Ave Maria Meditations: St. Francis on the Blessed Sacrament (October 4th)

St Francis had such an immeasurable love for the Blessed Sacrament. He understood this sublime Mystery as few others. He exhorted his friars to have the greatest possible reverence for the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with His Holy Name and the writings which contain His words, those words which consecrate His Body as well as chalices, corporals and all that is related to the Holy Sacrifice. Let us praise and worship our God and Savior, present in this Most Holy Sacrament, in the words of St Francis:

Let the whole of humanity tremble,
the whole world shake and the heavens exult when our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest!
O admirable heights and sublime lowliness!
O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!
That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under the little form of bread!

Look at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before Him!
Humble yourselves as well, that you may be exalted by Him.

Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that He who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.

Let us pray:

Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our hearts.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope,
perfect charity and profound humility,
with wisdom and perception, O Lord,
so that we may do what is truly Your Holy Will. Amen.

St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer praising Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Hail, holy Lady, most holy Queen,
Mary, Mother of God, ever Virgin.
You were chosen by the Most High Father in heaven,
consecrated by Him, with His most Holy Beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.On you descended and still remains all the fullness of grace and every good.
Hail, His Palace.
Hail His Tabernacle.
Hail His Robe.
Hail His Handmaid.
Hail, His Mother.
and Hail, all holy Virtues, who, by grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from their faithless state, they may be made faithful servants of God through you.

Blessing

May the Lord bless you
and keep you;
may the Lord show his face to you
and have compassion on you!
May he turn his face to you
and give you peace!

Amen.

St. Francis’ Prayer in Praise of God Given to Brother Leo

You are holy, Lord, the only God, and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love.
You are wisdom.
You are humility.
You are endurance.
You are rest.
You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage.
You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord, God Almighty, Merciful Savior.

Prayer of St. Francis
Before the Blessed Sacrament

We adore You,
O Lord Jesus Christ,
in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You,
because,
by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world

The San Damiano Crucifix

At first?glance, the San Damiano crucifix gives the impression that Christ is merely standing before the cross, not hanging from it in agony. After all, Roman crucifixion was an ugly form of torture that left the condemned hanging from their arms by their own weight to die a slow death of suffocation. Some of the condemned were tied to the cross with ropes, and, in certain cases, as with our Lord, nails were driven through wrists and ankles to grind against raw bone, setting nerves afire with searing pain.

And yet here, in this image, Christ seems to be almost serene. What, then, could be the reason for such an odd depiction of the central mystery of Christian faith?

Well, look a bit closer and notice the background scenes that actually define the shape of the cross.

First, behind the center of Christ?s body, you can see the figures described in John 19:25?27: on the left, his mother Mary along with John himself, and, on the right, first his mother?s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, then Mary of Magdala, and then the centurion who proclaimed, ?Truly this man was the Son of God!? (Mark 15:39). The smaller figures depict the soldier Longinus on the left with his spear, and on the right the man who put the sponge soaked in wine to Christ?s mouth. This central part of the image therefore depicts the mystery of the Crucifixion.

But now look at the arms of Christ. What do you see behind them? That long, dark, rectangular area is Christ?s tomb. But not just the tomb?the empty tomb. Notice the four angels along the bottom and the figures of Peter and John, as described in John 20:2?10, peering into the emptiness with amazement. This part of the background, then, represents the mystery of the Resurrection.

Finally, look at the T-shaped area above Christ?s head. There you can see Christ rising up into heaven; above his head the hand of the Father gives his blessing. For here, at last, is the culmination of his earthly mission and his return to his place at the right hand of the Father: the mystery of the Ascension.

So the entire San Damiano crucifix depicts not just the fact of the crucifixion, but it depicts the three mysteries that reside behind the crucifixion. To the world, the cross is a stumbling block and foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23); but to the eyes of faith the cross is the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, in their full simultaneous reality.

This image, of course, is the image that converted Saint Francis from a life of self-indulgence to a life of total obedience to God?s will.

Francis learned to rejoice in the overwhelming beauty of God?s creation?a beauty signfying God?s love?yet he did not desire anything of the material world for his own fulfillment. Instead, he desired nothing but to receive our Lord with a pure heart and chaste body.

And, as he showed through the rest of his life, Francis fully understood the reason for the odd depiction of Christ?s serenity upon the San Damiano crucifix. For when someone accepts injustice, cruelty, and contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, and endures it all with charity and total faith, what else can we call it but perfect joy? And so, right from the beginning, Francis understood that the ?background? to all human suffering must be total faith in the ultimate triumph of the Cross.


Author Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Our Lady found this unworthy lukewarm person and obtained for her the grace to enter the Third Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. May this person spend all eternity in showing her gratitude.

More posts by Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

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