Ave Verum Corpus

Will the distressing news of the sacrilege perpetrated in Pamplona, Spain provoke any kind of concrete response? Spanish “artist” Abel Azcona stole more than 240 consecrated Hosts by pretending to receive Holy Communion at Mass. He then placed the hosts on the ground to form the word “pederasty” in Spanish. The sacrilege is being prolonged by a display of photographs in a public art gallery in Pamplona, sponsored by the city’s Department for Culture.

Could not as many Holy Masses of Reparation be offered in Pamplona (and indeed in all of Spain and Europe) as there were Sacred Hosts desecrated?

Could not there as many public Hours of Adoration and Reparation be made as there were Sacred Hosts desecrated?

Could not there not be a Eucharistic procession of reparation through the city of Pamplona?

Proposal for the Year of Mercy
Even if these things were done, it remains that other questions need to be addressed. A priest friend said to me this morning that bishops the world over need to consider a moratorium on Holy Communion in the hand. Perhaps for the Year of Mercy? Are we to show no mercy to the One who is present among us under the appearances of a thing so fragile as the Host? Do we not recognize in the Sacred Host God become, for love of us, vulnerable, poor, silent, and defenseless? Do we not see that the Sacred Host is the ultimate expression of what Saint Paul (see Philippians 2:7) calls the kenosis of the Son of God, that is His utter self–emptying?

More than a Mere Oversight?
The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum promulgated eleven years ago by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments 25 March 2004, seems, in most places, to have had little or no effect. One wonders if the clergy were at all given the opportunity to come together to study the document and, with one mind, plan its implementation. Among other things, in article 92,the Instruction says clearly:

“If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful”.

Many times I have had Sacred Hosts, sometimes bearing the imprint of shoes after having been trampled, brought to me by aggrieved layfolk who picked them up from the floor of churches. I think it only reasonable to conclude that there is, in fact, widespread risk of profanation. Consequently, article 92 of Redemptionis Sacramentum needs to be invoked and implemented. Not to do so would be, I think, more than a mere oversight.

Sins Against the Body
What has so inured the clergy and laity to the extreme abasement of Jesus Christ in the Sacred Host that sacrileges and profanations meet with no more than a passing measured expression of regret? Have we no  mercy for the defenceless Christ? No tears for God? No voice to cry aloud when the Body of God is defiled?  One forgets, I think, that the culture of death denounced by Saint John Paul II is, in fact, an attack on the human body. Every attack on the human body and every profanation of the human body is, in the final analysis, an attack on the Body of Christ. Conversely, every attack on the Eucharistic Body of Christ and every profanation of that Sacred Body attacks and profanes the human body. “Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to the body of one of these my least brethren, you did it to my Body; and as long as you did it to my Body, you did it to the body of one of these my least brethren” (cf. Matthew 25:39).

Ave verum Corpus natum
De Maria Virgine:
Vere passum, immolatum
In cruce pro homine:
Cuius latus perforatum
Fluxit aqua et sanguine:
Esto nobis praegustatum
Mortis in examine.

Hail, true Body, truly born
Of the Virgin Mary mild
Truly offered, wracked and torn,
On the Cross for all defiled,
From Whose love pierced, sacred side
Flowed Thy true Blood’s saving tide:
Be a foretaste sweet to me
In my death’s great agony.

A society that admits the practice of abortion — dismembering the body of a child — will, ineluctably, feel indifferent towards sins against the Eucharistic Body of Christ, the hóstia pura, hóstia sancta hóstia immaculáta – the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the spotless Victim. By the same token, irreverence towards the Eucharistic Body of Christ opens the door to every manner of sin against the human body: abortion, pornography, sexual perversion, and every manner of violence and abuse. Everything that affects the body has repercussions upon The Body; and everything that affects The Body has repercussions upon the body.

Il pesce puzza dal capo
“The stench of putrefaction”, says the old Italian proverb, “begins from the head of the fish”. I would argue that every loss of reverence at the altar leads to a loss of reverence in the sanctuary; that every loss of reverence in the sanctuary leads to a loss of reverence in the body of the church; that every loss of reverence in the body of the church leads to a loss of reverence in the marketplace, schools, hospitals, and theatres; that every loss of reverence in the marketplace, schools, hospitals, and theatres leads to a loss of reverence in the home; and that every loss of reverence in the home leads to a loss of reverence in the marriage bed.

Foremost and Indispensable
It becomes to me increasingly clear why Pope Saint Pius X envisaged that the restoration of all things to Christ had to begin with the sacred liturgy.

Filled as We are with a most ardent desire to see the true Christian spirit flourish in every respect and be preserved by all the faithful, We deem it necessary to provide before anything else for the sanctity and dignity of the temple, in which the faithful assemble for no other object than that of acquiring this spirit from its foremost and indispensable font, which is the active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church. (Tra le Sollecitudini, Motu Proprio promulgated on November 22, 1903)

Priests: Guardians of the True Body of Christ
The lack of a reaction to sins perpetrated against the Body of Christ comes, I fear, first of all, from a clergy that, for fear of accusations of clericalism, has become, in some very crucial matters, disempowered and ineffectual. Saint Thomas’s clear teaching on the duty of the priest to care, first of all, for the “true Body of Christ”, needs to be reiterated and affirmed:

A priest exercises a twofold action: the one, which is principal, over the true body of Christ; the other, which is secondary, over the mystical body of Christ. The second act depends on the first, but not conversely. (Suppl. q. 36, a.1)

The hour has come for priests to reclaim their rightful guardianship over the that most fragile, vulnerable, and silent of mysteries, the true and adorable Body of Christ. On this one thing depends the exercise of every priest’s ministry to the members of the Mystical Body. Nothing done at the altar or from the altar is without significance. It time to critically re-evaluate those liturgical practices and malpractices that leave the Body of Christ exposed to profanation and that have opened the door to sacrileges like the one so recently in the news.

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