(By Andrew Mayer) Source, Center, and Summit of our faith, the Holy Eucharist stands at the beating heart of Catholicism. No greater a gift, no greater act of mercy, was ever bestowed upon us. But today, in an over-stimulated world, which begs us to see to believe, the Eucharist can be a hard saying to follow, just as it was 2000 years ago when Christ spoke to the crowd in John 6. Even for those 30% of Catholics that still acknowledge the presence of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine, it can often be a challenge to fully appreciate the Eucharist. Yet, this is of the utmost importance to our spiritual life- for the entire Catholic Church revolves around this truth of Christ’s presence to us in the Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, the Catholic Church has nothing, for it is through the Eucharist that the full bestowal of graces flows through Christ’s living presence among us. Devotion to the Eucharist can be hard, because it is a mystery to us, and we cannot fully comprehend it. But, it is the path to holiness. So, here are 5 simple ways to grow in devotion to the Eucharist.
1. Spend time with Him!
You don’t know someone unless you spend time with them. There doesn’t always have to be a conversation. The mere act of being in another’s presence brings us closer to that person, and more like them, even if we don’t realize it. The same is said of our relationship to Christ. Seek Him. He is waiting for you. It doesn’t have to be an hour a day (though I highly recommend it); try 5 minutes every day. Soon you will find yourself drawn to more time with Christ and in time you will begin to hear what He has to say to you. It will be hard at first, but of course Satan will try his hardest to keep you away from the greatest means to salvation!
2. Don’t base your relationship with Christ on feelings.
In an age which stimulates us by offering the next big thing or the newest toy, it’s easy to view our spiritual life in the same way. Oftentimes today, our spirituality and worship is based on emotions, and how Jesus makes me feel good. Here’s a question for you: do you think Jesus felt good hanging on that cross? Catholicism was not founded on a good experience, and Jesus certainly does not tell us that the road will be easy. Move past the superficiality of feelings into a deeper union with Christ, which accepts the hardships and struggles of faith life. This isn’t to say that emotions or feelings within Catholicism are bad- they are a great gift. But to base your experience of Catholicity upon emotions will leave you dry in hard times. Love Christ for His own sake- ask for nothing in return and in time you will receive a hundred fold.
3. Meditate on the sacrificial element of the Eucharist.
Looks are deceiving. I don’t think anyone on this planet fully understand how much effort, love, mercy, and grace went into that little white Host you see elevated at Mass. If people did, as St. John Vianney said, they would die of joy. What you are seeing is an ultimate sacrifice, a folly to the Gentiles- the very sacrificing of God Himself. Veiled from our eyes by mere accidental qualities of the senses, raised before us, is the mighty and powerful Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. And yet, literally acting through the priest in His person, Christ offers His body to the Father and to the faithful for their salvation as high priest and victim. Jesus did not die on the cross only to open heaven, but also to sacrifice Himself to us so we may have life in Him. Think about that the next time you are in adoration or at Mass- how much Christ went through to bring about this great means of salvation.
4. Eucharistic Adoration.
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so too must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn. 3:14). Jesus here speaks of His death on the cross. But dig a little deeper. Moses lifts up the serpent on the pole, and all the chosen people of God who have been bitten by the serpents are saved. In Eucharistic adoration, Christ is lifted up, exposed, for all His people to see, to be cured of their maladies and from the pestilence of the evil one. It is Christ offering Himself to us, vulnerable, completely unmasked Godhead, present locally in the flesh to us, offering Himself to the world so that all may gaze upon Him, as they did 2000 years ago as He hung upon the cross, the Cross of Calvary- the first monstrance. Don’t ask for a sign like the Pharisees did. Simply gaze upon Him who loved us by offering His life, and be there with Him, face to face. Quiet time with Christ can seem very unusual, since today, we are afraid of silence in our lives. But only in silence can we hear the voice of Christ. Take that quiet time by gazing upon Him who loved you first and listen to what He is saying.
5. Don’t expect.
This one is tough. Often times, with our faith lives, it is too easy to view it as an investment- put in your time, live happily, then die and go to heaven. We begin to expect Christ to give us all the answers to our problems in exchange for us spending time with Him. The problem with this mentality: Jesus is God, He doesn’t need anything from us, nor does He need us to spend time with Him to make Him happy. This is not a trade-off. Jesus wants us to spend time with Him for us to become more like Him, but in the end, He is among us because of His great mercy and love, in a way we can never reciprocate. When we begin to expect things back for spending time with Christ, it is no longer loving Him for His own sake, but our own, which, in a way, leads us farther and farther into ourselves and away from what is truly important. Instead of viewing daily Mass or adoration as a checklist of things to get done, view them as the great opportunities in life to approach your lover most intimately, not expecting anything but His presence, which He promised to us when He instituted the most holy Sacrament. After all, you owe your existence to Him.