As Cardinal Burke observed, “the Body and Blood of Christ is a gift of God’s love to us. It is the greatest gift, a gift beyond our ability to describe …  A gift is freely given out of love and that is what God is doing for us every time we are able to participate in Mass and approach to receive Holy Communion.” Each time you receive the Eucharist, God gives you His Son. The Eucharist is the greatest gift not just of a particular day, but of you lifetime.

With such knowledge that Jesus is truly present in the the Eucharist, St. Justin Martyr directed early Christians to receive Our Lord with immense reverence and love:

“Approaching, therefore, come not with thy wrists extended, or thy fingers open; but make thy left hand as if a throne for thy right, which is about to receive the king. And having hollowed thy palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying after it, Amen. Give heed lest thou lose any of it; for what thou losest is a loss to thee as it were from one of thine own members. For tell me, if any one gave thee gold dust, wouldest thou not with all precaution keep it fast, being on thy guard against losing any of it, and suffering loss? How much more cautiously then wilt thou observe that not a crumb falls from thee, of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?”

St. Justin’s image of the hands of a communicant as a throne for the King finds modern parallel in the memoirs of Francis Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan. Persecuted for his loyalty to the Catholic Church, the Bishop spent more than 13 years of extreme sufferings in Communist prisons in Vietnam. During that time it was the Eucharist, reverently celebrated in the most horrendous of conditions, which sustained and strengthened him:

Five Loaves and Two Fish: Meditations on the Eucharist

“When I was arrested, I had to leave immediately with empty hands. The next day, I was permitted to write to my people in order to ask for the most necessary things: clothes, toothpaste…I wrote, ‘Please send me a little wine as medicine for my stomachache.’ The faithful understood right away.

They sent me a small bottle of wine for Mass with a label that read, ‘medicine for stomachaches.’ They also sent some hosts, which they hid in a flashlight for protection against the humidity. The police asked me, ‘You have stomachaches? Yes. Here’s some medicine for you.’

I will never be able to express my great joy! Every day, with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I would celebrate Mass. This was my altar, and this was my cathedral! It was true medicine for soul and body, ‘Medicine of immortality, remedy so as not to die but to have life always in Jesus’, as St. Ignatius of Antioch says. Each time I celebrate the Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter chalice. Each day in reciting the words of consecration, I confirmed with all my heart and soul a new pact, and eternal pact between Jesus and me through his blood mixed with mine. Those were the most beautiful Masses of my life!”

In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Church states that sacred vessels “should be made from materials that are solid and that in the particular region are regarded as noble. The conference of bishops will be the judge in this matter. But preference is to be given to materials that do not break easily or become unusable.” (290) Through the Holy Eucharist, Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan  came to embody the sacred vessels of which he was deprived. In his weakness, Our Lord made him solid, noble and unbreakable. Despite his persecution, he was filled with life and love. This is the same grace that was offered to the early Church and is available to every one of us each time we attend Mass. Let us prepare ourselves to receive Jesus worthily and respectfully, becoming living tabernacles for Our Lord and King. It is through the Eucharist that you will find the strength to persevere.

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St. Justin, Martyr, “Ordo Romanus I”.

Francis Xavier Cardinal Thuan Van Nguyen: By His Own Accounts” in Vietnamese, compiled by Rev. Msgr. Tran Van Kha (California: Co So Hy Vong Publishers) at  p. 131.