Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.
–St. Thomas Aquinas, Adoro te devote
Whether it is my facebook newsfeed, instagram, or the five news-related websites I check daily (read: hourly… okay fine, half-hourly), I feel inundated with falsity, anonymity, rumor, and a total lack of reality. It’s exhausting. Which makes me continually say, I don’t know why I look at any of this stuff!! Refresh. Disappointment. Refresh. Frustration. Refresh. ARGH!
Something keeps us refreshing, refreshing, refreshing… we are so hungry for something True. Something REAL. With unprecedented access to the whole world at the swipe of our thumbs, our expectations to find something edifying, hope-giving, or even just slightly inspiring doesn’t seem unrealistic, yet the more we swipe, the worse we often feel. Access to information—regardless of its veracity doesn’t give us peace. Our overexposure to information, detail after gruesome detail, rumored or tweeted makes us long for a simpler time… for less information… for quiet… for mystery. It’s a weird time to be alive.
We the People are Hungry for TRUTH + REALITY + MYSTERY… Where can we find that? The Eucharist.
As usual for most Mass-attending Catholics in the Summer, we find ourselves stumbling into Church parishes that are not our usual home. This weekend I was sadly deprived of a homily on one of my favorite & one of the most important of feast days—The Feast of Corpus Christi. What a missed opportunity! To preach on the Eucharist, the Source + Summit of the Christian Life!!!! A blessing in disguise, and feeling a little guilty (Yay, Catholicism!) I dusted off my Catechism, and read about the Eucharist. What a meditation on TRUTH + REALITY + MYSTERY!
ICYMI: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1322-1419, provides beautiful and in depth teaching on The Sacrament of the Eucharist.
On a personal note, about ten years ago (in graduate school… I’m a slow learner) this particular section of the Catechism played a major role in my own coming to accept the Real Presence not only as true, but as central and essential to my life! What exactly I believed about the Eucharist before that time… I don’t know, but after studying the Church’s actual teaching on the subject, reading some of the primary sources referenced, and taking another look at the Gospels (particularly the Gospel from this past Sunday, John 6), I realized the depth of my unbelief. The spiritual experiences of my high school days quickly faded as life got more challenging—it took the intellectual heft provided by theological study to bring me back to the truth… it’s really Him. No, but, really really.
When it comes to the teaching on the Real Presence… it’s well, everything. The source and the summit… Here’s a little Corpus Christi Q&A rooted in the gospels, Church Fathers, writing of the Saints, and some teachings of the Church to quench your thirst for Truth on the internet & hopefully whet your appetite for learning more:
Q. Where do we get this teaching—that the Eucharist is actually Jesus?
A. Straight from the creator of horses’ mouths…
Here’s the Gospel from Sunday, John 6:51-58:
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“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.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
If Jesus is who He says He is… Son of God, etc. is there any reason for Him to lie or exaggerate about His Real Presence? In a commentary on Luke 22:19 (‘This is my body which is given for you.’), St. Cyril says: ‘Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie (CCC 1381).'”
The Council of Trent affirmed this teaching that the Church has held since the beginning saying, “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.”
Q. Isn’t Jesus present all over the place? What makes the Eucharistic presence more Real than others?
A. Jesus is present (cf. CCC 1373)
- in his word,
- where two or three are gathered (Matthew 18:20)
- in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46)
- in the sacraments
- in the sacrifice of the Mass
- in the person of the priest
- But “he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7).”
Q. What is meant by “most especially”?
A. The belief in the Real Presence is, well… substantial… CCC 1374 states:
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 (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 73, 3c).”
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 (Council of Trent).”
“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 (Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, 39).”
Take a look at the language the Church is using here… unique, whole Christ, truly, really, substantially… we’re talking about a change in the very substance. That’s Jesus. Not bread. Not wine. Jesus. The one we long for. The source of our happiness, joy, peace, everything. The answer to every question. The Shepherd. The King. The Babe. The Lamb. The Refiller of the Blessed Mother’s Wine Glass. The Walker on Water. The Raiser of the Dead. The Risen. The Priest. The Victim. The Ransomer. The Ransom. The Alpha. The Omega. Jesus. There. On the altar.
Q. Dude, that’s awesome. My brain has slightly melted. But again…why?
A. From CCC 1380:
It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us “to the end (John 13:1),” even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us (Gal 2:20), and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love:
The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.
–Saint John Paul II
Need some REAL Reality in your life? Here are two challenges for you:
- Challenge #1: Make 1 Holy Hour this week. Can’t do 1 hour? Try 2 half hours… or 10 minutes a day 6xs… Let the Eucharist (Jesus) teach you how to pray.
- Challenge #2: Do some light reading on the Eucharist in celebration of the Feast. Don’t have a lot of time? Start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church In Brief (CCC 1406-1419). Want more? Try the whole Eucharistic section (CCC 1322-1419). OR if you really want your heart to explode try St. John Paul II’s Ecclesia Eucharistia.