Francis and the Eucharist
For Francis, the Eucharist was the supreme proof of God’s love for the world. He was filled with wonder as he thought of the Creator reaching down to become available to mere creatures.
As Francis reflected on the life of Jesus or rather, to use Francis’ own words, as he “followed in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ”, he saw all the mysteries of the life of Christ as associated with the Eucharist. He liked to compare the consecration to the Incarnation:
‘See, daily he humbles himself as when he came from the royal throne into the womb of the Virgin; …daily he comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest.’ (Admon I)
At Greccio, when Francis celebrated the Nativity by dramatizing the Crib, it was during the celebration of the Eucharist that the Baby Jesus appeared (I Cel 86).
The connection between the Eucharist and the Passion of our Lord was particularly strong for Francis. The Last Supper always made him think of the Crucifixion; and when he himself lay dying he blessed some bread and shared it with his brothers as a farewell meal (Mirror of Perf. 88).
We notice that Francis’ prayer whenever he entered a church refers to the Crucifix rather than to the Blessed Sacrament:
‘We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all your churches throughout the world, and we bless you, for through your holy cross you have redeemed the world.’ (Testament, 4)
It is probable that the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved in the tiny churches Francis visited. It was the crucifix that caught his attention: it was the presence of the Crucified Saviour that Francis venerated in each church.
Francis reminded priests and others who, like himself, were ministers of the Eucharist to be aware of their great privilege and to treat the Eucharist with great care and honour (Lett. to Clerics).
For Francis, however, the Eucharist was not just a sacrament to be surrounded with reverence and worshipped from afar. He urged people to receive it with faith (Admon. I). He saw in the sacrament of the Eucharist a relationship of mutual giving:
‘Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that
He who gives himself totally to you
may receive you totally.’ (Lett. to Entire Order, 29)
For us as for Francis, receiving the Eucharist with faith will transform our lives as we “follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ”.