Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
There is a legendary story, written by Eleanor C. Donnelly, a Catholic American poet born in the 1800’s, that goes like this:
Legend of the Waxen Ciborium
A summer night in Romy, strokes of the midnight bell
Like drops of molten silver, athwart the silence fell.
Where ‘mid the misty meadows, the circling crystal streams.
A little village slumbered, lock’d in quiet dreams.
A lily, green-embower’d, beside a mossy wood,
With golden cross uplifted, the small white chapel stood.
But in that solemn hour, the light of moon and star
Upon its portal shining, revealed the door ajar!
And lo! Into the midnight, with noiseless feet, there ran
From out the sacred shadows, a masked and muffl’d man,
Who bore beneath his mantle, with sacrilegious hold,
The Victim of the altar within its vase of gold.
To right, to left, he faltered; then swift across the sward,
(Like dusty demon fleeing) he bore the Hidden Lord.
By mere and moonlit meadow his rapid passage sped,
Till, at an open wicket, he paused with bended head.
Behold, a grassy terrace, a garden widened fair.
And ‘mid the wealth of roses, a beehive nestling there.
Across the flow’ring trellis, the villain cast his cloak.
Upon the jeweled chalice, the moonbeams, sparkling, broke.
O sacrilegious fingers, your work was quickly done
Within the hive (audacious) he thrust the Holy One.
And gath’ring up his mantle to hide the treasure bright,
Flunged back into the darkness, and vanish’d in the night.
Forth in the summer morning, full of the sun and breeze.
Into his dewy garden, walks the master of the bees.
All silent stands the beehive, no little buzzing things,
Among the flower, flutter, on brown and golden wings.
Untasted lies the honey within the roses hearts.
The master paces nearer, he listens, lo he starts.
What sounds of rapturous singing. O heaven all alive
With strange angelic music, is that celestial hive.
Upon his knees adoring, the master weeping sees
Within a honeyed cloister, the Chalice of the bees.
For lo the little creatures have reared a waxen shrine.
Wherein reposes safely the Sacred Host Divine!
O happy one who listen unto this legend old
Whose snowy veil and robes of black speak of love untold.
From out the hands of sinners whose hearts are foul to see,
Behold! the dear Lord Jesus appeals to you and me.
He says, “O loving children within your hearts prepare
A hive of honeyed sweetness where I may nestle fair.
Make haste, O pure affection to welcome me therein,
Out of the world’s bright gardens, out of the groves of sin.
“And in the night of sorrow (sweet sorrow) like the bees,
Around my heart shall hover your winged ministries.
And while ye toil, the angels, shall softly singing come
To worship Me, the Captive of Love’s Ciborium.”
This is a beautiful tale that calls us to always recognize the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If we more deeply understand that Jesus Christ, the God-man, is hidden before us in a tiny, white host, in his resurrected glory, our hearts should be set afire with an unspeakable love. We should have a burning desire to always prepare our hearts to receive the precious Body and Blood of Christ. The stain of sin; blemished and unclean; should cause us to shudder that such an evil festers deeply within us. Even the thought of appearing in our scarlet garment before the altar of the Lord should shake us to our core..
We cannot erase the mark of sin on our own, but it is possible with God’s grace to heal our wounds and make us whole again. When we are cleansed by the waters of Baptism, our sins are washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Through baptism, we receive sanctifying grace, but when we commit a mortal sin we lose this precious gift. Because of God’s infinite love he sent us his only Begotten Son to die on the Cross and rise from the dead to save us from our sins. His desire is for us to spend eternity with him in Heaven, which means that God does not abandon us.
St. Thomas Aquinas is quoted as saying:
In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation can restore our sanctifying grace, and allows us to once again be clothed in our white, baptismal garment. At a March 2018 General Audience, during his Catechesis series on the Mass, Pope Francis offered a reminder of this important doctrine, saying, “ that one who has committed a serious sin should not approach Holy Communion without having first obtained absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation.” Regardless of how serious our stain of sin, we can receive the Lord’s mercy and pardon if we come to him with a true sorrow of our soul filled with sincerity and repentance. Acknowledgment of our sins unlocks the door to our hearts, and we become open to receive eternal life. If we die to our sins then we can rise to new life in him.
When I go to receive the Sacrament of Confession, I eagerly await to rekindle the burning desire within my heart to seek God the Father’s infinite love. I push the anxious thoughts swirling around inside my head aside. I remind myself that Satan is responsible for my past sins that are playing on a loop in my mind, because the last thing that he wants is for me to return to the Father. The Father of Lies wants us to believe that we belong to this world, but the truth is that we are not meant for this world, but for heaven. We are not slaves to our sins because Christ already won the victory.
I remind myself that once the words of absolution are said, I am set free from the yoke of bondage. A stream of peace and serenity flows deep down through my soul. Jesus calls me by my name, not by my sins. Once I walk out of the confessional, I know that I am forgiven. Reconciled to God and to the Church, as the Bride; holy and undefiled, I am bathed in the splendor and light of his merciful and loving embrace. I have accepted the invitation by Christ to turn my heart and mind back towards him, and now once again I can approach the Table of the Lord, and receive the Most Holy Eucharist; the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Beloved Lord, Jesus Christ.
Image: Adobe Stock. By Lost_in_the_Midwest.
Christina M. Sorrentino resides in the Archdiocese of New York, and is a Catholic freelance writer, high school theology teacher, and author of the books Belonging to Christ and Called to Love - A Listening Heart. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Ignitum Today and has contributed to various faith-based publications including Word on Fire, Missio Dei, Catholic Exchange, and Homiletic & Pastoral Review. She has also appeared on Sacred Heart Radio and the How They Love Mary Podcast, and has been featured in the National Catholic Register's "Best in Catholic Blogging". You can visit her website at Called to Love - A Listening Heart, or follow her on Twitter.