Summary: St. Gregory of Nyssa, and other Fathers of the Church, teach that the glory of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit, who is love. The glory we are given is the Holy Spirit who enables us to image Christ in our world.
Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter 2018
St. Paschal Baylon
The prayer of Jesus we just heard from St. John is part of the High Priestly Prayer Our Lord offered at the Last Supper. If you look carefully at it, you might call it the first Eucharistic Prayer, and here you find Christ offering His life for the unity of the Church. Those who believe in Jesus the Christ are to be one with Him and therefore united with each other. And we are united, we see here, by the glory given to us by Christ. It is the same glory the Son received from the Father.
What is that glory? There’s two ways to look at it, and they are really one as well. St. Gregory of Nyssa, and other Fathers of the Church, teach that the glory of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit, who is love. The glory we are given is the Holy Spirit who enables us to image Christ in our world. The love that is the Holy Spirit binds us together and energizes us to witness the Gospel to each other and to those who do not know Christ. The Holy Spirit calms our spirits when we are angry with another disciple. The Holy Spirit gives us words of encouragement to share with someone who is down. And the Holy Spirit gives us gifts for the building up of the Church–gifts of healing, prayer, prophecy, teaching, and so many others.
But the second glory is the tough one. It’s the other side of the Christian life–suffering and pain. This life is full of physical and mental and moral challenges. What is the picture of Jesus ruling gloriously from His throne? It is His crucifixion. When we suffer, either by ourselves or for others, we are most one with Christ. When we are in pain, then our only consolation is the pain Jesus suffered, and suffers with us and in us. That suffering also unites us with all our brothers and sisters who suffer, those who are sick, or persecuted, or who have lost someone very dear to them. And it is the Holy Spirit who binds us together in those times, and that, too, is glory.
Here we share the communion of Christ. The Blessed Sacrament is God’s way of being present in glory, but in the glory of the sacrifice of Calvary. God transforms us through His action in our reception of Holy Communion. St. Paul told the Corinthians “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Looking back at the sixteenth century, we come upon the saint we commemorate today, St. Paschal Baylon. His very name connects to the sacred triduum–the Paschal three days we recently celebrated. His name also commemorates his birth on the Feast of Pentecost. The hagiography tells us that he was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament even as a little baby. “Each time his mother carried him to the Church he kept on looking at the Blessed Sacrament. His parents once feared he was kidnaped after he was lost but found him climbing the altar steps on his knees so that he could see the tabernacle.” A legend tells us that his first words were Jesús and María.
Pascal was a poor peasant who worked in the fields, but he longed to learn the Faith. In his early life he would carry a book with him and beg passers by to teach him the alphabet and read to him. Later he would read to others about the Faith. He joined the Reformed Franciscans at the age of 24 but remained a lay Franciscan so he could serve in the menial tasks of the community. “He chose to live in poor monasteries because he said: ‘I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance’. His jobs included serving as a cook and porter as well as the gardener and the official beggar who went around asking for alms. He lived this life in contemplation and silent meditation and often did this as he worked. He was a contemplative and had frequent ecstatic visions. He would spend the night before the altar in silence during some nights to commune with God and to meditate on the faith. But he also shrugged off those notions of him gaining a reputation coming from that pious nature.”
In 1576 he was sent to France to preach to the Protestants about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but he was almost killed by a Huguenot mob driving him out. He practiced great austerity until his death in 1592. His tomb in Spain became an immediate place of pilgrimage. Miracles were reported; within a hundred years he was canonized. “Pope Leo XIII proclaimed the saint as the ‘seraph of the Eucharist’ as well as the patron of Eucharistic congresses and affiliated associations.” Let’s ask him to help us deepen our appreciation of the Blessed Sacrament.