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Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
The Gospel Feast
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(Image from the Jesus Spiritual Center at Milford)

The Holy Mass is the sacrifice of the Eternal Son to the Father for the redemption of mankind, and  the Holy Eucharist is the divine nourishment which issues from this perfect sacrifice. In the sermon, The Gospel Feast, preached in May 1838, St. John Henry Newman brings before us what is promised to us in this unique sacrifice and banquet, and masterfully takes us through numerous passages of the Bible foreshadowing the Mass. Since we often fail to fully comprehend the reality of the Heavenly banquet, Newman helps us. He begins by directing our minds to it:

“And what is that Heavenly Feast which we now are vouchsafed, but in its own turn the earnest and pledge of that future feast in His Father’s kingdom, when “the marriage of the Lamb shall come, and His wife hath made herself ready,” and “holy Jerusalem cometh down  from God out of heaven,” and “blessed shall they be who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God”

The whole of the Christian life is directed to sharing in the perfect abiding union with God which is expressed for us in terms of a marriage, the marriage feast of the Lamb.

Newman comments that throughout the Scriptures there are numerous references to this promise and prophecy. Think, for example, of the very sacrifice of Abel, or the Passover Lamb. It is not only in the miracle of the loaves and the fishes that the Gospel feast is typified and prefigured.

The Apostles were blessed to be with Christ at the Last Supper, and likewise,  so are we at the Eucharistic Table. We that meditate on this, and come to Christ in this Sacrament are truly blessed.

“Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear; for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, but have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” “Blessed are they which have not seen, and yet have believed.” Blessed they who see in and by believing, and who have, because they doubt not.”

Newman mentions the promised land as a foreshadowing of the heavenly banquet. God fed the Jews manna in the desert for many years and afterwards took them to a land that was rich in fruits. Today we too experience both a wilderness and a promise of a better land where the things which are not seen are eternal. 

Newman continues:

“But we Christians, on the contrary, are at once in the wilderness and in the promised land. In the wilderness, because we live amid wonders; in the promised land, because we are in a state of enjoyment.” He goes on to explain that in the Old Testament we find allusions to the most gracious Feast prepared for us, the Gospel Feast.

God gave many temporal blessings to the Jews. “These were present real blessings. What has He given us?—nothing in possession? all in promise? This, I say, is in itself not likely; it is not likely that He should so reverse His system, and make the Gospel inferior to the Law.” We cannot envy the Jews; we have been given a higher blessing. “Christ now feeds us, not with milk and honey, but “with the spiritual food of His most precious Body and Blood.” Yet his blessings are hidden; they come to us under a veil. These higher blessings are invisible. The spiritual blessings are much higher because they are so much greater. 

In the Scriptures we read of many feasts. One such instance was the meal Abraham made when Isaac was weaned. At times the feast was preceded by a prayer as the sacrifice offered by Melkizedek, or at the Passover meal. The Bible contains many images of feasts and prophecies of abundant milk, wine, wheat, oil, and choice meats made by various prophets.

The prophet Ezekiel and afterwards, the Book of Revelation tell us of fruits or leaves which are a means of healing and signify the Holy Sacrament. However, rather than select these for his Sacrament, Our Lord chose bread and wine as in the history of Melchizedek. And the gift was foreshadowed in the description of the promised land flowing with milk and honey.

Newman cites many passages of feasts from Hosea, Joel, Amos, Isaiah, and Zechariah, with beautiful prophecies of the Holy Eucharist.

“And under a different image, but with the same general sense, the prophet Malachi: “From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My Name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure offering, for My Name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts.” [Mal. i. 11.]”

 Further, Newman cites abundant passages from the Psalms which describe the sacred Christian feast. For instance: “Thou shalt prepare a Table before me against them that trouble me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my Cup shall be full.” “I will wash my hands in innocency, O Lord, and so will I go to Thine Altar.” As if this were not enough, Newman cites passages from the Book of Proverbs and the Canticle of Canticles.

“Until the day break and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense” … “I have gathered My myrrh with My spice, I have eaten My honeycomb with My honey, I have drunk My wine with My milk; eat, O friends, drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved!” [Cant. ii. 13; iv. 6; v. 1.]

 Newman closes this sermon inviting us, with St. Paul,: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit,”: that new wine, which God, the Holy Spirit, ministers in the Supper of the Great King. Newman urges us not to stay away without love or out of fear, but to go in faith, hope, and love to the Heavenly Banquet. 

Christ gave many graces at different feasts;  we are familiar with the wedding feast at Cana, the feast at the home of Simon, and another at the home of Zacchaeus. However, the greatest feast was the Last Supper, the Supper of the Lamb, when He instituted the Holy Eucharist..

Do we see Sunday Mass as a great Feast, the Gospel Feast?  Do we approach it with faith and love? Do we acknowledge the graces which flow from participating in the great Feast? Each time we approach this banquet, let us stop and remember just what we are partaking in … let us be prepared to meet our Bridegroom. 

 

 

 


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The world which sees only appearances cannot comprehend the hidden reality of a heart captive to Christ. 

With this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the indwelling of Christ in our souls. Christ is born in us. The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, crying out Abba Father, and restores in us the likeness of Christ.

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I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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