon us daily. Take, for example, the hymn Ave verum corpus. Even though historians debate the author, (some say Saint Thomas Aquinas, others Pope Innocent III, IV or perhaps even V), the text offers some points for reflections appropriate for today’s Solemnity.

“Ave, verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine,” - Hail, true body born of the Virgin Mary: Jesus is a real Person, period. He is not a myth. He is not a fictitious person of an imaginary story. Even before pondering His Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist, we have to ask ourselves, ‘do I (and we as a community of faith) believe that Jesus Christ is a real Divine Person Who once lived among us at a particular time and in a particular place with both divine and human natures (the Mystery of the Incarnation)?’ Do I believe this Person preached and lived a new way of life called the Kingdom of God that called one to daily conversion and belief? Do I adore and worship Him as the God-man, the High Priest Who, in the words from Hebrews “cleanses our consciences from dead works to worship the living God?”

“Vere passum immolatum in Cruce pro homine,” - Who truly suffered, sacrificed on the Cross for man: Jesus’ message of Kingdom living cost Him His human life as an innocent victim. His life among us was eminently self-less. Do I (and we as a community of faith) live sacrificially or is life on my terms? Do I project and live an attitude of entitlement? Do I charitably serve the needs of others as Jesus did in His ministry?

“Cujus latus perforatum unda fluxit et sanguine,” - Whose pierced side overflowed with water and blood: Even in death, Jesus gives life and blesses us with His Presence: water (the Gift of Baptism) and blood (the Gift of the Most Holy Eucharist). How often have I considered the ‘price’ Jesus paid for our salvation? Do I recognize and reverence His Presence sacramentally and in the people around me by avoiding gossip, slander, lies, character assassination and being a busybody, prying into everyone else’s business except my own?

“Esto nobis praegustatum in mortis examine.” - Be for us a foretaste in the test of death: Jesus teaches with His life that there is more to life than what we see around us. The goodness of life in the here-and-now is temporary. We live fully in the present knowing that our lives are being drawn to an eternity of life and love, or as Hebrews states, “the promised eternal inheritance.” Hence, do I live with a view towards the eternity of life with Father, Son and Holy Spirit – OR – do “I want it all, and I want it now?” Do I assist others in helping them to live Jesus’ life? Am I a source of encouragement that builds up the Body of Christ in unity or do I harm the Body of Christ through my negativity, pessimism, divisiveness and taking delight in the errors or misfortunate of others?

In the end, this Solemn Day reminds us that the Gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, similar to last week's celebration of the Most Holy Trinity, is not a thing to be figured out, but a Person Who calls us as His Body to be in communion with Him as we joyfully, charitably and selflessly serve His Father in the power of the Holy Spirit and one another.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen