Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
Even before the Fall, Adam experienced a need deep at the core of our humanity — as God says, It is not good for the man to be alone (Gn 2:18). What God declares we have all felt. “To be myself I need someone else. Alone, we cannot be ourselves” (L. Giussani).
There is a searing passage in the memoirs of the composer Hector Berlioz. He writes, “It is difficult to put into words what I suffered — the longing that seemed to be tearing my heart out by the roots, the dreadful sense of being alone in an empty universe. I suffered agonies, struggling against the crushing sense of absence, against a mortal isolation.”
The simple truth is that “we need the presence in our lives of what is real and permanent so that we can approach it” (Joseph Ratzinger). The Holy Eucharist is that Presence. We approach it in Holy Communion. This Real Presence is a real remedy for our longing, anguish, and isolation.
In Introduction to Christianity, Cardinal Ratzinger reflects on a fear nearly universal among people: that of being alone in a room with a dead body. We cannot be “reasoned” out of that fear. But he points to one thing instantly effective in quelling such a fear: someone we love coming to be with us in that room. Presence allays our worst fears.
Presence is always an approximation of our longing for an end to barriers. Presence is to know that there are experiences that lessen the dread of separation, loneliness, and even death (Ralph Harper).
One of the greatest forms of suffering is the experience of neglect. Jeff VanVonderen, a certified intervention professional, writes: “Neglect (failing to meet needs when present or not being present at all) says, ‘You are not important enough for me to be here for you.’” The mystery of the Eucharist is the antidote for neglect. The Eucharistic Christ constantly assures us:
You are not alone! Here is a Presence you can approach — real and permanent. I am present in the Eucharist to put down the barriers that hold you back … to end the domination of dread. What remains is the persevering promise … one I never cease to repeat: You are important enough for Me to be here for you.
Installments in this series can be found each week here: Real Presence