‘Let everyone be stuck with fear, let the whole world tremble and let the Heavens exalt , 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!’ (Letter to the entire Order, 26-27).
Francis revered the role of the Priest, not for the sake of elevating the person of the Priest above others but, because of the Priests role in making Christ truly present. For Francis this was a great mystery of faith and he saw it as a great honour for those called to serve as Priests.
Francis experienced, in a very real and palpable way, the presence of God in all of Creation, his spirit soared as he contemplated the great gift of life and as he contemplated the face of God in all he met. But in the Eucharist, he recognised the real presence of Christ, the presence that consoles, transforms and heals.
In his Letter to the Clergy, Francis clearly states the need for those ministering at the Altar to do so with utmost respect and reverence. To minister knowing that it IS Christ, truly present before them. He admonishes those who treat the Body and Blood of Christ ‘illicitly’ meaning they do not afford Christ present in the Eucharist due respect and care. He writes ‘whenever the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ has been illicitly placed, let it be removed from there and placed in a precious place and locked away’ (Letter to the Clergy, 11-12). Such was Francis awareness of, and respect for, Christ truly present in the Eucharist.
As we continue to journey this pilgrim route together, let us reflect on how we reverence Christ truly present in the Eucharist. Are we in tune with the great mystery of the Eucharist or has it become mechanical for us? Do we take time to realise that in the Eucharist we meet the living Christ, who lives in us as we live in Him? Do we see the celebration of the Eucharist through eyes of faith being the blessed who do not see yet still believe?
Let us pray for each other, that this time together may be one of renewal in which our eyes of faith are opened and our sight strengthened, so we may see Christ truly present and with reverence bow to the King of Kings, in adoration, petition, praise and thanksgiving.