This tree of life [described in Genesis and Revelation], my brethren, is like the Holy Eucharist of which I speak, because as this tree of life was in the centre of paradise, so is the Eucharist in the centre of the Church; and as this tree of life produced twelve sorts of fruit, so in like manner, this divine Sacrament produces sundry sorts of flowers and fruits….
I say, my brethren, this divine tree, the Lamb of God, is in the centre of Christ’s paradise, the Church, on the very altar, and is at once a Sacrifice and a Sacrament. This heavenly Lamb is a [once for all] sacrifice that is [continuously] offered to the Eternal Father, in satisfaction for our sins. This sacrifice makes our peace with God, and admits us to partake of the fruits of the death and passion of Jesus Christ. It is likewise a Sacrament. God formed it to be a consoling nourishment to the souls of the just. This tree is in the centre of the Church, as the heart is in the centre of the body, animating and strengthening every part of it. — “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” — John, xiv. 6. It is in the centre of the Church as a bright sun, and as a shining luminary, giving her light and comfort. This heavenly Lamb is in the centre of the Church, and is like a cornerstone which binds all Christians in one edifice of unity and charity.
The tree of life had another peculiar quality above the other trees in the garden, that it produced twelve sorts of fruit; so, my friends, this divine tree, the blessed Eucharist, produces a variety of fruits, special and general. Unlike the other Sacraments, which give us but one peculiar grace, and that upon particular occasions, this gives us all kinds of graces. Thus the Sacrament of Baptism cleanses us from original sin. We are strengthened in our faith by Confirmation, and by it we receive fortitude from God, to bear with patience every adversity we meet with from the enemies of our faith.
By means of the Sacrament of Confession, we obtain pardon from God for all the sins we commit after Baptism. The Sacrament of Extreme Unction fortifies and strengthens a person against the perils of death. Holy Orders confer certain grace and spiritual power on man for the administration of the Sacraments. And the Sacrament of Matrimony was instituted for giving suitable graces to the married couple to bear patiently
the trials and troubles of the married state. These Sacraments, I say, confer on us but special graces each, suited to the end for which it has been instituted; but in this Sacrameut — the blessed Eucharist — we not only receive every grace, as St. Bernard remarks, but we obtain and receive the author and the dispenser of all graces — the Son of the Almighty God himself. The other Sacraments mould and prepare us for grace; but this heavenly food accomplishes and completes the abundant flow of divine giace in us. In the other Sacraments we taste a part only of the water of the fountain of grace, but in receiving the body of our Lord, we drink the whole fountain in all its fulness. Just as the manna was to each one*s taste, according to the relish which each felt who partook of it, so is this food full of sweetness and of grace, according to the relish and requirements of every
one who receives it.
The tree of life had another superior quality, that it bore fruit each month, and so it is with this blessed Sacrament; it is like the tree of life, it gives us life everlasting; it bears fruit each month, that is to say, it gives us every sort of comfort and consolation at all times, in all circumstances, and upon all occasions. It bears fruit in youth by making virtue take root, by subduing the evil inclinations, and by extinguishing all concupiscence. This Sacrament bears fruit in the middle stage of life, by overcoming the temptations of this world, by extinguishing every passion of anger, and as the royal prophet remarks, this heavenly bread is a sure protection against the enemies for our souls. — Psalm xxii. 5. It bears fruit in old age, the time of maturity and advanced life by helping the patience of aged people. This heavenly food renews their fortitude, and gives anima-
tion to piety in their hearts. — Psalm ciii. 15.
Yes, this Sacrament gives assistance and protection to man, upon all occasions. Hence it keeps the rich in humility ; it fortifies the patience of the poor; it gives solace to the afflicted, and relief to the sick ; it serves as a viaticum to dying persons ; it animates and strengthens them; it brings them, like Elias, to Mount Horeb, that is, to the city of God. — 3 Reg. xix. 8.
Nay, my brethren, there is not an armour so sure and so effectual as this blessed Eucharist, for overcoming and putting to flight that ravenous lion — the devil — who is continuously setting snares and ambushes for us, as St. Peter says, “He goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” — 1 Peter. For, as St. Thomas reasons, this Sacrament is a memorial as well as a commemoration of Christ’s passion; and Jesus Christ, by crucifying his divine body, conquered hell and those that dwell there. As soon as the devils perceive that we have received the blessed Eucharist into our breast, they abandon us immediately, and give place to the angels who come to protect us.
Bishop James O’Gallagher, Sermons in Irish-Gaelic