There is, indeed, no article of the Catholic Faith which rests on stronger Bible evidence than the doctrine of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The Old Testament is full of its promises and intimations, but the New Testament is sufficient to banish every doubt concerning it. The four Evangelists speak of the Eucharist explicitly, and Saint Paul bears witness to the strong belief of the early Christians in this great dogma. Saint John (Chapter 6: 28-70) records the loving promise of Christ, made a year before His death, that He would give to all who believe in Him His Own body as a Heavenly food, a life-giving bread. The other three Evangelists, Saint Matthew (Chapter 26), Saint Mark (Chapter 14), and Saint Luke (Chapter 22), give us the fulfilment of that august promise. The words of institution are simple and transparent. The solemnity of the hour allows no figure of speech.
If ever Our Lord had to be plain in His words, it was on this momentous occasion when He gave the greatest gift to mankind. We have no right to correct His words; we must accept them in their plain, literal sense; for they are used with a pointed reference; they are applied to the object visibly present. Our Lord made use of His sovereign power as God and changed bread and wine into His flesh and blood.
The tabernacle on our altar is the dwelling-place of God among men, as described in Revelation: "He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people: and God Himself with them shall be their God" (Apocalypse 21: 3).
Now, as Jesus Christ is truly and essentially present in the Blessed Sacrament, we are bound to adore Him in that sacred mystery. For Christ is God, and to God belongs worship. It stands written: "The Lord thy God shalt thou adore" (Matthew 4: 10).
Forty Hour Devotion
The Church not only keeps the Blessed Sacrament constantly in the tabernacle but permits it to be exposed for our adoration. This is done in many churches principally on Thursdays to commemorate the day on which the Blessed Sacrament was instituted. It is also done at the devotion of Forty Hours. This last mode of honoring the Blessed Sacrament was introduced at first without the exposition, by a Milanese Capuchin friar named Saint Joseph, in the year 1556, in commemoration of the forty hours during which the body of the Savior rested in the sepulchre. In the year 1560 Pope Pius IV approved a proposition of a confraternity in Rome to hold a devotion of forty hours in remembrance of the forty days spent by Christ in the desert. Even here there was not a word about exposition. It was not till near the close of the sixteenth century that the Forty Hours' devotion with solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament came into practice.
The Church endeavors also to keep alive our devotion in the Blessed Sacrament by allowing it to be, from time to time, carried in solemn procession. More especially is this the case in the grand and solemn procession of Corpus Christi day.
In order to afford people an opportunity of manifesting their love for and belief in this sacrament, it is sometimes carried to the sick with much ceremony and solemnity.
Something is not truly appreciated until we are denied what we had
Over and over again one sees articles and letters in the papers and periodicals discussing suggestions as to how to hold people to Church attendance, and, especially, to keep them from drifting away from religious influences and associations. Methods of preaching, of singing, and beautiful ceremonies to make worship attractive and less "cold" are described and urged.
Naturally these communications do not come from Catholic sources. [At least they didn't at the beginning of the 20th Century.] There may be, and unhappily there are, many lukewarm Catholics. Nevertheless not once, nor even twice a day, but five and six and even seven times, where there are crypts and chapels, the Catholic people stream to Holy Mass on Sunday mornings. There is no singing except at High Mass, and then it may be mediocre, the preaching may not be distinguished by eloquence nor attractiveness, the church itself may be simple and devoid of architectural or artististic excellence. Why do they come? Because to them "the Mass is the perpetual sacrifice of the New Law, in which Christ our Lord, under the appearances of bread and wine, offers Himself to His Heavenly Father, by the hands of the priest, in an unbloody manner, as He once offered Himself on the cross in a bloody manner." (Gisler).
The body and blood of Jesus Christ present upon the altar in transcendent love draws and holds them. Take away the Mass and the real presence, and Catholic worship would become as cold as that from which Protestants slip away so easily and Catholic churches would not show a corporal's guard in the way of attendance. How prophetic are those words as we have seen the deterioration ever since the 'experiments' of Vatican II!
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the center of our Faith and worship, the real presence in the tabernacles the abiding source of grace and strength that keeps the heart even of the lukewarm Catholic, the Mystery of Love which makes of the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant a mystical union in Christ.
What wonder that denying this august sacrifice our separated brethren find worship "cold," and faith disappearing?
The better, then, that the symbols and ceremonies of the Mass, presenting the story of the Redemption as they do, are understood by the Catholic, the more he may hope to feel himself moved to adoration and thanksgiving. And yet how many attend Mass and have but the most superficial and passing knowledge of the rich meaning of the sacred ceremonies - so little that if they are in a front seat they will hardly know when to rise and when to kneel. Thus uninstructed, the soul can not be expected to move with the mysteries of the altar, much less defend itself by giving a reason for its faith - as the Apostle says we should be able to do - against the attacks which the unbelievers delight to make on the "superstitions" of Catholics.
The identity of the essential ceremonies of the Mass as it is celebrated now (Before the demolition of the altar by the reforms of Vatican II) with those used by the early Christians, is abundantly proved by historic evidence. The word "mass" itself is a reminder of the persecutions and difficulties of the primitive Church. It comes from the Latin word, "missa," dismissed. In early times the unbaptized and penitents, could remain only the first part of the Mass, and were dismissed at the beginning of the sacrifice proper. The name Mas was given to the whole of the ceremony, however, in order the better to conceal the sacred mystery from all the unbaptized, and save it from the ridicule and blasphemy of the heathens. (Indeed, wise words when one considers the threat of 'Black Masses' today and the amount of sacred hosts pilfered for the use of such satanic purposes. Quite possibly, it took the events that have followed Vatican II to help the faithful truly realize how much we have lost. Maybe, in God's ultimate wisdom, it is in realizing this loss, that we will fight with every ounce of our breath to regain all that was lost for the sake of Holy Mother Church and the Church Militant.)