The Glory of the Eucharist

This week has been a tough week so far, all things considered. My home parish has cancelled pretty much all the parish activities indefinitely, which most of us who have been following the news expected. After all, we have to contain/mitigate the COVID-19 virus.

But when we found out that mass would be cancelled, and all of our hearts dropped.

Mass… cancelled?

It seems surreal, to be honest. Most of us are heartbroken by this decision. Mind you, we understand it on an intellectual level! It makes compete and utter sense. But we are heartbroken nonetheless.

All of this has been weighing my heart as of late and reminding me of the beauty of mass and the sheer wonder of Jesus and the Real Presence.

And so, for today, I would like to present to you this beautiful art by Peter Paul Rubens:

The Glorification of the Eucharist, by Peter Paul Ruben, c. 1630-32. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.
The Glorification of the Eucharist, by Peter Paul Ruben, c. 1630-32. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.

It is a sketch of a painting that would become an altarpiece for the Calced Carmelites in Antwerp. It depicts the triumphant and newly resurrected Jesus Christ. In fact, it is not just Jesus Christ, but the entire Holy Trinity! There is God the Father above, with the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, descending on Jesus Christ.

Supporting God the Father are angels, many of whom have their own special roles that they are playing. There is an angel that plays the harp, and angel waving a thurible of incense. One has a pitcher of water and a towel, another has a book. And still another descends to crown Jesus Christ as the King of Kings. It is a magnificent scene to emphasize the Kingship of Christ, while at the same time reminding us of the mass.

Then there are the people who surround Christ. To the far left is Melchizedek, the priest and prophet who offered bread and wine as sacrifice to the Lord. Beside him is Elijah, who has his hand raised as he accepts the offering of an angel, who provides for him bread and water, just as was written in the Old Testament. Through these actions, God hinted as to the gift that He would give later, with the coming of Christ in the form of the Eucharist!

To the right are Saints Peter and Paul. St. Paul standing with his sword while St. Peter kneels down and watches the Lord in astonishment. St. Peter would become a pope while St. Paul one of the fiercest evangelists, and together they would help form the early Church.

And look at Christ! He stands powerful and undaunted. He stands on a globe, a symbol of the world. His pierced foot crushes the snake, a symbol of Satan, which is wrapped around the globe. Underneath the globe is a skeleton, as a reminder that while death was unleashed onto the world, Christ has defeated death as well. Christ is clothed in a resplendent red, which is a reminder of His Passion. In His right hand, he holds a special sort of flag, which is known as a standard. In His right?

The Eucharist.

It is a marvelous picture which exudes glory and wonder. And yet, it also seems oddly familiar. For this is what we celebrate whenever we celebrate a mass… we celebrate Jesus Christ.

Pray for us! And I will pray for you.

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

One thought on “The Glory of the Eucharist

  • January 3, 2021 at 1:08 am

    Truly a majestic celebration of the “real presence” but are you sure it was a sketch for an Altar piece ? or perhaps a sketch for the Tapestry Cycle made for the Poor Claires? The Ringling Museum in Florida has five very large oil paintings by Rubens and his studio from the cycle celebrating the Eucharist – perhaps you already know it? Many sketches and modelli survive for the cycle but time and war have not been kind to it so its full history is still not fully understood. Even the tapestries themselves are not well conserved so it seems even in the convent of the Descalzas Reales for which they were made. The Napoleonic War and the Spanish Civil War damaged and destroyed much religious art in Spain as I’m sure you know. My compliments, Arthur Lawrence 9/9/31


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