August 9-12, 2001
volume 12, no. 141

The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar

Part Two: The Most Holy Eucharist: The True Presence

    In the Holy Eucharist Our Lord is present whole and entire, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. When the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle, a sanctuary lamp is kept burning before it.

    Christ gave His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood when He made the Apostles priests at the Last Supper by saying to them: "Do this in remembrance of Me."

    Thus He commanded them and their successors to renew till the end of time what He had just performed. This change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continues to be made in the Church by Jesus Christ, through His priests.

    Priests exercise their power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ by repeating at the consecration of the Mass the world of Christ: "This is My body…this is My blood."

    Over the bread are pronounced the words: Hoc est enim corpus meum, for "This is My Body." Over the wine are pronounced the words: Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei, "For this is the chalice of My Blood."

    At Mass, at the words of consecration, transubstantiation takes place; that is, the entire substance of the bread and wine is changed into our Lord's Body and Blood.

    After the words of consecration, there is no longer any bread or wine on the altar, for they have been changed into Christ's Body and Blood. If it be asked how transubstantiation can possibly be effected, we reply, "By the almighty power of God."

    The appearances of bread and wine remain. The consecrated Host continues to look like bread, tastes and feels like bread; but it is not bread, for the entire substance of bread is changed into Christ's Body.

    The same thing is true of the consecrated chalice, which continues to look, smell, and taste like wine, but there is no more wine, only Christ's Blood. This is called the Transubstantiation. Jesus Christ is whole and entire both under the appearances of bread and under the appearances of wine. In the Holy Eucharist Christ is present wholly, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

    A little child preparing for her first Holy Communion was asked the difference between a crucifix and the Blessed Sacrament. "Why," the innocent child answered, "the crucifix looks like Our Lord, but it is not He. The Blessed Sacrament does not look like Our Lord, but It is He Himself!" Out of the mouth and heart of a child such wisdom.

    Christ is whole and entire under the appearances of bread or wine. As Christ's Body is a living body, and a living body has blood, so Christ's Blood is there wherever His Body is. Where Christ's living Body and Blood are, there also must be His soul, for the body and blood cannot live without a soul. And where Christ's Soul is, there also is His Divinity, which cannot be separated from His humanity.

    Christ is whole and entire in each part of the Host and in each drop in the chalice. When the Host is broken, the Body of Christ is not broken, but He exists whole and entire in each fragment. In a similar way, even when we break a mirror into many pieces, each piece reflects our face.

    Christ's Body and Blood are present in the consecrated species as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain. When, therefore, we receive Holy Communion, we bear within us, as long as the appearances of bread remain, the Living Christ, Son of God. Christ gives us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist.

    The intention of the Holy Eucharist is to be offered as a sacrifice commemorating and renewing the sacrifice of the cross. "For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes" (1 Cor. 11:26). In the Mass Jesus offers Himself as a Victim to His Heavenly Father.

    We are privileged and blessed to be able to receive Christ's Real Presence in Holy Communion. "I am the bread of life… He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me, and I in him… He who eats me, he also shall live because of me" (John 6: 48, 56, 58). The Holy Eucharist is food to nourish the soul. By this food we are united to Christ, Who nourishes us with His divine life; sanctifying grace and all virtues increase in our souls; our evil inclinations are lessened. The Holy Eucharist is a pledge of everlasting life: "If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever." Holy Communion needs the Mass to supply the consecrated species; for this reason Mass and Communion are inseparable.

    One of the most drastic losses the Church has experienced over the past three plus decades is the loss of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar as it was reserved for 1,500 years in the tabernacle on the altar. It was intended to remain ever on our altars as a proof of His Love and to be worshipped by us. "Remain with us, Lord, for with Thee is the fountain of life" (Psalm 35:10). "Come to Me, all you who labor, and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). We say we love Jesus; do we prove out love? When we have a dear friend, we are ever eager to be in his presence; do we show Jesus the same loving tenderness? Or are we so forgetful of Him that we go to see Him only once a week? If we can find Him in the neo-Catholic New Order where He is hidden in a closet somewhere while the rest of the congregation celebrate themselves with cacaphony that is anything but reverent...anything but Catholic. Over the past 40 years the verdict is that the love for Our Lord and His true presence has truly waned.

    That is horrendous considering as Catholics we are bound to render the Holy Eucharist the same adoration and honor due God Himself. It is a most wonderful privilege to have Christ actually present every moment of the day and night.

    When the Blessed Sacrament is in the tabernacle, it is covered with a curtain or veil, and a sanctuary lamp is kept burning before it. When we enter or leave the church, we should genuflect on the right knee towards the tabernacle, as a sign of adoration. Yet, as we have lamented earlier more often than not these days Our Lord is no where to be found for it often takes a treasure hunt to find Him. No wonder so few spend time with Him before the Tabernacle. No wonder so many Catholics have lost the sense of wonder and awe for the True Presence. The blame lies squarely with the hierarchy for denuding our churches of the sacred and for removing Him from the altar - from removing the altars and replacing these masterful tributes to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with mere tables. Oh, we have lost so much.

    If only the bishops would wake up and realize the tabernacle is the most precious part of the church. If only pastors would return to the time when special care was taken to keep the altar linen clean. If only parishes would resurrect the altar societies of women who devoted part of their time to the care of altar linen, vestments, etc. Today many of the women would prefer to be in the sanctuary rather than caring for it.

    Rome gives us a good example. The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Basilica of St. Peter's is precious, with its unique tabernacle. Dozens of vigil lights burn day and night before Our Lord, as prayers for His Mystical Body of which we are members as the Church Militant.

    We can show Jesus our love and gratitude by hearing Holy Mass every day and receiving Holy Communion in the state of Sanctifying Grace, by paying Him a visit in the Blessed Sacrament, by attending Benediction, by spending an hour of adoration when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, and by other devotions if your parish offers it. If not, find a parish that still believes and professes the Real Presence through what it offers.

    When we pass by a church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, we should bow our heads as a sign of respect, and say a short aspiration in honor of Our Lord; men should raise their hats. If we are not ill-bred enough to pass by a friend without a word or gesture of greeting, shall we be thus ill-bred towards Our Lord?

    Catholics everywhere must realize that over the past 40 years we have lost so much and if we do not wake up soon and restore the dignity, awe, reverence and sacred to the liturgy and architecture we will lose even more, but nothing quite as valuable as the most precious gift God has given us: our Faith - a Faith that professes the True Presence of Our Lord, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

August 9-12, 2001
volume 12, no. 141
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