Vatican II Verifications

The Par Excellence of the Eucharist over other modes which Christ is Present in the Sacred Liturgy

part two

     There have many misconceptions that Vatican II changed many things in the Church and "we don't do it that way anymore" has become the refrain in all too many parishes throughout the world. However, surprise! It hasn't changed that much! To prove this, we go to the source: the Vatican Council Postconciliar Documents, expertly compiled by the revered Dominican Austin P. Flannery in two volumes.

      Today we continue to address a complexing question that many are in a quandary about. Is Jesus equally present in the Word as He is in the Eucharist. He is present in both, just as He is present in the priest as the celebrant and the body of the faithful - the Mystical Body of Christ. But in all those He is present in Spirit, but He is not present corporally. For the Eucharist is a sacrament instituted by Christ at the Last Supper and the Word, while necessary to complement the sacrament, is not a sacrament in itself. Vatican II teaches that the Word is vital in fulfilling the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but the encyclical Mysterium Fidei by Pope Paul VI singles out the Eucharist as being above the others in the sense that this "presence of Christ under the species 'is called real' not in an exclusive sense, as if the other kinds of presence were not real, but par excellence." The Vatican II documents stress that the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass come first above everything else in the life of the Mystical Body of Christ - the people - the Church. The following is taken from VATICAN COUNCIL II, VOLUME II, More Postconciliar Documents; General Editor Austin Flannery, O.P. Costello Publishing Company, Part Six, pages 111-112 on the SACRED LITURGY, Chapter 9, INSTRUCTION ON THE WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY, Articles 12 and 13.

12. The Nature of Active Participation in the Mass


      It should be made clear that all who gather for the Eucharist constitute that holy people which, together with the ministers, plays its part in the sacred action. It is indeed the priest alone, who, acting in the person of Christ, consecrates the bread and wine, but the role of the faithful in the Eucharist is to recall the passion, resurrection and glorification of the Lord, to give thanks to God, and to offer the immaculate Victim not only through the hands of the priest, but also together with him; and finally, by receiving the Body of the Lord, to perfect taht communion with God and among themselves which should be the product of participation in the sacrifice of the Mass.(55)

For the faithful achieve a more perfect participation in the Mass when, with proper dispositions, they receive the Body of the Lord sacramentally in the Mass itself, in obedience to His words "take and eat."(56).

     Like the passion of Christ itself, this sacrifice, though offered for all, "has no effect except in those united to the passion of Christ by faith and charity...To these things it brings a greater or less benefit in proportion to their devotion."(57).

     All these things should be explained to the faithful, so that they may take an active part in the celebration of the Mass both by their personal devotion and by joining in the external rites, according to the principles laid down in the Constitution on the Liturgy, (58) which have been further determined by the Instruction Inter Oecumenici of 26 September 1964 and the Instruction Musicam Sacram of 5 March 1967, (59) and through the Instruction Tres abhinc annos of 4 May 1967.

13. The Influence of the Eucharist on the Daily Lives of the Faithful

      What the faithful have received by faith and sacrament in the celebration of the Eucharist should have its effect on their way of life. They should seek to live joyfully and gratefully by the strength of this heavenly food, sharing in the death and resurrection of the Lord. And so everyone who has participated in the Mass should be "eager to do good works, to please God, and to live honestly, devoted to good works, to please God, and to live honestly, devoted to the Church, putting into practice what he has learnt, and growing in piety."(60) He will seek to fill the world with the Spirit of Christ and "in all things, in the very midst of human affairs" to become a witness of Christ.(61)

      For no "Christian community can be built up unless it has as its basis and pivot the celebration of the holy Eucharist. It is from this therefore that any attempt to form a community must begin."(62)

January 30-February 1, 1998 volume 9, no. 22          Vatican II Verifications