The influence of Christ, our Redeemer, is vital to our sanctification. It is through graces and the sacraments—most notably, the Eucharist—that he communicates with us without fail throughout our lives.
Christ's reference to himself as the vine, and we the branches, illustrates the role the he plays in our spiritual life. He is the source of life and we draw our strength and nourishment from him.
"As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing." (1)
St. Paul uses the metaphor of Christ the head, always communicating to us, the body.
"Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member." (2)
But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in him who is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in charity." (3)
He is always listening, always waiting for us to seek him. When we do, he will answer with a resounding "Yes!"
"Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." (4)
According to this doctrine, the Savior communicates to us the vital influx of grace (of which the source is God Himself considered in His divine nature), as the head communicates to the members the vital influx, the principle of which is in the soul.
Clearly to understand this teaching, we must distinguish between the divinity and the humanity of Christ. Jesus, as the Word, dwells, as do the Father and the Holy Ghost, in the center, in the depths of our soul. He is closer to it than it is to itself; He preserves its natural and its supernatural life.
By operating grace, (5) He moves it [the soul] to the deepest, most secret acts, which it could not produce by itself. (6)
THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST
In baptism, the matter is the water; in the Eucharist, the matter is the wafer, in the sacrament of penance, it is the verbal confession of sins, etc. Through these specific prescribed types of matter, God communicates a transitory divine power that allows grace to be conferred.
Though Christ's sacred humanity cannot dwell in our soul, the soul is under the continual influence of his humanity through the influx of grace, much like the head to all members of the body.
Since at every waking moment we have some duty to accomplish, Christ’s humanity communicates to us from minute to minute the actual grace of the present moment, as the air we breathe continually enters our lungs.
God, the Author of grace, makes use of Christ’s humanity to communicate grace to us, as a great artist uses an instrument to transmit his musical thought to us, or as a great thinker uses his own style, his more or less rich language, to express himself.
Thus, the seven sacraments are like the strings of a lyre from which God alone can, by His divine touch, draw music. The Savior’s humanity is a conscious, free, and superior instrument, ever united to the divinity in order to communicate to us all the graces that we receive and that Christ merited for us on the cross. (8)
THE SANCTIFYING INFLUENCE OF THE SAVIOR THROUGH THE EUCHARIST
We receive Christ's sanctifying influence most intensely through the Eucharist. In a sensual, metaphorical way, Christ repeatedly referred to the Eucharist as the "bread" of life, bread being a major source of nourishment during that period in history.
During the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, he promised eternal life to all those who partake of his body and blood.
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world." (9)
The magnitude of this promise is revealed in the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Christ changed the substance of the bread into his own body, allowing him to remain sacramentally among us after his ascension into heaven.
Likewise, he instituted the priesthood to perpetuate that sacramental presence until the end of time. "And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me." (10)
The apostles then received the power to consecrate, to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, which perpetuates in substance the sacrifice of the cross in order to apply its fruits, its merits, and its satisfactions to us until the end of the world. In the Mass, the principal priest is Christ, who continues to offer Himself sacramentally. As St. Paul says, He is “always living to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7: 25). He does this especially in the Holy Sacrifice.
By reason of the principal priest and of the victim offered, of the precious blood sacramentally shed, this sacrifice has an infinite value. At the same time, Christ offers to His Father our adoration, our supplication, our reparation, our thanksgiving, all the salutary acts of His mystical body. (11)
Because the Mass is celebrated not occasionally, but on a continual basis every minute of the day, Christ grants to his Church those particular graces needed at a specific moment in time, be that in the catacombs, during the barbarian invasions or the iron centuries of the Middle Ages. These graces continue even today to strengthen us for never-ending battle. And not only is he present to us during the Sacrifice of the Mass, but his presence continues in the tabernacle.
COMMUNION IS THE CONSUMMATION OF THE GIFT OF SELF
The radiating goodness of God is diffusive; it attracts, giving itself to vivify us and enrich us spiritually. In Communion, he gives himself to us to make us more like him—the gift of life, itself.
Communion should assimilate us increasingly into Christ, through a deepening of humility, faith, confidence, and most importantly, charity. Thus, each Communion should be more fervent than the last. Our love for God should intensify, causing us to receive him the next time with an even greater fervor of will. Our progression toward God should accelerate as we are consistently drawn toward he who attracts us.
St. Thomas Aquinas expressed this attraction in his Adoro te devote, latens Deitas (12)
I adore Thee devoutly, O hidden Deity, who art truly hidden beneath these figures; my heart submits entirely to Thee, and faints in contemplating Thee.
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere
Make me believe Thee ever more and more, hope in Thee, and love Thee.
O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus, vitam praestans homini:
Praesta meae menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.
O memorial of the death of the Lord! Living bread giving life to man, grant that my soul may live by Thee and ever taste Thee with delight!
Pie pellicane, Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine.
Merciful Pelican, Jesus Lord, unclean I am, cleanse me in Thy blood, of which a single drop suffices to cleanse the entire world of all its sin.
Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Ora fiat illud, quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae. Amen.
Jesus, whom I now behold beneath these veils, grant, I pray Thee, what so ardently I desire, that contemplating Thee face to face, the vision of Thy glory may make me blessed. Amen.
The more often that a soul avails itself of Mass and Communion, the more quickly it will acquire greater intimacy with God, the intimacy—Garrigou-Lagrange writes, that is the mystical life.
The gifts of the Holy Ghost would grow proportionately in it, and it would attain to an increasingly more penetrating and delightful contemplation of the great mystery of our altars, of the infinite value of the Mass, which is like an eminent spring of ever new graces to which all succeeding generations must come and drink, that they may have the strength to arrive at the end of their journey towards eternity. (13)
Christ told St. Augustine: “I am the bread of the strong . . . Thou wilt not convert Me into thee, as the food of thy flesh; but thou shalt be converted into Me.” (14) Those who justly receive him in Holy Communion will become increasingly incorporated in Him, guided through life by God's thought and by his love.
"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (15)
Next: The Influence of Mary, Mediatrix
(1) John 15:4-5
(2) 1 Corinthians 12:27
(3) Ephesians 4:15-16
(4) Matthew 6:33
(6) Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, O.P., "The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I," trans. Sister M. Timothea Doyle, O.P., Illinois: Tan Books, 1989, p110
(8) Garrigou-Lagrange, p111
(9) John 6:51-52
(10) Luke 22:19
(11) Garrigou-Lagrange, p114
(13) Garrigou-Lagrange, p116
(14) Confessions, Bk. VII, chap. 10
(15) Philippians 1:21