The Eucharist - how should we approach it?
Starting this weekend - since the Gospel according to Mark is relatively short - we take a brief tour into the Gospel of John at Sunday Mass: the famous
Bread of Life
It is a beautiful and powerful section of the New Testament. Encompassing the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John, it begins with the miraculous feeding of the five thousand with just a five loaves of barley bread and a couple of fish. After an almost-incidental account of another miracle (Jesus walking on the water), the crowd seeks Jesus in order to obtain more food. Jesus gives it to them - but it's not what they expect!In a series of back and forth narratives with the Jews, Jesus offers them his own flesh and blood in order that they may have eternal life. This concept is simply too much for many of them and some of them leave him. For a complete account, read
John chapter 6
It is also one of the foundations for the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. Why do we take some bread and wine, have a priest or bishop say a few words and make a few gestures over them, and then know them as the Body and Blood of Christ? For fifteen hundred years the Church was universal in its agreement on the doctrine; even Martin Luther did not completely deny the Real Presence after his schism from the Church (although he called it
- that Jesus exists
the substance of bread and wine - instead of the Catholic understanding of
: that the substance of bread and wine
the Real Presence of Christ.)
Since it would require a great deal of explanation delving into the philosophical meanings of these terms (and most importantly what is meant by the term
), it might help to take a practical approach (if you want to know more about these terms, either follow the embedded links or see the links at the end of this article). Knowing that Jesus has given his Church the power to
the Eucharist, how should we treat it? Should we give it more respect than the bread and wine from which it is confected?
To put it simply, the Eucharist deserves every respect we can give it. That's important enough to repeat:
the Eucharist deserves every respect we can give it
. Failing to do so is to commit the same mistake the crowd who turned their back on Jesus at the end of the Bread of Life discourse. More devastating, since we have the benefit of knowing about Christ's conquering of death and his true role as the Son of God, we would commit the additional error (and a potentially damning one at that) to reject him in his teachings or to do so by mistreatment of his sacramental Body and Blood.
Church law is very clear on how we are to respect the Eucharist in all circumstances. As
(RS), the 2004 instruction regarding how certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, states:
“In accordance with what is laid down by the canons, ‘one who throws away the consecrated species or takes them away or keeps them for a sacrilegious purpose, incurs a
reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished by another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.’ To be regarded as pertaining to this case is any action that is voluntarily and gravely disrespectful of the sacred species. Anyone, therefore, who acts contrary to these norms, for example casting the sacred species into the sacrarium or in an unworthy place or on the ground, incurs the penalties laid down. Furthermore all will remember that once the distribution of Holy Communion during the celebration of Mass has been completed, the prescriptions of the Roman Missal are to be observed, and in particular, whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ must be entirely and immediately consumed by the Priest or by another minister, according to the norms, while the consecrated hosts that are left are to be consumed by the Priest at the altar or carried to the place for the reservation of the Eucharist.” (RS 107)
When the word "
appears in a Vatican document, it's probably a good idea to pay attention to what it regards. It may help to remember that, when we approach the Blessed Sacrament to receive Communion during the Mass, we remain mindful of what (or more accurately, who) we approach and how vital it is to receive him properly. When
receiving in the hand, an indult granted to the United States in 1977
(and in some other countries as well; reception on the tongue is still considered the norm for the universal Church), we are to do so properly. We use both hands, one on top of the other, as to "
make a throne to receive the King
" (St. Cyril) and then to consume immediately and reverently.
As we listen to the drama regarding Jesus and the offering of his Body and Blood for eternal life unfold over the next few weekends, think again about the gift of the Eucharist and the implications that it holds for us. Then, instead of following the claim of far too many of his disciples: "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" and walking away, we can echo the response of faith made by the apostle Peter after Jesus asked them if they too were going to leave him: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
For more about "consubstantiation" go to :
For more about "transubstantiation" go to:
For a discussion on the philosophical meaning of "substance" go to:
For a discussion on the meaning of "confect" in regards to the Eucharist go to:
Recognize in this bread what hung on the cross, and in this chalice what flowed from His side... whatever was in many and varied ways announced beforehand in the sacrifices of the Old Testament pertains to this one sacrifice which is revealed in the New Testament
St. Augustine, Sermon 3, 2; circa A.D. 410
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Audio (73 minutes) -
Counting Your Blessings
Dr. Scott Hahn explains the theology and practice of Catholic family life, as based on the image of the Blessed Trinity, is in God's Word. He demonstrates that the source of the love in family life is within the Word of God.
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Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, July 27 at 3:00PM