The Power of the Precious Blood of Jesus
In this third week of Easter, the Church is still celebrating the Resurrection of Christ with jubilation! As St. Augustine proclaimed, “We are Easter people and our song is Alleluia!” Two weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, I shared my thoughts about Easter as THE Feast of the Eucharist. Today I want to share a powerful story about the Eucharist that I heard recently at a religious education conference.
While speaking about the Eucharist as “source and summit” of our faith, I asked participants to recall how they had learned about the Eucharist. What did they recall about their religious education? Some remembered a lot of rules, such as not chewing the host. Others recalled the sense of the sacred, that their First Communion was a holy event. Still others remembered learning the mechanics of going to Communion—how to line up, how to receive, how to make the Sign of the Cross, etc. Then, a man raised his hand and told us he was a convert to Catholicism. He described being at Mass when the woman who was Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion spilled the Precious Blood on the floor. I have been an Extraordinary Minister before, and this is my worst nightmare. It must have been terribly embarrassing for the poor woman.
God has a way of taking what seem to be our failures or our worst moments and turning them around. That is precisely what God did with the Cross after all. Many of you are familiar with Eucharistic miracles in which the spilled Precious Blood formed an image of Christ or otherwise lifted the supernatural veil to give us a glimpse of glory. Nothing of the sort happened in this case. Something far more powerful did. The woman, the priest, and others stopped what they were doing and began to clean up the spilled Precious Blood. They did so with utmost reverence, desiring that not a single drop be left on the floor. They didn’t simply mop it up, as it were spilled milk. They acted with deep humility and reverence for the Sacrament.
In the Incarnation, God became flesh and dwelt among us. He shared our human experience, including even death. He descended from the power and majesty of the Divine Life of the Trinity; “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being found in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). This alone would be miracle enough for an eternity of glorifying God. But God can never be outdone in His gifts! God was not yet finished with emptying Himself of all power and glory for our sake. For after the events of Easter, Jesus was now present to us, as the disciples learned on the road to Emmaus, “in the breaking of the bread.” This is astounding! God Almighty is now absolutely powerless in the form of bread and wine. Before, Jesus became “like us in all things but sin,” (Heb. 4:15), relinquishing any claims to divine power to be one of us. Now, He relinquishes all claims to any power at all. He is bread and wine. He is subject to us. God has done the most astonishing reversal possible, the King of Glory becoming subject to His subjects! He makes Himself subject to our will. We may receive Him if we choose. We may bring Him to others if we choose. We may kneel before him. We may make Him our food. Tragically, we may commit sacrilege. We may spit Him out. We may recognize Him or fail to recognize Him. And… we may accidentally spill Him on the floor. If, in the Incarnation, He took “the form of a slave,” how much more has He done so in the Eucharist! He offered no resistance in the flesh, “like a lamb led to the slaughter,” (Acts 8:32; Isaiah 53:7), but now he has taken a form in which He cannot offer resistance at all. So much has God descended in order for us to rise!
In the Church that day, Christ the Utterly Powerless One was spilled on the floor by a very human accident. But then, the real “Power of the Powerless,” (to borrow a phrase that Christopher de Vinck used to describe his severely handicapped brother who could not do a single thing to help himself) was made manifest. The man telling the story shared that it was the reverence and attention given to the Precious Blood spilled on the floor that awakened in him a firm belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That Blood, “the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb,” spilled out on the Cross, spilled out “as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28; cf. 1Pet. 1:18-19), was spilled on the floor and became the source of one man’s faith. (As an aside, I am glad that he chose to tell the woman who spilled the Chalice. I am sure she felt much relief knowing that God had worked through that embarrassing situation to bring another member into the Body of Christ.) Having absolutely no power at all, Christ is nonetheless the Almighty God for whom nothing is impossible. This is a mystery worth pondering.
Editorial credit: DyziO / Shutterstock.com for the photo of Emmaus, Israel.
Editorial credit: Nancy Bauer / Shutterstock.com for the stained glass window photo.