CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT
The future king, David, in today’s first reading, is an example of a type of character present throughout the Hebrew scriptures. He is the child born out of place (not the eldest or most favored) who ends up receiving the promise of the covenant. The spirit of God’s anointing rushes upon him. In this way, he is similar to the man born blind from today’s Gospel. David’s family and the blind man’s community did not expect the miraculous grace of God’s love to work through them. Perhaps they, too, were “blinded” by the expectations and assumptions of those around them. Yet, after being touched by God, they both came to “see” the presence of God’s will for them. Both became messengers of God’s will. That same Spirit of God’s anointing rushed upon us at our baptism; we were given a candle as a sign of our membership in the Body of Christ, the Light from Light. Our vocation, then, is to fulfill that enlightenment, that anointing, as Ephesians tells us, by living as “children of the light.”
The church slowly developed customs of reserving some portion of the eucharistic sacrifice for the sake of the dying. Today’s custom of placing this portion in a tabernacle for prayer and adoration by the faithful cannot be traced back much beyond the year 1,000, much to almost everyone’s surprise.
There is simply no historical evidence of the Blessed Sacrament being present in a church for the purpose of having the faithful visit it or pray before it earlier in the church’s history. People did visit, of course, but the center of their attention was the altar, symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and the touchpoint between heaven and earth. Shrines and devotional altars abounded in medieval churches, but anything we might describe as a Blessed Sacrament chapel would be hard to find.
Amazingly, the Eucharist was first kept in private houses for the purpose of Holy Communion at home. As for church, the custom gradually developed of suspending a vessel shaped like a dove somewhere in the church, often over the altar. In the hovering bird, a few hosts, enough to satisfy the pastoral needs of the dying, would be secreted. The priest would lower the dove on a pulley as needed, but it wasn’t a focus of devotion by visitors to the church. It was simply a way of reassuring bishops who were nervous about safeguarding the Eucharist. The dove solution caught on in England and France after Crusaders came in contact with the custom in their travels in the Orthodox East.
A Prayer to the Spirit
Realize above all that you are in God's presence ... empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like a chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what its mother gives it. - St. Romuald
A Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Spirit of Jesus, poured out in flames of fire upon your disciples on the day of Pentecost, we pray to you.
Set afire the hearts of your faithful so that they will announce in all the languages of the world the wonders of the salvation of God.