“Grant us, Almighty God, that we may be refreshed and nourished by the Sacrament which we have received so as to be transformed into what we have consumed, through Christ Our Lord. Amen” (The Roman Missile, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time).
“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;…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Baptized fifty-four years ago this coming October 25th and still I am constantly struggling with what the Church now calls transubstantiation. Described in brief in the Catechism quote above Catholics profess that the bread becomes flesh and the wine becomes blood and this in the face of the modern science (and ancient magic) that denies any sort of transformation occurs. It has been a difficult theology to promote and defend. One doesn’t have to be a theologian to follow the permeations that have been part of the conversation of what Joseph Martos calls “a change of substance or reality”, but the proverbial cliché is “it helps”. Also in Martos’ words, some other terms have been “transmutation, transfiguration, transelementation, transformation” and transsignification. There has been something going on since that supper was celebrated in Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. I just wonder if, like the feeding of the thousands there isn’t a more simple explanation.
During a homily I heard once described the feeding of the five thousand as the sharing by the five thousand. “What is the greater miracle” asked the priest, “to manifest bread and fish from nothing, or to change the hearts of poor people that they would share so much that their meager provisions carried within their cloaks would result in twelve baskets of leftovers?”
So I ask the same question about the Eucharist, “the source and summit of our Catholic faith”. What is the greater miracle, the true sacrament? That we look to see some transition of bread and wine into flesh and blood, or that nearly two-thousand years after sharing a meal with a dozen or so disciples, billions of us around the world share a meal in Jesus’ memory, committing ourselves to emulate His work, becoming His body and blood Incarnate, “transformed into what we have consumed”?
Martos, Joseph. Doors to the Sacred. Ligouri, Ligouri Press. 2001. Print
Catechism of the Catholic Church. The number 1333 is the paragraph number in the book.
I’ve shared related articles that discuss the Catholic as well as other perspectives and have steered clear of those many that simply look to deride Roman faith and ritual. The object is to promote discussion on personal and academic levels.