The Eucharist: the Fount of Mercy

       At the conclusion of his Apostolic letter on the Year of the Eucharist, Mane Nobiscwn Domine, Pope St. John Paul II, addresses the different members of the Church. To religious he writes: “Consecrated men and women, called by that very consecration to more prolonged contemplation: never forget that Jesus in the tabernacle wants you to be at his side, so that he can fill your hearts with the experience of his friendship, which alone gives meaning and fulfillment to your lives.”
       This one exhortation is a more than sufficient program on which to base our response, as Carmelites, to this wonderful Jubilee Year of Mercy, when we can come into the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the Fount of Mercy. The mention of “prolonged contemplation”, of “being at the side of Jesus”, the experience of an ” intimate friendship with him” the promise of meaning and fulfillment found in him alone – these are very rich and characteristic resonances of Carmelite spirituality.

       In some ways, Carmel has always been Eucharistic. From the very beginning of the Order, the hermits on Mt. Carmel were one of the few religious groups at that time whose Rule mandated daily attendance at the Eucharistic liturgy. Later, St. Teresa of Avila would found seventeen monasteries to be places where “the Most Holy Sacrament could be reserved.”

       Carmelite life, composed as it is essentially of exercises of faith, prayer and mortification, orientates us toward a vibrant and continual contact with God who lives within us and who is present in the Holy Eucharist. We are to be his good and faithful friends, longing for his companionship and willing to forfeit everything to obtain it and to make spousal love for him our abiding state of soul.

       If the Church “draws her life from the Eucharist” then certainly so will we who strive to be “daughters of the Church” after the example of St. Teresa. The Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord’s sacrifice, is the heart of our community, just as it is the heart of the Church. It fashions from within the daily renewed offering of our very existence; it ensures the unity of the sisters; it furnishes strength for our apostolate of prayer and sacrifice.

       Jesus in the Eucharist is the love of our lives. He is everything to us: Savior, companion, treasure, teacher, the nourishment and Manna for our souls, truly the “meaning and fulfillment of our lives.” It is an immense joy to know that his Eucharistic presence among us will be the focus of so many projects to honor him during this special Year. It is an immense privilege to unite with all in the Church as we endeavor to encounter and experience Jesus in the Eucharist so as to live in communion with him. And it is also a vast responsibility to respond generously to the call of Pope Francis to make the Year one of deep conversion and intense commitment to spreading the good news of the merciful love of Jesus, especially as we encounter Him in the Eucharist. This encounter should be one of transformation, so that we in turn can reflect His mercy in our lives.

       With the Church, who, “like the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany, has feared no ‘extravagance'” in regard to his Eucharistic presence, but rather has continually “devoted the best of her resources to expressing her wonder and adoration before the unsurpassable gift of the Eucharist”(EE 48) we want to live this Year in gratitude and unbounded love. Nourished by Jesus in the Eucharist we hope to nourish others by our concern, our help and our prayer. And, as Carmelites, we know all this will only be possible if we are deeply and trustingly united with Our Blessed Mother, the Woman of the Eucharist, the Mother of Mercy, the Model of the Church and the Queen-Beauty of Carmel.

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