Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament: Holding Jesus Twice

Photography © by Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

Photography © by Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles


I am alone, and yet I’m not.  It’s silent, which is strange and disconcerting, coming as I do from a life full of noise and activity.  When I have been there a while, immersed in some reading that I can’t seem to absorb when I read it anywhere else, I notice that it is not, in fact, completely quiet.  There’s creaking and movement.  I can’t see anyone, but the fact of not being alone, not really, is slowly sinking in as a fact.

Jesus isn’t the only one with me, I think.

When our parish started Eucharistic Adoration with Exposition, a program that a small parish in the country wasn’t supposed to be able to maintain, I signed up, not because I knew what it was, but because I am, at heart, a signer-upper for things new and grand, and this sounded like it was both.

Nothing prepared me for an hour of sitting still, being in silence, and hanging out with Jesus.  Nothing in my modern life could have prepared me for an experience that is so unlike my daily hustle and bustle.  Nothing compares to spending time with Jesus, face to face.

After a while, it wasn’t a monstrance holding a Host on the altar.  I began to see Jesus there, perhaps lounging in jammy pants as I was during that crazy too-early-to-really-be-morning hour I had signed up to cover.  When my perspective changed, from a formality that saw only a pretty gold object and experienced, instead, the Real Presence of Jesus, I noticed that He was also beside me, behind me, in front of me.  I started to see Him in my daily life, as interested in the mundane things like which socks I should wear and whether I should brew more coffee.

Mary must have been pretty comfortable with Jesus.  She was, after all, His mother.  She saw Him in all those adorable and hilarious infant and toddler moments, in all the embarrassing and precious childhood moments, in all the struggling and triumphant young adult moments.  She waved goodbye when He left for His ministry; she cried in sorrow when He suffered and died.

But in that short summary, there are so many moments:  moments of joy and moments of mirth, teachable moments and learnable moments, moments of the mundane and moments of the transcendental.  Even as Mary taught her Son, she must have been learning from Him too.

Imagine Him crawling into her lap, age four, right before bed.  Can you hear her answer to His question about what He should be when He grew up?  It’s likely, though, that He assumed He would be a carpenter, like Joseph.  That question reflects my modern mind looking back on ancient life.  Even so, if she were raising Him now, what would she say?

He brought her His cuts and scrapes when He was learning to walk, and He must have picked His first flowers for her, holding them out to her with the pride of centuries of children before and centuries of children after Him. 

His life with Mary and Joseph, in so many ways, had to have been full of the ordinary moments you and I experience.  He had to do the things we don’t think about:  go to the bathroom, wash His hands, soothe Himself to sleep at night. 

While His chores wouldn’t have included walking the dog, He certainly had chores, just as children do now.  He didn’t sin, we know, but wouldn’t He have had to learn what was acceptable and what was not, as all young children do?

Mary had more reason, I suppose, to adore her Child.  He was God, after all.  That said, He gave her all of us too, and I don’t think she withholds any of her love from us.  Just as I bask in my husband’s presence, enjoy my toddler’s small body against mine, cherish my preschooler’s enthusiastic hugs, so Mary must long for us to run to her, and, through her, to her Son. 

When I spend time with Jesus—and Mary, who’s never far from her beloved Son—I open myself to the reality of presence as a spiritual connection.  When I reach out my arms, forgetting that I’m all grown up now; when I let go and stop trying to do it all myself; when I humble myself and ask for help—it is then, in that moment of grace, that I feel the arms that never let go of me, that were always there.  It is then that I see the loving gazes of Mother and Son (and Father!); it is then that I get a notion of the love God must have for me.

It is the delight of the ordinary, the experience of Jesus being interested in the silly little details of my life, that comes to mind when I hear the title Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.  Saint Peter Julian Eymard honored Mary with this title, pointing us to her intimate relationship to—and with—the Eucharist and reminding us of her role as a model for us.  She shows us how to trust, even when we may not understand God’s plan.

Mary never stopped or paused in her devotion to God.  She lived with His Son in a most intimate way, by raising Him, and she was one of a few who were able to stand at the foot of the Cross.  When it became clear that, in fact, Jesus meant for His followers to eat Him, to consume Him (and not just in a metaphorical way!) she was first in line, not because she was a raving cannibal, but because she trusted that God knew what He was doing.

Saint Eymard had a great devotion to Mary, and was a member of two different orders of monks, both devoted to Mary and both very influential to his spiritual formation.  After quite a few years of reflection and, yes, interior combat, encouraged by the pope himself (Piux IX), he founded his own order, the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament, on May 13, 1856.  Do you think Saint Eymard told God to find someone else?  Do you suppose he argued, as I so often do, that he was not worthy of such a huge task?

Saint Eymard first used the title Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, in a talk in May of 1868, when speaking to novices in his order.  Later, he would describe Mary as Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, as a statue, holding the Infant Jesus in her arms, with Jesus holding a chalice in one hand and a Host in the other.

It’s significant that the apparitions in Fatima, among the most well-known of Mary’s apparitions, began on May 13, 1917, preceded by an angel’s visit the year prior.  Both titles are celebrated on May 13 each year, and in both instances, under both titles, Mary is pointing back to her Son.

Mary’s love for Jesus started when she said “yes” to the angel Gabriel and continued throughout her life, as she said “yes” to each of the aspects of her vocation as wife and mother.  She showed her love of God, as so many women do, by living her life, fulfilling her duties, saying “yes” again and again…and again.

Imagine, for a moment, how a mother, even the mother of Jesus, expresses her love of her four-year-old, dirt under His fingernails and all over His face.  Think about the mundane task of folding the Son of God’s underwear.  Visualize the routine of daily life, making dinner, clearing dishes, working through the day, but with the child Messiah.

In each of those normal, commonplace, ordinary tasks, Mary—a human woman—shows me what it means to love Jesus.  She stands there, dirty laundry in a pile behind her, holding her Infant, and Jesus smiles at me, toothy and giggling while He holds a chalice and a Host.

They remind me, mother and Son, that when I consume the Blessed Sacrament at Communion, I am eating Jesus.  Once He’s in my body, He becomes an inseparable part of me, flowing through my blood, in me in a way that’s both intimate and a little, well, freaky.  Just as the drop of water that the priest adds to the wine during the Consecration at Mass cannot be separated, once added, from the wine, so Jesus cannot be taken away from me.  He’s IN me.

How does Jesus become such a part of my everyday life, such a part of the mundane experiences of my world?  He can’t help it, because I welcomed Him in when I ate Him.  His presence flows out from me, if I let it, and I become an instrument, cooperating with grace and living as God wants.

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament holds Jesus twice, in her arms and in the Host He holds, and she shows us how to love Him as she did.  “Go to my Son,” the image says to me, gazing down at me through the centuries.  “He’s right there, waiting for you.  Go to my Son.”

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