We believe that the best way to increase faith in the eucharist
is the full and authentic celebration of the Mass – the source and summit of our faith.
(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 10)
Based on the Word of God proclaimed here today we can reflect on the Eucharist in a couple of very important ways. On the one hand we can reflect on our own participation in the Mass and our reception of the Eucharist in communion. We can also reflect on the Eucharist. In the Catechism, paragraph 1334, it says that the mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."
As we heard in the Gospel reading, Jesus took the loaves and fishes that were brought to him and multiplied them. The little that the people had become an abundant source of nourishment and joy. The Eucharist is the pattern of this process. In paragraph 1335 of the Catechism we read that the miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus' glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father's kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.
It is no accident that we as Christians make our offerings to God while the bread and wine are presented to the priest during the Mass. Our offerings represent our lives and work. Our offerings are both the fruits of our labor, and the means by which we stay alive, just like the bread and wine. We give to God simple bread and wine. Then, through the ministry of the priest, Jesus takes these gifts, blesses them, and transforms them into his very self, his real presence, body, blood, soul, and divinity.
At the moment in the Mass when we give these offerings to God, we should be aware of this. We should never live it as an empty ritual or dry obligation. It is part of the liturgy, part of our sacred prayer. By that gesture we give our lives to Christ anew, just as we did at our baptism and confirmation. We ought to consciously renew this gift of ourselves, holding nothing back. Christ will multiply and transform every offering we make to him, and often he will give us even more in return.
Although many Christian denominations commemorate the Lord’s Supper in some way, and focus their attention on the first reflection, they don’t go so far as to say that this truly is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. However, even though the Church has strenuously taught this truth since the beginning, people struggle to understand and therefore to believe this truth. Sadly, Priests sometimes struggle to understand and believe as well.
In 1263 A.D. there was a priest, Father Peter of Prague. On a pilgrimage to Rome from his home, stopped along the way in a little Italian town called Bolsena. He had been struggling in the teaching about the Eucharist, finding it hard to believe that the bread and the wine actually changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Still, the priest was faithful to his duties, and went to the chapel to celebrate Mass. While he was celebrating Mass, as he elevated the host, the host began to bleed. The blood dripped from the host onto the corporal, the square white cloth that lays on the altar. Father Peter stopped the Mass and asked to be taken to see the Pope, who happened to be staying a couple of miles away in Orvieto. The Pope, Urban IV, sent his delegates to investigate this extraordinary occurrence. The miracle was quickly confirmed, and the host and corporal were brought to the Pope in Orvieto, where he enshrined the stained corporal in the cathedral for all to look upon and believe. That corporal is still hanging above the altar in the Orvieto cathedral to this day. It was Pope Urban who declared this universal Feast of Corpus Christi, the first time that any pope had instituted a feast to be celebrated by the entire Church.
Originally called Corpus Christi [the Body of Christ], the solemnity had its origins in thirteenth-century France. St. Juliana (1192 – _1258) was the abbess at the Augustinian Sisters at Mont Carvillon near Liege in Belgium. After a vision, she persuaded Bishop Robert de Thorte of Liege to institute a feast to the Blessed Sacrament; he established it in 1246.
Since Vatican II, the feast has been called “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.” The name change is significant. The emphasis is no longer on the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle and presented for adoration by the faithful. The emphasis is on the celebration of the Eucharist. Indeed, the preface from Holy Thursday is used. In the Collect (Opening Prayer), we acknowledge that we “revere the sacred mysteries” of the Body and Blood of Christ, and that through this sacrament, we experience redemption.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria - “The Priest cries aloud, Lift up your hearts. For truly ought we in that most awful hour to have our heart on high with God, and not below, thinking of earth and earthly things. In effect therefore the Priest bids all in that hour to dismiss all cares of this life, or household anxieties, and to have their heart in heaven with the merciful God. Then you answer, We lift them up unto the Lord: assenting to it, by your avowal. But let no one come here, who could say with his mouth, We lift up our hearts unto the Lord, but in his thoughts have his mind concerned with the cares of this life. At all times, rather, God should be in our memory but if this is impossible by reason of human infirmity, in that hour above all this should be our earnest endeavor.”
1333 At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread. . . ." "He took the cup filled with wine. . . ." The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine,154 fruit of the "work of human hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine" - gifts of the Creator.
Sixteen hundred years ago a Bishop of Jerusalem addressed some converts regarding the Holy Communion that they were to receive for the first time. He said, “When you come up to receive, make your left hand a throne for the right. For it is about to receive a King. Cup your palm and so receive the Body of Christ, then answer ‘amen.’ Take care not to lose part of it; such a loss would be like a mutilation of your own body. Why, if you had been given gold dust, would you not take the utmost care to hold it fast. Not letting a grain slip through your fingers, lest you be so much the poorer.”
1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares: It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.
And St. Ambrose says about this conversion: Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.
1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."
1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.