Skip to comments.The Real Presence: Understanding the Eucharist, The Greatest Need in Church Today
Posted on 03/20/2014 9:03:33 AM PDT by Salvation
Understanding the Eucharist
The Greatest Need in the Church Today
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
I believe the place to begin this conference is to justify the title. We are using the superlative; the greatest need in the Church today is "Understanding the Eucharist."
How can we justify this superlative? On two grounds:
What are we saying?
Remember the parable that Christ gave to His Disciples about the sower who went out to sow his seed. It was all good seed. But it was not all good ground on which the seeds fell. And the first fruitless ground was the pathway. Christ explained what this means. The seeds falling on the pathway are those who receive the Word of God into their hearts but fail to understand it. So what happens? Like the birds of the air that pick up the loose seed from the hard pathway, the devil steals the word of God from the hearts of those who do not understand what God has revealed to them. Not to understand what we are supposed to believe is to invite the evil spirit to rob us of the faith we once possessed.
We return to our subject: "Understanding The Eucharist: The Greatest Need In The Church Today."
My plan for this conference is to cover the following areas of an immense subject.
GREATEST CRISIS EVER
There is no need to prove - it is enough to illustrate that the Catholic Church is going through the greatest crisis of her 2000 years of ecclesiastical existence.
When Pope Paul VI, in 1968, published Humanae Vitae condemning contraception, the Catholic hierarchy of most the world met in solemn session - only about half of the bishops supported the Bishop of Rome in his teaching on the grave sinfulness of contraception.
ROOT OF THE CRISIS
It is not my business to have to prove that the root of this crisis in the Catholic Church is a crisis of faith; or that it is a crisis of faith in the Eucharist.
I will only say two things:
Faith in the Eucharist is the barometer of our Catholic faith. It is the test of our Catholicism. It is the norm of our commitment to everything else which Christ has revealed.
It is no wonder that when, as described by St. John, Christ foretold the Holy Eucharist as His living Body and Blood many of His own Disciples walked away. "This is intolerable language," they declared. "Who can accept it?" Christ then turned to His Apostles and asked them. "Do you want to leave?" To which Peter answered, "Lord to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life."
This has been the verdict of the Church's history. Every major break in our unity has been over the meaning of the Eucharist. No wonder, in 1600, St. Robert Bellarmine wrote that there were over 200 different Protestant interpretations of Christ's words. "This is my Body ...This is my Blood."
CRISIS OF FAITH TODAY
Most Catholics today know that there are some strange notions about the Eucharist in professedly Catholic circles. But I am afraid that most of us do not realize how deep and devastating these errors have become, One writer after another is telling the people that the Eucharist is not a reality. Books are being published saying just this. Nominally Catholic magazines are claiming that the Holy Eucharist, in their vocabulary, is not a thing,
I thought and prayed about whether I should quote at length from just one priest-author to illustrate the rise of this disastrous heresy. What follows are his exact words. The quotation is several paragraphs long but must be exposed:
The Eucharist is not a thing, and think the only way Catholics can come to appreciate that is by emphasizing some parts of the Eucharist that may have been forgotten. I'm convinced of this because even though lay people participate in the liturgy today, I'm not so sure they've stopped thinking of the Eucharist as a thing.
The gathering is necessary for Eucharist. Eucharist is not a private affair. We Catholics share bread and wine with someone, which is why I believe the ordained priest should always receive bread and wine from another eucharistic minister. It is in the gathering that we remind one another that one person does not make the Lord present. The Risen Lord is present. We gather and recognize.
Presiders must change the wording of prayers that now keep telling us that the spiritual is separate from us, that God is out there somewhere and needs to be brought in with the right words to make us holy. Presiders should not hold up the bread and wine during the Consecration but wait until it is time to take, break, and share…
To begin to see ourselves as Eucharist means that we must stop saying we "receive" the sacraments. And we must do away with the practice of priests who are not participating in the Mass coming in to help distribute Communion...
Catholics gather on weekends to celebrate the remembering. And to remind ourselves that we are to be Eucharist by becoming bread and wine, broken and poured out. "Do this to remember me." We gather on weekends to remind ourselves that "this" is never a thing out of a church vending machine but what we are to be. We are to be reasons for others to celebrate.
I make no apologies for this long quotation. What we are being told is that two thousand years of Catholic teaching has been a myth. These quoted statements are from a nationally circulating, allegedly Catholic, periodical. To accept what we are being told is to deny that there is a Catholic Church. Why? Because without the Eucharist as a reality, there is no priesthood instituted by Christ, there is no sacrament of Holy Orders. In a word, there is no visible Church which Christ founded on the Apostles whom He ordained at the Last Supper in order that they might consecrate bread and wine to become the living Jesus Christ on earth in the Holy Eucharist.
Is it any wonder that an estimated seventy-five percent of the Catholic people no longer assist at Sunday Mass. In the diocese to which the priest-spokesman whom we have quoted lives, the drop in Sunday Mass attendance is estimated at about ninety percent.
Our focus in this conference is on "Understanding the Eucharist: the Greatest Need in the Church Today." I am speaking to believing Catholics who know that the Eucharist is a thing. Indeed, it is not only something but Someone. It is Jesus Christ. Those of us who still have this faith must protect it from the assaults against divinely revealed truth.
This great need to understand the Eucharist must begin with understanding that the Eucharist is Christ Himself, now on earth., in our midst. Not to know this is not to be a Catholic.
ERROR AND EVIL IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD.
As we get closer to the center of our subject we remind ourselves that nothing in the world ever merely happens. There is no such thing as chance with God.
In the words of St. Paul, "Where sin has abounded, there grace will even more abound."
What are we saying? We are saying that the widespread breakdown of Eucharistic faith in once strong Catholic countries is God's way of telling us there must be a massive, monumental, momentous revival of faith in the Eucharist. This is the necessary prelude to the reformation of the Catholic Church. As we enter the third millennium of Christianity, our focus should be on growing in our understanding of the Holy Eucharist.
What precisely are we to grow in our understanding of the Eucharist?
UNDERSTANDING OF WHO
It is Jesus Christ. We do not qualify. It is the selfsame Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist who was conceived at Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, died on Calvary, rose on Easter Sunday, and ascended into Heaven on Ascension Thursday.
Certainly Jesus is in heaven. But He is also on earth. The whole Christ, with his Humanity and Divinity, with His eyes and lips and hands and feet, and Sacred Heart.
Jesus Christ is now offering Himself in every Mass. He is on earth, with His human body and blood, and human will. The essence of sacrifice is in the will.
Jesus Christ is now received in Holy Communion. We now receive Him no less than the Apostles did in the Last Supper. He is now glorified. His body enters our body, His soul enters our soul. This is no mere symbolism or metaphor. It is real, really.
UNDERSTANDING OF WHY
He is present in order to be near us, with us, next to us, present to us. He wants to show us how much He loves us. He wants to teach us -
He wants us to come to Him...
He offers Himself in the Mass in order to give us the graces we need to surrender our wills to His. These are the distinctive graces of the Sacrament of the Mass. They are graces of
He comes to us in Holy Communion in order to give us the graces of selfless charity. It is not coincidental that Christ did two things at the Last Supper.
These two go together. We cannot practice selfless charity without receiving Holy Communion.
We are finally to grow in our understanding of how we are to become apostles of the Eucharist in our day.
But an apostle of the Eucharist has no illusions. There will be opposition. "Have confidence," Jesus tells us, "I have overcome the world."
"Lord Jesus, in the Holy Eucharist, we believe You are with us in the Blessed Sacrament. We believe You are inviting us to join with You in conquering the world for Your heavenly Father.
But we are blind. Enlighten our minds. We are weak. Strengthen our hearts. Make us Apostles of the Eucharist in our day; make us Apostles of Life through the Eucharist. Help us to understand the Eucharist now on earth by faith - as a prelude to seeing You, our Incarnate God, face to face, for all eternity. Amen."
I can’t help thinking that having all of the lay people as extraordinary ministers contributes to the misunderstanding of the Eucharist.
I understand the need to have lay people to take the Eucharist to those who cannot come to Mass, but I really get sick of seeing a slew of people up on the altar, and, whenever possible, I get into the line for the priest.
I think the Eucharistic Ministers have a lot more respect for the Eucharist than some of the people they are giving it to. The ones I know take this very seriously indeed (including my husband). If they are looking irreverent or poorly trained, that is on the pastor and liturgical coordinator.
But if you think it’s a disorderly, excessive crowd up there on the altar, I guess that needs to be addressed by your pastor.
I am guardedly hopeful regarding the mass. Our parish has scaled back over the years regarding people on the altar. (No more teenage youth group up there, for example). I don’t think it has to be a downward spiral for solemnity. Especially if the bishop sets some standards that pastors must follow.
Because the article mentions Protestant beliefs, the “Cath/Ortho Caucus” label will be removed.
I guess not! ;-)
Not to worry. The extraneous text has now been removed.
Catholic ping...anyone in the area would like to join in and support Bill Donohue???
He's one knowledgeable and gutsy guy...and he has a knack for perfect TIMING.
In other words, he uses his considerable PR talents just when he's needed...or when you're frantically looking for him to comment on some lib outrage or another.
Plus I've noticed he's so savvy that he doesn't squander his talents by overly-frequent and scattershot counterattacks opening himself to charges of "religious far-right wing kook".
God bless and keep this man safe and healthy. We ALL need his faithful and effective work in the Lord's vineyards.
No, I honestly cannot say the group is disorderly — not counting the college-aged girl that was up there recently in what looked like sprayed on clothes — but the number is excessive.
We have a very small parish and one priest, and I have never been to a Mass there for which the church was filled — except for Easter and Christmas. Communion could be distributed by a much smaller group of extraordinary ministers in a short amount of time. Usually the church is at 1/3 or less of capacity.
**whenever possible, I get into the line for the priest.**
I figured it was OK since it was a quote of a saint and not the author.
If anything like the invention of 'extraordinary ministers' was going on in my parish I would assume they had converted to one of the protestant denominations. But there aren't and they haven't.
It will take me a second or third reading to fully digest this author’s statements but one thing that jumped out at me was the following:
“Catholics gather on weekends to celebrate the remembering.”
That is, in my humble opinion, altogether incorrect. This “error” is widely prevalent and it is altogether wrong.
The celebration of the Mass is not a remembrance and the Eucharist isn’t about a “replay” of the Last Supper.
In a sense, the Mass, at the beginning is a ritual set-up designed as a vehicle to actualize the Eucharistic ceremony. The beginnings of the mass, the prayers, the recitation of solemn scripture is to set the stage, as it were, but more importantly, it is to convey the participants, i.e., both the clergy and laity in attendance to a spiritual place where they are made receptive to the miracle of the Eucharistic presence.
The actual exercise of the Eucharistic ceremony is a process of actualization wherein the “celebrant” the Priest, actively invokes the “presence” of Christ in the specie of the Host and Wine through the process of Transfiguration wherein the “substance” of the wafer and wine are infused with the substance of Christ’s flesh and blood.................IN PRESENT TIME!
In this manner, participants are made one with the Passover sacrifice of the Lamb of God at the SAME INSTANT IN TIME that the original Sacrifice was made!
That Sacrifice is not a “was”; its not a past event. It’s brought forward into the participants time such that the participants in the Eucharist are made one with the Sacrifice through the eons of time.
Put another way...........Christ isn’t a “was”. He is an “IS”. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; except that through the Eucharist.......there isn’t any “end” until His Second Coming. He is the Omega only in the sense that he is the “ultimate” Person hood of the Trinity.
As our Catechism teaches us, through the process of the Eucharist we are, spiritually, (which means “really”) made present at the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection! In essence, what this means is that Eucharist is Jesus on-going, everlasting triumph over the lord of this world, Satan. He brings his act of Redemption forward through the ages as marked by “temporal” time, (which is really Satan’s invention), to our extant existence as children of God, created in his Image.....not our arms and legs, etc., but rather.......our “Soul Stuff” which doesn’t experience time as marked by our clocks, watches, calendars.
I literally weep at the fact that I don’t have the intellectual prowess nor the vocabulary to properly explain this phenomenon. Jesus came to save our Souls. In a very real sense, we are of a dual nature. Our bodies are subject to the inexorable forces of entropy. Our bodies age and die. Our Souls are eternal....if we elect to participate in the eternal. Jesus was a genuine “Fisherman”. He came to fish our Souls out of this corruptible world existence into the Eternal.
In a strange but miraculous way, this plays into and when experienced, explains Jesus emphasis on Love. Love of God, Love of our neighbors (or “others”), Love of Jesus. Love is a “FORCE” which transcends time and space just as Jesus transcended time and space and just as the Eucharist operates to carry participants backward/forward through time and space.
Maybe a better mechanism to understand this is to read Benedict’s book, “God is Near Us”. That can be found at:
Love in Jesus, Joseph and Mary,
Wherein I wrote “Transfiguration” I meant to write, “Transubstantiation”.
My fingers go faster than my brain.
Really? You have no lay people distributing Communion? You are lucky.