During the season of Advent, we spend time contemplating Jesus’ coming to us in the flesh as a little baby after being carried in His mother’s womb for nine months. We also contemplate what it means to prepare for His second coming. We are still going to think about those things, but we’ll do it a little bit differently this season.
Earlier this year, the bishops of the United States called for a 3-year period of Eucharistic Renewal in which we intensely focus on the Eucharist and the true presence of Jesus Christ within the Sacrament. For each week’s Advent reflection, I have selected one word that links the mystery of the Incarnation to the mystery of the Eucharist, showing how the Eucharist we consume at every Mass is one and the same as the Jesus that was born in the flesh to a virgin in Bethlehem.
The word we’ll reflect on this week is light. Jesus called Himself the “light of the world,” (Jn 8:12), and within the gospels there are many references to light referring to His conception and birth. After the birth of John the Baptist, while Mary was still pregnant with Jesus, Zechariah’s tongue was untied, and he prophesied. With his son preparing the way, he says, “…the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death…” (Lk 1:78-79). Even before Jesus was born, it was clear that He would be the light that the world, darkened by sin, desperately needed. Immediately following the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the wise men followed the light of the Christmas star to find Him, and they said, “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him,” (Mt 2:2). Similarly, the shepherds in the fields learned of the baby’s birth through an experience with light. “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear,” (Lk 2:9). Hence, Jesus entered into humanity, not only as a vulnerable infant, but also as one bathed in light, since He was the light of the world as He described Himself as an adult.
John’s gospel is a little different than the other three, as he does not provide a narrative account of the birth of Christ. However, even his introduction is rooted in the theme of light. John wrote, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (Jn 1:4-5). He then echoes Zechariah’s prophecy when he says about John the Baptist, “He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone was coming into the world,” (Jn 1:7-9). So, as John opens his gospel with a description of Jesus being the Incarnate “Word of God,” it is in the context of that Word being light.
The very first joyful mystery of the rosary is the Annunciation of Christ, where we reflect on the Angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that she will become the Mother of God. What is the very last mystery of the luminous mysteries of the rosary (the mysteries of light)? It is the Institution of the Eucharist, when we reflect on how Jesus gave us the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Jesus was not just the light of the world in only His human form. He remains the visible and tangible light of the world in the same flesh in the Eucharist, which is continually celebrated around the world every single day. When the priest elevates the host during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he is elevating the very same flesh and light. Look at that light and see it shining before you! It is more beautiful than any earthly light and it is the light that will lead you to your salvation. The Church says,
The Eucharist is the “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself…” (CCC #1324).
Why do you think the Eucharist is the source and summit of our life and that toward which all of our activities ought to be ordered? It is because the Eucharist is truly Jesus, and He is the light of the world!
A monstrance is a special vessel used to hold a consecrated host for the purpose of adoration and benediction. Have you ever noticed that most, if not all, monstrances are in the form of a sun? Jesus is the Eucharist at the center with the rays of light extending outward. The connection between the Word of God in the flesh and the Sacrament of the Eucharist are intimately bound up in light. In his first letter, St. John tells us, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all,” (1 Jn 1:5). Additionally, in the Gospel of John, Jesus, Himself says, “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness,” (Jn 12:46). As the light, Jesus leads us out of the darkness of sin to live in the light of His presence, which we can experience on Earth through the Eucharist. The Church takes every opportunity to direct us to that reality, not just verbally, but also visibly. These aren’t coincidences, but rather, they are intentional tools used to enhance our spiritual life and growth.
Think about the theme of light this week, both through Jesus’ appearance in light as a baby and in the Eucharist. When you see the Eucharist, see His light. When you taste the Eucharist, feel His warmth. I also invite you to spend some time in an Adoration chapel this week. See Jesus as an infant in the center of the monstrance and know that the flesh before you is the same flesh that Mary carried in her womb and bore for you. See the rays of light emanating from the infant in the center. Thank God for not abandoning us after His resurrection and ascension by giving us the Eucharist, which is the constant and continual presence of His light in this world darkened by sin.