Eucharist Revival and The Passions

Eucharistic revival is contingent on our spiritual growth because then we will find Christ, and his Church, and his Eucharist bigger. So the problem boils down to finding out what will make us advance in our spiritual life.

(Image: Josh Applegate/

Author’s preliminary note: When I was invited to make an address in our diocese on the Eucharistic revival, I dusted off old class lecture notes about the “five dimensions of the Eucharist” – and I found those notes to be straw. So I made an attempt to connect the revival to the theologians of abnegation I have been reading.

We can all be glad that the bishops have not put someone like me in charge of the Eucharistic revival program. An academic (even a retired academic) has only one mode of operation. “Revive the Eucharist?” he would exclaim. “Let’s study it more! Substance and accident; valid and invalid; licit and illicit; ex opere operato and transubstantiation; symbolism and semantics; sacramentum tantum – sacramentum et res – res tantum. Find me a chalkboard!”

But what if revival depends on something more than understanding alone (he says with a shiver). What if the bishops were deliberate when they said on their web page that they have two objectives: “restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery”? Perhaps we, too, must find a way to connect increased understanding and with augmented devotion.

Toward that end, I offer an image.

I believe that before speech comes thoughts, and before thoughts come images, and before imagination comes feelings. I want to wind up with some thoughts about the Eucharist in the service of its revival, I want to share five imagestoward that end, but at the headwaters of all this I have a feeling to suggest to you.

It comes from the Chronicles of Narnia. The four Pevensie children joined Aslan in the first book to participate in his defeat of the White Witch at the Stone Table, and then they returned to this world without having lost a minute. Although the children spent years and years as kings and queens of Cair Paravel, they come tumbling out of the Wardrobe only seconds after they had entered it. Time runs at different speeds in different worlds. So when they return to Narnia in the second book it is a full year later in earth time but hundreds of years have passed in Narnian time. They find their old castle in ruins, their adventure begins, and Aslan is nowhere in sight. In fact, he doesn’t make an appearance until after halfway through the story, when this brief exchange occurs with Lucy.

“Welcome, child,” he said.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Every year we grow, we will find Aslan bigger. I offer you that “feeling,” first, as a description of our spiritual life. The reason for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, for Catholic Schools, for CCD programs, for Lenten retreats, and so on, is in order to find God bigger, and the way to do that is to grow ourselves.

It would be nice if the kind of growth Aslan is talking about were synchronous with our aging. Then as we passed from childhood, to adolescence, to early adulthood, to marriage, to midlife career, to late adulthood we would find God a bit bigger every year. But we must confess that the mere passage of time doesn’t guarantee our spiritual growth. The maturing of our physical body may push us into those awkward teenage years, but our spiritual growth is not automatic. It requires willingness. And it is often more hidden than what we can see happen over our coming of age. Theologians compare spiritual growth to the growth of a tree: it happens, but you can’t see it happen. Out my office window is a tree, and although I cannot see it grow on any single day, it is now bigger than when we planted it. So here is the test for our faith formation programs: not how much material a student has memorized, but whether God has gotten bigger for him or her.

Now I would like to apply this dialogue in a second, but related way. Every year we grow, we should find the Eucharist bigger. Christ in the Eucharist should be bigger. And I suppose that’s what the National Eucharistic Revival intends.

On the one hand, how much bigger can Aslan become? He is already the King of the wood and the son of the Great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. And how much bigger can the Eucharist become? It is already a comprehensive mystery encompassing heaven and earth, sinners and saints, the historical Christ and his mystical body. On the other hand, if Aslan is right (and surely he always is) then what needs to grow is us, not it. Eucharistic revival is contingent on our spiritual growth because then we will find Christ, and his Church, and his Eucharist bigger. So the problem boils down to finding out what will make us advance in our spiritual life. What vices must we outgrow and in what virtues must we advance?

I have five thoughts to share about theological dimensions of the Eucharist, but I don’t want them misunderstood as an attempt to fix something with the Eucharist. If Eucharistic revival meant repairing the Eucharist, then various strategies would be available to us. We might approach it didactically: explain, explain, explain. We might approach it ritually: fuss with its rubrics, its style, its performance. We might approach it ideologically: link it to social justice, environmental issues, charitable programs.

But if making the Eucharistic bigger actually requires personal growth, then the revival far less involves a revival of the sacrament, and far more a revival of those who partake of it. “Revival” means rebirth, reawakening, revitalization, and we’re the ones who need to grow out of everything which limits the size of the Eucharist for us.

The Catechism has noticed the size of the Eucharist when it says “the inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it” [1328]. Here is the list of names the Catechism gives: Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Breaking of Bread, Synaxis (assembly), Memorial, Holy Sacrifice, Holy and Divine Liturgy, Holy Communion, and Holy Mass [1328-1332]. These are not to be treated as items on a menu to choose from, as if conservatives will be more given to holy sacrifice and progressives to assembly; as if one parish will celebrate the synaxis, another the breaking of bread, and another the holy Mass. The objective is for these different parts to be duly proportioned so they can operate together (co-operate).

I am going to shorten the list to five, and compare them to five facets of a diamond, five pilings of a high rise, five ingredients in a stew. They are Thanksgiving, Fellowship, Memorial, Sacrifice, and Mystery. These are my five thoughts, but remember they have arisen out of the feeling that we can only find them bigger when we have grown older. So after each, I will be interested to ask what immaturity keeps us from finding them bigger. Why are we juvenile? The bishops want to know whether understanding and devotion to this great mystery can be restored. I will explain five facets to be understood, but I am really interested in what might keep us underaged in devotion.

1. Thanksgiving

Eucharistia was a common name in the early Church for what the assembly did when it gathered in obedience to Christ’s command. The Mass is the Church’s sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the Father for what Jesus accomplished in the paschal mystery, including all of salvation history leading up to it. New life began with Christ’s resurrection, and Christians gather every Sunday to give thanks for the day of Resurrection imploding into their lives.

The fathers of the Church therefore said every Sunday is the Eighth Day. They reasoned that if God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th, then after humanity fell into sin he had to act again, with another creative day. The Resurrection was an 8th day, as significant and powerful as those days described in Genesis. Therefore, the Eucharist is not just a private feeling of gratitude, it is an action. The Church exists as a corporate body to “make thanksgiving.”

This should help us understand what it means to “celebrate Mass.” Godfrey Diekmann, perhaps the second-most prominent figure in the American liturgical renewal after Virgil Michel, observed that “in not a few Catholic circles, celebration has become not a servant of true liturgy but a tyrant. Understood in a secular, purely psychological sense, it makes ever escalating and ultimately self-defeating demands of so-called relevance, of adaptation, of experimentation – all in order to raise the adrenaline in the bloodstream and make the hearts of the worshippers beat faster.” i He concludes by reminding us that in the classical liturgical language of the Leonine Sacramentary the word celebrare means simply ‘to perform.’ We perform a thanksgiving. The angels sing their song of praise, and to it human beings add the praise of mute creation, because man and woman are the rational tongue of creation. This is what we come to do: to perform, to celebrate, to make thanksgiving before Almighty God.

How could we grow older so that this facet to appear larger? Or, to ask it another way: what vice would we have to outgrow in order to find this mystery bigger? I will identify self-love. Thanksgiving moves outward toward God, but sin moves in just the opposite direction. Sin is incurvatus in se, according to Augustine, and in order to celebrate greater thanksgiving, we must grow past our selfishness, self-absorption, self-indulgence. Ingratitude comes from failure to notice the graces by which we live, or from thinking the graces we do notice are well-deserved. The soul stuck fast in a swamp of concupiscence will not take flight with the wings of praise and thanksgiving.

Josef Jungmann writes, “The word [Eucharist] was suggested already by the eucharistesas of the New Testament accounts. In the linguistic usage of that time it means to consider and conduct oneself as eucharistos, that is, as one richly overwhelmed with gifts and graces.”ii To translate into my shorthand, he seems to be saying that before one can do activity of eucharistia, one must be capacitated as a eucharistos. A person must age as a “thankful one” in order to revive his Eucharistic thanksgiving.

What prevents someone from turning his eyes heavenward with praise? There is nothing wrong with the world so long as we take it as a pathway to God, but we misuse and abuse the world if we forget our final end and settle down in it, because the temporal is only temporary, after all. The cosmos is God’s good gift, and the Gospel of John records Jesus saying that his Father so loved it that he gave his only Son for it (John 3:16). But that same Gospel recognizes the world has fallen by Satan’s rebellion and man’s complicity, so Jesus goes on to say that his disciples must not belong to the world (John 17:16), that the world will hate them (John 15:19) and they must hate their life in this world (John 12:23), that they should long for the judgment of this world at which time the spirit that rules this world will be driven out (John 12:30). Worldliness means taking the world without reference to God.

We will find the Eucharist as thanksgiving bigger as we grow out of the vice of self-love into the virtue of humility. Jean Croiset elaborates:

The general dispositions which we ought to bring to Communion are: profound humility and a sincere acknowledgment of our poverty; a certain spiritual hunger, which indicates, at the same time, the need we have of this food …; a great purity of heart, [and] an ardent love of Jesus Christ, or at least an ardent desire of loving Him.iii

Then we will experience the design Jesus had for the Eucharist, which is to unite us intimately to himself by a perfect conformity of heart and mind.

True liturgy should be a continual thanksgiving for the goods with which God has blessed us, but, alas, in our concupiscence we offer a defective liturgy in which we use God as a means to our own end. What shall we do to correct this? Francois Fenelon advises, “The safest and shortest course is to renounce, forget and abandon self, and through faithfulness to God to think no more of it. This is the whole of religion – to get out of self and of self-love in order to get into God.”iv Every year we get further out of self-love, we will find the Eucharist bigger.

2. Fellowship

Koinonia means a fellowship based in sharing something in common, and it runs through the Church as both a warp and a woof. The warp threads that run lengthwise connect Christians with Christ. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a koinonia in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a koinonia in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). The woof threads that run crosswise connect Christians with one another. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the koinonia, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

We have communion with one another under our koinonia with Christ. Based on what we share in common with Christ, we share communion with each other. The head is the source of the unity of the mystical body, which is why Augustine called the Church the totus Christus. To speak of Christ alone is to miss the whole Christ, for Christ is united to the Church. To speak of the Church alone is also to miss the whole Christ, for the Church is united to Christ.

This fellowship is a unique fellowship because it is a holy fellowship. It is not the sort of communion someone has by virtue of belonging to the same country, the same company, the same club. There is only one basis for this fellowship, and all our human divisions must be left at the door. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. It makes the Church Catholic – there is neither European nor African, rich nor poor, successful nor hapless. That the Church is Catholic means it expanded beyond Jewish boundaries of race, ethnicity, and religion, to include the Gentiles. Paul says the mystery of Christ – which was not made known before, but has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets – is that “through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ” (Ephesians 3:6).

This group is not knit together by shared backgrounds; it is only knit together by Christ. There is an exceedingly diverse membership in the holy community, the priestly people set apart. It is a community that has been called out (ekklesia) and gathered together by Christ, for Christ, under Christ, in Christ, in order to serve Christ’s command to love one another as Christ does. Because we are united to Christ, we go as his heralds to bring good news to the afflicted, and proclaim liberty to the captives. Because we are healed at his altar, we join the Good Samaritan in his healing mission. From our liturgical fellowship should flow our desire to be more Christ-like in service and love to our neighbor. Liturgy is the foundation of all Christian diakonia.

What vice would we have to outgrow in order to find this mystery bigger? I will suggest it is envy. Paul Segneri says Christ must liberate us from self-love in order to create a totally new social fabric.

He has taken away envy, because every one thus endeavours to promote the good of others as his own. He has taken away inequality, because every one endeavours also to obtain as much good for others as for himself. He has taken away enmity, because how can one who has not first acknowledged his neighbour as his brother offer for him such sublime petitions as [the one in the Lord’s Prayer]?v

We will grow in proportion to our aging in charity. Loving our neighbor is to wish him well, and perfect charity treats the interests of the neighbor as our own. Its opposite is haughtiness as contempt for one’s neighbor. The haughty person is at odds with the happiness Jesus promises in the beatitudes because he looks down on the poor, the mourner, the meek, anyone desiring righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted.

Love of neighbor is not disconnected from liturgical praise of God. Benevolence increases the glory of God, because, says John of Avila, love of our neighbor “consists in loving his virtues, and desiring them for him, that God may be glorified in him. Your pleasure should augment in proportion as his sanctity increases and you should regret his sins as offences against his Creator … The love for God and man, then, both concur to the one end that God may be praised and worshipped.”vi This is precisely the opposite of envy, which is saddened by someone’s good fortune, and gladdened by someone’s misfortune.

Jesus knew what he was doing when he made love a commandment on the same night that he went out to commence his battle to the death with Satan over dominion for the human race. Segneri relates a story that reveals the result of Satan’s envy: “I will tell thee what the devil replied when summoned to declare by the mouth of a possessed person who he was: ‘I am,’ he said with a terrible cry, ‘I am the creature who does not love;’ and that was the only account he gave of himself.”vii Christians are commanded to grow into creatures who do love, with the same heart and soul as their Lord.

3. Memorial

The Eucharist is a memorial, an anamnesis. In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said “Do this for the anamnesis of me” (1 Corinthians 11). Gregory Dix defines anamnesis “re-presenting before God an event in the past, so that it becomes here and now operative by its effects.”viii That has lodged in my memory in a shorthand version: anamnesis is the past made present by its effects. The Catechism explains that “In the sense of Sacred Scripture, the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real” (1363).

Jesus wasn’t telling the disciples to keep getting together for a recollection dinner because he feared they would forget about him in the years to come. He was telling them to make memorial of him in the Eucharist, as if to say, “Tomorrow, in my death on the cross, a new covenant will be established. You gather at the Passover to make memorial of the Exodus and the Mosaic covenant; now be gathered together (ekklesia) to make memorial of my new covenant.” Joachim Jeremias translates Jesus’s words simply as “This do, that God may remember me.”ix

Why would we have to remind God to remember something? Has he forgotten anything? No, but anamnesis means more than recalling something. In Scripture, one remembers something to someone so that the person who made the promise will act upon it. Remembering one’s wedding vows does not mean calling to mind the words one said in the past, it means keeping those vows in the present. When God’s anger burned against the Israelites for failing to trust him, and building a golden calf, all Moses could say to him on the top of Mt. Sinai was “Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, to whom You swore by Your very self” (Exodus 32:13). In effect: “You promised!” Moses remembered to God the promise he had made to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars, give them this land, and bring the Messiah.

Jeremias therefore concludes, “as often as the death of the Lord is proclaimed at the Lord’s supper, and the maranatha rises upwards, God is reminded of the unfulfilled climax of the work of salvation.”x The Eucharistic memorial remembers to the Father the promise made in Jesus, and what was accomplished on Calvary is made present by its effects.

What vice would we have to outgrow in order to find this mystery bigger? I will name self-will. The sinner designs a life of self-reliance live independently of God, and spends his whole life constructing memorials to his own accomplishments in order to boast to the world. Instead of drawing life from God’s covenants, he would rather construct his own tower of Babel. Reliance means an uncomfortable loss of independence; reliance means waiting for another to come through on his promises; reliance means being vulnerable in the meanwhile. The self-reliant would sooner be his own Emperor than be enrolled in what xi Frederick Faber calls “the empire of the Precious Blood.”

The Precious Blood ministers to all the perfections of God … It is the principal feeder of His glory. It is the repose of His purity. It is the delight of His mercy. It is the participation of His power. It is the display of His magnificence. It is the covenant of His patience. It is the reparation of His honour. It is the tranquility of His anger. It is the imitation of His fruitfulness. It is the adornment of His sanctity. It is the expression of His love. But, above all, it ministers to the dominion of God.xi

That is the realm of the Eucharist: glorifying God for his glory, purity, honor – in a word, for his dominion.

Dominion is the last thing that self-will wants to give up, and to do so requires the virtue of submission. Be patient with God’s labors on your behalf, and do not set conditions on his gifts. Jean Grou says a good communion should not be judged by the affections it stirs. Rather, he says, “our Communions are good and fruitful when we learn there to seek God no longer for our own consolation, but to seek Him and love Him purely for Himself alone.”xii Instead of making memorials to our own successes, advancements, and elevations, make this memorial to a God-man suffering on a cross, and prepare to join him there. Francis Libermann says, “Carry the particular cross which Divine Goodness sends you each day. Bear it with patience, mildness, humility, and submission to God’s will.”xiii

We memorialize a crucified king – no wonder the Gospel is a stumbling block to the powerful and a foolishness to the wise. “Since Jesus, then, is the owner of your soul,” Libermann adds, “leave to Him the care of defending his property. Instead of being preoccupied with yourself, think only of pleasing Him, the Lord to Whom you belong.”xiv

4. Sacrifice

This understanding of anamnesis settles all kinds of difficulties concerning sacrifice (thusia). There is a secret connection running between sacrifice and thanksgiving and memorial. There is only one sacrifice, yet the Church offers sacrifice daily, a point the Catechism goes on to make only a few paragraphs after its definition of anamnesis. It adamantly asserts that the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. It therefore quotes the council of Trent when it says “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross.” And this has consequences. Since “the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner … this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.” (1367) The sacrifice which Christ, the Son of God, made on Calvary worked: it did something, it had effects, it succeeded, it reconciled us with the Father. The sacrifice of the Mass also does something, works, succeeds, because it contains Christ’s sacrifice, which reconciles us with the Father.

Augustine defines sacrifice as “every action done so as to cling to God in communion of holiness, and thus achieve blessedness” (the Catechism quotes him in 2099). If sacrifice is every action done so as to cling to God, then one would hope that one’s entire life would be sacrificial. A sacrificial life is the opposite of worldliness: every action clinging to God, rather than trying to get along without God. It seems to me, then, that there are four altars for liturgy: the wood altar of Calvary, the stone altar of the Church, the spiritual altar of our hearts, and the celestial altar in heaven.xv Christ is at work on all of them; the cross is connected to all of them; the paschal mystery is present in each of them, even though one is bloody, one is sacramental, one is interior, and one is supernal. Why so many? Because Jesus could just not let the Paschal Mystery rest! Jean Grou says the reason for multiple altars is a sort of restlessness of divine charity.

Jesus[,] not contented with a passing sacrifice, the memory of which would soon be effaced from the minds of men, has willed to render the Sacrifice of His Cross ever-abiding in His Church … He willed, so to speak, to found His Cross in the Eucharist, and to change it into an inexhaustible Fount, whence the merits of His Precious Blood should be shed abroad everywhere, to vivify, to sanctify His members.xvi

What vice would we have to outgrow in order to find this mystery bigger? I will suggest vainglory. Man and woman were created to be cosmic priests, but the fall was the forfeiture of their liturgical career. The sacraments-plus-virtues are a rehabilitation project of the cosmic priesthood, but the Old Adam does not find it an easy reconstruction because it feels threatened by its cost, which is mortification. The bridge by which we are to pass into this transfigured world is the cross, and we are commanded to lie down upon. Jean Grou exclaims to Jesus: “Yes, my Divine Saviour! I know that to consecrate my being to Thee and to renounce it are one and the same thing; and that I can live by thy life only in as far as I die to myself.”xvii In the sacrifice of the Mass, our reign over creation is placed under the reign of God so that we must relinquish our vainglorious and avaricious hold on creatures. Until we do, we cannot offer the holy oblation in peace.

Thomas Aquinas says religion is an act of justice, because justice is giving someone his due, and God is due our worship. Sacrifice is giving God what is rightfully his. This explains why Christ’s sacrifice is the only perfect sacrifice. Only the God-Man in could give his Father the sort of sacrifice to which he is entitled. And that is why our Eucharistic sacrifice must be done in him, through him and with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Libermann concludes, “He commissions us as His Father commissioned Him … We are to Jesus what He was to His Father. In our whole life, in all our works, we ought to seek only His glory. We must reproduce in ourselves His sanctity and mercy, His abnegation and love of suffering, His charity, firmness and gentle forbearance.”xviii The Eucharistic sacrifice instills a sacrificial life in those who are fed by it, and we turn our daily lives over to God in constant devotion. Segneri summarizes Thomas’s understanding of devotion as “a readiness of the will in undertaking and performing everything that belongs to the service of’ God.”xix

5. Mystery

Mysterion. The Mystical Body. The liturgical renewal was handily summed up in the phrase “full, active, and conscious participation.” This eucharistic revival will also seek full, active, and conscious participation – in what? In the Mystical Body of Christ. The liturgy is not another religion of the old Adam; liturgy is the religion of Christ perpetuated in Christians. Columba Marmion writes of the many things the Church receives from Christ. “The Church receives her mission from Christ: she receives the sacraments and the privilege of infallibility in order to sanctify men; but she has a part too in the religion of Christ towards His Father in order to continue upon earth the homage of praise that Christ in His Sacred Humanity offered to His Father.”xx The Eucharist is not a ritual invention of our own making, it is the Son’s union with his Father in the Spirit, now inviting our participation.

It is interesting that when the ancient Christians decided to use the word “liturgy” when they were searching for a word to describe what they do on the Eighth Day. It was not a term of religion for either pagans or Jews, it was a term from the culture. Leitourgia meant a public service performed by private citizens for a larger group; it was, in the words of the Catechism, “a public work or service in the name of and on behalf of the people” [1069]. It denoted a work (ergon) undertaken on behalf of the people (laos), ranging from paying your taxes to doing your military duty.

If leitourgia is the work of a few on behalf of the many, then Christ’s leitourgia is the work of one on behalf of the human race. This stands behind Pius XII’s definition of liturgy in paragraph 20 of Mediator Dei.

The sacred liturgy is, consequently, the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father, as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the heavenly Father.  It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members. (Mediator Dei ¶ 20)

Jesus is the premiere liturgist, and baptismal regeneration is a sacramental sign that he summons apprentices to his work. This further means that our liturgy is not our product. Christians should always and only ever celebrate Christ’s liturgy, never their own.

That we members can join the liturgy of our head is a mystery. I mean that less in the common sense of an enigma, and much more in the theological sense of an act of his own that Christ shares with his Mystical Body. It is a mark what his Spirit has been performing in the faithful. The most frequent summary of the Christian faith in the ancient Church, repeated by Athanasius, Augustine, Irenaeus, the Cappadocian fathers, etc., is “God became man so that man might be made divine.” Eastern Christianity has spoken of it as deification, that is, participation and communion in the divine life.

What vices would we have to outgrow in order to find this mystery bigger? I will suggest two this time, because they are so closely related to one another: pride and disobedience. Where is the first mention of deification in Scripture? Paul? Matthew? Isaiah? Moses? Earlier still. It is hissed by the serpent in Genesis 3: “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan cannot create anything, and Satan cannot destroy anything, but Satan can distort everything, and here he has directed us to our true end by a false path. He is the great deceiver. Paul Segneri pauses over this. The great evil of pride does not consist, he says, in aiming to be like God. So, strange to say, we desire that which Lucifer and his followers promised themselves in the great rebellion.

But there is this difference between us and Lucifer, that Lucifer aspired to attain to this likeness by his own power … whereas we hope to attain it solely by grace. And in conformity with this principle there is nothing to forbid thy aiming at the most sublime sanctity, the highest degree of purity, poverty, or obedience – … there is no pride in all this: “Be zealous for the better gifts.” But at the same time, do thou always remember the great maxim, that of thyself thou canst do nothing.xxi

Egocentric pride caused havoc in the Garden of Eden, and the conflict begun there continues in each interior warfare, which must be fought by the virtues on a liturgical terrain. Pride is anti-liturgy, whereby a person resists God in favor of himself, and refuses to make oneself a eucharistic oblation. Liturgy is anti-pride, whereby true glorification of God can be given. Libermann exclaims, “What you ought to do in your combat against the movements of pride is to deaden them, to calm your agitation if it is present and to reject those movements purely and simply, either by thinking of something else, or by performing an act that contains a movement of humility, abnegation, of oblation of yourself to God.”xxii

So the Eucharist (and its revival) will depend upon humility. But there’s a fly in the ointment. We believe in humility theoretically, but not practically. De Bergamo writes, “How necessary humility is, in order that you should approach Holy Communion worthily … But in your preparation for that divine Sacrament and in your Thanksgiving, do you make due acts of humility?”xxiii We like the idea of humility; it’s the reality that disturbs us. A theoretical knowledge of abnegation might be found in the library, but the practical knowledge of it comes from daily humiliation. Pride will fence us from the eucharistic altar for the same reason that Satan’s pride caused him to withdraw from the presence of God in heaven. Humility must dismantle the wall of pride brick by brick before the life of Jesus can belong to us. John Eudes says that since the head and members make one, the head can dispose what belongs to its members, and the members can make use of what belongs to the head.xxiv Christ is high priest of his people’s liturgizing. He lives, and suffers, and triumphs in his mystical body. The Church, says Edward Leen, is where

we can palpitate in sympathy with Christ, sorrow in His trials, thirst for His glory, make His interests our interests, and thus devote ourselves, as Mary did, entirely to His service. Like Mary, we should live solely for Jesus. The trials and sorrows of His Mystical Body should become our trials and sorrows, the triumphs of that Body our triumphs. Then self-life, self-interest and self-love will disappear, and we shall live only for Jesus.xxv


The secret has been found. Aslan appears bigger when our humility makes us smaller. For the Eucharist to appear bigger, we must die to ourselves. That is not my idea; it is St. Paul’s. First he tells us to put the deeds of the body to death by the Spirit (v 13), and only after that does he tell us that all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, and can cry “Abba! Father!” (v 15-17). That is not St. Paul’s idea, it is Jesus’s: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Jean Grou calls this command central to the gospel, because “in this complete abnegation He admitted no compromise. There is no middle course. He said you must deny yourself, or I shall deny you; you can only belong to Me on that condition.”xxvi

Besides Narnia, my other inspiration for my attempt to couple understanding with zeal comes from Louis de Ponte’s insight into spiritual communion. We all learned about spiritual communion two years ago during the lockdowns. It is, by the words of St Thomas, “an exercise of excellent interior acts by which …. without receiving the sacrament, we participate in the fruit of the sacrament, which is union with Jesus Christ.”xxvii But while we think of spiritual communion as a substitute for sacramental communion, de Ponte speaks of another purpose, one practiced beforehand. “The first duty [of spiritual communion] is, duly to prepare ourselves before sacramental communion, adorning the soul with acts of virtues suitable to this celestial banquet.”xxviii Then we hear Mass with profit. Spiritual communion disposes us for sacramental communion.

I have been suggesting that the revival of sacramental communion will require an revival in spiritual communion. That is, in addition to putting our brains in gear, the revival of the Eucharist will require an interior, spiritual struggle whereby the Spirit can put to death everything that stunts our growth and makes the Eucharist smaller than it should be. Here is Giovanni Bona’s list of what retards our growth. “After our sins are blotted out, their roots still remain in us; namely, ignorance, covetousness, concupiscence, self-love, attachment to our own judgment, self-will, evil inclinations, bad habits, sinful customs, numerous allurements to sin, agitations, objects of the senses, inconstancy, negligence and human respect.”xxix Getting free of all that might take more than three years! But the bishops only mean to get us started, by a recommitment.

The increase of thanksgiving will occur in proportion to a decrease of self-love, fellowship in proportion to a decrease in envy, memorial in proportion to a decrease in self-will, sacrifice in proportion to a decrease in vainglory, and mystery in proportion to a decrease in pride. These are the vices we will have to outgrow every year if we want to find the Eucharist bigger, grander, greater, and more glorious.


iGodfrey Diekmann, OSB, Celebrating the Word: Ecumenical Insights (Toronto: Anglican Book Center, 1977) 6.

iiJoseph Jungmann, The Mass (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1974) 33.

iiiJean Croiset, Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (London: Burns & Lambert, 1863) 153.

ivFrancois Fenelon, The Complete Fenelon (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2018) 98.

vPaul Segneri, The Manna of the Soul: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, vol 2 (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1892) 441.

vi John of Avila, Letters of Blessed John of Avila (London: Burns & Oates Ltd., 1904) 131.

viiSegneri, The Manna of the Soul, vol 2, 227

viiiGregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (London: Dacre Press, 1945) 161.

ixJoachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (London: SCM Press, 1987) 252.

xJeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, 106.

xiFrederick Faber, The Precious Blood; or, The Price of Our Salvation (London: Burnes & Oates, Ltd., 1860) 77-78.

xiiJean Grou, Manual for Interior Souls (London: S. Anselm’s Society, 1890) 366.

xiiiFrancis Libermann, Letters to People in the World, Spiritan Series 6, vol. 2 (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1963) 215.

xivFrancis Libermann, Letters to Religious Sisters and Aspirants, Spiritan Series 5, vol. 1 (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1962) 50.

xv David Fagerberg, “The Many Altars of God” in Adoremus, September, 2022.

xviJean Grou, The Practical Science of the Cross (London: Joseph Masters, 1871) 79.

xvii Jean Grou, The Interior of Jesus and Mary, vol. 1 (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1893) 320-21.

xixPaul Segneri, Devout Client of Mary (London: Burns & Lambert, 1857) xvi. Emphasis in original.

xxAbbot Columba Marmion, Life of the Soul, (London & Edinburgh: Sands & Co., and St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1931) 284.

xxiPaul Segneri, The Manna of the Soul, vol 2, 361-62

xxii Francis Libermann, Letters to Clergy and Religious, Spiritan Series 7, vol. 3 (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1963) 158.

xxiiiGaetano Maria de Bergamo, Humility of Heart (Mandeville, LA: Founding Father Films Publishing, 2015) 153-54.

xxivCharles Lebrun, The Spiritual Teaching of St. John Eudes (London: Sands & Co., 1934) 128

xxvEdward Leen, Our Blessed Mother (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1946) 44.

xxvi Jean Grou, The School of Jesus Christ (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, Ltd,, 1932) 81.

xxviiLouis de Ponte, Meditations on the Mysteries of Our Holy Faith, vol 1 (London: Richardson and Son, 1852) 344. Sometimes listed as Luis de la Puente, or D’Aponte..


xxixGiovanni Bona, A Treatise of Spiritual Life (Poplar Bluff, MO: The Author, 1893) 21.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About David Fagerberg, Ph.D. 5 Articles
David Fagerberg, Ph.D. taught at the University of Notre Dame from 2003 until his retirement in 2021. His area of study is liturgical theology – its definition and methodology – and how the Church’s lex orandi (law of prayer) is the foundation for her lex credendi (law of belief). He has written several books and numerous essays on subjects including liturgy, sacramental theology, Eastern Orthodoxy, linguistic philosophy, scholasticism, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis. His most recent books are Liturgical Dogmatics: How Catholic Beliefs Flow from Liturgical Prayer (Ignatius Press, 2021) and The Liturgical Cosmos: The World through the Lens of the Liturgy (Emmaus Academic, 2023).


  1. Dr. Fagerberg mentions our “divinization…

    At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest elevates the consecrated Host and recites along: “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, forever and ever.”

    The high point and purpose of the Mass is our incorporation “in Him [!],” to participate in His giving glory not to Himself, but to the Father. Made possible by the Real Presence (CCC 1374), “body, blood, soul, and divinity.” Soul and divinity, too?! And this Eucharistic revival (and Eucharistic coherence?) and true Communion with one another in the immediacy of the love of God (more than a horizontal handshake!), coming in the nick of time—at our point in history when the heads of too many bishops and cardinals seem filled with fog…

    And as anticipated so clearly by Romano Guardini:

    “Loneliness in faith will be terrible. Love will disappear from the face of the public world (Mt xxxiii, 12), but the more precious will that love be which flows from one lonely person to another, involving a courage of the heart born from the immediacy of the love of God as it was made known in Christ” (The End of the Modern World).

    If they mean something like this—those who would construct a new style of Catholic Church—they’re not telling it very well, if at all.

  2. Incredible article. Thank you, Dr. Fagerberg and CWR!

    I got so much out of this!

    I have hope that, with God’s grace, my love for the Mystery that is the Eucharist will grow in this time of revival.

    Thanks be to Him who saves!

  3. Fagerberg speaks of Aquinas’ premise on religion, worship – or perhaps better said, love that is God’s due. Justice, what is right is exemplified in that giving to God. Again, Thomas Aquinas on spiritual communion, “without receiving the sacrament, we participate in the fruit of the sacrament, which is union with Jesus Christ”.
    This leads to contemplation and awareness of the spiritual presence of Christ to us. Really the highest form of prayer. To get there Fagerberg recommends dying to oneself – inclusive of ridding all the baggage that keeps us distant from Christ. Here the Apostle Paul spoke of crucifixion to the world.
    Perhaps Aquinas best speaks of this purification, and enrichment of the virtues in the example of Christ crucified, in which all the virtues are revealed in their perfection. Patience, fortitude, charity, humility, justice et al.
    Suffering, the willingness to endure the cross for a just cause is part and parcel of the process. It is the narrow, rough road all must take for our salvation and unity with Christ. Knowledge of Christ in silent prayer is the entree because he is the gateway.
    With this intimate identity with Christ we receive increased awareness of why Christ suffered. We sense the urgency, and develop a desire to participate with him in that suffering for the salvation of others. When divinely inspired charity takes hold of our person. And the sweetness of that love transfigures us.

  4. I find this article to be a masterpiece. Eucharistic revival is for all, more especially for me in the seminary. I have discovered so many ways to make this daily celebration enriching in my spiritual like.

    I thank you a million times Fagerberg.

  5. I have attended the NO most of my life. I found the TLM in my 56th year. One of the most remarkable things about the difference in emphasis between the two revealed itself very, very early on. When the tabernacle is on the center axis and ALL activity that takes place in the sanctuary revolves around the Tabernacle like the planets orbit the sun, you’re left with an authentic impression of AWE. The Eucharist at the TLM I attend is HUGE, while I am small in comparison. At the NO Mass, I was HUGE and the Eucharist was small. It never settled well at all with me. I have found my home in the TLM and I will NOT be returning to the NO mass . . . ever. Not incidentally, at my TLM Chapel we have a program we affectionately call “The Eucharistic CRUSADE”. At the local NO parish I would otherwise attend, they’re trying to “revive” the Eucharist. Ponder that for a moment. I truly feel pity for those that cling to the eviscerated framework in the NO of what was a glorious and honorable, sublime and worthy ALL-Catholic Mass.

  6. The flaw in Dr. Fagerberg’s article comes down to these two paragraphs where he makes ritual revival part of an external fuss that is divorced from true growth in the subject’s love and understanding of the sacrament.

    ” If Eucharistic revival meant repairing the Eucharist, then various strategies would be available to us. We might approach it didactically: explain, explain, explain. We might approach it ritually: fuss with its rubrics, its style, its performance. We might approach it ideologically: link it to social justice, environmental issues, charitable programs.
    But if making the Eucharistic bigger actually requires personal growth, then the revival far less involves a revival of the sacrament, and far more a revival of those who partake of it. “Revival” means rebirth, reawakening, revitalization, and we’re the ones who need to grow out of everything which limits the size of the Eucharist for us.”

    This past week at Clear Creek, we met a couple who had almost never encountered the Vetus Ordo before. They were blown away both by their experience of it and the history that we shared in response to their questions. In one conversation the girlfriend mentioned that Jesus’ true presence in the Old Mass makes so much more sense to her. In the past, she struggled to understand how it could be because the ritual didn’t seem to reflect His deserving presence and therefore, she could not grow as she needed. When the ritual makes Christ smaller, we find Him smaller too.

  7. “I have been suggesting that the revival of sacramental communion will require an revival in spiritual communion. That is, in addition to putting our brains in gear, the revival of the Eucharist will require an interior, spiritual struggle whereby the Spirit can put to death everything that stunts our growth and makes the Eucharist smaller than it should be. Here is Giovanni Bona’s list of what retards our growth. “After our sins are blotted out, their roots still remain in us; namely, ignorance, covetousness, concupiscence, self-love, attachment to our own judgment, self-will, evil inclinations, bad habits, sinful customs, numerous allurements to sin, agitations, objects of the senses, inconstancy, negligence and human respect.”xxix Getting free of all that might take more than three years! But the bishops only mean to get us started, by a recommitment.”

    Good thoughts, but not enough praxis. I need, we need, fasting as the ultimate penance and almsgiving and preparatory liturigcal prayer (aka the Divine Office) to flush out how to practically decrease our pride and vainglory and other vices so that Christ the Lord may increase. Without such praxis, I am much more likely to only let my “brain get in gear and not my charity after reading such an article.

    God bless Dr. Fagerberg. May he read Matthew Plese and start putting the traditional liturigcal ascetism into his articles.

  8. The Incarnate God Jesus Christ birthed us with His Sacred Heart; pierced open, blood and water gushed out, granting us baptism, cleansing of our sins in His precious Blood, feeding us with Himself, the eternal sacrifice. The tender loving God Jesus Christ feeds us with His Sacred Heart. Eucharistic miracle of a bleeding host was examined by a forensic lab and documented as a piece of a human heart (Eucharistic miracle, Buenos Aires, Argentina). What heart would not melt to love Him knowing this truth?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.