O loving Pelican! O Jesu Lord! Unclean I am but cleanse me in Thy Blood of which a single drop, for sinners spilt, can purge the entire world from all its guilt.
(St. Thomas Aquinas, feast day is January 28th)
0 loving Pelican! 0 Jesu Lord! In Holy Communion, Our Lord does not offer us only spiritual nourishment, but gives himself to us as Food. The Ancients thought that when the chicks of a pelican died, the pelican opened his breast and with his blood fed his dead young, in this way bringing them back to life. Christ with His own Blood gives us eternal life. When we receive Holy Communion with the right dispositions, it rouses in our soul fervent acts of love, transforms us, and identifies us with Christ. The Master comes to each one of His disciples with His love, which is at one and the same time effective, creative and redemptive. He presents himself to us as the Savior of our lives, offering us His friendship. This Sacrament is the food of· all intimacy with Christ, for which there is no substitute.
Jesus Christ himself waits for us each day in the Blessed Eucharist. There He is really, truly and substantially present, with his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. There He is to be found with all the splendor of His glory, for Christ being raised from the dead will never die again. The Body and Soul remain inseparably united forever to the Person of the Word. The whole mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God is contained in the Sacred Host, together with the profound richness of His most Sacred Humanity and the infinite grandeur of His Divinity, both of them veiled and hidden.
In the Blessed Eucharist we find Our Lord himself. ‘This is the very same Lord whom the angels and saints contemplate and praise for all eternity. Whenever we go to the Tabernacle, we find Him there.
Perhaps we have often repeated in his presence the hymn in which Saint Thomas Aquinas expressed the faith and piety of the Church, and which so many Christians have turned into their own personal prayer:
O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore thee,
Who truly art within the forms before me;
To thee my heart I bow with bended knee,
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.
Sight, touch and taste in Thee are each deceived;
The ear alone most safely is believed.
I believe all the Son of God has spoken:
Than Truth’s own word there is no truer token.
God only on the Cross lay hid from view,
But here too lies hid at once the manhood too:
And I, in both professing my belief,
Make the same prayer as the repentant thief.
Thy wounds, as Thomas saw, I do not see;
Yet Thee confess my Lord and God to be.
Make me believe Thee ever more and more,
In Thee my hope, in Thee my love to store.
This marvelous presence of Jesus among us should give us new life each day. When we receive Him, when we visit Him, we can say in the strictest sense: Today I have been with God. He makes us like the Apostles and like His disciples, like the holy women who accompanied Our Lord throughout Judea and Galilee. He is here with us, in every city and town. With how much faith do we pay Him a visit? With how much love do we receive Him? How do we prepare ourselves in body and soul to receive Holy Communion?
Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that the Body of Christ is present in the Blessed Eucharist just as it is in Himself, as is also the Soul of Christ, together with His intellect and will. Only those relations are excluded that refer to quantity, for Christ is not present in the Sacred Host in the way of a quantity localized in space. He is there with his glorious Body in a real, though mysterious and ineffable way.
The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is there, in the Tabernacle that we visit each day, the Tabernacle which is perhaps very near to our home, or very close to the office where we work. Perhaps it is in the chaplaincy of the University, or in an oratory or a chapel at a hospital or at an airport. He is there with the sovereign power of His uncreated Divinity. He, the only Son of God, before whom the Thrones and Dominations tremble, by whom all things were made, equal in power and wisdom and mercy to the other Persons of the Blessed Trinity, remains perpetually with us, like one of us, without ever ceasing to be God. Truly is He there: “Among you stands one whom you do not know”.
As we go about, fully involved in our normal business, our customary work, our daily concerns, do we frequently consider that our merciful and omnipotent God is really living along there, very near us, next door to our home? Our great failure, the greatest mistake of our lives, would be if they could say of us at some stage those words with which the Holy Spirit inspired the pen of Saint John: “He came to His own home, and His own people received him not”.
St Thomas Aquinas wrote:
OThou, memorial of Our Lord’s own dying!
O Living Bread, to mortals life supplying!
Make Thou my soul henceforth on Thee to live;
Ever a taste of heavenly sweetness give.
O loving Pelican! O Jesu Lord!
Unclean I am but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Can purge the entire world from all its guilt .
Jesu! Whom for the present veiled I see,
What I so thirst for, oh, vouchsafe to me:
That I may see Thy countenance unfolding,
And may be blest Thy glory in beholding.
In the Blessed Eucharist Our Lord gives to each one who receives Him the very same life of grace that He brought into the world through His Incarnation. If we had more faith, the same miracles would be performed in us as we come into contact with His Sacred Humanity; in each Communion He would cleanse the innermost part of our souls from human weaknesses and imperfections. “Make me believe Thee ever more and more” … the Eucharistic hymn invites us to exclaim and to beg interiorly. And in our souls too there will be a great calm; our souls will be filled with peace.
Through contact with Christ, the soul is purified, and we find· in this meeting the energy we need to practice charity in the thousands of small incidents that occur each day. It enables us to give good example in the way we carry out our own duties, to live holy purity, to carry out with courage and a spirit of sacrifice the apostolate that He himself has entrusted to us. In the Blessed Eucharist we find the cure for our daily faults, so as to get rid of that lax attitude and lack of correspondence, which do not indeed kill the soul, but which weaken it and let it drift into lukewarmness.
A fervent Communion leads us effectively towards God even in the face of our own indisputable frailty and cowardice. It is there that we find each day the strength we need, the food that our souls cannot do without. Human existence has its realization, its pledge of eternal life in Christ. Christ is the bread of life. As ordinary bread stands and sensibly answers to earthly hunger, so Christ is the extraordinary bread proportioned to the spiritual hunger of man, which in the desperation of its need is out of all proportion.. Christ is necessary for all men, for all communities. We could not live without him.
Jesus waits for us in the Blessed Eucharist, so as to restore our strength: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. Come to me all … Jesus does not exclude anybody. I will not cast out he who comes to me. Jesus will remain with us, as long as the time of the Church Militant shall last, as the source of all the graces of which we will possibly be in need.
With Saint Thomas Aquinas we can say to Jesus, as we go to receive Him, present in the Blessed Eucharist: I come to the Sacrament as a sick man to the physician who will save his life, as a man unclean to the fountain of mercy, as a blind man to the radiance of eternal light, as one poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth; praying that in Thy boundless generosity Thou wilt deign to cure my sickness, wash my defilement away, enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness. May the Bread of angels, the King of kings and the Lord of lords be received by me with such humble reverence and devout contrition, such faith and purity, and such good resolutions as to assist in the salvation of my soul.
Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin, always encourages us to talk to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. (She is the Mother of the Eucharist).
-meditation from Fr. Francis Fernandez
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quæ sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans totum deficit.
Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius;
Nil hoc verbo veritátis verius.
In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et Humanitas,
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro pœnitens.
Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor:
Deum tamen meum te confiteor.
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.
O memoriale mortis Domini!
Panis vivus, vitam præstans homini!
Præsta meæ menti de te vívere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.
Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine:
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.
Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ gloriæ. Amen
(St. Thomas Aquinas)
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at Thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth Himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.
On the cross Thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here Thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.
I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.
O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.
Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what Thy bosom ran
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.
Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with Thy glory’s sight. Amen.
(translation by Fr. Gerald Manley Hopkins S. J.)