Reflections on the most Holy Mass in preparation for the Eucharistic congress Quebec City 2008

Eucharistic Reflection # 9

February, 2008

by Peter Thompson

The Eucharist- 'Pledge of the Glory to Come' CCC1402:

Over the past eight months we have delved ever deeper into the mystery of The Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life. (ccc1324)

Last month in our parish bulletin insert we began to unfold the prayers of the Canon of the Mass taking the third Eucharistic prayer as our study. We need to listen attentively to the priest as he prays these prayers that have come down to us from the very early Church.

We together with the priest are offering these gifts, we in the silence of our hearts are asking God to once again honour his promise to be with us for all time, to feed us with his own flesh and blood.

It was Jesus who commanded the Apostles:
"Do this in memory of me." Luke 22:19

And so, we daily obey the Lords command. We need to thank God for the gift of the priesthood which enables us to enter once again into the awesome moment of Calvary for it is the Bishop alone together with his priests who are able to make Christ present in the Eucharist.

The priestly prayer now reminds us of what Christ did at the Last Supper, and so the priest in Persona Christi, does the same:
Bending low over the altar, holding the bread in his anointed hands he utters these words of Christ again.

This is my body:
No longer bread in his hands but the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Taking the cup filled with wine the priest now says the words of consecration over the chalice:

No longer wine but truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ totally present in the consecrated wine. Often we are confused thinking that we receive only the body in the consecrated host and only the blood in the consecrated wine. The truth is that Jesus Christ is totally present body, blood ,soul, and divinity under both species.

This is why one does not have to receive under both species to receive the whole Christ. To think otherwise is a heresy and was condemned as such in the Council of Trent.

Here is the great mystery of our faith. God in his infinite love for us and his desire to be present to us, comes to us hidden under the outward appearances of bread and wine.

The theological term that describes this event is 'Transubstantiation'. The species or outward appearances remain, that is sight, touch, taste etc but the substance has been changed into Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity. This is vitally important for us as Catholics to believe. It is an article of faith and today we are suffering from a collapse in faith and a rationalization of the Gospel. Many Christian denominations will say we also believe in the true presence but their understanding is radically different from Catholic belief.

For example Anglicans will say we believe the same as you Catholics. However they teach consubstantiation which means that the substance of the bread and wine remain alongside the body and blood of Christ. This was another heresy introduced during the Reformation and some Lutherans also have this understanding. We must also remember that Apostolic succession was broken during the Reformation and their orders are invalid. They are therefore unable to make Christ present in the Eucharist. Pope Leo XIII was asked to rule on this matter in the late 1800s and he issued a document entitled Anglican Orders which re-affirmed the Catholic Church's position on this issue.

This is why we as Catholics are forbidden to receive communion in any Protestant denomination (Code of canon law #844:1). Why because the sacrament is invalid and there is no unity of belief.

Many have doubted throughout the centuries this profound truth and we must remember that it is the gift of faith that enables us to believe and say the Amen. Firstly, Christ himself spoke these words and told us to do this in remembrance of me. At the Last Supper he did not say, this represents my body, or this is a symbol of my blood, but his words were clear.

The Fathers of the early Church also spoke to those who doubted and we have many of their writings, for example. St Ignatius of Antioch wrote in the year 110A.D in his letter to the Romans. "I desire the bread of God, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood, which is love incorruptible."

In his letter to the Smyrnaeans he writes. "They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ."

St. Justin Martyr wrote to the Roman Senate explaining the Eucharist which the Christians celebrate, defending the teaching of the Church in the year 148 AD.

For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Saviour was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh are nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.

So we proclaim the Mystery of Faith.