Skip to comments.The Real Presence — It's No Accident
Posted on 06/18/2003 5:04:30 PM PDT by Desdemona
We celebrate this coming weekend, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which is more commonly known as Corpus Christi. That's what the priest says to you when you come up to receive Communion, Corpus Christi the Body of Christ.
This is a celebration of our belief in the real presence of the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.
In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, you will find the most explicit exposition of our Eucharistic theology. Recall that Christ was in the hills near the Sea of Tiberius. Thousands of faithful followers had come to listen to him preach. These were disciples who had come to believe that this Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah who had been prophesied in the Sacred Texts. They were men and women whose faith was so strong that they were willing to suffer through their hunger, through the heat, and through their fatigue, to sit on the side of a hill and listen to Him preach. This is where He said to them, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. [U]nless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you"
How did the disciples react to that teaching? They walked away. They did not believe Him. They rejected His teaching because it was too difficult, because it was too offensive to them. However, what happened next is the most important part: Jesus let them walk away.
He did not stop them. He did not say, "Oh, wait, I was just kidding" or "I was just speaking metaphorically." No! No! He was so serious about what He was saying, He was so serious about what He meant by it that He let thousands of disciples just walk away. He did not change His teaching so that they would not be offended and stay in their seats. He preached the hard truth and let them walk if they could not accept it. Then He turned to the Twelve and asked them if they too were going to walk away. Peter responded for the Twelve. He responded with the faith that we are all called to have, with humility and reverence: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" In other words, Peter said, "We don't understand either, but we're sticking with You."
Then at the Last Supper their eyes were finally opened when He said those words we hear at every Mass: "This is My body." "This is the cup of My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me." Therefore, 2000 years later, we continue to do this in remembrance of Him. Hence, the constant teaching of the Catholic Church for the past 2000 years, ever since that first Holy Thursday, is that at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, not just symbolically, but truly.
The theological term that we use to describe this reality is "transubstantiation". After the words of institution "This is my body", "This is the cup of my blood" the substance of bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Only the accidental qualities of bread and wine remain.
To understand what we mean by substance and accidents, consider a human being. Blonde hair and blues eyes are accidental qualities of a human being. They are not part of a person's essence or substance. A person can still be a human being and not have blonde hair or blue eyes. This is true of everything that exists in the world. Roundness is not essential to being a table; it is merely accidental to a particular table. Brownness is not essential to being a dog; it is merely accidental to a particular dog.
In actuality, we have no sensory experience of a thing's essence or substance. Our five senses only perceive a thing's accidental qualities. We have intellectual knowledge of a thing's essence, of human-ness, of table-ness, of dog-ness, et cetera. This is also true of bread and wine. The taste, texture, and color of bread and wine are not part of their essence, they are merely accidental to them. Not all bread looks, feels, or tastes the same. Not all wine looks, feels, or tastes the same.
After the words of institution, that which is the substance of bread and wine no longer exists. They have been transformed into the substance of Jesus Christ, into His body and blood, soul and divinity, hidden, disguised under the appearance, under the accidental qualities of bread and wine. This is why we truly worship and adore the Eucharistic species, because that is as truly God on that altar and in that tabernacle as Christ was truly God present in the midst of the Apostles 2000 years ago. This is our faith. This is what we profess to believe every time we say "Amen" to the priest's "Corpus Christi". If we do not believe that, then we have absolutely no business in that Communion line.
St Paul says in I Corinthians 11: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself". If that bread and wine were just symbolic of the body and blood of the Lord, then we should not be profaning the body and blood of the Lord, we should not be eating and drinking judgment upon ourselves when we eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner. We do not go to war when people burn the American Flag. We only go to war when people bomb American soil, when they attack American citizens, when they kill real people. The destruction of symbols does not warrant such a serious response; and neither would the irreverence shown to merely symbolic bread and wine warrant St Paul's serious condemnations of profanation and judgment. Of course, St Paul is speaking about the sin of sacrilege.
If we understand that belief, that teaching of our Faith, then we can understand all of the disciplines, all of the "rules" which so many people seem to think that the Church has too many of that surround that belief; because those disciplines protect the Sacrament from sacrilege.
We can see why the Church does not have open communion, why we do not allow non-Catholics to receive Communion. As St Paul says, "any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." That means that if one receives Communion without believing in the Real Presence, one is condemning oneself. If one does not believe that God is in that host and that chalice, then saying "Amen" is idol worship. Certain Eastern Orthodox churches are the only other churches besides the Roman Catholic Church that teaches this doctrine. That is why they may receive Communion in our churches. But no other Christian church teaches this doctrine. Obviously, non-Christians do not believe in the Real Presence; but it is expected and rightly so that if one belongs to a church, then one believes what that church teaches. Hence, we would not expect a Lutheran, or a Baptist, or a Presbyterian to believe in the Real Presence as we Catholics do. We should expect that they believe what their church teaches about the Eucharist. So, by denying them the Eucharist, we protect them from St Paul's condemnation.
What if one does believe in the Real Presence but is not a member of the Catholic Church? Then we invite those people to come join us, to become Catholics; because Eucharistic Communion is not just a sign of our belief in the Real Presence, in transubstantiation, but in the totality of Catholic belief. Hence, when we say "Amen" at Communion, which means "truly" or "I believe", we are professing our belief in all of the Church's teachings, not just the Real Presence. Because to take out any one teaching is to rip apart the whole tapestry, as is demonstrated by the fact that there are thousands of different Protestant denominations in the world today. Hence, to deny one Catholic doctrine is to not be a Catholic, to not be united in Faith. Communion, as its name suggests, is our most intimate sign of union, of unity, of oneness. However, it is a sign of a union that already exists. It does not anticipate a union that may or may not exist one day. Just as sexual union is a sign of a marital union that already exists. It is not done outside of marriage in anticipation of a marriage that may or may not exist one day. The intimacy of receiving Communion, of bringing our Blessed Lord into our bodies, is at least as profound as the intimacy of receiving our spouse in the marital act. The reverence that we show to the two should be the same.
Perhaps this why so much reverence has been lost for the Blessed Sacrament, because so much reverence has been lost for the conjugal act...or, perhaps, it is vice versa.
This brings us again to the teaching of St Paul, which is that we must receive Communion in a state of grace, without mortal sin on our soul. "Whoever...eats the bread or drinks the cup...in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord."
Considering the general moral decline in our society which Pope Paul VI prophetically predicted in his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae it seems inconceivable that Communion lines are longer while Confession lines are shorter now than they were 40 years ago.
My dear friends in Christ, I beseech thee, I implore anyone who is not in a state of grace, anyone who is married outside the Church which does not mean married to a non-Catholic, "married outside the Church" means married without the blessing of the Church anyone who is cohabitating or who has committed the sins of fornication, of sodomy, of abortion, of contraception or sterilization, of these or any other mortal sin to come to the sacrament of Confession with a contrite heart, for it is the sacrament of Reconciliation and healing. Anyone who is not in a state of grace should abstain from Communion until he has been to Confession, because we do our souls far more harm than good to "eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner". Just make a spiritual communion. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass is not an obligation to receive Communion every week.
The Most Blessed Sacrament only brings us grace and nourishment when we receive, not it, but Him worthily. This is why there is such an intimate connection between Confession and Communion. Confession heals us, it gives us an opportunity to sit down and have an intimate encounter, an intimate conversation with Our Blessed Lord #&0151 the same Lord and God who is truly present in the Eucharist. It gives us an opportunity to hear those words of mercy and forgiveness from our ultimate Lover: Ego te absolve, I absolve you from your sins. In marriage, after one has sinned against one's spouse, an intimate conversation, which leads to reconciliation must take place before there is any future physical intimacy. The same must be true of our relationship with the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. Only when we are reconciled with Him. Only after we have received His mercy and forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession can we receive His grace and loving embrace in the intimacy of Communion. "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed."
© Copyright 2003 Catholic Exchange
(Fr Augustine H.T. Tran attended seminary at the North American College in Rome, Italy and was ordained to the priesthood in 1998. He serves in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and is currently in residence at St. John Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia, while he completes a Canon Law Degree at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Copyright © 2003 Catholic Exchange All rights reserved.
IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR LORD (30:00)
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR discusses the history, theology, and psychology of Eucharistic devotion and how the Blessed Sacrament is a source of comfort and Faith for countless Christians.
The Mystery of the Holy Eucharist
Monday June 16, 4:30 AM & 6:00 PM
Sunday June 22, 6:30 AM
The Reality of Christs Presence
Tuesday June 17, 4:30 AM & 6:00 PM
Sunday June 22, 11:00 AM
The Way that Christ is with Us
Wednesday June 18, 4:30 AM & 6:00 PM
Sunday June 22, 2:30 PM
A Presence to Be Adored
Thursday June 19, 4:30 AM & 6:00 PM
Sunday June 22, 4:30 PM
Knowing Christ is with Us
Friday June 20, 4:30 AM & 6:00 PM
Sunday June 22, 10:00 PM
Fr. Groeschel's book by the same title is a "must" addition to any personal library.
To whom shall WE go? In this time of turmoil in our church, the one assurance we have is that Christ established his church with St. Peter and promised that not even the gates of hell would prevail against it. On THIS one reassurance, we base our faith in the church.
The Collect of the Feast: "O Lord Jesus Christ, who pouring out the riches of Thy love towards men didst institute the sacrament of the Eucharist: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be able to love Thy most tender Heart, and ever worthily receive so great a sacrament. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."
"O Lord Jesus Christ, who pouring out the riches of Thy love towards men didst institute the sacrament of the Eucharist: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be able to love Thy most tender Heart, and ever worthily receive so great a sacrament. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."
He did not stop them. He did not say, "Oh, wait, I was just kidding" or "I was just speaking metaphorically." No! No! He was so serious about what He was saying...
That he was speaking literally (and NOT metaphorically) should be easy to prove. All you need to do is show how ALL Catholics in the history of the world who believe that "the bread I will give is my flesh" is literally true have literally "lived forever." That none have literally died!
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