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THE REAL PRESENCE The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST

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The Depth's of God's Love

by J. Marianne Siegmund

"Before the festival day of the pasch, Jesus, knowing that His hour was come, that He was to pass out of this world to the Father: having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end." 1  St. John the Apostle begins his account of the Last Supper with these moving words which awaken in man a profound sense of the truths Jesus expresses, from the depths of His Sacred Heart, before His Passion and Death. Our Lord teaches the Apostles, His first bishops, what it means to love; this love is manifest especially in the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Man encounters the enormous love of God by frequent reception of Christ in Holy Communion during Mass, and by adoring His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Each human being must make his own, personal response to this love, for Jesus teaches "This is My Commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you." 2  Throughout Christ's discourse to the Apostles at the Last Supper, 3  one reads of the Lord's humility, His betrayal by one called to be an Apostle, and the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. Although each truth is worthy of meditation, this brief article focuses on Jesus' emphasis of close union with Him through His Commandment of sacrificial love. Frequent attendance at Mass, receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion, and one's private adoration of the Holy Eucharist are indispensable in achieving Christ's new Commandment to "love one another, as [He has] loved you." 4  

Having taught the human race by word and example, the hour of His suffering and redemptive death now approaches. Love is sacrifice; it demands suffering for the sake of the one loved. Real love, or charity, wills the good of the other for the other's sake. 5  Ultimately, one wants the loved person to reach his final end, beatitude with God for all eternity. Thus, one who truly loves another wants only what will lead him closer to God. In Christ's deep love for mankind, He willingly suffered for his redemption: “For God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” 6  Christ “loved them unto the end.” But His "love unto the end" goes even beyond His death, to His Real Presence among man, the Holy Eucharist. For, He is the Risen Christ, still physically on earth, in every Tabernacle around the world. The human race needs Christ's grace to believe in Him; faith is a gift. 7  With this gift of faith, he can more easily cooperate with God's grace, thus attaining His promise of "life everlasting". Christ, the source of all grace, primarily dispenses His grace through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the representation of His redemptive sacrifice on the Cross. 8  

Assuming a human nature and suffering throughout His life was not enough to satisfy the infinitely generous love of God.

O fire of love! Was it not enough to gift us with creation in Your image and likeness, and to create us anew in Your Son's Blood, without giving us Yourself as food, the whole of divine being, the whole of God? What drove You? Nothing but Your charity, mad with love as You are! 9  

Even the Bloody Passion and Death still do not satisfy the boundless ocean of the Savior's love. Having loved man "unto the end", Jesus goes beyond His Death to give us life-His Risen, glorified Flesh and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. 10  The love of Christ in not only dying but in remaining with sinful mankind in the Blessed Sacrament demands man's lifelong response of faithful love in gratitude for His Real Presence. Jesus gives His disciples an example of charity to imitate, and the Holy Eucharist enables man to live this selfless charity. Christ sacrificed Himself on the Cross; man must likewise die to himself for others. For, sacrificial love demands death to self. "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remains alone. But if it die, it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it, and he that hates his life in this world, keeps it, unto life eternal." 11  Love requires a kind of martyrdom to one's life of sin and selfishness. The perfectly sinless Son of God offers His life for man's salvation. Man owes a response of gratuitous love in return for this “unspeakable gift”. 12  Jesus calls all to imitate this sacrificial love: "This is My Commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you". 13  

Christ, the Good Shepherd, gives His life for His sheep. 14  The Apostles are to do likewise. "Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends." 15  Who would offer his life to save a dear one-literally dying-so that the loved one might live? Holy Mother Church affirms that such heroic people have lived. Some have even died for one they hardly knew, like St. Maximilian Kolbe. This heroic witness of charity offered to die of starvation in the place of a husband and father, Franciszek Gajowniczek, who was a fellow prison-mate of St. Maximilian in Auschwitz during World War II. 16  Another example of selfless, sacrificial charity is the recently Beatified Fr. Vicente Soler. This heroic witness of Christ asked that he be shot instead of Manuel Perez Regina, a father of eight children, during the Spanish Civil War. 17  As a priest, Fr. Soler was on the soldiers' list of condemned men. 18  Therefore, they did not accept his generous offer of charity. However, Fr. Soler blessed and absolved eleven who were shot with him, including one man, Francisco Burgos, who "was shot three times, but survived to pass on these details of Fr. Soler's imprisonment and death." 19  The source of great love that these two priests had was Jesus Christ Himself, Really Present in the Holy Eucharist.

The pinnacle of Christ's love is found in the Holy Eucharist: His living Flesh and Blood. In gratitude to Him, and in order to "love one another as I have loved you" man must imitate the martyrs by drawing his strength from the font of Life: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Attend Mass not only on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, but also as frequently as possible, for love is nourished by a generous heart - not a heart that will do no more than his duty. 20  Encourage others to attend Mass with you. Prepare well to receive Jesus, the King of kings, and spend a few moments thanking Him after Mass. Visit the Savior who redeemed mankind by His Precious Blood, and say with St. Paul, He “loved me, and delivered Himself for me.” 21  Christ, the Lord, willed to remain with you always, "even to the consummation of the world." 22  Live the heroic, sacrificial love that Christ teaches, for “if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.” 23  Recall the love that blazed in the heart of St. Ignatius, the holy Bishop of Antioch, who was devoured by wild beasts in the Coliseum. This Apostolic Father of the Church had the courage, shortly before his martyrdom, to proclaim his love for our Eucharistic Lord in words which declare where he received his strength--Christ, Really Present in the Holy Eucharist:

…Leave me to be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am His wheat, ground fine by the lions' teeth to be made purest bread for Christ. Better still, incite the creatures to become a sepulchre for me; let them not leave the smallest scrap of my flesh, so that 1 need not be a burden to anyone after I fall asleep. When there is no trace of my body left for the world to see, then I shall truly be Jesus Christ's disciple. So intercede with Him for me, that by their instrumentality I may be made a sacrifice to God. 24  

1The Holy Bible, Douay Rheims Version, revised by Bishop Richard Challoner (Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1989), John 13:1.
2John 15:12.
3Christ's Last Discourse is generally referred to as John 14-16, with chapter 17 being Christ's High Priestly Prayer for His Apostles. In this article, chapter 13 of the Gospel according to St. John will also be discussed along with the Last Discourse.
4John 13:34.
5John A. Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1980), 325.
6John 3 :16.
7Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), # 153.
8Hardon, S.J., 339.
9St. Catherine of Siena, O Boundless Charity! in Adoration: Eucharistic Texts and Prayers Throughout Church History, ed. Daniel P. Guernsey (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 152.
10St. Ignatius, Ep. Ad Smyrn. 7, 1; P.G. 5, 714 in Mystery of Faith, Mysterium Fidei, Paul VI (Boston: St. Paul Books & Media, 1965), 19.
11John 12:24-25.
122 Corinthians 9:15.
13John 15:12.
14John 10:11, 15.
15John 15:13.
16Anne W. Carroll, Christ the King: Lord of History (Manassas: Trinity Communication, 1986), 442-443. See also: Texas Catholic (Dallas: Most Rev. Charles V. Grahmann, March 24, 1995), "Man Saved by St. Maximilian Dies", page number not available.
17L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English. (Baltimore: The Cathedral Foundation, March 10, 1999), "Biographies of the 10 Newly Beatified Servants of God", 2.
18Ibid. 2.
19Ibid. 2.
20See Luke 17:10 "We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do."
21Galatians 2:20.
22Matthew 28:20.
23Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, #24, in Vatican Council II, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1996), 925.
24St. Ignatius of Antioch, "The Epistle to the Romans" #4, in Early Christian Writings, trans. Maxwell Staniforth (New York: Dorset Press, 1986), 104.

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