When I walked into the church for Mass this past Sunday, I was immediately accosted by a Knight. “Excuse me,” he said while trying to balance a squirming toddler in his arms, “Can your family take the Elijah cup this weekend? We don’t have a family signed up.”
Considering that I walked into the church alone (my husband was parking the car), I was surprised that the Knight knew I was part of a family. I could chalk it up to luck on his part or perhaps divine providence. I went for the latter and after assessing the desperate look on his face (Mass was just seven minutes away), I gladly accepted and promptly went over to the book to officially sign up. The Knight was relieved.
Each week in our community, a family takes the Elijah cup home and promises to pray for an increase in religious vocations. The cup is a blessed chalice used at Mass for the precious blood. The family is presented with the cup at the end of Mass and brings it home where they put it in a place of honor. Every day, the family gathers around the cup and prays for an increase in vocations with the same faith of the widow in 1 Kings 17: 7-15. In this passage, the Lord asked the widow to feed Elijah her last bit of food and in return the Lord promised that he would provide her flour and oil until rain fell again and the famine ended. She obeyed and because of her faith and obedience, there was always flour in her jar and oil in her jug and they didn’t go hungry. We too need to pray with the same faith that the Lord will continue to call priests, deacons, brothers and sisters to guide and nurture His sheep. And those called will answer and dedicate themselves to religious life so that the sheep will not go hungry during the famine.
All during the mass, I watched the cup. I watched our pastor pour the wine and hold it up to heaven. I watched and was humbled at the awesome moment of consecration. This cup was holding the precious blood of our Lord. This cup was holy. Our family would be trusted with this cup – to pray with this cup. What an awesome responsibility we had been given just seven minutes before the start of Mass. At the end of Mass, our pastor called us forward and handed the cup to my very excited 10 year old son. The reverence I felt for this holy cup could be seen in the enthusiasm on my son’s face as he held the cup. My heart expanded with joy because he got it. He understood the Eucharist with his heart.
Recently, our family dedicated ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We Enthroned Him as King of our family and home. We invited all our friends and family to witness as we placed his image above our fireplace, got on our knees and dedicated ourselves – mind, body and soul to Him. Since we have made this dedication to Him, I can see how we are changed. We are drawn to the Eucharist. Mass is more meaningful. Adoration once a month isn’t enough. The other day, my husband and I were lamenting over the fact our schedules don’t allow us to attend daily mass. I have even started watching mass on EWTN only to find myself frustrated that I couldn’t be physically there to receive our Lord. We are drawn to the Eucharist like a moth to a flame.
I think this is why I was so enamored by the cup. After Mass, we brought the Elijah cup home and placed the holy chalice on our mantle – right below our image of Jesus and His Sacred Heart. It was so fitting to see the cup there with the image. We prayed around the cup as the week went on. And then one morning, I came downstairs and stopped in front of the cup. I started to thank God for allowing that Knight to stop me in my tracks on the way to mass – to thank Him for letting us have this holy cup in our home, this cup that contained His precious blood. And that is when I heard His voice in my head say “but you are my living cup. I was present in that holy chalice, but now I am present in you. You came to the table, partook of that cup and now I live on in you – my holy, living chalice.”
Suddenly, the cup on my mantle wasn’t as shiny. The Lord was present in that cup, but now He is present in me. All week I had been walking around my home captivated by that cup without realizing that what was in that cup was now in me. He is part of me. He nourishes me. While that cup is just a cup that the wine can hold, my body is a living thing that the Lord’s precious blood can nourish and become one with. The Lord’s heart truly becomes one with mine in the Eucharist. He dresses me physically and spiritually in His salvation.
As I let these words sink into my understanding, I immediately felt unworthy. Am I holy enough to be a living chalice? Am I worthy enough for the Lord to be present in me so intimately? The answer is no. I am not. I fall far short. And when I quickly came to this realization, I heard Him say, “But I’m doing it anyway. I love you in spite of your unworthiness.”
I understand why the Church calls it a mystery. As I am drawn closer to the Eucharist, the light I am walking in becomes brighter and brighter, and my unworthiness is more and more apparent. And when I stop to take in the state of my soul and see my unworthiness in His light, He takes the opportunity to tell me that He loves me in spite of my unworthiness. He knew how unworthy I was before He let them nail Him to that cross. He knew of my wretchedness before He allowed the crown of thorns to be pressed into His head. He knew of my nature before He offered His back to that first whip. He knew about me in the garden. He knew. And He did it anyway. And He keeps doing it over and over, humbling himself into the hands of the priest at the altar and becoming present in the Eucharist, all because He loves me and He wants to live in me. This is a great mystery my finite brain cannot understand. This is a love foreign to my human heart. This is salvation my soul doesn’t deserve. But all my spirit wants to do is be present with and in the Eucharist; to be present with and in Him. I pray that He will continue to give me the strength, courage and desire to keep flying towards Him like the ugly moth to the beautiful flame.