By Denise Trull
This Saturday evening is the vigil of Corpus Christi! I love how every Solemnity has a vigil, as though the Church just cannot wait to begin the celebration! And what a celebration this day deserves. This holy feast rings with praise and physical beauty. It is a day of singing, flowers strewn with abandon, incense wafting in great billows of adoration, sweet little girls in first Communion finery leading in the golden monstrances shining in the sun — monstrances that hold in their center the smallest thing in the procession, Jesus.
It struck me this morning that thought. He is the smallest and simplest part of the Eucharistic procession. Under the appearances of the bread, a little white O. And not only the smallest. He has willed that we carry Him. He cannot get from one place to the other unless we carry Him. He cannot be lifted up unless the priest lifts Him up to be adored. He has made Himself dependent on us. Would we depend on us for such a thing? Would we be able to be this humble? It is something to ponder. This is our God. How helpless He has made Himself so that He can be carried by one human to the other. That we are a real and essential part of His plan to be carried to the ends of the earth. It leaves the mind in a holy kind of fear to be depended upon so wholly by our God, and we whisper anew in wonder, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
One of the first saints that caught my heart when I was in first grade was St. Tarcisius. When Sister Mary Brendan read his story to us, that was the first time I realized how real the whole thing was.
Here was this small Roman boy, a new Christian with all the other Christians under the care of Pope Sixtus during the times of persecution under Emperor Valerian. Many of the Christians were discovered, rounded up and sent to prison where they would anxiously await their deaths. Knowing their desperate need for grace to face martyrdom, the Christian prisoners asked one thing before they died: to receive the Holy Mysteries. They sent an urgent message to Pope Sixtus who dwelled deeply in the catacombs with the other Christians in hiding. Their spiritual father understood this great need. He wanted to go himself, but the Romans knew his face and he would be caught and the Mysteries desecrated. So, he asked for a volunteer to carry the Holy Body of Jesus across the city to the jail. Up pops young Tarcisius. He was young, small, not the obvious choice, but holy Sixtus saw something there. He entrusted this young boy with the Body of Jesus, so he could bring it to the prisoners.
Tarcisius tucked Jesus under his shirt, near his heart and protected Him with all of his young strength. We all know the story. He was confronted by his Roman friends who surrounded him as only a mob of young bullies can. They baited and teased him, called him names. They noticed he had something under his tunic and demanded to see. Tarcisius held Jesus fast to his heart. The boys tried to grab the Eucharist but his arms suddenly became like iron bands. Finally, in anger, they picked up rocks and stoned him to death. Young as he was, Tarcisius never let go of Jesus. Jesus, so small and helpless, had depended on someone just as small and helpless to bring Him to others. Pope Sixtus had chosen wisely. The dying boy was carried to the pope in the protecting arms of a Christian soldier and Sixtus was able to tell him gently, “Tarcisius, Jesus is safe. You can let Him go now.” Only then did he open his hands to give him tenderly to the pope. “I did not let Him go” were his last words of love.
It's good to remember this. We so often forget. Jesus depends on us, small as we may feel. He depends on the priest to call Him down to the altar of sacrifice. He depends on the priest to hold Him tenderly and in wonder. He depends on him to feed us in Holy Communion. And he depends on us to carry Him from there out to the world. It is like one, continuous Eucharistic procession. May our hearts have the "arms of iron" to never let Him be dishonored.
Blessed be the Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ!