Holy Communion is the most precious gift that Jesus gave us. It is the perfect expression of God’s unchanging love. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ on all the altars throughout the world.
In 2005, Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote,
This teaching surrounding the Eucharist, remains as true and as normative today, as it did from the beginning. The Council of Trent described the real Presence of Jesus with three adverbs: truly, really and substantially.
The fathers and doctors of the Church have confidently proclaimed the real Presence century after century…the essential facts surrounding the mystery will always remain the same.
As with all other mysteries of faith, we stand in awe. We may not fully comprehend the mystery itself, but we are clear about the facts that surround the mystery. Take the mystery of Divine love. The first fact about it is that it transcends human love. Humanly speaking, it is incomprehensible to us. God is Love. God loves the sinner. We know this to be true because He died that sinners may be saved.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
However, since we cannot put our arms around God, difficulties arise. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who believe, even though they have not seen.” One might express it this way: blessed are those who believe, even if they do not fully comprehend the mystery itself. In the Eucharist, Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.
The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory”. (CCC 1367)
However, difficulties do not amount to a single doubt. Doubters deny the truth and withhold their assent to all divine mysteries. It’s their loss. Believers accept the mysteries of revelation, and they study the facts that surround each one.
“That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses,’ says St. Thomas, ‘but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.’ For this reason, 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.'”
- 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; (CCC 1381)
For instance, we use the term ‘transubstantiation’ to describe how Christ’s real Presence comes about in the Eucharist. The very substance of the bread and wine are changed into the hidden reality of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus becomes truly and substantially present at every Mass, under the appearances of bread and wine.
It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:
- It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered. (CCC 1375)
The Mass itself is a ritual, which memorializes the one true sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who gave up His life on Calvary in atonement for our sins. Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me,” and we unite with Him, again and again, offering ourselves to the Father. God, in turn, says, “Fear not little one, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
From the Early Days of Christianity
Catholics have been attending Masses from the early days of the formative Christian community. The crucifixion took place over two thousand years ago, and the faithful have celebrated Christ’s redemptive act of suffering and death on the cross, every day since, century after century, all over the world.
As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:
- On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.
When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers* for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.
When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.
He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.
When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: ‘Amen.’
When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent. (CCC 1345)
Jesus speaks to His beloved people throughout the ages and says, “Come to me all you who and weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”. So, Christ invites Catholics to come to Mass to receive the Real Presence of Christ, Himself.