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Institution of the Real Presence
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
We reserve our meditation on the Real Presence after reflecting on the Mass and Holy Communion. Yet the Real Presence is logically prior to the Eucharist as Sacrifice and Communion. The reason is obvious. Christ must first be really present on earth in the Eucharist, before we can intelligently speak of His offering Himself in the Mass and coming to us in Communion.
Our focus here, as before, is on the institution of the Real Presence. What do we mean? We mean that what Christ did at the Last Supper, He now is doing every time that Mass is offered. Why? Because on Holy Thursday He ordained the Apostles as priests and thus gave them a share in His own power of transubstantiation. What had been bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ. How? By words of consecration.
What is the Real Presence? The most authoritative teaching: on the Real Presence is the solemn definition of the Council of Trent.
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 most Holy Eucharist.
What is the Church saying? She is saying that the same identical Jesus who was conceived at Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, crucified on Calvary; who rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and ascended into heaven on Ascension Thursday this same Jesus, the whole Christ (totus Christus) is now on earth in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Why the Real Presence? It is not hard to see why Christ is now on earth, in the fullness of His humanity and divinity. He promised to be with us all days, even to the end of the world. He wanted us to profess our faith in His Incarnation, our hope in His omnipotence as the Incarnate God, and our love for Him, the Creator who became a man, and who now dwells in our midst, no less truly, although invisibly to our bodily eyes, than He lived visibly among His contemporaries in first century Palestine.
How to Respond to the Real Presence. We commonly and correctly speak of Eucharistic Adoration. We should, because in the Eucharist is present the whole Christ, the Incarnate Son of God.
During His visible stay on earth, He received the adoration of those who believed in Him, What did they believe? They believed that one who looked like a man, spoke and acted like a man, was really the living God.
We believe it is the same Jesus Christ now present in the Holy Eucharist. What do we see? Only what looks like bread and tastes like wine. What do we believe? We believe that this is no longer bread and wine, but Jesus Christ, the man who received His humanity from His Mother Mary, but who is the Second Person of the Trinity who existed from all eternity.
Adoration, therefore, is the primary response of our faith to the Real Presence.
But that is only the foundation. On this worship of adoration, we should build the whole edifice of the spiritual life.
Copyright © 2003 by Inter Mirifica
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