What Does Jesus Do In The Eucharist?
“What does Jesus Christ do in the Eucharist? It is God who, as our Savior, offers himself each day for us to his Father’s justice. If you are in difficulties and sorrows, he will comfort and relieve you. If you are sick, he will either cure you or give you strength to suffer so as to merit Heaven. If the devil, the world, and the flesh are making war upon you, he will give you the weapons with which to fight, to resist, and to win victory. If you are poor, he will enrich you with all sorts of riches for time and eternity. Let us open the door of his sacred and adorable Heart, and be wrapped about for an instant by the flames of his love, and we shall see what a God who loves us can do. O my God, who shall be able to comprehend?”
— ST. JOHN VIANNEY
What Did Early Christians Believe About The Real Presence In the Eucharist?
We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing that is for the remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food that has been made into the Eucharist by the eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.
St. Justin Martyr
The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white Host.
– VENERABLE FULTON SHEEN
Struggling to Believe in the Eucharist?
If you are Catholic and struggling to believe in the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, you are not alone. A Pew Research Center survey suggests:
“… nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion ‘are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.’ Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that ‘during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.’”
So, nearly two-thirds of Catholics do not believe that the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ at Mass. This is important to discuss because this teaching is central to the Catholic Faith.
The reality, of course, is that this change does take place. The bread and wine offered at Holy Mass become, by the power and priesthood of Jesus Christ, His own Body and Blood.
“How can this come about?” Mary asked. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” the
angel answered, “and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.”
And now you are the one who puts the question: “How can bread become Christ and
wine His Blood?” I answer: “The power of the Holy Spirit will be at work to give us a
marvel which surpasses understanding.”
St. John Damascene
What should you do, therefore, if you are struggling to believe? There are many things to do, but we would like to offer three starting points.
3 Ways To Grow In Your Belief Of The Eucharist
Read the Scriptures
Read the Scriptures (especially the Gospels), trust that Jesus wants to nourish us, think through the implications, and draw on the living Tradition of the Church.
At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist as a memorial of His death and resurrection. He did this to perpetuate His sacrifice, which was to come, on the Cross until the end of time. He also instituted the priesthood at the same time.
The Sacred Scriptures are full of foreshadowing of the Eucharist, outright explanations of the Eucharist, and references back to the Eucharist. In a sense, every page points us to the Holy Eucharist. In a special way, the Gospels give us the words of Jesus Himself. So, it is worthwhile to spend some time reading or re-reading what He has to say about the Eucharist:
– Matthew 26:26-30 (Last Supper)
– Mark 14:22-26 (Last Supper)
– Luke 22:14-20 (Last Supper)
– John 6:22-59 (Bread of Life Discourse)
“This is the wonderful truth, my dear friends: the Word, which became flesh two thousand years ago, is present today in the Eucharist.”
– St. John Paul II
2. Trust in Jesus’ Desire to Nourish Us
Jesus loves you and me. He gives us His Flesh as food because He wants to nourish us. He says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (Jn. 6:56).” Through His incarnation and birth, He humbled Himself to share in our humanity. In the Eucharist, we become united to the Person of Jesus Christ. Our mortal and sinfully inclined natures are transformed by our union to the font of life.
We must trust that our Lord wants the best for us. And the best that He can give us is Himself. Therefore, He desires to come to us in the humble form of food to nourish our bodies and souls. When we struggle to believe because our human senses fail, we need to see with the eyes of faith in our trust of Him.
“As the body cannot be sustained without corporeal food, nor continue in natural life,
so without this life-giving food the soul cannot persist in the spiritual life of grace.”
Dionysius the Carthusian
3. Think it Through and Draw on Tradition
The bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and not merely symbols. Jesus Christ Himself said, “This is my body” and “this is my blood.” The appearances remain but the substance has changed.
If the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, under the veil of a Sacrament, then worship makes sense. During the Mass, we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. The priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God” while holding up the Eucharist. He kneels and we kneel. If the Eucharist were merely a symbol, then we are worshipping bread and committing horrid blasphemy.
This is the reality: the Eucharist is either Jesus or we are worshipping bread.
“It is not the man who is responsible for the offerings as they become Christ’s Body
and Blood; it is Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The standing figure belongs
to the priest who speaks these words. The power and the grace belong to God. ‘This is
My Body,’ he says. And these words transform the offerings.”
St. John Chrysostom
What If The Eucharist Is Just A Symbol?
If the Eucharist is merely a symbol, then why has the Church been centered around it since the beginning? Why would each Mass necessarily include a celebration of the Eucharist?
The great southern Gothic writer, Flannery O’Connor, once wrote of going to dinner with some friends. Her friend was a lapsed Catholic and said that she remembers receiving the Eucharist as a child. She “thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one.”
Flannery O’Connor then proceeded to share her response to her friend:
“I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest is expendable.”
She also spoke well of the link between denying the physical reality of the Eucharist and the erosion of all around belief.
She said, “When the physical fact is separated from the spiritual reality, the dissolution of belief is eventually inevitable.”
“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him
about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your
happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way
that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”
St. Francis de Sales
5 Tips On How To Receive The Eucharist
The eternal debate: receive the Eucharist on the tongue or in the hands?
The great debates Catholics get into can be rather heated (and honestly quite entertaining at times), but let’s start with this – Receiving the Eucharist on your tongue vs. in your hands isn’t the determining factor of reverence.
That’s right. When discussing how to receive the Eucharist, I’m not just talking about the physical reception (which I will get to), but the spiritual preparation too.
Here are 5 key points to keep in mind when preparing to receive the Eucharist.
5 Points To Keep In Mind When Receiving The Eucharist
1.Receive the Eucharist in a state of grace
This first key point isn’t only a good recommendation, but actually a requirement. The Code of Canon Law gives us some insight into this.
Can. 916 “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing…”
In summary: If you have committed a mortal sin, walk right on over to the confessional, be reconciled with the Lord, and then go receive Him in the Eucharist.
2. Observe the 1 hour eucharistic fast
Again, this one is also a requirement…
Can 919: One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.
This doesn’t apply to those who are sick or elderly.
It’s great to know the requirements, but why does the Church require us to do this?
There are two main reasons.
First, mortification is good and helps us grow in spiritual discipline. Second, the physical hunger we feel should remind us of the hunger and thirst we should have for the Eucharist.
And really, one hour isn’t that long, the fast used to begin the midnight preceding receiving the Eucharist.
3. Arrive at Mass a few minutes early
Attending Mass and receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is the most significant thing we could ever do.
If you were going to an important dinner, say with diplomats or bishops, would you just walk right in, seat yourself at the dinner table, and start eating? Probably not.
You would get dressed and ready, arrive early to speak with people, seat yourself when called to dinner, and follow the “protocol” for such an event. There is a certain sense of preparation.
If we put this much attention into a formal dinner, how much more should we prepare for the eternal wedding banquet? Take a few minutes before Mass to prepare your heart to receive Christ, pray, and be intentional.
4. Make an act of reverence before receiving the Eucharist
You are going to receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the King of the universe, how could you possibly show the respect and reverence due in this moment?
Honestly, we can probably never show the amount of respect that our Savior deserves, but we can do what we can!
How? This can be done by genuflecting or making a deep bow before receiving the Eucharist. In this reverential act, we acknowledge who we are before God and humble ourselves to receive Him.
5. Make a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass
Let’s return to the fancy dinner scenario (remember the bishops and diplomats). Once you have finished eating, would you get up and walk out of the room? No! Especially if other people were still eating dinner and there was more to come.
After we receive Communion, we are the most united with Jesus we can be on this side of heaven.
This is our chance to open our hearts to Him without reserve. To pour out our love, and ask for whatever grace we need.
By staying a few minutes after Mass we are telling Jesus that He is important to us, that our relationship with Him matters and warrants our love and attention.
So, back to the opening click-bait question: Receive Jesus on your tongue or in your hands?
Both are allowed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
When receiving in your hand, St. Cyril of Jerusalem offers some further instruction: “When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost.”
Want more information on how to receive the Eucharist with reverence (and some more details of what was summarized above)? Check out this video!
Communion Meditation: “You’re Worth Dying For Right Now”
Today’s video invites us to reflect on an important and often forgotten about moment during Mass – the after Communion Meditation. Too often we may return to our pew after receiving Communion and sit and think. We may make a short prayer, the choir launches into a hymn and the moment is lost. Perhaps it is difficult if we have young children with us, who are understandably restless and need our attention. Perhaps we simply don’t know what to pray in this moment, though we understand it is an important time.
Fr Mike Schmitz addresses this time in a very powerful way in this video. He begins by saying “[we] realize that here is the God of the Universe, who’s not only come down onto this altar, but He stepped off the altar in the Eucharist, into your life, into my life, into your very body and soul. The last thing we want to do is just receive and leave.”
This is true, but it also illustrates a common struggle of the moment: what are you meant to pray when you have the Creator of the Universe physically present in your body and soul?! Where do you even begin? How do you pay back an infinite debt so freely given? In those moments, praying in a pew in your local church, the realities of life around you – the crying children, the lady singing out of tune, the squeaky organ, the “what is she wearing?!” thoughts going through your head- can make it very difficult. It is hard to comprehend how the meeting of Heaven and Earth, the most momentous event of all the ages, the death of God, the ultimate sacrifice that occurred outside Time and Space, crashing through the cosmos, is settling in your body now, just for you.
You’re Worth Dying For – Fr. Mike Schmitz
Heady stuff. That’s why it is sometimes difficult to go back to your pew, after receiving something that looks like bread, tastes like bread, but isn’t bread, and say a prayer fitting to what is going on in the moment.
But then, we will never ever be able to produce a prayer fitting to the sacrifice of the Eucharist. That’s not to say that we then give up, say a short “thanks” and settle down to watch the Communion queue. Engage in the struggle, but also rest in the struggle. As Fr. Mike says, “measure out the love of a God whose love is immeasurable. And observe how great He thinks you are.”
Most of the time, our prayers in this time will be a distraction-filled struggle. But try spending a little longer than normal really giving to God your prayer time during the Communion Meditation. Tell Him if you are struggling, tell Him if you don’t understand the Eucharist, tell Him if it all feels beyond you. But let Him into your struggles. Thank Him for the gift of what He has given us, even if your thanks feel hollow- thank Him again and again. Allow Him to take the best and the worst you can give Him and multiply your faith over and above what you have. Because at the end of Mass, we are not meant to keep this gift to ourselves, but go out into a world of people hungry to know they are loved, hungry to know that they are worth dying for. Let that post-Communion meditation time be the time you spend deeply cementing the foundations of your relationship with Christ. Be with Him, try and be present to Him within you, listen to Him in this time.
Communion Meditation: Let Christ Speak
As you make this attempt, try not to fill up the moment with all your talk. Let Christ speak to you. You will not have beautiful blessed moments every time, but that is not always the point. The point is that, over time, you allow the Eucharist to become something more than just getting up from your pew, receiving and leaving. Allowing the truth that ‘you are worth dying for’ to sink in will change your life and it will change how you see and react to other people. If you are worth dying for, then so are they, and – like all good gifts – we are not called to keep the Good News of the Gospel to ourselves.
The Communion Meditation is a time we can draw on again and again during our day. If we keep in mind throughout our day that we have received God into our bodies and souls, then it will inform everything we do, like a happy secret shared between two people who love each other. It will strengthen and encourage us, and help us to be more generous to those around us.
I, therefore, invite you, the next time you go to Mass, to try and apply yourself more to the time after you receive Communion. Remember it is the quality of the time rather than the quantity that is important. Be present to Christ in that moment and see what He is whispering to you in the quiet of your heart.
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