‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.”
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me and bid me come unto thee
That with thy saints I may praise thee forever and ever. Amen.
O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament
have left us a memorial of your Passion,
grant us, we pray,
so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body
that we may always experience in ourselves
the fruits of your redemption.
Who live and reign with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a
Moses said to the people:
“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction
and find out whether or not it was your intention
to keep his commandments.
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger,
and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers,
in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.
“Do not forget the LORD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
that place of slavery;
who guided you through the vast and terrible desert
with its saraph serpents and scorpions,
its parched and waterless ground;
who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock
and fed you in the desert with manna,
a food unknown to your fathers.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 708 This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law.1 God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people toward Christ.2 But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts,3 enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.
CCC 1334 In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God;4 their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The “cup of blessing”5 at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.
CCC 2835 This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: “Man does not live by bread alone, but. .. by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,”6 that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort “to proclaim the good news to the poor.” There is a famine on earth, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”7 For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.8
1 Cf. Ex 19-20; Deut 1-11; 29-30.
2 Gal 3:24.
3 Cf. Rom 3:20.
4 Cf. Deut 8:3.
5 1 Cor 10:16.
6 Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4.
7 Am 8:11.
8 Cf. Jn 6:26-58.
Abraham, the father and founder of the Chosen People, was told by God to leave his home and pagan surroundings in Mesopotamia and come to a land that he would give to his descendants. Abraham trusted God and came to that foreign land. He and his descendants suffered many hardships before God eventually gave them possession of the Promised Land. Among these sufferings and hardships was the slavery they underwent in Egypt for several generations, until finally God stepped in and liberated them.
Their journey from Egypt to Palestine, or Canaan as it was then called, led through the vast desert of Sinai, an expanse of wilderness without food or water–where they could have perished to a man if their good God had not provided for them. This he did by giving them a special food which fell around their encampments every evening–a food that has ever since been called “manna,” expressing the wonderment of the Israelites when they first saw it.
This food, as well as water which burst forth from the rocks at the command of Moses, nourished and sustained them during their forty years’ journeying in the desert until they eventually reached home–the land promised to them by God.
That this “manna,” this miraculous food from the skies, was a symbol, a foreshadowing, of the more miraculous food from heaven which our divine Lord was to give to us to sustain and nourish us spiritually on our journey toward our eternal promised land, hardly needs emphasizing. Our Lord himself refers to the “manna” given by God to their ancestors in the desert but says that he will give them the true bread from heaven (Jn. 6: 31ff).
This promise he fulfilled on the night before he was crucified when he took bread, broke and gave it to his disciples, saying: “This is my body, which will be given for you” and taking the cup of wine he said: “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you” (Lk. 22. 19). God the Son took our human nature, came on earth, in order to make all men not only God’s Chosen People, but God’s chosen children. By becoming man he raised us to the status of sons of God, heirs to God’s kingdom, heaven. To do this he suffered humiliations and torture at the hands of the men he had come to save, but through his death and resurrection he won for us the right to the eternal “promised land.”
However, to reach our inheritance we have to journey through the desert of this life, a journey during which we need above all a spiritual nourishment to sustain us and strengthen us to persevere amidst the many difficulties and hindrances our human nature and this earthly world put in our way. Christ, because he was God, because he foresaw our weaknesses and our needs, and because “he loved us to the end,” found a way of remaining with us to sustain us on our journey. He left us himself–under the form of food, bread and wine, to nourish us and help us to grow daily stronger in our spiritual, supernatural life and thus be able to reach the eternal home he has prepared for us.
God was surely good to the Israelites–he fed them miraculously in the desert and finally brought them into their “promised land.” But how much more generously and more miraculously has he dealt with us? Our promised land is not some strip of earth on which we can enjoy a few years of comfort–it is an everlasting home of peace and joy–it is a sharing in the happiness of the Blessed Trinity. The nourishment he has miraculously provided for us on our journey is not some food to sustain our earthly life, but the body and blood of his divine Son which only he, God, could give us and which only he, a God of infinite love, could think of giving. That we can never thank him enough goes without saying, but we can and we must strive to appreciate this, his greatest of gifts, to his Church and thus to us, by always trying to make ourselves worthy to receive him with the greatest respect and devotion of which we are capable.
Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
1 Cor 10:16-17
Brothers and sisters:
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 1329 The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.1
The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread,2 above all at the Last Supper.3 It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection,4 and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies;5 by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.6
The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.7
CCC 1334 In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God;8 their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The “cup of blessing”9 at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.
CCC 1396 The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body – the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body.10 The Eucharist fulfills this call: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:”11
If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond “Amen” (“yes, it is true!”) and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, “the Body of Christ” and respond “Amen.” Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true.12
CCC 1621 In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ.13 In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up.14 It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same Body and the same Blood of Christ, they may form but “one body” in Christ.15
1 Cf. 1 Cor 11:20; Rev 19:9.
2 Cf. Mt 14:19; 15:36; Mk 8:6, 19.
3 Cf. Mt 26:26; 1 Cor 11:24.
4 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.
5 Cf. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11.
6 Cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17.
7 Cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34.
8 Cf. Deut 8:3.
9 1 Cor 10:16.
10 Cf. 1 Cor 12:13.
11 1 Cor 10:16-17.
12 St. Augustine, Sermo 272: PL 38, 1247.
13 Cf. SC 61.
14 Cf. LG 6.
15 Cf. 1 Cor 10:17.
The feast of Corpus Christi or the Body of Christ is a commemoration or calling to mind of that extraordinary act of love for us which our Divine Lord performed on the night before he died. Through his divine power he left to his Church, to his followers, the power to re-present again and again the sacrifice of his human nature which he was about to offer to the Father next day on the cross for the salvation and elevation of mankind.
As he could die only once in his being God he was able to do so (that natural body, he ordained) because this death of his could be repeated time and again under the form of the separation of his precious blood from his body, as happened on Calvary, by means of the separate acts of consecration of bread and wine performed by those to whom he gave this power. This is the meaning of the Eucharist as sacrifice.
It is as true a sacrifice as his death on the cross was, for so he willed it to be. In fact it is the same sacrifice, but under such another form as makes its repetition possible. As God he could do this, he said he was doing it and he gave a command to his Apostles (and through them to their successors) to continue doing it. The follower of Christ who believes he was what he claimed and proved himself to be, God in human nature, is left no room for doubt. Instead he ought to be full of wonder and admiration at the love and thoughtfulness of Christ who has left us a means of giving God infinite honor. We give him this by re-offering in the Eucharistic sacrifice his divine Son’s sacrifice of his human life on the cross. Sacrifice was always an essential part of all religions. In the Old Testament God commanded the offerings of animals and fruits of the field. They had value insofar as God accepted them as a sign, a token, of the true sacrifice of infinite value to be offered later by his divine Son.
Our sacrifice of the Mass therefore is a sacrifice which gives infinite honor and glory to God and renews for us all the divine blessings won on calvary.
The Eucharist, the Body of Christ, is also a sacrament, in fact the sacrament, he left to the Church. Under the external signs of bread and wine which are a natural bodily nourishment, we are given to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. They are really present because of the divine power of the consecration pronounced by the celebrant acting in Christ’s name. This eucharistic food is for us our spiritual nourishment.
The receiving of Holy Communion, as it is called, is an essential sequence to the offering of Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass. He is present on our altars to re-offer his sacrifice of Calvary; his coming has the added purpose of nourishing us spiritually. When instituting the sacrifice he associated the sacrament with it, when he said of the consecrated bread: “take it and eat,” and of the cup: “drink all of you from this.” To partake of part of the sacrifices offered by pagans to their gods (and by the Jews to the true God) was looked on as a way of uniting the offerer with God. In the Mass all those present are the offerers, the celebrant alone has the power of consecration, but all are taking part in offering the sacrifice and should therefore take part in the eating of the sacrifice offered.
While the sacrifice of the Mass honors God of itself, our participation puts us in intimate union with God for we take within us Christ who is God. Thus we become the abode of the divine and the recipients of God’s most abundant graces. This is what Holy Communion means–union with the holy of holies, intimate union with God.
SEQUENCE – LAUDA SION
Laud, O Zion, your salvation,
Laud with hymns of exultation,
Christ, your king and shepherd true:
Bring him all the praise you know,
He is more than you bestow.
Never can you reach his due.
Special theme for glad thanksgiving
Is the quick’ning and the living
Bread today before you set:
From his hands of old partaken,
As we know, by faith unshaken,
Where the Twelve at supper met.
Full and clear ring out your chanting,
Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting,
From your heart let praises burst:
For today the feast is holden,
When the institution olden
Of that supper was rehearsed.
Here the new law’s new oblation,
By the new king’s revelation,
Ends the form of ancient rite:
Now the new the old effaces,
Truth away the shadow chases,
Light dispels the gloom of night.
What he did at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
His memorial ne’er to cease:
And his rule for guidance taking,
Bread and wine we hallow, making
Thus our sacrifice of peace.
This the truth each Christian learns,
Bread into his flesh he turns,
To his precious blood the wine:
Sight has fail’d, nor thought conceives,
But a dauntless faith believes,
Resting on a pow’r divine.
Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things are all we see:
Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.
Whoso of this food partakes,
Does not rend the Lord nor breaks;
Christ is whole to all that taste:
Thousands are, as one, receivers,
One, as thousands of believers,
Eats of him who cannot waste.
Bad and good the feast are sharing,
Of what divers dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life.
Life to these, to those damnation,
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues rife.
When the sacrament is broken,
Doubt not, but believe ‘tis spoken,
That each sever’d outward token
doth the very whole contain.
Nought the precious gift divides,
Breaking but the sign betides
Jesus still the same abides,
still unbroken does remain.
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 728 Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.1 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,2 to the Samaritan woman,3 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.4 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer5 and with the witness they will have to bear.6
CCC 787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings.7 Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. .. I am the vine, you are the branches.”8 And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”9
CCC 994 But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the life.”10 It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.11 Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life,12 announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the “sign of Jonah,”13 the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.14
CCC 1001 When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”15 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.16
CCC 1355 In the communion, preceded by the Lord’s prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive “the bread of heaven” and “the cup of salvation,” the body and blood of Christ who offered himself “for the life of the world”:17
Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist (“eucharisted,” according to an ancient expression), “we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.”18
CCC 1384 The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”19
CCC 1391 Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”20 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”21
On the feasts of the Lord, when the faithful receive the Body of the Son, they proclaim to one another the Good News that the first fruits of life have been given, as when the angel said to Mary Magdalene, “Christ is risen!” Now too are life and resurrection conferred on whoever receives Christ.22
CCC 1509 “Heal the sick!”23 The Church has received this charge from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that St. Paul suggests is connected with bodily health.24
CCC 1524 In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of “passing over” to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”25 The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father.26
CCC 2835 This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: “Man does not live by bread alone, but. .. by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,”27 that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort “to proclaim the good news to the poor.” There is a famine on earth, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”28 For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.29
CCC 2837 “Daily” (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of “this day,”30 to confirm us in trust “without reservation.” Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence.31 Taken literally (epi-ousios: “super-essential”), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the “medicine of immortality,” without which we have no life within us.32 Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: “this day” is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.
The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that, gathered into his Body and made members of him, we may become what we receive. .. This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage.33
The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven.34
1 Cf. Jn 6:27, 51, 62-63.
2 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.
3 Cf. Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24.
4 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.
5 Cf. Lk 11:13.
6 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.
7 Cf. Mk 1:16-20; 3:13-19; Mt 13:10-17; Lk 10:17-20; 22:28-30.
8 Jn 15:4-5.
9 Jn 6:56.
10 Jn 11:25.
11 Cf. Jn 5:24-25; 6:40,54.
12 Cf. Mk 5:21-42; Lk 7:11-17; Jn 11.
13 Mt 12:39.
14 Cf. Mk 10:34; Jn 2:19-22.
15 Jn 6: 39-40,44,54; 11:24; LG 48 § 3.
16 1 Thess 4:16.
17 Jn 6:51.
18 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 66,1-2: PG 6, 428.
19 Jn 6:53.
20 Jn 6:56.
21 Jn 6:57.
22 Fanqith, Syriac Office of Antioch, Vol. 1, Commun., 237 a-b.
23 Mt 10:8.
24 Cf. Jn 6:54, 58; 1 Cor 11:30.
25 Jn 6:54.
26 Cf. Jn 13:1.
27 Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4.
28 Am 8:11.
29 Cf. Jn 6:26-58.
30 Cf. Ex 16:19-21.
31 Cf. 1 Tim 6:8.
32 St. Ignatius Of Antioch, Ad Eph. 20, 2 PG 5, 661; Jn 6:53-56.
33 St. Augustine, Sermo 57, 7: PL 38, 389.
34 St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 67 PL 52, 392; Cf. Jn 6:51.
We are told in the verse which follow the part of Christ’s discourse read today, that not only the incredulous Jews, but even many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve: Will you too go away? Simon Peter answered him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (verses 66-68). Peter did not say he and the other Apostles understood what Christ had said, or that they had no difficulty in accepting his statement. Instead he made the profound act of faith: you have the words of eternal life–if we leave you, if we doubt your word, who else can teach us the truth?
I think we can all repeat today this humble and sincere act of faith which Peter made in Capernaum in that far-off day. Like Peter we cannot say that we can easily understand the mystery of Christ’s real presence under the appearance of bread and wine after the words of consecration have been pronounced by the celebrant. But we are certain that Christ said that he was doing this and that he gave a command to his Apostles (and their successors) to continue doing as he had done. We have one big advantage over Peter, we are certain that Christ was God as well as man–Peter was not convinced of this until after the resurrection–and we know that with God all things are possible.
While on earth the God-man Christ hid his divinity. No one who saw or met him would suspect God was truly present within that human frame. No one could think that the infinite who created the whole universe was within a tiny morsel of that universe, in a human nature. Even his twelve chosen ones to whom he gave many hints and many proofs of his divinity could not bring themselves to admit it, until the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit finally convinced them.
Now, if Christ could hide his divinity under his human nature, it certainly is not impossible for him to hide his divinity and his glorified body, which does not occupy space, under the form of bread and wine. Not only is it not impossible, but if he willed to do so as he clearly stated he did, then it is a fact.
We have a further advantage too over Peter: the two thousand long years of the Church’s acceptance of this truth. The “breaking of bread,” their term for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist as sacrifice and sacrament, was practiced in the Church from the first day after the descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:42), and has been practiced ever since, even by parts of the Church who left the successor of Peter and established a “separate brotherhood.”
Admitting the fact then is not our difficulty. Rather our total unworthiness of such love and consideration, and our lack of gratitude in return, are what should give us serious food for thought today. Christ, the Son of God, comes into my home, my heart, every time I receive the Blessed Eucharist! And what kind of a home, what kind of a heart have I prepared for him? Our Sunday Mass is a repetition of the Last Supper–the institution of the Eucharist, which anticipated the death, resurrection, and glorification of the Son of God. Through his death and subsequent glorification he not only made heaven accessible to us, but he left us this crucified and glorified body of his, to be a communal meat for us, his followers, when we are gathered to honor God through him. Do we think of ourselves as being present in that Upper Room in Jerusalem as we come together in our local church to take an active part in the offering of this divine sacrifice for ourselves and for all men?
Sunday Mass and Holy Communion should not be an obligation to be fulfilled but a privilege to perform. An honest look into our hearts and into our attitude would do each one of us a lot of spiritual good and might make many of us find we have an urgent need to turn over a new leaf.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
Corpus Christi Procession
The Holy Thursday procession accompanies Jesus in his loneliness to the “via crucis.” The Corpus Christi procession, on the contrary, responds symbolically to the mandate of the Risen One… This universal aspect of the eucharistic presence is shown in the procession of our feast. We take Christ, present in the figure of bread, through the streets of our city… With this gesture, we place before his eyes the sufferings of the sick, the loneliness of youth and the elderly, temptations, fears, our whole life. The procession is intended to be a great and public blessing for our city: Christ is, in person, the divine blessing for the world… In the procession of Corpus Christi, we accompany the Risen One on his journey through the whole world, as we have said. And, in this way, we also respond to his mandate: “Take, eat… Drink of it, all of you” (Mt 26: 26) and following). The Risen One, present in the form of bread, cannot be “eaten” as a simple piece of bread. To eat this bread is to enter into communion with the person of the living Lord. This communion, this act of “eating” is really a meeting between two persons; it is to allow oneself to be penetrated by the life of the One who is Lord, who is my Creator and Redeemer. The purpose of this communion is the assimilation of my life with his, my transformation and configuration with the One who is living love. Therefore, this communion implies adoration, the will to follow Christ, to follow the One who goes before us. Adoration and procession form part, therefore, of only one gesture of communion. They respond to his mandate: “Take, eat.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
A Prayer to Foster the Practice of Daily Communion
O sweetest Jesus,
Thou who camest into the world
to give all souls the life of Thy grace,
and who, to preserve and nourish it in them,
hast willed to be at once the daily cure of their daily infirmities
and their daily sustenance;
we humbly beseech Thee,
by Thy Heart all on fire with love for us,
to pour forth upon them all Thy Divine Spirit,
so that those who are unhappily in mortal sin,
may turn to Thee and regain the life of grace which they have lost,
and those who, through Thy gift,
are already living this Divine life,
may draw near daily, when they can,
to Thy sacred table, whence,
by means of daily Communion,
they may receive daily the antidote of their daily venial sins,
and may every day foster within themselves the life of grace;
and being thus ever more and more purified,
may come at last to the possession of that eternal life
which is happiness with Thee.