‘With the Bread of Life and understanding, she shall feed him…’
– Ecclus. 15:3
Mary Invites us to Holy Communion
“Among the Biblical figures of Mary,” writes St. Peter Julian Eymard, “there are several which represent her inviting us to Holy Communion. Such is the table of the Temple upon which rested the loaves consecrated to the Lord. ‘Hail, Mary,’ says St. Ephraim, ‘spiritual table of faith, who dost offer the true Bread to the famished world!’
‘Why [asks Pinna] does this holy Doctor [St. Ephraim] give to Mary the title of table instead of ark, since the Ark contained the miraculous manna? Ah! it is because the Ark hid what it held; whilst the table exposed to view the food that was laid on it, and seemed to invite the guests to partake of it… It is because the Ark contained only manna, while the table holds not only bread, but all kinds of savory food and delicious drinks, also. Now, Mary, in offering Jesus to us in Holy Communion, gives us a Bread which has in Itself all flavors, and which satisfies every desire.'” ‘Instead of which things thou didst feed thy people with the food of angels, and gavest them bread from heaven prepared without labour; having in it all that is delicious, and the sweetness of every taste’ (Wis. 16:20; Cf. Communion Antiphon for XIII Sunday after Pentecost, usus antiquior).
“In another place,” continues St. Peter Julian, “Mary is compared to the [sanctuary] lamp which ought, according to the Law, to be placed very near the table of the sanctuary. ‘What means this prescription?’ asks Conti. ‘Without doubt, to light up that holy table and the sacred loaves that it holds. It is thus that Mary attracts us by the light of her inspirations, in order to show us the Eucharistic Bread which will make our delight.'”
“But a still more striking indication of Mary’s power over the dispensing of this ineffable grace of Communion, is the word of St. Peter: ‘As new-born babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation…’ (1 Pt. 2:2)
Cornelius a Lapide says that many interpreters understand by this spiritual milk the Eucharist, which in the early Church was given immediately after Baptism, and even to infants. The Eucharist has, indeed, the color of milk. Like milk, It is sweet to the taste, and like It, again, It marvelously nourishes the soul.
St. Peter’s expression, Concupiscite, “Desire ardently,” shows us with what eagerness we ought to desire this spiritual milk. ‘Do you not see,’ says St. Chrysostom, ‘with what haste little infants seize the mother’s breast? Ah! with still greater eagerness let us run to the source of this Blessed Beverage! Let us, like new-born babes, suck in the grace of the Holy Spirit.’ ‘Come over to me, all ye that desire (concupiscitis) me,’ says our Blessed Mother, ‘and be filled with my fruits’ (Ecclus. 24:26; Epistle for Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel).
The Eucharist is, then, the milk of our soul. But how suggestive of Mary is this word “milk”! Who gives the milk to the babe but the mother? ‘All you that thirst, come to the waters: and you that have no money make haste, buy, and eat: come ye, buy wine and milk without money, and without any price’ (Is. 55:1; Epistle for Feast of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, May 31).
‘Who shall give thee to me for my Brother, sucking the breasts of my Mother, that I may find Thee without, and kiss Thee, and now no man may despise me?’ (Cant. 8:1)
Mary, give us that substantial Milk of our soul!… Thou dost give us in Communion a Divine Milk, God Himself changed into milk for our weakness, for our infancy, for, as St. John Damascene declares: ‘The Virgin’s milk is changed into the Flesh of the Saviour, and it is that Milk – that Milk, itself, without doubt – that we receive at the Holy Altar…” ‘Out of the mouth of infants (infantium) and of sucklings (lactentium) thou hast perfected praise, because of thy enemies, that thou mayst destroy the enemy and the avenger.’ (Ps. 8:3)
St. Augustine, glancing from the Cross to the Altar, knew not by which God testified the more love for him, and he exclaimed: ‘… UPON THE CROSS HE OPENS TO ME HIS HEART; AT THE ALTAR, HE PRESENTS TO ME THE BREAST, AND FEEDS ME WITH DIVINE MILK!’ ‘He hath filled the hungry with good things…’ (Mary, Mother of all the Living, Lk. 1:53, echoing Ps. 106:9)
(From ‘Month of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament,’ The Sentinel Press, 1903, by Father Eymard [St. Peter Julian]; Scriptures in italics have been added)
+ Happy Feast of the Nativity of Mary, Mother of God, and our dearest Mother!
+ And happy “feast of the Littlest Souls”!