Marriage and true Eucharistic living Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Jul. 07, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is such a beautiful and important day for us, and the reality which we celebrate on that day has such an impact that its themes bear repeating. I hope you’ll forgive me if I look back a bit to the great Feast of Corpus Christi, which we celebrated on June 26, and reiterate a few thoughts which I shared in my Stational Mass homily.

In fact, I was blessed this year to experience the Feast of Corpus Christi twice. Having been in Rome to offer lectures for seminarians from our diocese and around the United States, I was able to see the feast day celebrated by our Holy Father on the traditional day of Thursday. Then, three days later, I was able to be home in Madison, where our bishops’ conference has decided to move the Feast to a Sunday.

My time in Rome was very fruitful and I remembered all of you each day in prayer, but especially at the holy sites. Pope Benedict asked me to be sure to bring home his blessing to all of you, all the faithful, the priests and deacons and religious in the Diocese of Madison. While in Rome, a remark was made by someone else — though I often think it — that nothing is boring in Madison. It is true, and the world knows it.

But back to the topic at hand . . . On the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we often hear the hymn, “O Sacrum Convivium,” or “Oh Holy Banquet,” which was written by St. Thomas Aquinas. Speaking of the Mass and the real substantial presence of Christ, that prayer says, “Oh Holy Banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of his passion is kept…” So, when we’re at the Eucharist, we are looking back, we are united with the memory of Jesus’ Passion, especially with Holy Thursday and the Last Supper. And Corpus Christi is really a taking of us back to Holy Thursday, to the Last Supper, but with a different emphasis.

On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Passion of the Lord, His suffering and death, the pouring out of His blood, the breaking of His body, so that sins may be forgiven. On Holy Thursday we are oriented toward the Passion of Jesus primarily.

On Corpus Christi, we are oriented primarily to the truth that the Eucharist is worthy of adoration and must be adored. On Corpus Christi we can “pull out all the stops” (both figuratively and literally) in celebration of what a wonderful gift the Eucharist is to the Church – an irreplaceable gift. We can pour out our own endless gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist and we can take time to adore the Eucharist. We can remind ourselves how important adoration of the Eucharist is in the daily life of every Christian. There are many of you who daily adore the Eucharist and I thank God for giving you that wonderful grace. (In fact, in a few weeks I’ll be celebrating with the faithful in and around Fennimore, who have maintained perpetual Eucharistic adoration for 15 years!)

'Filled with grace'

“…The memory of His passion is kept,” the hymn continues, “the mind is filled with grace...” And that is what is done at every Mass, we become as full of grace as the generosity of our hearts will allow. We’re not becoming perfectly full of grace, like Mary, because she had a special privilege to be full of grace, but we are filled with grace in so far as we are disposed to accept it. When we receive communion, we are changed into Christ.

The Holy Father made the point at his Corpus Christi celebration that we must remember, when we receive Holy Communion, Christ is not assimilated through our digestive system, into our human body; rather, at the Eucharist, we are assimilated into Christ! That is why we hear in Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, “we, though many, are one body, all of us who eat of the Eucharistic bread.” The Eucharist is both the sign and the cause of unity and its something that is happening in the present, at every Mass.

Banquet of the marriage feast

“O Sacred banquet in which…a pledge of future glory is given,” St. Thomas’ hymn concludes. What is this banquet in which we remember Christ’s passion, we receive His grace, and we look forward to future glory? Yes, as mentioned above, this is the banquet of the Last Supper, but it’s also the Heavenly banquet, the great wedding feast of the Church as bride, with the Lamb of God, Her husband, Jesus Christ.

The Eucharist, in pointing us to the future, is a marriage feast, celebrating the reality of the marriage between Christ and His Church. And, of course, the most powerful sign of that marriage that we have in this world, besides the Eucharist, is the sacred sacrament and sacramental life of marriage itself.

So, this beautiful prayer, “O Sacrum Convivium,” focuses on the past, focuses on the present, and focuses on the future. We reflect upon Christ’s passion and death for us, we see the unity to which we are called, but which we don’t seem to muster, and we see that essential to the understanding of the future dimension of the Eucharist is the understanding of a wedding banquet and the understanding of marriage.

As I have mentioned in the past, there is a very real lack of belief in the real presence of Christ at the Eucharist. One of the reasons I’ve talked about with regard to this lack of belief is the absence of real “Eucharistic behavior,” in the rest of our lives. We cannot expect to have people recognize Jesus Christ in His presence in the Eucharist, if we are not presenting, through our actions and words, Jesus Christ, present in the world.

But so too, since we see the Eucharistic feast as a wedding banquet, we cannot expect the world to understand the meaning of this, when if the world is losing its sense of what marriage really is. When we don’t understand the institution of marriage, we are hampered in our understanding of the reality of the Eucharist.

Defending the marriage bond

I have to say that this is the terrible tragedy of what happened in New York State the Friday before Corpus Christi. (The Friday which was the Feast of St. John the Baptist, who did nothing else but lay down his life for the marriage bond. Imagine that as we celebrated a man who was the first martyr for marriage, New York State came out and redefined marriage!) With the continued redefinition of marriage comes confusion for our world as to who we are, who God is, and who Jesus Christ is. A confused idea of marriage reinforces a confused understanding of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. For both get to the heart of understanding who God is, and, though mysterious, they are tied together in Truth.

We can be sure that because nothing is boring in Madison, this matter will visit us in Wisconsin once again. Marriage is a natural human state, the highest human good, which has its own, strong natural foundation, but for us as a people of faith, marriage gets to the very core of God’s desire for union with us.

And so we must do what we can to teach the Truth, always in love. We teach by witnessing to faith-filled married lives, with Christ at the center and openness to children. The best proof of the truth about marriage is marriage well lived, the way so many of you do.

But, we also have to realize that we teach by living Eucharistically, by witnessing to the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, and by bringing Jesus Christ with us every moment, of every day. It is with Jesus’ presence that comes the victory over sin and death, over nonsense and confusion in the world. The presence of Jesus Christ is all that we need to achieve the victory, by His grace, that overcomes the world. This is no time for losing hope. This is a time to become all the more determined. Those of you who live marriage, this is the time to live your marriage out loud, to live it as a Eucharistic place, full of the presence of Christ.

And let us pray before the Lord, present in the Eucharist, “Stay with us Lord. Stay with us Lord, for it is getting late in terms of human history, and things are not going so well. Stay with us.” And no matter how bad things look, with Christ present, especially in the Eucharist, we will win, by the power of the Resurrection, that victory which overcomes every ounce of sin in our very troubled world, for in the Eucharist we have a pledge of future glory given.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. May God bless each one of you! Praised be Jesus Christ!