There’s a question I’ve been trying to work out in my head for some time. It needs to be written down. One thing I’m certain of is I won’t mash it into intelligible words on my own. The subject is as old as Christianity is. How is it the words of Jesus at the his last supper become the Eucharist and how is His presence continue to envelope the Sacrament with each and every consecration.?
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…May God prevent me from writing heresy and may His grace protect my readers from the Tempter.
Jesus Christ and His real presence in the Eucharist is a mystery I am unable to deny without suffering death of this temporal body of which I have been given charge. I am fifty-five years old and steeped in the Catholic faith from birth, yet I know that in my heart I was aware of this Truth from my conception. I became conscious of the idea through Catechism for First Communion, I studied some as a teen, I defended it as mystery as an adult in the U.S. Navy. Yet, as I ask more questions and delve further into the theologies and philosophies argued I am nagged by the ‘how’ of this Truth being possible.
I have seen the stories of Eucharistic mysteries throughout Europe and the two millennia of the Christian faith. A fire in a French Church with the Eucharist on the altar, and those fighting the fire see the Eucharist float above a burning table. A Priest in Italy questioned as I do and as he prays the consecration the bread becomes flesh, the wine becomes blood. Both remain so to this day. Another Italian church holds wafers that are hundreds of years old, blessed Eucharist that has not decayed in the centuries since it was raised up. Open to the air this should all be dust, were it simply bread, devoured by insects and rodents, yet it remains intact. Three examples of miracles of the Eucharist. Three reasons to believe in the Divine real presence in the Sacrament.
I have still wondered, and strongly so, for the last year or two if the more real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is the continued real presence of those whose faith sustains, whether strongly or weakly, their presence and participation at mass? St. Paul tells us ‘we’ are the body of Christ. Why shouldn’t it be that ‘we’ are the reality that remains when the bread and wine are consecrated? Why shouldn’t it be, then, that our praxis be the sacrament, that in receiving the Eucharist we recommit to the Gospel and become the body and blood of Christ to this temporal world?
This cannot be all. This would make the action completely on our part to carry forward the word of Jesus the Christ, and admit to all observers that we regard the Eucharist something different than Jesus intended. “I am the Bread of Life”, He told us. “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot have life within you.” These words turned many away. It was sacrilege for a Jew to drink the life-blood of an animal. Yet Jesus did not call them back. He did not try to convince them He was speaking in signs or symbols. He even asked His apostles if they would leave too. The image stands.
Jesus consecrated bread and wine during His last supper with his apostles and select disciples. He told them the bread was His body and the wine His blood. Three of four evangelists and St. Paul recorded these words. So, how does this happen? It happened in France in a fire and in Italy at a consecration, twice. Most of the time there is no temporal change, though. What, then, if I consider a non-temporal change? What if at the moment of consecration at a mass the bread and wine become the body and blood even as the raised body of Jesus was transformed?
Consider what we know of our temporal world that we cannot see. Consider the levels of light and electromagnetic energies our eyes will not pick up, but that cameras do, that special scientific instruments do. What we can see is very small compared to what our instruments tell us exist. A child’s science lesson is to put two magnets end to end. In one direction, they pull each other together faster than the child can move to stop them. Place one in the other direction and its counterpart can be pushed across the smooth surface where we observe them. Think about this at the refrigerator, and play a bit. Since this unseen energy is pressed in front of us, cannot a Divine energy be infused into the Eucharist, just as real yet infinitely more powerful; powerful enough to change the hearts of human beings?
I will say ‘inspired’, though doubters will say ‘imagined’. I am inspired to believe that this is so, that at the same level of Divine energy that came in a cloud over Mount Sinai, the same cloud of energy that enveloped the Tabernacle in the desert, the same Divine energy that came down on Jesus at His baptism and on the mountain during the Transfiguration, this same Divine energy envelopes the bread and wine during the consecration at Mass. Heaven meets earth at the altar when our priests raise the gifts of ourselves, our lives, and of the bread and wine and God, Jesus, infuses His Divinity into the same gifts, the food and us. The bread and wine are now His body and blood even as His risen body was flesh and blood.
And, oh, to consume this gift, to let this Divine energy raise our meager humanity to His Divine life… as Jeff Cavins states, “I would crawl on my knees to receive this…” every chance I get. Father John Riccardo stated in a parish mission once, “To be in the presence of the Eucharist is radiation therapy for the soul.” The Divine energy penetrates us completely. Our body, mind, and soul are gifted to have this same energy, if only for a moment before our humanity begins to lose it. Yet we faithful hold on to it while we “go forth in the peace of Christ, to love and serve the world”.
Is this the message of salvation? It is certainly part of it; that we are gifted with His presence until the end of this temporal order, restored by His gift and His sacrifice to be the stewards of all we are individually and collectively charged to be. The many parts of the One Body are to be the light to the world, and the energy to make that light shine is in the real presence of Jesus the Christ in the Eucharist, received at each mass and each communion service we determine to crawl up to Him on reverent knees to receive.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…