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Monday, June 20, 2016

The Holy Eucharist is not just a symbol


By Father Richard W. Frank

The Holy Eucharist is not just a symbol of Christ’s spiritual presence. It is not just a reminder of Christ’s self-offering in the past. No, Jesus Christ is truly present in this Sacrament. That is why we refer to the Real Presence. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Holy 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’s a Biblical FactOur belief in this Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist derives from the literal interpretation of the promise of Christ to give us His Body and Blood for our spiritual food and drink, as found in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 6, and also in the four independent accounts of the fulfillment of this promise at the Last Supper (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11).

Eucharistic theologians explain the Real Presence by a process called transubstantiation: the entire substance of bread and wine is changed into the entire substance of the risen and glorified Body and Blood of Christ, retaining only the “accidents” (taste, color, shape) of bread and wine. Can there be a religion in which God is closer to man than our Catholic Faith?

Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper as a Sacramental Banquet and a Sacrificial Offering. As a Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist is an outward sign in and through which we meet Jesus who shares His life of grace with us. In this Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we do meet Jesus, the Risen Lord who comes to us under the signs of Bread and Wine to nourish and strengthen us for our journey through life.

The Eucharistic Meal is a mystery because during the Eucharistic celebration the substance of bread and wine are converted into the substance of the risen Jesus’ Body and Blood, while their appearances (or ‘accident’) remain. We believe in this transformation of bread and wine (called transubstantiation), because Jesus unequivocally taught it and authorized His apostles to repeat it. As a Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist imparts to us Jesus’ abiding presence in our souls. In addition, we share in His Divine life, which is an assurance of eternal life and the basis for the conviction that we are children of God the Father. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our union with Jesus. In this Sacrament, Jesus gives us His own Body, broken for us on the cross and His precious Blood poured out for us, in order that our sins may be forgiven.Sometimes We Forget This

It is good to remember that since it is the Risen Christ who is present in the consecrated Bread and Wine, He is not divided. He is wholly present in both species—both the Consecrated Bread and the Consecrated Wine. Therefore, we receive the whole Christ and are not deprived of any grace when we receive Holy Communion under one form only.

It is a SacraficeThe Eucharistic Celebration is also a Sacrifice because it is the re-presentation or reliving in an unbloody manner of Christ’s Death on Good Friday and of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. By means of signs, symbols and prayers, we share in Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection made really present for us in an unbloody manner. This re-presenting, this re-living of the One Sacrifice of Christ, which is the heart and point of every Holy Mass, assures us of Jesus’ love for us and of His forgiveness of our sins. Through this sacrifice, the risen Jesus becomes present on the altar, offering Himself to the Father through the ministry of the ordained priest.