A Word in Season
The Body of Christ: The Portal Between Heaven and Earth
Going forward, this is the theme I want to remember for the Year of Faith: at the heart of our faith—and at the center of the new evangelization—is an actual beating heart. It is the love of Jesus' Sacred Heart that beats for you and for me. In real time. In real life. It's the entire reason for our rejoicing in this Christmas season: the loving heart of God came in search of us, yearning to draw us into that fiery love.
When I consider the proximity of Jesus to me personally in the Mass, and in particular when I sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament, that's what warms my heart toward his; to know that his heart is first turned toward me, that his heart burns for mine.
When I humbly kneel or sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament elevated in the monstrance, I'm looking into a holy portal to the other side of all we can hope and imagine. The host in the monstrance is, out of its element, in suspended animation. Its bread was consecrated so that it might be consumed and receive by a communicant—to strengthen them with the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. It is destined, still, to be Holy Communion that nourishes and becomes part of its recipient. Yet, for the moment, that purpose is delayed, as the Church in her wisdom "exposes" the Incarnate One on the Altar that we might draw near to the very love that beats for us, from the heart that gave all.
This is why it's called Adoration.
When we come face to face with heart of this love, we learn what it means to adore. True adoration brings an intimate knowledge we cannot find on our own. In adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we get a foretaste of the infinite, a prolonged visitation of the True Presence outside of the Mass. Within that thin opaque portal, the Host holds all we need to know and can imagine.
I admit I cannot often describe what goes on in those moments of prayer. But in my finite knowledge of the ways of love I fathom it as my heart "seeing" the face of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, the hands of Jesus—all the infinite Good that my heart can hold. And I can almost imagine passing through the veil between heaven and earth.
On one side of the Host in the monstrance is me, and my all-out neediness. Prayerfully, I'm compelled to bring my concerns to the fore. I'm "all in," as the gamblers would say. I bring it all with me—my family, my friends, my intentions, and the church and world. But in truth, it's really no gamble at all. It's really a win-win.
For on the other side of the Host is the heavenly realm, the angels and the saints, the cloud of witnesses, the Blessed Trinity in the beatific vision. Somewhere on that other side is every loved one that I have lost to death. Heaven contains the ones who "sleep" in Christ, who've been judged and found worthy. They are there just now, on the other side, yoked to the same Body of Christ that captures my gaze in the Host I adore on the Altar. If the Host were a door I could open, I'd almost swear I could peer straight through it into heaven.
In those fleeting moments when I let myself take all that in, I think maybe I should run from the chapel, for I am so unworthy. Yet I'm riveted to the floor. Kneeling is the only appropriate response for this affair of the heart. Words fail me, but they fall along these lines, Enter in. Find me. Know me. Renew me. Bring me back to you. Again and again.
Jesus said, "I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved..."(Jn. 10:9).
Benedict XVI uses similar language as he invites us to the Year of Faith in his Apostolic Letter titled Porta Fidei, the door of faith.
The "door of faith" (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom. 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn. 17:22). (Porta Fidei, par. 1)
The Body of Christ is our one and sure portal to what comes next in our life. We are grafted into the Body in and through our Baptism, and we are nourished by mysterious food of the Eucharist to sustain this life in us, that we might one day know Him in His entirety for eternity.
But for right now, there is nothing quite like discovering the sound of his beating heart aching for ours.
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.