Christ in the Eucharist
In the eucharist, the holy communion, where we receive the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine, the Christ who came as a baby, who lived among us, and who died on the cross, is still with us.
Francis and Clare marvelled at this great gift of God – a way in which Jesus becomes tangible to us. They saw in it too God’s humility. The God who created heaven and earth chose to come to his people as a poor child, as an executed criminal, and in the simple form of bread and wine, the staple foods of the day.
Writing to all his followers, he said:
‘O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity!
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
The Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles himself
that for our salvation
He hides Himself
under an ordinary piece of bread!’
Clare too was overcome by this gift of God, and received the eucharist with tears and trembling, as well as with great devotion.
This devotion both Francis and Clare wanted to extend to the priests through whose ministry Christ was made present, and to the churches in which the eucharist was celebrated. Francis asked his brothers to treat with reverence, and to keep clean, the chalices, patens and altar cloths that were used in the Eucharist. In illness, which afflicted Clare for much of her life and kept her bedbound for some time, she was propped up in bed and spun thread to make altar linen, which she then sent to the churches round about Assisi.
This reverence they saw also as due to the words of God, by which the bread and wine were consecrated and made holy. The word of God in the bible made present Christ, the Word of God, and so Francis asked his brothers, whenever they found the written words of God not properly cared for, to gather them up and place them somewhere more fitting.
This attitude of reverence for all God’s gifts – the creation in all its parts, Christ in his life and death, the sacraments in which Christ is still made present – permeated the spirituality of Francis and Clare, and gave it a particular warmth and attractiveness.