Skip to comments.Lesson 18: The Eucharist (Part 2)BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER
Posted on 05/01/2006 12:50:28 PM PDT by MILESJESU
Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier
Lesson 18: The Eucharist (Part 2)
If you want to trace some of these things through the Scriptures, the place to begin is in Genesis 14. There you will find a man by the name of Melchizedek. That is the only place where he is mentioned. He comes out of nowhere and offers sacrifice and blesses Abraham, and Abraham gives him one-tenth of everything he has taken as booty in his defeat of the five kings. The only other place in the Old Testament that Melchizedek is ever mentioned is in Psalm 110. Melchizedek, by the way, is called the priest of God Most High in Genesis. He is not called the high priest; that is Aarons title. And Melchizedek offers bread and wine in sacrifice to God.
The Jewish people offered all the animals and so on, but Melchizedek offers bread and wine at the sacrifice. Then you get to Psalm 110. That is a Messianic psalm with a promise about the Messiah. It says: You will be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Not according to the order of Aaron, because that is a priesthood according to lineage. If you were a Levite, if you were of the lineage of Aaron, then you could be a priest, as long as you were the firstborn male. But if you were from a different tribe other than the tribe of Levi, you could not be a priest. All of the Jewish males, by the way, were priests up until they went out into the desert. When they were disobedient and worshiped the golden calf, that is where they lost their priesthood. Then there was only Aaron and his sons after him who would be able to be the Jewish priests.
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Lesson 18: The Eucharist (Part 2)
If you want to trace some of these things through the Scriptures, the place to begin is in Genesis 14. There you will find a man by the name of Melchizedek. That is the only place where he is mentioned. He comes out of nowhere and offers sacrifice and blesses Abraham, and Abraham gives him one-tenth of everything he has taken as booty in his defeat of the five kings. The only other place in the Old Testament that Melchizedek is ever mentioned is in Psalm 110. Melchizedek, by the way, is called the priest of God Most High in Genesis. He is not called the high priest; that is Aarons title. And Melchizedek offers bread and wine in sacrifice to God. The Jewish people offered all the animals and so on, but Melchizedek offers bread and wine at the sacrifice. Then you get to Psalm 110. That is a Messianic psalm with a promise about the Messiah. It says: You will be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Not according to the order of Aaron, because that is a priesthood according to lineage. If you were a Levite, if you were of the lineage of Aaron, then you could be a priest, as long as you were the firstborn male. But if you were from a different tribe other than the tribe of Levi, you could not be a priest. All of the Jewish males, by the way, were priests up until they went out into the desert. When they were disobedient and worshiped the golden calf, that is where they lost their priesthood. Then there was only Aaron and his sons after him who would be able to be the Jewish priests.
From Psalm 110, you can turn to Saint Pauls Letter to the Hebrews and look especially at chapters 5, 6, and 7. There Saint Paul talks about Melchizedek and Jesus, and how Jesus is not from the order of Levites and should not be a priest because He is from the order of Judah. There were no priests from the tribe of Judah. But neither was Melchizedek from the order of Levites. So Saint Paul is making the argument that Jesus is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Then you have to backtrack and ask, What did Melchizedek offer? Bread and wine. And so then you can look at the three synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Look at the passages regarding the Last Supper, and there you find Jesus offering bread and wine. You can also look at John 6 where He says, The bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world. He tells us what the bread is that He is going to offer. It is all right there if you want to trace it through the Scriptures.
The Eucharist is the sacrament of the new law in which Christ is truly present under the forms of bread and wine Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in order to offer Himself in an unbloody manner to the Father and to give Himself to the faithful as nourishment for their souls. The Eucharist has preeminence over all the other sacraments because unlike them it is not merely an instrument of Gods grace, but it is God Himself. All the other sacraments, we have seen, are the causes of grace, but we said that they are instrumental causes of the grace of God. And so all the other sacraments are ordered to the Eucharist as their object. The Mass and the Eucharist more than anything else are what distinguish us as Catholics. In the Eucharist we have a treasure which is both infinite and inexhaustible. It is a place where we can spend the rest of our lives and it is the place where we will spend the rest of eternity (provided we go the right direction) and we will never come to the end.
When we talk about the Real Presence, what is meant by that term is that the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ are really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine. It looks and tastes like bread and wine. The accidents of bread and wine remain, but the substance has changed. That which makes a piece of bread a piece of bread has changed to become that which makes Jesus Christ Who He is. In this, the glorified Christ is present by means of a miracle. That is, the substance and the reality of the bread and wine have been changed into the substance and reality of the Body and Blood of the resurrected and ascended Lord.
One thing to understand is that Jesus is present in the Eucharist in the form that He is presently in. In other words, at the Last Supper, when He gave Himself to the apostles in the Blessed Sacrament, He was present in the Eucharist exactly in the form that He was as He stood right before them. They received Him as He was. Now this did not happen, but if Peter or Saint John would have had the wherewithal to think about it, had they said Mass in those three days that Jesus was in the tomb, they would have received the dead body of Jesus. His soul and His divinity were alive, of course, but His body and blood would have been postmortem. If they would have said Mass in the 40 days after the Resurrection but before He ascended into heaven, they would have received the resurrected Christ. But now that He has ascended into heaven and is glorified, when we receive Him, we receive Him as He is now, that is, glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father. We receive Him as He is presently.
Jesus is God, and God is worthy of all worship and adoration, so it follows that Our Lord under the forms of bread and wine is worthy of all worship and adoration in the Eucharist. That is why we spend time praying to Him. It should also be noted that the doctrine of the Real Presence was never called seriously into question until the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants were unanimous in rejecting transubstantiation and the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. However, there was some disagreement among the Protestants about the question of the Real Presence. Martin Luther believed in the Real Presence, but he said that it occurred only during the reception of Holy Communion. All of the others rejected it outright.
The Church, on the other hand, has always believed that Jesus meant the words at the Last Supper literally and not symbolically. He told His disciples to take and eat, and He told them to drink of it. He did not just point to Calvary and say, Heres what will happen tomorrow. He told them right then and there, Eat My flesh. Drink My blood. Take this, all of you, and eat it. It is something He was requiring of them, and he was not just saying, Heres whats going to happen symbolically. When I die on the Cross, think about this. That is not what He did. Instead, He took the bread and wine and changed them into Himself so they could actually partake of the sacrifice. They did not understand that, but that was the reality. He also instructed them to continue to do this when He said, Do this in memory of Me.
For this, we have to understand the Hebrew understanding of memory. He is not saying, In the future, when you do this, eat some bread and drink some wine and tell this story. Dont forget Me; remember Me in the future. That is not what He is saying at all. Go back to Exodus 12 and there you will see God telling Moses to tell the people that regarding the Passover this is to be an everlasting memorial. For the Jewish people, the idea of the memorial feast is not Okay, lets get together and remember something that happened 3,500 years ago. When the Jewish people celebrate Passover, they are living it. It is not just Remember what happened in Egypt 3,500 years ago; it is happening now. When they celebrate the Passover, they are making it real, so that is what Jesus is getting at. When He is using this term Do this in memory of Me, He is using the Jewish understanding of the memorial and saying, Make it real. Continue to do this. That is what this is about. We are continuing it. We are not just telling the story and remembering Jesus and eating some bread and wine in His memory, but rather we are making real what He did. We are continuing the work of Our Lord.
We also need to understand the ramification of all this. If Jesus spoke only symbolically about His presence in the Eucharist, then we are guilty of idol worship. We are guilty of violating the First Commandment if that is just a piece of bread, because we worship Jesus there. When it comes to pictures and statues, they remind us of the person. We do not pray to a statue. We do not pray to a picture. But we do pray to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We worship Him in the Blessed Sacrament. We have prayers: O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine. We bow down before the Blessed Sacrament. We incense the Blessed Sacrament. We actually have prayers to Our Lord Who is present in the Eucharist. It is not just a symbol of Jesus. If you think it is only a symbol and you try to worship Him there, that is idol worship. If He meant the words only symbolically, then we have a problem.
Of course, as God, He certainly would have known the problems that this would have caused for the apostles, as well as for His Church throughout the centuries, so we can only assume that He meant these words literally. From the very beginning, the Church has understood the Eucharist to be the Real Presence. If that understanding is based on a misunderstanding of the words of Our Lord at the Last Supper, then we would have to say that it is Jesus fault. Do any of us really want to suggest that? It is not possible. Also, the Church being the Mystical Person of Christ is the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture, and the Church has believed this from the beginning. Again, this is not some medieval invention; this is something that goes back to the 1st century. The early Christians believed absolutely in the Eucharist, and they celebrated the Eucharist regularly.
When the Church teaches that the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, it means the entire substance. All that remains are the accidents, the appearances of bread and wine. It looks and tastes and feels and smells like bread and wine, but the reality of what it is, the spiritual substructure, has changed into Christ. That is the meaning of the word transubstantiation. What that means literally is across the substance. The substance has changed. The substance is that which makes a thing what it is, that spiritual substructure which makes something what it is. In the Eucharist, then, we do not see Jesus with our eyes nor do we touch Him with our hands or our tongues. What we see and taste and touch are the external characteristics of bread and wine, but the reality and the fullness of the Person of Christ are truly there hidden behind the accidental forms of bread and wine.
Martin Luther taught the doctrine that he called consubstantation. That means the substance of bread and wine remain along with the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. Martin Luther believed that the Eucharist does contain the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, but not that it changed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Martin Luther denied that the Eucharist is a sacrifice. He denied the priesthood. Martin Luther was a Catholic priest before he left. He maintained the concept of the Real Presence, but said that the substance of Christ is there along with the substance of the bread and wine, that both are there. According to Luther, it is not that the bread and wine have changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, rather it still remains bread but Jesus is there too. For him, the consecration made Christ present with the bread and wine. It means that the bread and wine are not changed into Christ, but rather Christ comes to dwell in the bread and wine.
We as Catholics, on the other hand, believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are present in the Eucharist after the words of consecration. When the priest says, This is my body, that is the very moment the change takes place in the bread. When he says, This is the cup of my blood, at that very moment the wine changes into the Blood of Christ. Thinking about this, does it mean that when we receive only under one form that we receive only the Body or only the Blood of Christ? The answer is no. The reason is because the real connection between the body and blood of Christ, as well as His soul, are present completely under either form. The reason for that is because the glorified Christ is now a living body, and you cannot separate anything in Christ. In the glorified Christ, you cannot separate the body from the blood. You cannot separate His soul and divinity from His body as He was in the tomb. He is now glorified. Because the humanity of Christ is eternally united to His divinity through the hypostatic union, wherever one element is found, the fullness is there. And so if you receive only the host, you receive the Body, the Blood, the Soul, and the Divinity of Christ. If you receive only from the chalice, you receive the Body, the Blood, the Soul, and the Divinity of Christ. If you receive under both forms, you do not receive any more of Christ. In fact, if you receive a hundred hosts, you have not received any more of Christ. You have received the Lord. The Church would say that if you receive under both forms there is a fuller symbolic value, but that is all. It is just a fuller symbol, but you have not received any more of Christ. You receive the fullness under either form or both forms; you have not missed anything and you have not received anything more if you receive under one or both.
The Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament, but He is not present by extension or by measurability. In other words, this is not just a tiny Jesus that is present in the Eucharist, nor is it a piece of Our Lord. It is not that Jesus comes down and becomes a little person under there smaller than a little baby in the womb, but rather it is the fullness of the Lord substantially. He does not come down from heaven to the altar, but rather His condition in heaven remains unchanged. He now becomes present here in a way that He was not before, that is, substantially. He is present substantially on the altar where He was not just a moment before. That is where the difference is. He does not change in heaven, but what changes here is the bread and wine to change into the very Person of Christ.
How long does the Lord remain in the Eucharist species? Does He leave as soon as Mass is over, or does He continue to stay as long as the species itself remains intact? It is an important question because Martin Luther taught that Christ was present in the Eucharist only when the Eucharist was being used. That means from the moment of the consecration until Communion, and after Communion He was gone. But remember, they did not believe that the bread became Jesus, but only that Jesus was there with the bread. We believe something entirely different. Due to that understanding, Luther denied the perpetual presence of Christ and therefore saw no reason to reserve the sacrament in a tabernacle, to adore the Lord, to have Benediction, or any of those sorts of things, because as soon as Communion was over, the Lord was gone. As Catholics, we believe that as long as the sacramental species remain intact with the physical aspects of what we can see as long as it still looks like bread and it still looks like wine then Jesus remains present there. This means that when the species are no longer bread and wine, the Body and Blood, the Person of Christ, ceases to be present because the signs of His presence are gone. The Real Presence remains from the moment of consecration until the corruption of the species.
Let me explain that. If the priest accidentally knocks the chalice over on the altar (this has happened before) and it spills all over the place, what do you do? You wait until the Precious Blood dries, then it is no longer wine. It is no longer wet and it is not something drinkable. The species of the wine, that is, the physical stuff that looks and tastes like wine, no longer is there. Then you wash the altar cloth, and that has to be done properly. You do not put the wash water down the drain; you have to wash the cloth carefully and put all the water into the ground so you do not violate the Lord at all. But at the moment it all dries then it is no longer Jesus. The same is true if the host falls on the ground. What you can do is put it in water so it dissolves. Once it dissolves, it is no longer the Lord. The same thing happens in your stomach. Once the species dissolves within you, then it is no longer the Lord sacramentally present.
How long does He remain within you? The saints would say probably 15 or 20 minutes. That should give us something to think about when we want to leave Mass early. Saint Francis de Sales used to send altar boys with candles to escort the people when they would leave Mass early because the Blessed Sacrament was still within them. For 20 minutes or so we should be able to stay and pray. Think about what we do with Our Lord in us. How many Catholics race out of the church as quickly as they can to get out into the car so they can start cussing and swearing at people? Jesus is right there inside of them! What just happened? Obviously, they paid no attention. People wonder if Jesus is really there: Why dont I see any changes in myself? Dont blame Him! If there is not a change in us, that is not His fault because somehow or another we are not opening our hearts to allow ourselves to be changed, as is evidenced by our actions. All we have to do is look at what we are doing with Jesus in us. If you want to avoid the traffic jam, stay in church. It is a great idea. If you hang around for an extra 15 or 20 minutes after Mass, there is no traffic jam. You can go home in peace; besides that, you spent time in prayer. Come early, stay late; that is the best. And you get a good parking spot on top of it. That is the way to handle it. The Catholic way, on the other hand, is double park, come late, and leave early. That is not the idea.
We need to look at our generosity toward Our Lord. This is God. If we really understood what was going on at Mass, we would not be able to get the people into the church. It would be overflowing out into the parking lot. It demonstrates how little we really understand. And if we understood what we really have Who we really have in the Blessed Sacrament, there would not be any need for churches to be begging for people to come for Eucharistic Adoration; we would not be able to get the people into the chapel. Just think. If the Holy Father stood up today and said, Our Lord is going to return on this day, so lets all head to the Mount of Olives and see Our Lord and we know that He is going to return to the Mount of Olives; that is right there in Scripture what would we do to get there? But He is right here! We do not have to go anywhere. He is right here in the Blessed Sacrament, yet we do not pay any attention to Him. We do not come to visit Him. We do not come to be with Him. Why? If we really believe that is God truly present, why do we pay Him no attention? It is not that Our Lord is lonely, because there are angels around Him all the time, but when you look at it from a human perspective, He would have to be the loneliest guy around because there He sits in the church and nobody comes to talk to Him. He is there in a passive form. He is waiting for you. You are the one who has to be active. You know He is there, and you have to make the choice to come be with Him. He is not going to force Himself on you, and look at how much He trusts you: He is there passively. He is the omnipotent God, and there He sits in a totally passive and helpless form, trusting in us that we would do nothing which would violate Him, trusting that we love Him so much that we would never ever allow Him to be violated in any way. Is that what we really see going on? Unfortunately, not.
Again, these are things we need to think about. Jesus is there. It always amazes me when people are willing to hop on an airplane and go to an apparition site where Our Lady might have appeared. There is no problem with that, but she is not there now. She might have been there at some other point in history, but Jesus is right here in the Blessed Sacrament and nobody comes! Its free. Why pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to fly someplace where the Mother of God might have appeared when you have God, her Son, right here? I love Our Lady and do not have a problem with anybody wanting to honor her, but for heavens sake if we pay no attention to her Son, and she is a Jewish mother, she is not going to be a happy lady. We need to know Who is there. What she wants more than anything is that we would love her Son. I am sure she is very pleased that people go to the place where she appeared, but I think she would be even more pleased if we would just be with her Son. That is what she wants.
The Eucharist, being the very Person of Christ, needs to be handled with the utmost care and the utmost reverence. Adoration is shown by genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament. When we come to church we genuflect, bend the right knee to the floor when the Lord is present. We would genuflect on the left knee if it were the Pope or a bishop, but on the right knee when it is God. We show that adoration also by the way we receive Him, which brings up another point. The biggest problem in the Church right now stems from the way that we receive Communion. The bishops have allowed that we would receive Communion standing up and putting our hand out. But my opinion, and also the official teaching of the Church actually, is that we should receive Communion on our tongue. Communion in the hand is something that is allowed, but it is not the norm. Kneeling and receiving on the tongue is what the Church would actually ask for. I can only beg you on behalf of Our Lord, please, never ever put your hand out to God. That is God. He holds us in the palm of His hand; we have absolutely no business holding Him in the palm of our hand. It is not that anyone is trying to do anything disrespectful or arrogant, but if you really stop to think about it, it is about the most arrogant thing we can possibly do: putting our hand out to God. Ask yourself what is going to happen on the day you die. What do you want your meeting with Jesus to be like? Do you think that when you die you are going to stand up, walk right up to Him arrogantly, stick your hand out and say, Hey, Jesus, buddy! Good to see you. Shake my hand, pal! I do not think so. That is not my vision of what is going to happen, anyway. I will be looking at the floor, maybe at His feet, but thats about it. We have no business putting our hand out to God. So even though it is allowed and it is not a sin to do so, I beg you on Our Lords behalf, please, never ever put your hand out to God. Receive Him only on the tongue.
There is even another point regarding that: We are to receive Communion. To receive is passive. It was always that the people would kneel at the rail and put their tongue out, the priest would come to them and give them Holy Communion, and they would receive. Now the priest is standing in one place passively, and the people come to him and put their hand out. The priest is to take Communion; the people are to receive Communion. Standing up, walking to the priest, and putting your hand out is active; it is taking Communion. That is not what we are supposed to do. We are to receive Communion. Traditionally, only the priest would be allowed to touch the host because only a priests hands were consecrated. Now everybody can touch the host. The saints tell us, for instance, that we have to be so careful about our language because our tongue is going to be the altar upon which the Blessed Sacrament lay. So how careful we need to be about what passes over our tongue, the speech that we use. Think of where your hands have been, and then we are going to put them out to God? That does not make sense if we really stop to think about it. Most people do not think about it; it is just the norm and this is what they do. But if we really stop to think about it, it is not good.
And if we look at the problems we have in the Church today, when did they all start? When we started standing up and sticking our hands out. If we kneel down and receive on the tongue, that says this is different from anything else in our entire life that we do because we do not do that for anything else. This is God, and He alone deserves that kind of reverence. That is why we would do that. The only way we are going to bring any of the reverence back is if we start practicing it ourselves. Then it becomes infective. People will see what you are doing, and they will wonder why. They will ask questions and pretty soon they will start imitating you. You can be the cause of lots of people in your parish having greater reverence for the Lord. That is what we need to be about. We need to recognize Who is truly there and we need to worship and reverence Him as He deserves to be worshiped and reverenced.
The first of the three effects of a worthy Communion is a spiritual loving communion with Christ. This flows from the union of all the faithful who make up the Mystical Body of Christ, which reminds you that if the person next to you receives God and you receive God, and He loves that person so much that He is going to give Himself to that individual, who are we to hate them? Who are we to be at enmity with somebody who is in love with Jesus, and with whom Jesus is in love? In the New Testament times, they said, These Christians, do you see how they love one another? Well, usually these days if somebody says that it is with a pretty sad emphasis on it. How often do we not love one another? We need to look at that. We need to open our hearts and make some changes.
The second effect of a worthy Communion is that it preserves and increases the supernatural life of sanctifying grace in our souls. The third effect is that it is a pledge of our future glory and our eternal happiness. Ponder that reality. You receive God into yourself. What is heaven going to be? This is beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine. When God spoke to Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah and said, Ask for anything you want, as high as the sky or as deep as the netherworld, whatever you want, finally God says, Ill tell you what it will be then if you dont want to ask: A virgin is going to be with child and bear a son. Who would ever ask for that? We would ask for that a whole lot sooner than we would ask for the grace to be able to have God present in the form of a piece of bread so we can consume Him and receive Him into ourselves. Who would ever ask for such a thing? And this is merely a foretaste, a vague shadow of what heaven is going to be. It is the marriage banquet of the Lamb. Look at the love of God. If in this life we receive God into ourselves and that is merely a foreshadowing of what will be, no wonder Saint Paul says, Eye has not seen and ear has not heard nor has it so much as even dawned on the imagination of man what God has prepared for those who love Him. We could not even imagine this. Who would ever imagine the Eucharist? Who ever would have asked for it? None of us would have the audacity to do it, so Jesus in His humility and in His love gave us something infinitely beyond what we could ever have asked for or imagined. And that is merely a foreshadowing, so we cannot even begin to grasp what heaven might be. It is pretty wonderful.
Who is the minister of the Eucharist? The reformers taught that all of the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ and therefore all of the faithful have the power to consecrate. We have seen in baptism that all of us are partakers of the priesthood of Christ, so we all share in that, but the baptismal priesthood and the sacramental priesthood (or the ministerial priesthood, if you will) are two entirely different kinds of priesthood. What they did was to deny this teaching of the difference between these two types of priesthood. The Catholic Church teaches that only a priest can consecrate. But the priest, as well as the deacon, is the ordinary minister of the Eucharist. In normal circumstances, they are the ones who should be distributing Holy Communion.
Pope Paul VI allowed for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist in pastoral necessity. In other words, if there are too many people that it would be a burden for the priest or it would take way too long time-wise, then there can be lay people to come and help. If the priest cannot distribute Communion (some of the elderly priests, for instance, just are not able to do so), in a case like that it is legitimate. But when you have 30 people at daily Mass and 6 people come racing up to distribute Communion, that is ludicrous. They are called the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. It means there needs to be an extraordinary need. They are not called Communion distributors; they are extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. It is not something that is supposed to be anytime and every time.
In the reception of the Eucharist, the more devotion that one has, the more the person will be able to share in the fruits of the actual graces that are granted by the sacrament. For this reason, we need to prepare ourselves well to receive, which is why we should come plenty early, take some time to pray, and get ourselves into the right disposition. The Church requires a one-hour fast from all food and drink (with the exception of water) prior to the reception of the Eucharist. For the sick and the elderly, that is reduced to 15 minutes. Some of you will remember that the fast was from midnight. That is why they would have Midnight Mass. That is when the fast began, so people could receive Communion then. But also, you had to fast from all food and water all the way until the time you would receive Holy Communion. Then they changed that to three hours, and now it is down to one hour. And it is one hour technically before you receive Communion, so it is hard not to do it these days. You would literally have to be eating as you are going up the front steps of the church in order not to receive Communion, unless it is a daily Mass.
But it has also caused some problems because it used to be that people could say, I ate something, and then they could not receive Communion. So if they were in the state of mortal sin, all they had to do was eat something a minute after midnight or at six in the morning and say, Im sorry. I ate something and I cant receive Communion. It did not divulge the fact that they were in the state of mortal sin. But now, unless you are chomping on something as you are going up the front steps, you do not have that excuse. So that has caused a little bit of a problem that way, but the idea is that people would be able to receive Communion. What the Church wants is for people to receive, but of course we have to be in the state of grace to do so.
Another term you might hear is Easter duty. The Easter duty refers to the obligation to receive Communion at least once a year during the Easter season. And because we have to be in the state of grace to receive Holy Communion, it would imply that a good confession of all mortal sins must precede it. The Church requires that we would receive Communion at least once every year. Frequent Communion is encouraged, even daily if possible, and now the Church actually allows that you can receive Communion two times in one day. It has to be at separate Masses. In other words, you cannot go to the end of the line after receiving Communion and come up a second time; it does not work. But you can receive twice in one day. The first time does not even have to be at Mass. The second time must be at Mass, and you are supposed to be there for the whole Mass if you receive a second time. You can receive twice in one day, but you cannot receive more than that. You can go to as many Masses as you want, but you can only receive twice in one day.
There was one little guy who used to come to the six oclock Mass every morning. Then he would leave and go to the Saint Louis Church for the 6:45 Mass. He would stay for the consecration and go to the Assumption Church for 7:00 Mass. There he would stay for the consecration and head out to the Cathedral for the 7:30 Mass, stay for the consecration and go to Saint Stanislaus for the 8:00 Mass, and then he would stay for the whole Mass and receive Communion a second time. He would go to five Masses every morning, and he was there for the consecration, the most important part. Then he would take off and go to the next consecration. Every day he did this until he got too sick that he could not, but he was a very faithful man. What a beautiful thing he was doing. He recognized the reality of what was happening and he wanted to be there for the sacrifice of Jesus.
Beyond being a sacrament, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. In fact, it has to be a sacrifice before it can be a sacrament. It is the mystical re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary. A true sacrifice has to have four elements: the visible gift; the sacrificing priest, who is authorized to appear before God as a representative of the community; the purpose of the sacrifice has to be the recognition of the sovereignty of God, as well as the reconciliation with Him through atonement; and the act of sacrifice, which visibly represents the inner invisible sacrificial disposition that we have as we come before God. In a religious sacrifice, what we do is take something very valuable and remove it from its own dominion. The purpose is to manifest visibly that we submit to the will and the sovereignty of God. You might say that bread and wine do not seem like something all that valuable to us, but we have to look at the context of it. That was the staple of the people of Israel. That was their daily meal. So they were taking the sustenance of their body, and what Jesus did was change it into the sustenance for their soul. They gave to God the food for their body, and in return He gave them food for their soul. That is what this is about.
Now we believe that the Mass is a true sacrifice. That is a point which was denied by the Protestant reformers, and seems to be based on the misunderstanding of the teaching that the sacrifice of the Mass is identical with the sacrifice of the Cross. They seem to have held that the Mass was an independent sacrifice side by side with the sacrifice of the Cross. In other words, they would look at it and say, You believe that youre sacrificing Jesus again. But Jesus, Saint Paul says, was sacrificed once for all and He was. They are saying, Why are you sacrificing Him again? We are not. We are sacrificing Him still, the same sacrifice continues. Not a new sacrifice, but the exact same sacrifice. When Saint Paul says He was sacrificed once for all, that means once for all time, not just once for all people. He was sacrificed once for all time in fulfillment of what the prophet Malachi says, From the rising of the sun to its setting, there will be one pure sacrifice offered to My name. What we have is a constant sacrifice going up before God. And we recognize the sacrificial nature in the terms of given up for you and shed for you as Our Lord speaks about Himself in the Eucharist. These are Biblical sacrificial terms which express the offering of the true sacrifice.
The Church teaches, then, as I just mentioned, that the Mass is the same sacrifice as that of Jesus on the Cross, but obviously the manner is not exactly the same. It is a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ in so far as the Body and Blood of Christ are made present under separate species, symbolically or sacramentally representing the separation of the Body and Blood of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. The Mass is the true sacrifice whereby the fruits of our Blessed Lords sacrifice on the Cross are applied to each one of us individually. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross because the Victim is the same. Remember, the victim is like the little family lamb who had to be sacrificed in order for the family to live. They had to be able to eat of the lamb. That is what victim means. Not the poor guy who was violated in some way, but rather the one who died so that others could live. The Victim is the same, that is, Jesus. The priest is also the same, that is, Jesus. Jesus works now through the humanity of the priest, just as He worked through His own humanity 2,000 years ago.
The only difference is the manner in which the sacrifice is offered. On the Cross, there was physical pain and the shedding of blood. At Mass, there is no physical pain and there is no shedding of blood. On the Cross, Christ gained merit for us. In the Mass, He applies it to us. The sacrifice, therefore, takes place at the moment of the consecration. When I said earlier that the Mass is the unbloody sacrifice, that does not mean the Blood of Christ is not present; it means the Blood of Christ is not being physically shed. Two thousand years ago, it was a bloody sacrifice. They put holes in His hands and in His side, and His blood was shed. Now His Blood is truly present but it is not being shed, so we are not hanging Him on the Cross and causing Him to bleed.
Mass can be offered for four basic purposes: praise, thanksgiving, expiation, or petition. The Mass is the highest act of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving because it is the perfect prayer, it is the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and it is infinite. Because of the infinite value of the sacrificial act and the infinite dignity of the primary priest, Who is Jesus Himself, it has infinite value. As an expiation, the sacrifice effects both the remission of sin as well as the punishment due to sin. As petition, it moves God to confer both natural and supernatural gifts upon His people. We offer Mass for the living, as well as for the dead. And while it is a good and worthy thing to offer Mass for those who have died, it is a much greater thing to offer Mass for somebody while they are still alive because in this life they can grow in merit or they can convert. Once they die, it is simply taking off some of the temporal punishment due to sin. It does not gain for them a higher place in heaven. So if there is somebody who is in trouble, have some Masses said for them. It is the most powerful prayer in the world. What Christ prays for in the Mass is always infallibly given by the Father. The petitions of the priest and the people always remain uncertain. That is because the necessary dispositions for granting the petition, either on the part of the petitioner or the person for whom the Mass is offered, is not always present. But what Jesus prays for is always perfectly given because He is God.
The Lord be with you. May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with you forever. Amen.
[End of Lesson 18]
Lesson 18: The Eucharist (Part 2)BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER PING!
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Thank you for continuing to post these articles! I've heard the various arguments about receiving by tongue or hand many times (in my parish people do both). But this is the first time I've come across the explanation of the symbolic difference between "receiving" and "taking" Communion, with the priest standing in one place. I'm going to ask my priest what he thinks about it. Thank you again.
Many Thanks for your comments. I receive on the tongue or in the hand. It really depends. If my hands are not clean, I prefer to receive on the tongue.
I say my hands are not clean because I live in a Country where there is a lot of pollution, dirt, etc.
However, I respect what Father Altier has to say concerning this issue.
Can I add you to my Ping List for these awesome Talks and Homilies by Father Altier.
IN THE RISEN LORD JESUS CHRIST,
Lesson 18: The Eucharist (Part 2)BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER BUMP
Yes, I would be glad to be on the Ping list, for these homilies, or any updates on Fr. Altier. Thanks!