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Why would something so inconceivably awesome and powerful — the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ — elect to remain hidden, as it were, under the appearance of mere bread in the Eucharist? Something so mighty and majestic in the form of the meager?
Perhaps to help us with a primordial and perennial problem. After Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden eat the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, paradise begins to collapse around them. “When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gn 3:8). A sound that formerly elated them now plunges them in shame.
In the Eucharist, Jesus calls to us just as God called to his guilty children: Where are you? (Gn 3:9). God never stops seeking for us, and he does so with more than just words — he calls to us with his very self.
The hiddenness of Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist is meant to convince us that God can use our temptation to hide for the purposes of his glory. When something is hidden, we have to look harder in order to find the one hidden. But that finding is a cause of joy! Through the Eucharist, hiding itself has been transformed from an act of shame into one of profound mercy.
As the 7th century spiritual writer, Isaac of Nineveh, prays:
I give praise to your holy nature, Lord,
for you have made my nature
a sanctuary for your hiddenness
and a tabernacle for your Mysteries,
a place where you can dwell,
and a holy temple for your divinity.
Through the Holy Eucharist, Jesus calls us back to Paradise, throwing off our shame. He constantly beckons, Where are you … but adding now in the Eucharist … because I want to be with you?” As God searched for Adam and Eve hidden among the trees, we in faith search for God “hidden” in the tabernacle. The 8th-century mystic, Joseph the Visionary, asks:
Cause to reside in me
a faith that beholds your Mysteries,
so that I may behold your sacrifice as you are,
and not as I am.
Create eyes in me, and so may I see with your eyes,
for I cannot see with my own eyes.
May my mind travel inwards
towards the hiddenness of your sacrifice.
Installments in this series can be found each week here: Real Presence