Have you ever sat before the Host and wished that it would bleed?
It is a tremendously odd feeling, inspiring both awe and guilt – awe at the very thought that such a thing would occur, and guilt that you would want to make such a demand of God. But it generated so naturally, from meditating on the Eucharistic miracles of the past, to wondering how surprised or not you would be to see one happen in front of you, to wanting to see it happen just once.
There was a special irony that this was happening on the Feast of Saint Thomas, the Apostle who believed in the risen Christ because he saw Him. I pray to “Doubting Thomas” almost every day, especially when performing a devotion of Divine Mercy. In a way, Thomas is (or ought to be) one of the patron saints of the Divine Mercy; when Jesus removed his doubt by giving him what he wanted to see, our faith increased. As Gregory the Great once remarked, “the disciple who doubted then felt Christ’s wounds becomes a witness to the reality of the Resurrection.” Here, kneeling before the monstrance, I was experiencing my own Thomas-like moment, but in a different sort of way.
I have always been taught, and have come to believe truly, that Christ is really visibly, tangibly, substantially present in the consecrated Host. To kneel before the Host is to kneel before God, whole and entire in the appearance of a thin piece of unleavened bread. In the same way, to consume the Host is to consume God, to literally take the divinity into your humanity. I also believe that God’s interaction with His creation did not stop after the Ascension, that the Incarnation continues even today in the Mass, in the Sacraments, in the mystical communion that is the Church – and in the occasional vision or miracle. And in that moment the “ordinary” miracle of God made substantially present was not enough to quell my desire. I wanted something “extraordinary.” I wanted God to interact directly, to demonstrate the reality of his Real Presence.
Thomas wanted to see so he could believe. I wanted (or so I tell myself) to see because I believe.
The Host did not bleed, of course. Adoration proceeded in its usual silence and concluded with the accustomed Benediction. And that’s alright. In truth, the Host has bled enough for me, and for everyone else inside and outside the chapel. That Blood most precious, shed to the very last drop, ransomed a fallen humanity from itself, in an ultimate atonement sacrifice that pervades all time and space – realized in every Mass, pondered in every Adoration, and accepted in every reception of the Eucharist – cancelling out every past, present, and future sinner’s debt to God’s justice in an unending “year of favor from the Lord.”
I have found that those who accept this sacrifice as offered learn to live with it the same way – as offered. They live not under the imposition of rules and regulations but in a freedom of signs and promises, in a sacramental existence where each obliges the other in a bond of relationship more real than most I have experienced even with my dearest friends and family, my closest Intimates and Avatars. For this is the God Who loved His creation so much that He became its Lover, then its Brother, and now its Food. Here before me is the God Who deigned, as the Wizard’s Hero once beautifully put it, “to be wounded by [His] own understanding of love” – that is, of Himself – “and to bleed willingly and joyfully.”
I have already made Him bleed. And that has brought us both to this moment.
“The wheel is come full circle. I am here.” – V.iii.185