Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2006
Church celebrates Real Presence
Christ comes to us beyond sight, touch and taste
The Shepherd Speaks
By ARCHBISHOP THOMAS COLLINS
For Catholic Christians, a high point each year is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ - the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrated this year on June 18. While on Holy Thursday we recall the first Eucharist, on Corpus Christi we celebrate the great gift of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is a diamond with many facets. It is as a participation in the paschal mystery of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is a gathering of the assembly of the faithful around the table of the Word of God and the table of the Eucharist. It is a foretaste of the great heavenly banquet at the end of time.
But the feast of Corpus Christi reminds us that an essential dimension of the Eucharist is the real presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. At the words of consecration the bread and wine are transformed, and while remaining outwardly unchanged, become in reality the Body and Blood of Christ, who is sacramentally present.
At Communion we do not receive "holy bread" or "blessed bread" - we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. It is the Lord, coming to us under the sign of earthly food, to bring us not simply natural but supernatural life.
It is only if we appreciate the awesome act of God that brings this about that we can truly appreciate what we experience in each celebration of the Eucharist. That is why the Church instituted the feast of Corpus Christi: to help us to respond in awe and adoration to the great fact of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.
No truer word
A great Eucharistic hymn, said to be written by St. Thomas Aquinas, expresses this marvellous fact: in the Eucharist "sight, touch and taste, in thee are all deceived, the ear alone most safely is believed. I trust in all the Son of God has spoken. Than truth's own word there is no truer token."
Jesus said at the Last Supper, and still says through his priests at every Eucharist: "This is my Body;" "This is my Blood." He is God. This is truth's own word. The babe at Bethlehem did not look like God with us, and Jesus on the cross did not look like almighty God. In the Eucharist, sight, touch and taste can discern only bread and wine.
And yet in Holy Communion, in fact, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, our Lord and our God, sacramentally present under the appearances of bread and wine.
By the way, be very cautious about various miraculous claims which give the impression that the real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist would somehow be proven by a change in the outward signs of bread and wine.
The faith of the Church is that Christ is really present in a sacramental way, in which what can be discerned by sight, touch, and taste does not change. This is called transubstantiation. Our Eucharistic devotion must be based on the solid foundation of the Sacred Scriptures and the living faith of the Church.
Because, in our human frailty, we need help in appreciating the wondrous mystery of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. We also spend time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, reserved in the tabernacle for the Communion of the sick.
This is why in many parishes we celebrate exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, so that people can come into the presence of their Eucharistic Lord to pray. There is no more fitting place for prayer. I encourage every parish to provide abundant opportunities for this form of prayer, for we all need a foundation of contemplation in our busy lives of discipleship. Christian action arises out of adoration.
At the Corpus Christi Chapel at St. Andrew's Church in Edmonton, we celebrate perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Christians are in prayer before our Lord, praying for us all. I would love to have this experience made possible in several places in our diocese. Over the course of the past year I have heard wonderful testimonies relating how this haven of prayer before our Eucharistic Lord has changed the lives of many.
On the feast of Corpus Christi this year, June 18, we will have a Mass for the whole diocese at the cathedral at 2:30 in the afternoon, and then I will carry the Blessed Sacrament in a procession through the streets of Edmonton to four places of prayer, at each of which we will pause for special prayers for various intentions, and finish with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
This is a feast of faith, a time to pray for the needs of our whole community, to enter into a ritual processional journey that is itself a prayer, and to deepen our appreciation of the great gift of the Holy Eucharist. I encourage similar celebrations in all of the parishes, and do come and join us at the Corpus Christi Mass and procession at the cathedral.
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