THE HOLY EUCHARIST

 
     

     To search after the Unchangeable Truth and abide in the Truth, the Catholic Church shepherds the believers to that Truth through the Sacred Scriptures and the sacraments, which have been instituted by Christ to make known the supremacy of the invisible Grace through visible signs and material objects. Sacraments are "outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace" (St. Augustine). In the light of this Unchanging Truth and freely conferred divine graces, human rational thinking and discernment alone need to viewed with rightful derision and discredit.

     The sacraments instituted by Christ are the modes by which the human need for highest good is connected with that good - becoming the reality itself. It is an ontological reality through sacramental presence of Christ, which surpasses the laws of nature, since human beings should not solely depend upon their senses but on the Word of God, which has the power to change, convert and transmute. The sacraments, depending on the measure of the inner worthiness and preparation of the soul - depending on the measure or depth of faith, restore the status of a human person to primeval dignity by the meritorious light of faith - predominantly through the sacrament of Reconciliation and the sacrament of Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the "touchstone of sanctity," "the Bread of Life," "the sacrament of Love," "the possession of the greatest treasure available to man in this valley of tears" - dispersing the darkness of errors and existing mystifications, and still more importantly, nourishing charity - making sinful individuals holy. It is "a meal of brotherly solidarity and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet." It is a powerful and eloquent expression of God's fathomless love, and since genuine love calls for union, the Eucharist is vitally a sacrament of union, and the more fervent the love, faith and hope of the person are, the more radical and undiminished the union becomes between God in the Eucharist and the person.

     In the Eucharist, God is consumed and thus the worthy recipient of the Eucharist becomes increasingly more like the One whom she/he consumes. The prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted this sacrament of Love (as recorded by St. John) clearly addresses this union in the following words: "...they may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us,... The Glory which You have given Me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are One." To procure this kind of transforming and complete union, God gave us modest, yet supreme means through the Eucharist. The declaration of Christ at the Last Supper is unequivocal, "He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, abides in Me and I in him" (John 6:57) - meaning (among other things), that God's total self-giving is the essence of the Eucharist, and through the Eucharist, the inwardly prepared and wholeheartedly devoted believers share in His Divine Life. Again, depending on the measure of faith, hope and most importantly love for God and the neighbor, the faithful will be favored by the Real Presence of Christ - those individuals who believe and love deeply will benefit significantly more from the Real Presence of Christ, while those who believe feebly will profit in accordance with their faith and ability to love. Boylan affirms that the effects of the celebration of the Eucharist can be discerned clearly in the resultant ways: since the Holy Eucharist is a spiritual nourishment because of the union with Christ, viewed not as participation but communion and union with Christ (e.g. St. Chrysostom), or in the words of St. Paul, "a common union of God and man," the prime effect of this union is therefore sanctification or perfection, evidenced in the strengthening of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Verily, there is nothing in each person's present or past state, one worthy reception of the Holy Communion cannot more than mend and restore, providing that the recipient has an adequate amount of faith. St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that, "This sacrament contains in itself Christ crucified (Christum passum). Whence, whatever is the effect of the Passion of Our Lord, all that is likewise the effect of this sacrament."

     The supernatural truths are far beyond the scope of the most incisive human intellect, which dares not to assume too grand authority by rejecting those truths either estimating them by its own criterion or interpreting them at choice or personal preference, but rather accept them approvingly with required humility and in deepest regard for faith, since any conclusive statement that is contrary to the truths of revealed faith is always altogether false. Human beings need supernatural Bread when in affliction, in order to understand and love authentically, for human limits or finiteness cannot be overridden without supernatural nourishment and superabundance of grace. God's grace is needed to assist the human mind to become increasingly more conscious of the depth and enormity of Divine Love - of the total self-giving of Himself in the Eucharist. Although the priest may be dishonest, singing mediocre and the believers not altogether attuned and observant, the religious ceremonials are entirely and unconditionally pure by right, for they are substantiated and validated by God Himself. Human beings can only fix the full concentration of their mental powers on something tangible and touchable as the white Host is. Undoubtedly, a special configuration of intelligence is needed to ponder on, or contemplate the Holy Eucharist, and commune with God in the most intimate manner, yet faith enables the finite mind to see and discover what the finite intellect without the light of faith is unable to see and apprehend. That is, "...our faith may supply for what our senses cannot perceive." Therefore in the transubstantiation, the substances of bread and wine are replaced by the living Jesus Christ who was crucified, died, was resurrected and glorified - meaning that there is absolutely no difference between Jesus in the Eucharist and Jesus in Heaven. In the Holy Eucharist, there is a Real Presence of Christ, that is, Christ is present in the Eucharist with His Soul and Divinity, as well as, His face, hands, feet, with His emotions and affections, with His living Sacred Heart; in the Eucharist His Godhead is inseparable from His Manhood. The Eucharist began therefore in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and thus had Christ not received from His Mother flesh and blood, there could not be the Holy Eucharist (e.g., Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.; James H. Dobbins). The Council of Trent stated the precise meaning of the Eucharist, proclaiming that "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 in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist." For "In heaven a complete human nature is united to the divine nature in one... person. It is a denial of faith to suppose that in this sacrament there is anything less" (op. cit., "The Holy Eucharist is the Whole Christ" - J. Hardon). Yet, as St. Paul reminds us, unless human beings have strong and unwavering faith and are worthy recipients of the Eucharist, they shall consume It to their malediction, that is, their condemnation. Coming closer to Christ in "loving faith" is inseparable from receiving limitless divine powers, for in the Eucharist, Christ speaks with the same lips that ordered the dead Lazarus to come forth and told the violent storm to "Be still" (e.g., Rev. John Hardon). If there were no perfect and infinite purity on earth - if there were no Holy Eucharist in which Christ is fully present in His Body, Soul and Divinity, the human contact with evil would exhaust the human finite and imperfect purity (e.g., Simone Weil).

     Again, the Eucharist is a sacrament of Love, of Lifeand so we must be spiritually living to have Its superabundant effects. When human beings are spiritually dead (in mortal sin), they must first receive the sacrament of spiritual resurrection, the sacrament of Reconciliation, so that which is dead is brought back to life. Having received spiritual Life, they can grow in the most intimate union with their Redeemer. All of the seven sacraments receive their validity and mightiness from the Passion of Christ, but "the Eucharist is 'the perfect sacrament of the Passion' for it contains Christ and the whole power of His passion" (St. Aquinas), that is, the Eucharist is the power through which numerous effects of the transforming union with Christ are fulfilled. In other words, the Holy Eucharist, being the most effective means of sanctification bestows upon the true, loyal believers an incommensurable dignity and exaltedness, and there cannot be absolutely anything more enlivening and comforting in this world than such Sacramental Union with God. For the unexcelled power that consummates this event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature is the same omnipotence through which the Creator brought into being the world out of nothing. Human beings are saved if they attend to, feed on this perfect purity, reaching even here below an unimaginable high degree of transcendent perfection, since genuinely searching for the Ultimate Truth and Love has saving power, for it cannot be separable from the protective and redeeming power of divine Grace. To put it differently, yanking the invasive plants alone will not make the vegetables grow; in order to grow they also need water, proper soil, nutriment and sun. What is indispensably needed is divine Grace conferred principally through all sacraments but most eminently through the Holy Eucharist.

     The crucifixion - the supreme martyrdom of Christ is the beau ideal of all acts of conformity to, and perfect compliance with, the order of God.

     The divine pull - divine Grace is needed to elevate the human soul, since it is not in human power alone to reach the zenithal position - no single step can be made toward the beatitude of the Beyond without the sway and loving ascedancy of God. Christ is therefore in the Blessed Sacrament as He promised, "I will be with you all days, even to the end of the world," so that human beings may have sacramental union with God Himself; may know and love Him, being partakers of His inexhaustible riches and His divine nature. Christ's pledge of His presence among us is therefore being in a strict sense brought into actuality in every tabernacle and on every communion table of the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, the worst failure, nonfulfillment and tragedy is to refuse - at will - to unconditionally and consentingly accept, here below, what we were destined to know and love.

Christian Works by Dorothy Kardas, Psy.D. Th.D. 

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