By Fr. Nathanael Block, J.V.
One day, the great Italian saint, Don Bosco, had a vision. In his vision he saw the Church under the image of a ship, tossed about by storms and attacked by her enemies. She only became safe when she anchored herself between two pillars: a great pillar, which symbolized the Eucharist, and a lesser pillar, which symbolized the Virgin Mary. These two pillars are the necessary anchors that we need for the safety of the Church, the family, and the individual soul.
Devotion to Mary is closely tied to devotion to the Eucharist. Our Lord gave us the Blessed Sacrament for three reasons: to be our Sacrifice, to be the greatest of the seven Sacraments, and so that He could be our Companion during this life. Our Blessed Mother helps us come to her Son. She helps us to understand what He has done for us in giving us the Holy Eucharist; she is our model who shows us how to revere the Eucharist; and she prepares us to receive her Son through her motherly care for us. Let’s look at these closely.
The Lord gave the Eucharist to be our Sacrifice. The Mass is first of all a Sacrifice, where we offer God the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ for His own Glory and for the salvation of souls. The Mass is the same Sacrifice as the Cross, since it has the same Priest, Jesus Christ, and in it the same Victim, the same Gift, is offered, Jesus Christ. The Mass offers one and same Sacrifice as the Cross, but in a hidden, unbloody manner. Mary shows us how to enter deeply into the Sacrifice of the Mass.
First, Mary raised Jesus. In the twelfth chapter of Exodus, God tells His people to prepare a lamb for each household, whose blood would mark the doors of their house so that the angel of death would pass over them. He says that if any house is too small to be on its own, it should join its neighbor. Jesus is the Lamb Whose Blood marks our souls so that death and sin and the devil have no power over us. Mary is the one who prepares the Lamb and gets Him ready for the Sacrifice. She raised the Lamb.
Second, Mary willingly offered Jesus to God as He offered Himself on the Cross. She offered Him in the Temple to the Father, and accepted the suffering that this would bring herself with peace of heart. As she remained with her Son as He died, she felt the Sword of Sorrow prophesied by Simeon, and joined her pain and love to the Love of Jesus. She shows us, therefore, how we should act at every Mass. We recognize that the Mass is for God’s Glory and to save souls, and we offer Jesus to God through the priest. Then, with Mary, we join in, and we offer ourselves. We join our prayers, our works, our difficulties, our joys, and we unite them to the Heart of Jesus. In this way, they become very precious to the Father, because they are part of the Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. With Mary, we sign our own names to the Gift Jesus gives His Father to save the world. “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1)
Third, Mary remained with the Apostles throughout their time with Jesus, and during the formation of the Church. She became their mother and showed them how to worship God. She does the same to every soul who comes to her for help.
Jesus gave us the Eucharist to be our Sacrament. A Sacrifice is a gift offered to God in a solemn manner by a priest for the sake of adoring God. A Sacrament is one of the seven miracles given to the Church by Jesus for the sake of making men holy, through the pouring of grace upon the hearts and souls of men through a physical sign they can see and touch and grasp with their senses. A Sacrifice is for God, a Sacrament is for the sake of men, to make them holy and to heal the wound of the Fall. The Eucharist is both Sacrifice and Sacrament. Jesus comes to us, hidden under the appearances of ordinary bread and wine to show us that He wants to feed our souls in the way that ordinary food feeds our bodies.
Mary welcomed Jesus into her heart like no one else. She carried Him under her heart for nine months, so that every thing that she did, was done with His help, while thinking of Him, and while carrying Him inside her; she was nourished by His teaching; and she obeyed His Will, so that her heart and soul was formed by His own Hands. Mary helps us to welcome Jesus into our bodies and souls when we receive this Holy Communion, so that we are protected from sin, made close to Jesus, and become holier.
Jesus gave us the Eucharist so that He could be our Companion. He remains in the Churches with us. This is especially related to prayer. Mary shows us how to make Jesus our Friend and Companion in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus wants to remain with each of us, even while He remains in Heaven. The Sacrament lets Him be truly Present in every Church, in every time and place. If we want to sit at the Feet of Jesus, and pour out our hearts to Him, and listen to Him speak to us, He is always there, remaining in the Tabernacle. He wants us to visit and speak with Him. Mary always shared her heart with her Son, always spoke with Him, and lived with Him during His hidden life. Jesus has a new hidden life in the Tabernacle, and He asks us to live with Him as well.
If we want to secure ourselves, our families, and our Church, these are the two pillars we need to be firmly tied to: the Eucharist Heart of Jesus, and the Maternal Heart of Mary.
Fr. Nathanael Block is the Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Gallup, where he oversees the marriage and tribunal office.