The Bread That Our Heavenly Mother Gives Us
The Holy Eucharist is the Bread that comes from our Heavenly Mother. It is Bread produced by Mary from the flour of Her immaculate flesh, kneaded into dough with Her virginal milk. St. Augustine wrote, “Jesus took His Flesh from the flesh of Mary.“
We know, too, that united to the Divinity in the Eucharist there is Jesus' Body and Blood taken from the body and blood of the Blessed Virgin. Therefore at every Holy Communion we receive, it would be quite correct, and a very beautiful thing, to take notice of our Holy Mother's sweet and mysterious presence, inseparably united with Jesus in the Host. Jesus is always the Son She adores. He is Flesh of Her flesh and Blood of Her blood. If Adam could call Eve when she had been taken from his rib, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh“ (Gen. 2:23), cannot the holy Virgin Mary even more rightly call Jesus “Flesh of My flesh and Blood of My blood“? Taken from the “intact Virgin“ as says St. Thomas Aquinas, the flesh of Jesus is the maternal flesh of Mary, the Blood of Jesus is the maternal blood of Mary. Therefore it will never be possible to separate Jesus from Mary.
For this reason at every Holy Mass which is celebrated, the Blessed Virgin can repeat with truth to Jesus in the Host and in the Chalice, “You are My Son, today I have generated You“ (Ps 2:7). And justly St. Augustine teaches us that in the Eucharist “Mary extends and perpetuates Her Divine Maternity“, while St. Albert the Great exhorts with love, “My Soul if you wish to experience intimacy with Mary let yourself be carried between Her arms and nourished with Her blood“ ... Go with this ineffable chaste thought to the banquet of God and you will find in the Blood of the Son the nourishment of the Mother.
Many Saints and theologians (St. Peter Damien, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Bernadine ... say that Jesus instituted the Eucharist above all for Mary and then through Mary, the Universal Mediatrix of All Graces, for all of us. And from Mary therefore Jesus comes to be given to us day by day; and in Jesus is always the Immaculate flesh and the Virginal blood of His Most Holy Mother which penetrates into our hearts and inebriates our souls. In an ecstasy during the celebration of Holy Mass, St. Ignatius of Loyola contemplated one day the reality revealed by this most sweet truth and he remained celestially moved for a long time.
Furthermore, if we reflect that Jesus, the Fruit of Mary's immaculate womb, constitutes all of Mary's love, all of Her sweetness, all of Her tenderness, Her whole riches, Her whole life, then we see that when we receive Him we cannot fail to also receive Her who, by ties of the highest love, as well as by ties of flesh and blood, forms with Jesus one unity, one whole, as She is always and inseparably “leaning upon Her Beloved“ (Cant. 8:5). Is it not true that love, and above all divine love, unites and unifies? And aside from the Unity in the bosom of the Blessed Trinity, can we think of a unity more close and total than that between Jesus and the Virgin Mary?
Mary's purity, Her virginity, Her tender ways, Her sweet manner, Her love, and even the very features of Her heavenly face — all these we find in Jesus; for the most holy humanity assumed by the Word is wholly and only Mary's humanity, on account of the great mystery of the virginal Conception accomplished by the Holy Spirit, Who made Mary Jesus' Mother, while consecrating Her as a Virgin that would be forever undefiled and glorious in soul and body.
And thus “The Eucharist,“ writes St. Albert the Great, “produces impulses of a love that is angelic, and It has the unique power to put in souls a holy feeling of tenderness toward the Queen of Angels. She has given us what is Flesh of Her flesh and Bone of Her bone, and in the Eucharist She continues to give us this sweet, virginal, heavenly banquet.“
Finally, in the eternal generation of the Word in the bosom of the Trinity, the Father gives Himself wholly to the Son, Who is “Mirror of the Father“, similarly in the temporal generation of the same Word in the bosom of humanity, the Mother of God gives Herself wholly to the Son, to Her Jesus, “the virginal Flower of the Virgin Mother“ (Pius XII). And the Son in His turn gives Himself wholly to the Mother, making Himself similar to Her and making Her “fully Godlike“ (St. Peter Damian).
St. Peter Julian Eymard, that Saint so totally devoted to the Eucharist, declared that even in this world, after Jesus' Ascension into Heaven, the Blessed Virgin “lived a life in and by the Blessed Sacrament“; and thus he liked to call Her “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.“ And Padre Pio of Pietrelcina would sometimes say to his spiritual children, “Do you not see the Madonna always beside the tabernacle?“ And how could She fail to be there She who “stood by the cross of Jesus“ on Calvary (John 19:25)? Therefore St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his book of devotions, used to always join a visit to the Blessed Virgin Mary to each visit to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. And Saint Maximilian M. Kolbe used to recommend that when we go before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we never fail to remember Mary's presence, calling on Her and associating ourselves with Her, at least seeing to it that Her sweet name comes to mind.
In the life of the Dominican friar, St. Hyacinth, we read that once in order to avoid a profanation of the Blessed Sacrament, the Saint hastened to the tabernacle to take out the ciborium containing the sacred Particles, in order to put it in a safer place. When, hugging Jesus in the Eucharist close to his breast, he was about to leave the altar, he heard a voice coming from the statue of the Blessed Virgin which was next to the altar, saying, “What? Would you take Jesus away without taking Me?“ The Saint halted in surprise. He understood the message, but he did not know how he could manage to carry Mary's statue too. Puzzled, he drew near the statue to see if he could take it with his one free hand. There was no need to strain himself, for the statue became as light as a feather. There is a precious lesson in this miracle: When we take Mary along with Jesus, She adds absolutely no weight or cost, for in a wonderful way They abide in one another (John 6:57).
The reply St. Bernadette Soubirous gave was very beautiful, when someone put this tricky question to her: “What would please you more, to receive Holy Communion, or to see the Madonna in the grotto?“ The little Saint thought for a minute and then answered, “What a strange question! The two cannot be separated. Jesus and Mary always go together.“
The Madonna and the Holy Eucharist are by the nature of things united inseparably “even to the end of the world“ (Mt. 28:20). For Mary with Her body and soul is the heavenly “tabernacle of God“ (Apoc. 21:3). She is the incorruptible Host, “holy and immaculate“ (Eph. 5:27), who, with Her very self, clothes the Word of God made Man. St. Germain ventured to call Her “sweet paradise of God.“ According to a pious opinion, supported by the ecstasies and visions of St. Veronica Giuliani and especially those of Blessed Magdalen Martinengo, within Her breast the Blessed Virgin in paradise preserves and will always preserve Jesus in a visible Host; and this is for Her “eternal consolation, is an occasion of rejoicing for all the blessed inhabitants of Heaven, and in particular is an everlasting joy to all devotees of the Blessed Sacrament.“ This is represented in the “Madonna Mediatrice Universale,“ which Mother Speranza in recent times has painted and which has been placed in the Shrine at Collevalenza. It is the same as the image often reproduced in monstrances (sacred stands for exposing the Holy Eucharist for adoration) of the last century, which represent the Madonna, and make a place in Her breast for the visible cavity in which the consecrated Host is put. “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee!“ cried the woman amid the crowd (Lk. 11:27). Thus in some of the churches in France the tabernacle used to be encased in a statue of Our Lady of the Assumption. The significance is quite clear: it is always the Blessed Virgin Mary who gives us Jesus, Who is the blessed Fruit of Her virginal womb and the Heart of Her Immaculate Heart. And She will forever continue to carry Jesus in the Holy Eucharist within Her breast so as to present Him for the joyful contemplation of the Saints in Heaven, to whom it is even now given to see His divine Person in the Eucharistic Species, according to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.
It is in the Eucharist, and especially in Holy Communion, that our union with the Madonna becomes a full and loving conformity with Her. We receive Her devoted care and protection along with the Blessed Sacrament. Her tender attentions overlook nothing as Christ is united to each of us, Her children, moving Her to pour out all Her motherly love on our souls and bodies. The great St. Hilary, Father and Doctor of the Church, wrote this excellent passage: “The greatest joy that we can give Mary is that of bearing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament within our breast.“ Her motherly union with Jesus becomes a union also with whoever is united to Jesus, especially in Holy Communion. And what can give as much joy to one who loves, as union with the person loved? And we do we not happen to be beloved children of the heavenly Mother?
When we go before Jesus on the altar, we always find Him “with Mary His Mother,“ as the Magi did at Bethlehem (Mt. 2:11). And Jesus in the sacred Host, from the altar of our hearts, can repeat to each of us what He said to St. John the Evangelist from the altar of Calvary, “Behold thy Mother“ (John 19:27).
St. Augustine beautifully illustrates even better how Mary makes Herself our own and unites Herself to each one of us in Holy Communion. He says, “The Word is the Food of the angels. Men have not the strength to feed It to themselves, nor need they do so. What is needed is a mother who may eat this supersubstantial Bread, transform it into her milk, and in this way feed her poor children. This mother is Mary. She nourishes Herself with the Word and transforms It into the Sacred Humanity. She transforms It into Flesh and Blood, i.e., into this sweetest of milk which is called the Eucharist.“
Thus it is quite natural that the great as well as the lesser Marian shrines always foster devotion to the Holy Eucharist, so much so that they can also be called Eucharistic shrines. Lourdes, Fatima, Loretto, Pompei, come to mind, where crowds approach the altar in almost endless lines to receive Mary's blessed Fruit. It cannot be otherwise; for there is no bond so close and so sweet with the Madonna, as the one realized in receiving the Holy Eucharist. Jesus and Mary “always go together,“ as St. Bernadette said.
Remember, too, that at Fatima the Madonna asked that, together with the holy Rosary, there be above all the Communion of Reparation for all the offenses and outrages which Her Immaculate Heart receives. She is looking for loving hearts that want to console Her by welcoming Her into their home, as St. John the Evangelist did (John 19:27). We truly welcome Her in the home of our hearts with the warmest hospitality, the hospitality dearest to Her, every time we invite Her company by way of our receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, when we present Her with the living, true Jesus for Her great comfort and delight. We need to appreciate what a great grace this is to have the Madonna's full care and attention with Jesus and in Jesus. Ah, St. Ambrose wanted all Christians to have “Mary's soul to magnify the Lord and Mary's spirit to exult in God“! This is the favor granted us in the noblest way in every Holy Communion. Let us reflect on it with love and gratitude.
One of the old monstrances made in the figure of Mary carrying the Holy Eucharist in Her breast has these words inscribed on its base: “O Christian who comest full of faith to receive the Bread of life, eat It worthily, and remember that It was fashioned out of Mary's pure blood.“ Mary can quite rightfully beckon to us and speak to us in the words of the inspired prophet, “Come and eat my bread, drink the wine I have prepared“ (Prov. 9:5). Saint Maximilian M. Kolbe wanted to convey the thought of this passage when he proposed that all altars of the Blessed Sacrament be surmounted with a statue of the Immaculate Virgin with Her arms extended to invite us all to come eat the Bread that She Herself had made.
With beautiful imagery, St. Gregory of Tours said that Mary's Immaculate bosom is the heavenly cupboard, well-stocked with the Bread of Life that was made in order to feed Her children. “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the paps that gave Thee suck!“ exclaimed a certain woman to Jesus (Lk. 11:27). The Immaculate Virgin carried Jesus within Her while His Body was being formed from Her own flesh and Her own blood. Thus every time we go to Holy Communion, something sweet to recall is that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the Bread of Life produced from Mary with the flour of Her Immaculate flesh, kneaded with the admixture of Her virginal milk. She has made this for us, Her children. And we realize more fully our brotherhood with one another as we all partake of this savory, exquisite Bread of our Mother.