After concluding the Easter season and ushering in Ordinary Time with the feast of Pentecost, the Church quickly turns her gaze to the greatest gift Jesus could ever give us on this earth, His abiding presence in the Eucharist.
The great feast of Corpus Christi, also known as the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, is currently celebrated the Sunday following Trinity Sunday after Pentecost. It is a day when we commemorate Jesus' presence in the most Blessed Sacrament.
We are reminded on this day that the sacred host we see at Mass is not a "what," but a "who."
What does that mean? I thought the Eucharist was just some piece of bread?
Not at all. Let's look at Jesus' words in Scripture. Jesus said to His apostles:
“I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18).
Jesus did not want to go through His death and Resurrection and leave us alone on earth, without His abiding presence.
Because of that immense love for us, Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, as theCatechism of the Catholic Church explains:
1337 The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; “thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament.”
1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood:
… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”
Connected with the desire to not leave us as orphans, Jesus, in a mysterious way, wanted to make Himself truly present under the appearances of bread and wine. While the bread and wine at the Last Supper (and at every Mass) look like bread and wine, Christ makes Himself truly present under those appearances.
This makes Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist very different from anything else. The Catechism explains:
1374 The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called ‘real’ - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”
So the piece of bread that is present in our churches is not simply a piece of bread. If it were, going to Mass would be pointless. Instead, the Eucharist in churches and chapels around the world is Jesus Himself, truly and totally present.
This means that the Eucharist is not a “what” but a “Who.”
How is that possible? Next week we will take a brief look into how normal bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Read the Entire Series
- Pentecost: The Birthday of the Church
- The Ascension: A Preview of Future Glory
- Don't Forget to Feast!
- The Liturgy that Lasts Three Days!
- Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus During Holy Week
- What is Almsgiving?
- Why Do We Abstain from Meat on Fridays?
- Entering into a Prayerful Lent: Stations of the Cross
- What is the Purpose of Lent?
- What is Ordinary Time All About?
- The Epiphany Blessing - A Beautiful Tradition During the Christmas Season
- The Prophecy is Fulfilled: The Joyous Christmas Season
- The Start of a New Year - Advent
- The Liturgical Year - Christ's Life Relived Each Year