In this life we can have perfect joy, because joy comes from giving, and there is no greater One to Whom to give than God, and nothing more we have to give than ourselves.
In this life we cannot have perfect happiness, because happiness comes from getting, and what God has to give us in full, He is reserving for the life to come, when all His glory shall be revealed to us.
When we go to Heaven, and have perfect happiness along with our perfect joy, we will no longer distinguish between them, as happiness and joy. Our giving and our getting will be as undifferentiated as God’s attributes are in His nature. We will be both giving and getting in the same eternal rapture. Our joy and our happiness will be one. “As the Father and I are one, you and I shall be one,” said Our Lord.
Although we can have perfect joy in this life, there is some sense in which this joy is deficient — not because it is not perfect joy, but because its partner, perfect happiness, is still withheld from it.
And now I will tell you my most innocent priestly secret: Although we cannot have perfect happiness in this life, we can have a foretaste of it. And the place where this foretaste occurs is in the presence of the Blessed Eucharist.
We are meant in the presence of the Blessed Eucharist to taste, ahead of time, the beatitude prepared for us in the Beatific Vision. If, when we visit the Blessed Eucharist, we do not sense this happiness, we must not be discouraged. But we must know the right reason why.
The reason for our not being rapturously happy in the presence of the Blessed Eucharist is not because Our Lord cannot yet be seen! Thousands of things we see with our eyes, and what happiness do they give us? We should be able to see through the appearances of bread and wine with the eyes of faith. We should be able to glimpse the happiness awaiting us in vision as it now entices us through faith. If we do not feel any of this happiness, or any of its enticements, even by foretaste, it is because our faith is weak, not because perfect happiness is not there in our company.
What shall we do to attain this foretaste of beatitude, in the presence of the Blessed Eucharist? We must remember in all humility that the things to which our memory and our mind and our will and our tastes and our desires have heretofore been put, were the wrong things. Our minds, antecedent to coming to this great mystery of Faith, were occupied with the wrong objects, and in the wrong methods, and for the wrong reasons. We have been remembering things we should not remember, willing things that never should have been willed, having tastes that should not have occurred within us.
Our lonelinesses, our longings, our nostalgias, our melancholies, have all been for the wrong reasons. We must therefore yield all our powers to Jesus in the Eucharist, and let Him transform our powers for new purposes. We must not kneel in front of the Blessed Eucharist and start examining the deficiencies of our own characters, or try to belittle the generosity of Jesus by saying that realizations of love of a mystical kind were never meant for us.
We should say to Jesus, as Saint Ignatius said to Him, “Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty. Take all my will, my mind, my memory.” We should be transformed into adoration of the Word made flesh Who dwells amongst us.
Everyone realizes that love is the greatest enterprise there is in this world, and that true human love is a matter of flesh and blood. No one can ever love for long without pointing to his heart, the great central terminal of flesh and blood within our breasts. Just because human love has been abused, and because most of it which we know has either been sinful or perverse, we should not try to keep it from being a goal of our hearts at their best.
If we do not find what human love at its most intense pitch means, when we are in the presence of the Flesh and Blood of Jesus, then we are bound to go to the romantic adventures of a wicked world to find out what it was not meant to be, and to learn how deep and diabolical can be our disillusionment.
There are some snobs, pretending to be saints, who wish to play safe with flesh and blood. Because its dangers are so many, they wish to avoid incarnational love entirely. This is not what the Blessed Eucharist was given us for.
Saint Margaret Mary was a Visitation nun, in the seventeenth century, who could not pray. She used to sit in chapel, full of distractions. She found the hours of prayer long ones. When visiting Our Lord, she was aware only of her own doubts and her own discomfitures. Our Lord flared out through the hidings of bread and wine, one day, and asked her to give Him her heart. He offered her His Heart in return. He told her to keep coming to see Him, and that some day His Sacred Heart would be entirely hers. From then on, Saint Margaret Mary could not be torn out of chapel, as long as Our Lord was there.
The Little Flower of Jesus said that the books about love which she read gave her a headache. It was only Love’s Presence in the Eucharist that consoled her, and Love’s silences that became her song.
If the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, then we must love Jesus as flesh and blood. Tell me what the phrase “dwelt amongst us” can mean more perfectly than His abiding Presence in our tabernacles? If, when we kneel before Him in Eucharistic Presence, we are not flooded with an incipient happiness that exceeds any this world can offer, and of any kind, the fault is ours. The fault is ours to admit, not to analyze. And the fault is ours to correct, by simple apostrophes. “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7.)
One more thing, as a priest, I would like to say. The greatest prayer Our Lord gave us is the well-known “Our Father Who art in Heaven.” This supreme petition is for Bread. That same Bread which Matthew calls “supersubstantial bread” and Luke calls “daily bread” is the Bread the priest is looking at in the middle of the Canon of the Mass, at the high point, between the Consecration and the Communion, just after the utterance of the great “Amen.”
The priest is required to have his eyes fixed on the Sacred Host as he utters the words: “Give us this day our daily bread.” In a High Mass, the priest is required to sing this Our Father, to let his children know its supreme purpose, as our Holy Mother the Church protects it.
The Our Father is the prayer that the Blessed Eucharist be given to us daily. The Blessed Eucharist is the only petition in terms of a definite object that the Lord’s Prayer contains. Saint Jerome tells us that Our Lord Himself commanded the Apostles to put the Our Father in its sublime position in the Sacrifice of the Mass.
To take this Our Father out of the Canon of the Mass, as the Liberal Catholic clergy of our day are doing, and recite it with Protestants who minimize it in terms of their added ending: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,” is blasphemy.
To refuse to say the Our Father as the Liberal clergy also do when they join with Jews in Brotherhood organizations or Good-Will movements apart from “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” is infidelity.
And these are two of the reasons why I, a beleaguered priest, am trying to raise my voice, in the United States of America, to shout and sing the true Our Father the way it was spoken on the Mount of the Beatitudes, and the way it is sung in the Canon of the Mass.