Tag Archives: Eucharist

This is My Body

cscmt001During the meal Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. He said: ‘Take this and eat it, this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them. He said: ‘All of you must drink from it for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matt. 26:26-28) “Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16) 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…(CCC 1333)

Is the Holy Eucharist Really Jesus’ Flesh and Blood?
Jesus says so himself: “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (Jn 6:55) “Take this and eat it, this is my body…this is my blood.” 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 had fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” (CCC 1376)

The Authority of Jesus’ Word
“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) How effective is Jesus’word? He declares a sinner forgiven and he is forgiven (Mark 2:5ff). He declares a leper cured and he is cured (Mark 1:40ff). He declares a dead man alive and he comea back from death. (John 11:14ff). His word changes water into wine (John 2:7ff). If Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God (John 1:14), the same Word of God that pronounced all things into substantial existence out of nothigness (Genesis 1:1-31; John 1:1-3), then when he pronounces bread and wine to be changed into his Body and Blood (Matt 26:26-28), it is changed from the substance of bread and wine into the substance of his Body and Blood. 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 the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion… (CCC 1375)

Transubstantiation:
His Real Flesh, His Real Blood, His Real Presence
The person who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”( John 6:56) The word “transubstantiation” describes the change that takes place in the bread and wine at the words of institution. We do not believe that the bread and wine just change figuratively, analogously, or in significance (in the consideration of another). We believe that the substance of bread and wine changes into the substance of Jesus’ whole self: body and blood, soul and divinity. The Eucharist is actually Jesus and when we receive it, we actually receive him. The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharitic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all 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…’ “It is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” (CCC 1374)

Why Does It Continue To Look Like Bread And Wine?
First of all, when you receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion you are not receiving a piece of his body and some of his Blood. You receive the whole of his Body and the whole of his Blood — the whole of who he is both human (man) and Divine (God). Secondly, Jesus wants you to think of receiving his Body and Blood as receiving real food. He says: You should…be working for food that remains unto life eternal, food which the Son of Man will give you.”(John 6:27) “My flesh is real food and my blod is real drink.”(John 6:55) Even more specifically, Jesus wants you to think of receiving his Body and Blood as bread — as “Bread from Heaven”: I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shll live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6:50-51) Retaining he appearance of bread and wine serves these purposes.

When You Receive Holy Communion Things Change Substantially!
“Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Cor. 10:16-17) We receive the flesh and blood of God to become the flesh and blood of God. In the act of receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion we become flesh of God’s flesh and blood of God’s blood. We are not just figuratively or analogously sons and daughters of God, we are substantially sons and daughters of God in Jesus Christ. We receive the flesh and blood of God to become the flesh and blood of one another. In the act of receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion we become flesh and blood of one another. Reception of the Eucharist makes us not figuratively or even morally, but substantially and literlly the flesh and blood of those who receive with us. Hatred and racism among us are not only morally wrong, they are a denial of the meaning of the Holy Eucharist and a sin against the flesh and blood of God.

Non-Catholics and Reception of Eucharist in the Catholic Church

Who is called to receive Holy Communion at Mass is a point of misunderstanding and sometimes irritation to many non-Catholics. For many Christians, Holy Communion has evolved into an expression of hospitality and fellowship with one another. For Catholics, extending as far back as the time of the apostles, Holy Communion was and continues to be something more and distinctly different. Holy Communion is not us inviting visitors to a table fellowship for the sake of friendliness. Rather, Holy Communion is Christ inviting his own to a most intimate expression of their mutual love, bond and total commitment to one another. Receiving Holy Communion indicates that a person wishes to be in communion with Christ and his Body, the Church. This means each and all of these three things:

It means being in communion with

the Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament…

 

…by acknowledging that the bread and wine are changed, in substance (transubstantiated), into the Body and Blood of Jesus;

…by acknowledging that this is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of Jesus’ word expressed in the liturgy (ritual action) of the Mass;

…by acknowledging that the Sacrament is the whole and real Presence of Jesus as God and man;

…and by receiving the Sacrament as him – the risen Lord.

 

It means being in communion with

the Body of Christ and all its members…

…in Heaven: with Mary the Mother of God and the saints reigning with Jesus and interceding through him, with him, and in him as members of his Body.

…on Earth: with the Pope as the successor to the office of Saint Peter and chief shepherd of the Church, with the bishops as successors of the Apostles, with the clergy, and with the Catholic faithful throughout the world.

It means being in communion with the Mind of Christ…

…by free assent to all that the Catholic Church teaches in its doctrine to be revealed by God,

…and by striving to live the moral life the Scriptures and the Church call a disciple of Christ to live.

In the Catholic faith, all of this goes together integrally as “Holy Communion.” The reception of Holy Communion expresses that the person receiving freely embraces it all.

Respecting the Integrity of Those Who Believe Differently Than You

While we respect the fact that other Christians may not share our understanding of what the Holy Eucharist is, or our convictions about what receiving Holy Communion means, we none-the-less ask them to respect the integrity of our Catholic faith and the provisions of our Church order concerning receiving Holy Communion at Mass.

About Hospitality

While Catholics do not practice inter-communion with Christians of other denominations,

we regard them as fellow disciples of Christ and are honored by their presence with us – as we are honored to be present with them in their houses of worship. By being present on occasion in each other’s houses of worship, listening to each other’s prayers, and observing how we respectively express our Christian faith in worship, we believe that Christ draws us closer to one another in mutual respect – even as we retain our questions about each other and our sincere disagreements with each other. We feel that growth in understanding and willingness to respect the integrity of one another come before communion. The presence of other Christians is always a joy to us. At Mass, however, we express welcome and show hospitality to those present who are not Catholic in ways other than receiving Holy Communion.

Our Reciprocal Witness to Fullness of Life in Christ

In not practicing inter-communion we witness to our fellow Christians that the Holy Eucharist and receiving Holy Communion is more than they believe it to be – so much more that we cannot make it less in order to join them. Witness in love does not just go one way. Our fellow Christians often witness a number of important things back to us that we tend to make less – like the necessity of a personal relationship with Jesus and the vital importance of having a knowledge of the mind of Christ through a devoted reading of the Bible.

Respecting the Faith of Other Christians

People belong to other Christian church traditions for reasons.  Methodists have reasons for being Methodists. Baptists have reasons for being Baptists. Lutherans have reasons for being Lutherans. Pentecostals have reasons for being Pentecostals. And yes, Catholics have reasons for being Catholics. We have to want to know and try to understand these reasons and be willing to respect them.

Our very reason for being Catholic is that we want to be faithful to Jesus and do all that he commanded us to do. Jesus said:

            Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.   Matthew 28:20
This is how we understand ourselves as the Church:
(The Church) receives from (Jesus) the fullness of the means of salvation which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and the ordained ministry in apostolic succession.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #830

Most people join a particular Christian denomination for the same reason: they believe that this is where they will be able to follow Jesus most faithfully and be led to do what “he commanded them to do.”

Steps Along the Road to Christian Unity

Assume that Christians of different denominations are motivated by the same motive as you: a desire to follow Jesus faithfully and do all that he commands us to do. Pentecostals speak in tongues, not because they are “crazies” but because it is spoken of in the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Baptists insist on accepting Jesus as one’s personal Savior and having a personal relationship with him, not because they are “fundamentalists” but because Jesus asks it in the Bible (see Matthew 4:18-22). Catholics believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus, not because we are idolaters, but because this is what Jesus in the Bible says that it is. (see Mark 14:22-24 and John 6:51-59)

Want to know how Christians of other denominations are trying to follow Jesus faithfully in their beliefs and practices. Let yourself be challenged by their faithfulness to Jesus and their desire to do what Jesus asks us to do.

Be ready to explain how what you do as a Catholic flows from your desire to be faithful to Jesus and do all that he says in the Scriptures we must do. Put aside and renounce all derogatory remarks and labels about other Christians:

terms like “religious fanatics,” “crazies,” “the religious right.” Ask others not to use them. Discard half-truths and weird stories about other Christians that have been passed on to you. Refuse to listen to them.

Do not allow yourself to be “hooked” into harsh or bitter reactions to some who make abusive comments about your faith because of ignorance or the weak roots of their own faith.

Respect the integrity of the worship, prayer and church discipline of other Christians. Do not intrude upon it unwelcomed. Do not do things that compromise what your faith and church ask of you. Don’t go through religious motions just to be nice or fit in.

Accept opportunities to be with other Christians in their houses of worship and to join them in common prayer. However, honor the boundaries of their church discipline and your own church discipline.

The road to Christian unity is not to pretend that “we are all the same anyway.”

There are differences and reasons for the differences. Nor is the road to Christian unity to parlay away a couple of our convictions if they will let go of a couple of theirs.

The road to Christian unity is for each of us to be faithful to Jesus by wanting to do all in the Scriptures that he asks us to do, to recognize that this same desire is at work in each other, and, to honor it. In this way we will grow to understand how and why we are living it out in the way we do.

Receiving Holy Communion

There is a difference between Receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord and Receiving Holy Communion.

Receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord: During the meal Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it , and gave it to his disciple, He said: ‘Take this and eat it, this is my body’. Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,. He said: ‘All of you must drink from it for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’ Matthew 26:26-28 Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:16 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 sub-stance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” (1376) The word “transubstantiation” describes the change that takes place in the bread and wine at the words of institution. We do not believe that the bread and wine just change figuratively, analogously, or in significance (in the consideration of another). We believe that the substance of bread and wine changes into the substance of Jesus’ whole self: body and blood, soul and divinity. The Eucharist is actually Jesus and when we receive it, we actually receive him.

Receiving Holy Communion: Here I stand knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will enter his house and have supper with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 The whole point of Jesus offering himself to us in the sacrament of his Body and Blood is to place himself truly, personally, and substantially at the door of our hearts. This invites a response. He is standing at the door. We can either leave him there or invite him in. The choice we make determines whether or not we receive Holy Communion. Receiving Holy Communion takes place after we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus and return to our pew. Holy Communion takes place when we kneel down and pay attention to the reality of Jesus’ presence standing at the door of our heart. Holy Communion takes place when we open the door of our heart and invite Jesus to come inside:

Jesus, I have received your Body and Blood. At this moment you are standing at the door of my heart asking to enter into my life. I open the door of my heart to you. Enter within me. Shed your light on everything inside of me. Help me to see what I need to see about myself and to make choices about the things that need to change. I give my life to you. Use my talents, my eyes and my ears, may hands and my strength to bring joy, hope, love and healing to the lives of others and to the world. I choose to live in you and want you to live in me that our unity may be complete. THIS IS HOLY COMMUNION!

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. John 6:56 I have given them the glory you gave me that they may be one as we are one — I living in them, you living in me — that their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you sent me, and that You love them as You loved me. John 17:22-23

Reverence for the Presence of Jesus

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council encourages us to look for, acknowledge, and honor four manifestations of the Presence of Jesus when we come to church for Mass: From that time onward (see Acts 2:41-47) the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the Paschal mystery: reading those things “which were in all the Scriptures concerning him” (Lk 24:27); celebrating the Eucharist, in which “the victory and triumph of his death are again made present” (Council of Trent); and at the same time giving thanks “to God for his inexpressible gift” (2 Cor 9:15) in Christ Jesus, “in praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12) through the power of the Holy Spirit. To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in his Church, especially in its liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass,

  • 1a. Not only in the person of his minister, “the same now, offering through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross.” (Council of Trent, Decree on the Mass)
  • 2. But especially under the Eucharistic elements
  • 1b. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes (St. Augustine)
  • 3. He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the church
  • 4. He is present, lastly, when the church prays and sings, for he promised: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt. 18:20) [Coonstitution on the Sacred Liturgy, ch.1, no.6-7]

Entering the Church as Sacred Space
According to the universal teaching and accepted practice of the Catholic Church, upon entering the Church, genuflect or bow. (The bow is permitted when the tabernacle is placed in a separate chapel. The genuflection is also permitted when the Sanctuary Lamp clearly indicates the entrance to the Chapel of Reservation). The point is that, when you see indication that the Eucharist is reserved in a place of worship, you acknowledge both the sacredness of the space and the Presence of the Eucharist.

Encountering the First Presence of Jesus

He is present…when the church prays and sings, for he promised: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt.18: 30)

Next, enter the pew. You should enter in the same way you entered the church building: with a gentle and warm smile, or a very simple greeting for anyone around you that might catch your eye. If they are familiar to you, it is not inappropriate to give them a warm embrace. If you know that they have been ill or burdened, it is not inappropriate to express concern for them and to tell them that they are in your prayers. If they are strangers to you, it is very much in order that you introduce yourself and say a few simple words of welcome. This should be brief. An extended conversation is not appropriate in the assembly space. If you see that others are absorbed in prayer, it is not appropriate to break their concentration with a greeting. Now, kneel and acknowledge the Presence of Christ in this sacred assembling of his body, the Church. I suggest a prayer like this:

“Jesus, I have come here at your summons. My presence declares that you are Lord of my life. I greet you and honor you in the assembling of my brothers and sisters. You are walking among us, sitting beside us, and present in our greeting of one another. You form us into your living body. In this time of worship, may we be further fashioned in your image, bound in unity and empowered to serve you in the responsibilities you have entrusted to us.

The Second Presence of Jesus

He is present in his Word, since it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church.

As the Mass begins, prepare to receive the second Presence of Christ: in the Word of God proclaimed. In the penitential rite seek to remove any interior obstacles to your hearing the Word God wishes to speak to you, especially obstacles such as anger, bitterness or resentment. As the Scriptures are read, listen to them not as someone standing up there reading to you, but as Jesus speaking to you. Receive the word as His word, as if He were personally present and saying these things directly to you – because He really is present and saying them to you. Perhaps you might pray:

Jesus, don’t allow me to stand distant from your words. Remove any wall I have placed, or distance I have kept between us. You have something to say to me personally in what I am about to hear. Lord, I want to hear you, I need to hear you. You have words vital to my life and hope. Let me receive your words even if they prove personally revealing or challenging. Speak, Lord, I am listening.

The Third Presence of Jesus

He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass…in the person of his minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross.by his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes.

When the priest stands at the altar and says, “Pray brethren…” and we respond, “May the Lord receive this sacrifice from your hands…”, acknowledge the Presence of Christ in the person of the minister, the priest. Jesus said: “He who hears you, hears me.” (Lk 10:16) You might continue to pray:

Jesus, your Apostle Paul told us that you use “the weak of this world to shame the strong” (1 Cor 1:27). The man at the altar is every bit as weak as I. He is a sinner, just as I am. In this sacramental action, help me to acknowledge your anointing on weak human flesh. Give me a heart to recognize your personal presence in this sacred moment, acting through this man, with him, and in him.

The Fourth Presence of Jesus

He is present…especially under the Eucharistic elements.

At the words of institution (“this is my body…this is my blood”) the bread and wine are changed in substance (transubstantiated) to become the body and blood of the Lord Jesus: his whole body, his whole blood, his whole self as true God and true Man. It is important to receive the body and blood of Christ with wonder, awe, and the highest reverence. It is also important to realize what God is saying to you in this gift. God calls you not only to receive, but also to live as flesh of his flesh, and blood of his blood. Perhaps you might pray:

Jesus, what have you give me? What have I received? In receiving your Body and Blood, what does this now make me? What does it make the person kneeling next to me? And the person behind me? How radically does it change my relationship with them: the way I speak to them, the way I treat them? Jesus, you have made us your body, “the fullness of you who fill the universe in all its parts.” You are and will be really present in us. It is you who will be appealing for reconciliation in the world through us, and embracing the world in us and with us. I give all that I am and all that I have to serve this communion of my life with yours.

The final Presence that is the true end of every celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass is the presence of Jesus in his Body, the Church. Before transubstantiating the bread to be his Body, Jesus said, “Take this and eat of it.” Before transubstantiating the wine to be his Blood, he said, “Drink of this, all of you.” Communion is the final end and purpose of the Mass. “I living in them, you living in me, that their unity may be complete.” (John 17:23). We receive the true Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion to become the body and blood of Christ on the world. The way we relate to our fellow believers and the way we handle our world ought to be different because of what we received. Reverence and awe should fill the personal space between us and characterize the way we handle all things.

The Presence in the Tabernacle
We reserve the Holy Eucharist in the Tabernacles of our churches not only to bring it to our infirm brothers and sisters, but to pray before it and there, in adoration, to remind ourselves both of its awesome nature and its ultimate purpose. This purpose is to nourish us and strengthen us and make us what we cannot make of ourselves: the body of Christ, flesh of God’s flesh and blood of God’s blood; one humanity, undivided and without stain or defilement. This is the mighty work of our Savior, Jesus. Great refreshment and peace flow from any time spent in prayer before the Sacrament. Stop in for a visit.