“Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Short Prayer After Communion
Body and Blood most Holy,
be the delight and pleasure of my soul,
my strength and salvation in all temptations,
my joy and peace in every trial,
my light and guide in every word and deed,
and my final protection in death. Amen
St. Thomas Aquinas
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 and Blood
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.
When Moses came to the people
and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD,
they all answered with one voice,
“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”
Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and,
rising early the next day,
he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar
and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites
to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
“This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
CCC 613 Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,1 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.2
CCC 2060 The gift of the commandments and of the Law is part of the covenant God sealed with his own. In Exodus, the revelation of the “ten words” is granted between the proposal of the covenant3 and its conclusion – after the people had committed themselves to “do” all that the Lord had said, and to “obey” it.4 The Decalogue is never handed on without first recalling the covenant (“The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.”).5
1 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:19.
2 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; Cor 11:25.
3 Cf. Ex 19.
4 Cf. Ex 24:7.
5 Deut 5:2.
God called Abraham from his home in Mesopotamia and promised him and his descendants a homeland of their own in the land of Canaan. God’s purpose in doing this was to enable him to fulfill his eternal plan of elevating man to divine sonship, through the incarnation of his own divine Son. Christ, the Son of God made man, who would bring this blessing of sonship to all mankind, was to take his human nature from a descendant of Abraham. Hence’s God’s very special interest in the Chosen People. The detailed covenant he made with the Israelites, after he had miraculously freed them from the slavery of Egypt, was the first pact he made with the people as a whole. On his part, he promised to lead them into the land he had promised to them through Abraham; there he would protect them from their enemies and prosper them, provided they were loyal to him and to his commandments. This pact, or covenant, was solemnly sealed and ratified with the blood of the sacrificial victims, sprinkled on the people and on the altar.
Like the whole of the Old Testament this was a representation and a preparation for the real, the new Testament, the new Covenant which God was to make not only with Abraham’s descendants, but the whole human race through Christ. When he came, he made a new pact between God and all men. In this pact God promised an ever-lasting home in heaven to all men and divine assistance on their way, provided they kept his commandments. This new and eternal covenant was signed and sealed with the precious blood of Christ who offered himself to God the Father as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
We are celebrating today in this annual feast of Corpus Christi the second and final covenant. The story of the first covenant is read for us to show us how the whole Old Testament, the whole of God’s dealings with Abraham and his descendants, were a preparation and a foreshadowing of the greater things he was to do for us, the Chosen People of the New Testament. God promised to lead the Israelites into Canaan and make them prosper there in their earthly concerns. That they would share in the future blessing, the incarnation, was only very vaguely hinted at. He gave them Moses, one of themselves, a son of Abraham, to be their leader. He agreed to accept the sacrifice of sheep and oxen and farm produce as a token of their reverence and respect. To us, on the other hand, he has opened his own heavenly kingdom and has given us all the necessary means to merit it. He has guaranteed us an eternal happiness. He has given us as our leader his own divine Son. The sacrifice with which we can show our reverence and gratitude to him is not a token. It is a sacrifice which gives God full honor and glory, for it is the sacrifice of his own beloved Son.
What return are we asked to make for these extraordinary privileges and promises? Nothing more than was asked of the Israelites. We are to keep the laws laid down by Christ. They include the Decalog and the cultic laws of the New Testament. One might say: surely, no sane man would refuse to pay so little for so great a reward! Yet, unfortunately, there are many Christians who do not keep the commandments. They forget all that the good God and his only begotten Son has done for them. They become so immersed in the pleasures and things of this passing world, that they have no time to think of the real world which lies ahead. They are willing to risk their own eternal future for the sake of some passing pleasure or some trifling gain.
The Chosen People at Mount Sinai unanimously and willingly promised to keep God’s commandments. Within a few weeks they forgot their solemn promise and rebelled against God. Because of their rebellions, their journey from Sinai to Canaan was so prolonged that none of the adults who were led by God out of Egypt reached their Promised Land. Christians, too, forget their baptismal promises, promises often repeated in adult life. Should they continue in this state of revolt against God, they too would find entrance to the eternal home denied them.
However, God is ever merciful, ever ready to forgive and forget our past. On this feastday of the precious Body and Blood of our Savior, let us revere that sacred Blood while we renew once more our firm resolve to do all that our heavenly Father asks of us.
Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18
I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came as high priest
of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle
not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves
but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls
and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes
can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works
to worship the living God.
For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant:
since a death has taken place for deliverance
from transgressions under the first covenant,
those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
CCC 522 The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the “First Covenant”.1 He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming.
CCC 579 This principle of integral observance of the Law not only in letter but in spirit was dear to the Pharisees. By giving Israel this principle they had led many Jews of Jesus’ time to an extreme religious zeal.2 This zeal, were it not to lapse into “hypocritical” casuistry,3 could only prepare the People for the unprecedented intervention of God through the perfect fulfillment of the Law by the only Righteous One in place of all sinners.4
CCC 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.5 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”.6 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.7
CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.8 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.9 Therefore his being put to bodily death10 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”11
CCC 614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.12 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.13
CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”14 The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. .. but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”15 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.16 As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.17
CCC 1085 In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father “once for all.”18 His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.
CCC 1367 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.”19
CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”20
CCC 2100 Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. .. ”21 The prophets of the Old Covenant often denounced sacrifices that were not from the heart or not coupled with love of neighbor.22 Jesus recalls the words of the prophet Hosea: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”23 The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross as a total offering to the Father’s love and for our salvation.24 By uniting ourselves with his sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God.
1 Heb 9:15.
2 Cf. Rom 10:2.
3 Cf. Mt 15:31; Lk 11:39-54.
4 Cf Is 53:11; Heb 9:15.
5 Cf. Gal 4:4.
6 Jer 31:33; Is 42:3, 6.
7 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.
8 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.
9 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.
10 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.
11 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.
12 Cf. Heb 10:10.
13 Cf. Jn 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Jn 4:10.
14 Jn 12:32.
15 Heb 9:24.
16 Heb 7:25.
17 Heb 9:11; cf. Rev 4:6-11.
18 Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.
19 Council of Trent (1562) Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, c. 2: DS 1743; cf. Heb 9:14, 27.
20 LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:PL 20,554A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,22:PG 35,432B.
21 PS 51:17.
22 Cf. Am 5:21-25; Isa 1:10-20.
23 Mt 9:13; 12:7; Cf. Hos 6:6.
24 Cf. Heb 9:13-14.
If any of the first readers of this Epistle felt any temptation to return to the Jewish religion, the comparison between the value of the sacrifices offered on the day of Atonement by the Jewish high priest and the sacrifice offered by Christ on Good Friday must surely have put their minds at rest. The Jewish high priest was a man; Christ was the Son of God in human nature. The high priest had to atone for his own sins as well as those of his people, Christ was sinless. The high priest offered as sacrifice sheep and calves, things in themselves that had no value for making atonement or for honoring God; Christ offered his own human body, an offering that had infinite value in atoning for sin and in giving honor to his Father : for he who made the offering was the Son of God. The high priest had to repeat this ritual of atonement each year; Christ’s offering was made once and for all, for it had infinite value for all men for all time.
Do we really appreciate how fortunate we are to be members of the new Chosen People, rather than to be living under the old dispensation? The Old Testament was the only true religion, the one religion that in its day taught a knowledge of the true God, but how limited was its knowledge, how empty of power and efficacy were its ritual observances, how little did the Israelites know of the infinite love and mercy of God compared with what our Christian religion teaches us?
Today’s feastday is a striking reminder of this infinite love of God. Not only did the Son of God die on the cross for our salvation, but through his divine power he arranged to leave to his Church the power to repeat that self-same death in an unbloody manner each time the holy sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. Every Mass said renews the efficacy of Calvary. The high priest of Christianity enters once more into the heavenly holy of holies; infinite glory is given to God; infinite atonement is made for the sins of men, and the floodgates of heaven are opened to pour down a superabundance of divine grace on mankind. We surely have “the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven” and one who at the same time understands and sympathizes with us in all our human needs and weaknesses. Therefore, not only did he open heaven for us and show us the way but he bequeathed to his Church for all time his precious Body and Blood, to be offered to God as an infinite atonement. At the same time his Body and Blood are our spiritual food in this life.
The Blessed Eucharist is a sacrifice and a sacrament. Corpus Christi is the feastday of the Blessed Eucharist. Both sacrament and sacrifice are closely united. In the Old Testament times, the priest offering some animal to God as sacrifice and the person or persons for whom he offered the sacrifice, ate part of the victim as a sign of their close intimacy with God. It is the same with the Blessed Eucharist. The receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ is an essential sequence to the offering of Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus Christ becomes present on our altars to re-enact the sacrifice of Calvary and also to be our spiritual nourishment. This is his intention for he said, when instituting the Eucharist : “take it and eat: this is my body,” and of the cup he said : “Drink all of you from this, for this is my blood” (Mt. 26: 27).
While it is the priest alone who is empowered to consecrate at Mass, all who are present are the offerers of the sacrifice and should, therefore, partake of the sacrifice. They should, in other words, receive under one or both species during the Mass. This community participation in the eucharistic sacrifice was stressed and practiced very much in the early Church and down through the first centuries. In recent years the faithful have been urged to renew this very spiritual practice. We give infinite honor to God by being present and by participating in the offering of the Mass. But we participate fully and receive the full benefits of this sacrificial act only when we partake of the sacrifice with our fellow-worshipers by receiving Christ in Holy Communion.
For those who feel they are seriously unworthy to receive Christ in the Holy Communion, the merciful means of obtaining forgiveness is within easy reach. For those who feel unworthy of such an honor because of minor faults and failings committed during the week, a heart-felt act of love of God will cleanse them of such minor faults and failings. God is the God of love and mercy. His presence in the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist is proof of this. Let us strive to be always ready to welcome him into our hearts when he is present with us on our altars.
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.
Lo! the angel’s food is given
To the pilgrim who has striven;
see the children’s bread from heaven,
which on dogs may not be spent.
Truth the ancient types fulfilling,
Isaac bound, a victim willing,
Paschal lamb, its lifeblood spilling,
manna to the fathers sent.
Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,
Jesu, of your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.
You who all things can and know,
Who on earth such food bestow,
Grant us with your saints, though lowest,
Where the heav’nly feast you show,
Fellow heirs and guests to be. Amen. Alleluia.
Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
Jesus’ disciples said to him,
“Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
He sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the city and a man will meet you,
carrying a jar of water.
Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,
‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room
where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘
Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.
Make the preparations for us there.”
The disciples then went off, entered the city,
and found it just as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover.
While they were eating,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, gave it to them, and said,
“Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
“This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you,
I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.1 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.2
CCC 574 From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him.3 Because of certain acts of his expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners4 –- some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession.5 He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.6
CCC 1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:
Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein7 and eulogein8 recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.
CCC 1335 The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.9 The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.10
CCC 1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood:
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. ..” They went. .. and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”11
CCC 1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”12
CCC 1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”13 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.” In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Marana tha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”14 “May your grace come and this world pass away!”15
1 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.
2 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.
3 Cf. Mk 3:6; 14:1.
4 Cf. Mt 12:24; Mk 2:7,14-17; 3:1-6; 7:14-23.
5 Cf. Mk 3:22; Jn 8:48; 10:20.
6 Cf. Mk 2:7; Jn 5:18; 7:12, 52; 8:59; 10:31, 33.
7 Cf. Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24.
8 Cf. Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22.
9 Cf. Mt 14:13-21; 15:32-39.
10 Cf. Jn 2:11; Mk 14:25.
11 Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.
12 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; cf. Mt 26:26 ff.; Mk 14:22 ff.; Lk 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor 11:24 ff.
13 Mt 26:29; cf. Lk 22:18; Mk 14 25.
14 Rev 1:4; 22 20; 1 Cor 16 22.
15 Didache 10, 6: SCh 248,180.
Our divine Lord said: “greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15: 13). Christ carried out this act of love when he laid down his life for us on the cross. Because he was more than man, he was also capable of greater love than any man could show, and this he proved on the first Holy Thursday night. As man he could die for us only once, but being God as well, he ordained that this death of his could be repeated sacramentally time and again under the form of the separation of his precious blood from his body (what happened on Calvary) by means of the separate acts of consecration of bread and wine. This he did himself in the first instance. He then gave the power and the command to repeat this supernatural transformation when he said to his disciples: “do this as a memorial of me” (Lk. 22: 19; 1 Cor. 11 : 24).
Our Savior not only became man, lived among us and died on the cross for our sakes, but in his love for us, and because of his divine power, he arranged to leave to his Church the power to re-present once more to his heavenly Father and ours, his fully-atoning sacrifice of the cross under the Eucharistic form. He thus enabled us to partake of that sacrifice as our spiritual nourishment during life. This is what our Savior did for us on Holy Thursday night in Jerusalem. That he could do it we have no doubt, because we admit he was God and man. He hid his divinity under the cloak of humanity while he was on earth as the incarnate Son. That he could hide his humanity, his body and blood, under the appearance of bread and wine is hardly any more difficult for divine power.
We have his own infallible word as witness and we have the indisputable fact that his disciples and their converts took him at his word, in the full literal sense, from the very beginning of the Church. The Eucharist, or the Mass as it was called later, was the one and only corporate act of worship which the Christian community offered to God, from the very first days of the Church. And, it must be remembered, all the first Christians in Palestine and many of them outside of Palestine, were Jews. Into them were instilled from childhood the need and grave duty to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, petition and placation to God. On becoming Christians, they ceased offering the Jewish sacrifices, for they were convinced that they had in the Eucharist the true sacrifice which replaced all the offerings prescribed in the Old Law. It was a true sacrifice, which of its very nature, gave infinite honor, infinite thanksgiving and infinite atonement to God.
With such evidence from sacred scripture, and from the tradition of the Church from its very infancy, it seems strange that some who still claim to be Christians say they cannot admit that Christ left us his real body and his real blood in the blessed Eucharist. If he did not, he deceived the Church, a statement which is blasphemous for anyone who admits Christ’s divine nature. The Church was not deceived.
“Thou hast said it, O Lord, and thy word is true,” this is the solid basis of our belief in the Blessed Eucharist as a sacrifice and as a sacrament. As a sacrifice: every time we participate in the celebration of the Mass we are offering a perfectly acceptable sacrifice to God, we join together as his Chosen People to render him the thanksgiving, the honor and atonement we owe him. When we partake of that adorable sacrifice and when we eat of the bread and drink of the wine which has become the body and blood of Christ, we receive Christ within us and we become intimately united with him and with one another.
“What return can I make to the Lord for all he has done for me?” The answer is: almost nothing or very little indeed. My finite love is puny indeed beside the infinite love of God. But that does not exempt me from doing what I can. The widow’s mite was appreciated. I can attend the sacrifice of the Mass devoutly as often as I possibly can, and I can and should receive my Savior into my heart every time I participate in the Mass. I know that I am not worthy and never will be worthy to receive him under my roof. I am more unworthy perhaps than the Roman centurion who first said this to Christ, but it is not the healthy who have need of the physician but the sick. I need all the spiritual help I can get in this life. What greater source of help and strength could I get than Christ himself, the very author of my salvation?
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan OFM and used with permission from Ignatius Press.
The Sacrificial Aspect of the Eucharist
In the fundamental prayer of the Church, the Eucharist, the heart of our life is not merely expressed but is realized day after day. At the most profound level, the Eucharist has to do with Christ alone. He prays for us; he puts his prayer on our lips, for only he can say: This is my Body – This is my Blood. Thus he draws us into his life, into the act of eternal love by which he gives himself up to the Father, so that we are made over into the Father’s possession with him and that through this very act Jesus Christ himself is bestowed upon us. Thus the Eucharist is a sacrifice: being given up to God in Jesus Christ and thereby at the same time having the gift of his love bestowed on us, for Christ is both the giver and the gift. Through him, and with him, and in him we celebrate the Eucharist. Communion with him is that communion with the whole, without which there is no communion with Christ. A part of Christian prayer and of the Christian act of faith is committing oneself in faith to the whole, overcoming one’s own limits. The Liturgy is not the setting up of some club, an association of friends; we receive it from the whole Church, and we have to celebrate it as coming from the whole and directed toward the whole. Only then do we believe and pray aright, when we are living it in the context of this act of self-transcendence, of self-abnegation, directed toward the Church of all times and of all places; this is what Catholicism essentially is. That is what we aim at whenever we step out of the zone of what is ours to unite ourselves with the pope and this enter into the Church of all nations.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
The Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ’s side, 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 I may praise Thee with Thy saints
and with Thy angels
Forever and ever
The Anima Christi is a prayer from around the 14th century. It is still widely used by many Catholics and Orthodox after receiving the body and blood of Our Lord,
Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.