Preparation and Thanksgiving for the Eucharist

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, Maronite Servant of Christ the Light

The greatest privilege and gift in our lives as Maronite Catholics is to receive the Lord of lords and King of kings, Jesus Christ, into our souls in the Eucharist.

Reflect on this just briefly, that He who made the stars, the oceans, the sky, the sun, the moon, and the entire universe comes down ever so lovingly at the words of His priests, and becomes our food and drink to nourish and sustain our souls. He is the One who loves us beyond all telling and measure, and longs to dwell within us and become one with us. 

This amazing gift of God becoming our food and drink requires from us some preparation before receiving Him and thanksgiving after. Many of us would come to a dinner invitation with an important dignitary prepared with something in hand, and looking respectable, and I am certain that we would not come late either. In a similar way, the Liturgy is the ultimate invitation for us to dine at the supper of the Lamb, which requires important preparation.  

Before Receiving the Eucharist

The Catholic Church sets out specific guidelines regarding how we should prepare ourselves to receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. First, you must be in a state of grace, which means that you must be free of all mortal sin. To receive the Eucharist without being in a state of grace profanes the Holy Mysteries in the most grievous manner. If you are in mortal sin, the Church requires that you go to Confession before approaching to receive the Eucharist.

Also, you must believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. According to the most recent 2019 Pew Poll, only one third of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the Real Body and Blood of Christ. We must remember that at the Last Supper, Jesus held what appeared to be bread and wine, yet said: “This is my body. . . . This is my blood” (Mark 14:22-24, cf. Luke 22:14-20).

Also, we must observe a Eucharistic fast. Canon law states, “One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion” (CIC 919 §1). 

All of the above are minimum requirements established by the Church in preparing to receive the Eucharist. Here are a few tips to help you ready yourself before Divine Liturgy, and place yourself within a prayerful and reverent mindset for your awesome encounter with God.

·      Before Divine Liturgy, read the Sunday’s Epistle and Gospel readings in order to sharpen your focus on the feast that is about to be celebrated.  
·      Come a little early before Divine Liturgy begins. 
·      Bring your intentions before the Lord in prayer, He wants to hear them all. The most powerful time to offer these intentions is before Divine Liturgy begins, and this will keep you focused on the prayers, as you participate with purpose and meaning.

Thanksgiving After Receiving the Eucharist

There is nothing that delights the Lord more than a grateful heart. In all relationships, especially in marriages, one of the greatest dangers is to start to take the other for granted. In a similar way, we can become accustomed or used to the Liturgy and the Eucharist that we start to take the Lord for granted, and forget to thank Him for the gift of Himself.

On Sunday many are busy, rushing to get lunch prepared, gathering family and friends, greeting one another, and so forth, but I encourage you to spend a little time after Liturgy to offer intentional prayers of thanksgiving, which can be found in our Maronite Book of Offering, or online, or in any Catholic devotional.  


The Announcement to Zechariah Compared to the Announcement to Mary

A homily by Fr. Herbert Nicholls at the Mother of Light Convent, Saturday, November 23, 2019.

Today we end the week of reflection on the Announcement to Zechariah, but today I want to site the text in comparison to the Announcement to Mary, and her reaction to the message. 

 A 16th century writer, John of Silence, suggests that we are so familiar with this story of Mary that we imagine that we are able to make sense of it. But sometimes we are blinded by what lies right before our eyes. Aristotle said: Our eyes are like those of an owl. The eyes of the owl are blinded by the brilliance of daylight, so too the intelligence of the soul is blind to what in itself, is most evident.

John calls attention to the response of Mary when she is asked to effectively abandon the future that she has planned for herself. She had never contemplated becoming a mother, but remaining a virgin, consecrated to God. But God’s mysterious plan calls for a leap of faith. She is being asked to believe something which is humanely impossible.

She will conceive without the presence of a man, that it will be the work of God, and why is it that God had chosen her as His humble handmaid? Yet, as extraordinary as the message is, Mary does not wrestle to understand it, but she believes it.

There is a similarity in the way the angel asks Zechariah and Mary, but the way in which they respond clarify the difference. Mary responds, “how can this be?” Zechariah responds, “how can I know this?” Mary’s thoughts are about this! She pondered and reflected upon it. Zechariah’s thoughts were about himself. Mary goes to the heart of the matter, concretely and soberly wondering: How shall I conduct myself in relationship to Joseph? Would he be willing to stand by her side when her reputation was tarnished? Would he be able to endure scornful remarks and disparaging glances? And if he did not stand by her, would she be stoned to death? Despite all these terrifying prospects, Mary had the strength to say, Be it done into me, according to your word (Lk 1:38).

Moreover, Mary put aside her day to day activity to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was with child in her advanced years. It is there in the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth that the work of the Holy Spirit is manifest, in the womb of Mary, recognized by the child of Elizabeth, and by the burst of singing by the two women.

It is the two women who take center stage, there is no male voice to be heard. Zechariah is in no position to speak, much less to sing. Because he could not understand, he would not believe. His heart was not in it.

When Mary spoke her decisive word, Be it done into me, according to your word (Lk 1:38).
God’s word and Mary’s word became one for the first time since the Fall in the Garden. At that moment total agreement between God and man reigned in harmony. 

When God said, Let there be light and there was light, when God said through the angel, Let my Son be born in you, Mary answered, Let it be! And the word became flesh and dwelt among us. The greatest word that a human being has ever uttered is so simple.

Yet some will question: is that all? Yes, that is all. She said, “yes”, and she allowed God to be God! God cannot enter into a heart that is only half-way full. How much more blessed our life would be if we learned from Mary to be whole-hearted. If we learned like Mary to say, Be it done into me, according to your word (Lk 1:38). But too often we stand defiantly before God and say, I will not serve! And perhaps God will respond as He did to Zechariah, Be still and know that I AM God (Ps 46). 


Pro-Life Witness – Assonet, MA

On Saturday, November 9, Sr. Natalie Sayde attended the “Come and See” Ladies meeting at St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church in Assonet, MA. Sister presented a pro-life witness of the personal story of her conception, and how her parents felt pressured to abort by medical personnel.   Sr. Natalie Sayde only recently learned the full truth about her conception story and shared it with all the ladies as a testament to the power of life, love and prayer. 

Saturday of Consecration Week

A homily by Fr. Herbert Nichols

During this week we have focused on John 17; the prayer of Consecration by Jesus of His Church and of His children as a “temple of Christ.” Today we backtrack a bit to John 15, where Jesus instructs us how to live this consecration in a new covenant

“No longer do I call you my servants; but my friends.” Friends are invited into a deeper intimacy than employees. Though you are not my servants but my friends I have a commandment for you--

New, yet ever old—Love one another as I have loved you.” It is not you who have chosen Me-- It is I who have chosen you.” My children if you make every effort to get to know God well, you will share in the joy of His friendship.
Perhaps this message is no more ironically portrayed than in Charles Dickens’ character: Ebenezer Scrooge, who is such a curmudgeonly gruff and cruel person; that he is friendly to no one. He pushes away his pain; and takes it out on everyone around him.

Scrooge is a Victorian-era accountant who lived a miserly and solitary life; but he is capable of some emotional breaks… After the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley, introduces Ebenezer to a walk with three ghosts who will forever change his life; and make it whole again…
Focused on these messages brought by spectral visitors, Marley (Dickens) sees the opportunity to sew back together the health and welfare of an entire community.
These “spirits/ghosts/angels” certainly messengers read back to Scrooge some awful things that he has said and done. Not loving things of family or employees.

As you sit there for a moment, imagine someone reading back to you the things that you have said or done in a moment of anger. Perhaps the ties that you were short with a MYO teen or perhaps one of your own community members… you might begin to wonder about what you said or didn’t say or perhaps you chose to walk away and ignore someone. 
The character of Scrooge is based on the propositions of what if—what if I reacted cruelly? What if I let my anger get the best of me? All the characters in this play work together to help Scrooge to open his heart.
You and I can use this painful resume as a beginning move from the week of consecration to the week of repentance/ renewal. What a wonderful, opportune time that Mr. Dickens offers us to grow like Ebenezer—to grow through this glorious season of preparation for the birth of our Savior.
To come to the realization: God loves us, everyone.