As the Church in Ireland celebrates the International Eucharistic Congress (10-17 June), we see how for St Francis the Eucharist was at the heart of the Gospel way of life.
For Francis the Eucharist is the major way in which he sees Christ in this world. He had an intense reverence and love for the Lord “hidden” in the sacrament of his body and blood.
For Francis this sacrament was a sign of the complete self-emptying of Christ. In the first of his Admonitions, which is about the Eucharist, Francis stresses that the sacrament is a symbol of the poverty and humility of Christ. He writes: “Behold, each day he humbles Himself as when he came from the royal throne into the Virgin’s womb; each day He himself comes down to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest. As he revealed himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals himself to us now in sacred bread.”
And in the Letter to the Entire Order Francis writes in poetic vein: “Let everyone be struck with fear, let the whole world tremble, and let the heavens exult when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest! O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! The lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation he hides himself under an ordinary piece of bread! Brothers, look at the humility of God, and pour out your hearts before him! Humble yourselves that you may be exalted by him! Hold nothing back of yourselves for yourselves, that he who gives himself totally to you may receive you totally!”