Chapter 5 Contents Chapter VI The Bread of Our Heavenly Mother
THE BREAD THAT OUR HEAVENLY MOTHER GIVES US
The Eucharist is the Bread of the Mother of God, our Mother. It is Bread made by Mary from the flour of her immaculate flesh, kneaded with her virginal milk. St. Augustine wrote, “Jesus took His Flesh from the flesh of Mary.”
“You are my Son”
We know, too, that in the Eucharist, together with the Divinity, are the entire Body and Blood of Jesus taken from the body and blood of the Blessed Virgin. Therefore, at every Holy Communion we receive, it would be quite correct, and a very beautiful thing, to take notice of our holy Mother’s sweet and mysterious presence, inseparably and totally united with Jesus in the Host. Jesus is ever her adored Son. He is Flesh of her flesh and Blood of her blood. If Adam could call Eve when she had been formed from his rib, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23), cannot the holy Virgin Mary even more rightly call Jesus “Flesh of my flesh and Blood of my blood”? Taken from the “intact Virgin” as says St. Thomas Aquinas, the Flesh of Jesus is of the maternal flesh of Mary, the Blood of Jesus is of the maternal blood of Mary. Therefore, it will never be possible to separate Jesus from Mary.
For this reason at every Holy Mass celebrated, the Blessed Virgin can in truth say to Jesus in the Host and in the Chalice, “You are my Son, today I have begotten You” (Cf. Ps. 2:7). And St. Augustine correctly teaches us that in the Eucharist “Mary extends and perpetuates her divine Motherhood;” while St. Albert the Great lovingly exhorts: “My soul, if you wish to be intimate with Mary, let yourself be carried between her arms and nourished with her blood. . . . Let this ineffable, chaste thought accompany you to the Banquet of God and you will find in the Blood of the Son the nourishment of the Mother”.
Many saints and theologians (St. Peter Damian, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Bernardine) say that Jesus instituted the Eucharist first for Mary and then through Mary, the universal Mediatrix of all graces, for all of us. So it comes about that from Mary, therefore, Jesus comes to be given to us day by day; and that in Jesus the immaculate flesh and the virginal blood of His most holy Mother are always penetrating our hearts and inebriating our souls. Once in an ecstasy during the celebration of Holy Marry, St. Ignatius of Loyola contemplated the reality at the core of this most consoling truth and for a long time he remained rapt in celestial bliss.
Mary is all in Jesus
Furthermore, if we reflect that Jesus, the Fruit of Mary’s immaculate womb, is the whole of Mary’s love, of her sweetness, all of her intimacy, of her riches, of her whole life, then when we receive Him we cannot not receive her as well, who, by bonds of highest love, and by bonds of flesh and blood, forms with Jesus a single alliance of love, one whole, as she is always and inseparably “leaning upon her Beloved” (Cant. 8:5). Is it not true that love, and above all divine love, unites and unifies? And after the unity of Persons in the Blessed Trinity, can we conceive a unity more intimate and absorbing than that between Jesus and the Virgin Mary?
Mary’s immaculateness, her virginity, her tenderness, her sweetness, her love, and even the very features of her heavenly face—all these we find in Jesus; for the most holy humanity assumed by the Word is wholly and only from Mary’s humanity, in virtue of the ineffable Mystery of the virginal Conception accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who made Mary Jesus’ Mother, consecrating her a virgin ever intact and resplendent in soul and body.
And so “the Eucharist,” writes St. Albert the Great, “produces impulses of angelic love and has the singular capacity of effecting in souls a holy, instinctive tenderness for the Queen of the angels. She has given us Flesh of her flesh and Bone of her bone, and in the Eucharist she continues to give us this sweet, virginal, Heavenly Food”.
Finally, just as in the eternal generation of the Word in the bosom of the Trinity, the Father gives Himself wholly to the Son, who is the “Mirror of the Father,” so in the temporal generation of the same Word, in the bosom of humanity, the Mother of God gives herself wholly to the Son, to her Jesus, “the virginal Flower of the Virgin Mother” (Pius XII). And the Son in His turn gives Himself wholly to the Mother, making Himself similar to her and making her “fully godlike,” as St. Peter Damian splendidly affirms.
St. Peter Julian Eymard, that Saint so totally devoted to the Eucharist, declared that already in this world, after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, the Blessed Virgin “lived a life in and of the Blessed Sacrament”; and thus he liked to call her “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.” And Padre Pio of Pietrelcina would sometimes say to his spiritual children, “Do you not see Our Lady always beside the tabernacle?” And how could she fail to be there—she who “stood by the Cross of Jesus” on Calvary (Jn. 19:25)? Therefore, St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his book of devotions, always used to add a visit to the Blessed Virgin Mary to each visit to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. St. John Bosco said, “I beg you to recommend to everyone, first, adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and then reverence for most holy Mary.” And St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe recommended that when before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, one never fail to remember Mary’s presence, invoking her and uniting ourselves with her, at the very least by calling her sweet name to mind.
In the life of the Dominican friar, St. Hyacinth, we read that once in order to avoid a profanation of the Blessed Sacrament, the Saint hastened to the tabernacle to remove the ciborium containing the sacred Particles, and take it to a safer place. When, holding Eucharistic Jesus close to his breast, he was about to leave the altar, he heard a voice coming from the statue of the Blessed Virgin next to the altar, saying, “What? Would you take Jesus away without taking me too. . .?” The Saint halted in surprise to carry Mary’s statue too. Puzzled, he drew near the statue to see if he could take it with his one free hand. There was no need to strain himself, for the statue became as light as a feather.
There is a precious lesson to be learned from this miracle. When we take Mary along with Jesus, she is no burden and entails no expense, for in a wonderful way they abide in one another (Cf. John 6:57) in a manner divinely sublime.
St. Bernadette Soubirous replied very beautifully to someone who put this tricky question to her: “What would please you more, to receive Holy Communion, or to see Our Lady in the grotto?” The little Saint thought for a minute and then answered, “What a strange question! The two cannot be separated. Jesus and Mary always go together.”
Eternal Eucharistic monstrance
Our Lady and the Holy Eucharist are, by the nature of things, united inseparably “even to the end of the world” (Mt. 28:20). For Mary with her body and soul is the heavenly “tabernacle of God” (Rev. 21:3). She is the incorruptible host, “holy and immaculate” (Eph. 5:27), who of herself clothes the Word of God made man. St. Germain came to call her the “sweet Paradise of God.”
Indeed, according to a pious belief, confirmed by the ecstasies and visions of St. Veronica Giuliani and especially those of Bl. Magdalene Martinengo, in Paradise the Blessed Virgin keeps and will ever keep visible in her breast a Eucharistic Host. This is for her an “eternal consolation, an occasion of rejoicing for all the blessed inhabitants of Heaven, and in particular an everlasting joy for all devoted to the Blessed Sacrament.” The portrayal of the Madonna Mediatrice Universale,” (Our Lady as Universal Mediatrix), which Mother Speranza recently had painted and which has been placed in the Shrine at Collevalenza, Italy, depicts this belief.
The same theme is often found in monstrances made in centuries past, where Our Lady is depicted with a visible cavity in her breast in which the consecrated Host is put. “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee!” cried the woman amid the crowd (Lk. 11:27). Thus, in some of the churches in France, the tabernacle used to be encased in a statue of Our Lady of the Assumption. The significance is quite clear: it is always the Blessed Virgin Mary who gives us Jesus, who is the blessed Fruit of her virginal womb and the Heart of her Immaculate Heart.
And she will forever continue to carry Jesus in the Holy Eucharist within her breast so as to present Him for the joyful contemplation of the saints in Heaven, to whom it is even now given to see His Divine Person in the Eucharistic Species, according to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.
With Mary in Jesus
It is in the Eucharist, and especially in Holy Communion, that our union with Our Lady becomes a full and loving conformity with her. With the Host which is Jesus, she, too, enters in us and becomes entirely one with each of us, her children, pouring out her motherly love upon our souls and bodies. The great St. Hilary, Father and Doctor of the Church, wrote beautifully: “The greatest joy that we can give Mary is that of bearing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament within our breast.” Her motherly union with Jesus becomes a union also with whoever is united to Jesus, especially in Holy Communion. And what can give as much joy to one who loves, as union with the person loved? And we—do we not happen to be beloved children of the heavenly Mother?”
When we go before Jesus on the altar, we always find Him “with Mary His Mother,” as the Magi did at Bethlehem (Mt. 2:11). And Jesus in the Sacred Host, from the altar of our hearts, can repeat to each of us what He said to St. John the Evangelist from the altar of Calvary, “Behold thy Mother!” (Jn. 19:27).
With heavenly insight St. Augustine illustrates still better how Mary makes herself our own and unites herself to each one of us in Holy Communion. He says: “The Word is the Food of the angels. Men have not the strength to nourish themselves with this Heavenly Food; yet, they have need for it. What is needed is a mother who may eat this super-substantial Bread, transform it into her milk, and in this way feed her poor children. This mother is Mary. She nourishes herself with the Word and transforms Him into the Sacred Humanity. She transforms Him into Flesh and Blood, i.e., into this most sweet milk which is called the Eucharist.”
Thus it is quite natural that the great as well as the lesser Marian shrines always foster devotion to the Holy Eucharist, so much so that they can also be called Eucharistic shrines. Lourdes, Fatima, Loreto, Pompei, come to mind. There crowds approach the altar almost endlessly to receive Mary’s blessed Fruit. It cannot be otherwise; for there is no bond with Our Lady so close and so sweet, as the one realized in receiving the Holy Eucharist. Indeed, Jesus and Mary “always go together,” as St. Bernadette said!
Communion of reparation
Remember, too, that at Fatima Our Lady asked that, together with the holy Rosary, there be above all the Communion of Reparation for all the offenses and outrages which her Immaculate Heart receives. With great intensity and ardor did Sr. Lucia of Fatima exhort the whole Church to listen to the sorrowful lament of Jesus Himself who showed her the Immaculate Heart of Mary, saying: “Have pity on the Heart of your most Holy Mother wrapped in the thorns which ungrateful men inflict on her continuously: there is no one to make acts of reparation to remove them from her.”
Jesus Himself, then, searches for loving hearts who desire to console Our Lady by “welcoming her into their home,” as St. John the Evangelist did (Jn. 19:27). We truly welcome her in the home of our hearts in a manner most intimate and most dear to her, every time we let her enter us by receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, and we offer her the living, true Jesus for her surpassing comfort and delight. What a great grace it is to be united to Our Lady with Jesus and in Jesus. Did not St. Ambrose desire that all Christians would have “Mary’s soul to magnify the Lord and Mary’s spirit to exult in God?” This is precisely what is granted us in the noblest way in every Holy Communion. Let us reflect upon this with affection and gratitude and make efforts to imitate St. Peter Julian Eymard, who lived this union with Our Lady so intensely that his companions, in seeing him approach always recollected and amiable, would say among themselves: “Here comes the Virgin!” Or, let us recall the venerable Fr. Placid Baccher, a priest of Naples, whom the people would talk about as being “entirely Our Lady.”
Union and resemblance to Our Lady are, therefore, also sublime fruits of the Eucharist that transforms us into Jesus, who is indescribably “all Mary.”
“Eat My bread”
One of the old monstrances designed to figure Mary carrying the Holy Eucharist in her breast has these words inscribed on its base: “O Christian, who come full of faith to receive the Bread of life, eat It worthily, and remember that It was fashioned out of Mary’s pure blood.” Mary can quite rightly beckon us and speak to us in the inspired words of Solomon, “Come and eat my bread, drink the wine I have prepared for you” (Prov. 9:5). St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe paraphrased this passage when he proposed that all altars of the Blessed Sacrament be surmounted with a statue of the Immaculate Virgin with her arms extended to invite us all to come eat the Bread that she herself had made.
In order to receive Holy Communion well, “imagine,” St. John Bosco used to say, “that it is no longer the priest but the most holy Madonna herself who comes to give you the Holy Host.” And St. Peter Julian Eymard, with argument deep and brilliant, teaches us that as the Immaculate Conception was the preparation for Our Lady’s first Holy Communion, namely, at the Incarnation of the Word, so she continues to be the preparation for every Holy Communion, provided that we ask her and beg her that she may cover us with the mantle of her purity and clothe us with the whiteness and the splendor of her Immaculate Conception.
A fellow sister one day asked St. Bernadette, “How are you able to remain for so long in thanksgiving after Holy Communion?” The Saint replied, “I consider that it is the holy Virgin who gives me the Baby Jesus. I receive Him. I speak to Him and He speaks to me.”
With beautiful metaphor, St. Gregory of Tours said that Mary’s immaculate bosom is the heavenly bread box, well-stocked with the Bread of Life that was made in order to feed her children. “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the breasts that nursed Thee!” exclaimed a certain woman to Jesus (Lk. 11:27). The Immaculate Virgin carried Jesus within her womb while His Body was being formed from her own flesh and her own blood. Thus every time we go to Holy Communion, it should be a pleasure to recall that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the Bread of Life produced from Mary with the flour of her immaculate flesh and kneaded with her virginal milk. She has made this for us, her children. And we realize more fully our brotherhood with one another as we all partake of this delicious and fragrant Bread of our Mother.
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