What’s Most Real 

I’m a big believer in having a daily routine.  The year before I entered seminary, my daily routine consisted of waking up at 6:30 and getting to daily Mass at 7:30am on my way to work. After work, I’d get some exercise before making myself something for dinner. Then I’d go to a nearby church that had perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. There, I’d spend 30min sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, trying to figure out my life. One night in the chapel, after spewing forth my well-worn litany of concerns, I found myself just sitting there quietly. Then, suddenly, I realized that all that chatter and noise that I had just thrown at Our Lord displayed in the monstrance was nothing compared to what was flowing forth from the Sacred Host out toward me.  In fact, if you could pool together all of the prayers that human beings have offered to God since the beginning of time, the sum total would be infinitely less than a moment’s worth of grace poured forth from the Blessed Sacrament. I had been treating Our Lord in the Eucharist as inert and passive, receiving our petitions and filing them somewhere among everyone else’s requests.  But the truth is that the Eucharistic Host radiates the life of God.  As we sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration, an ocean of grace flows over us and through us, intensifying our desire to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, through which we grow in grace and His divine likeness. 

That evening in the chapel, I started to understand in a new way that the invisible world is somehow more solid than the visible world, that Heaven is a more real place than earth. C.S. Lewis captures this well in his 1945 novel The Great Divorce.  It’s a story about a man’s experience going to Heaven. When he arrives, he notices that he is a kind of gray, ghost-like shadow.  In contrast, the landscape in Heaven is extraordinarily beautiful, with every feature much weightier than its earthly version. The grass in Heaven, for example, is so hard that it hurts his ghostly feet to walk on it. And while the narrator can tolerate the early morning light of Heaven, he is told that the full sunlight of day is like a crushing weight to one who lives as a shadow. But as one progresses into Heaven, he or she becomes more solid, more real, and thus able to flourish and delight in the fullness of life that is lived there. What I find helpful about Lewis’ speculations is how they reverse the false notion of Heaven as somehow a shadowy realm, and that the things of God are somehow less real than the material world we live in. As Catholics, we must develop a sacramental imagination, which will help us to realize that the Eucharist is the most real, the most weighty and solid thing in the world. Thus we will have a greater understanding of the Mass as the most intense experience of reality that we can have in this life because it is a foretaste of Heaven, which is reality at its most real.

posted 8/13/22

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