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The Holy Eucharist is the Whole Christ

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The most fundamental question to ask about the Blessed Sacrament is, "Who is the Holy Eucharist?" And the correct answer is: The Holy Eucharist is Jesus Christ.

There is more behind this answer than many Catholics realize. When the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century defined the meaning of the Eucharist, it declared 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."

Shortly after Trent, Pope St. Pius V authorized the publication of the Roman Catechism which built on the Council of Trent and explained its teachings for the pastors of the Church.

Regarding the Real Presence, the pastors were told to explain that "in this sacrament is contained not only the true Body of Christ-and that means everything that goes to make up a true body, such as bones, nerves, and so on-but also Christ whole and entire." Consequently the Eucharist contains Jesus Christ in the fullness of his divinity and the completeness of his humanity.

Jesus is therefore in the Blessed Sacrament "whole and entire: the Soul, the Body and Blood of Christ, with all their component parts. In heaven a complete human nature is united to the divine nature in one. . . person. It is a denial of the faith to suppose that in this sacrament there is anything less."

It is not speculation but cold revealed fact that the Holy Eucharist is the Son of God who became the Son of Mary.

Whatever makes Christ, Christ, is in the Holy Eucharist; nothing less.

Consequently when we speak of transubstantiation, we mean that the whole substance of bread and wine, its "breadness" and "wineness," is replaced by the living and glorified Jesus Christ. What remains of what had been bread and wine is only their external properties that can be perceived by the senses. As the Greek Fathers of the Church say, the ousia or being of bread and wine is changed into the being or reality of Jesus Christ. On the altar after the consecration there is no longer bread and wine but the same Jesus who was crucified, died and rose from the grave; and who will come in his glory on the last day to judge the living and the dead.

Is there any real difference between Jesus in heaven and Jesus in the Eucharist? No, it is the same Jesus. The only difference is in us. We now on earth cannot see or touch him with our senses. But that is not a limitation in him; it is a limitation in us.

JESUS is really now on earth in the Eucharist.
Jesus IS really now on earth in the Eucharist.
Jesus is REALLY now on earth in the Eucharist.
Jesus is really NOW on earth in the Eucharist.
Jesus is really now ON earth in the Eucharist.
Jesus is really now on EARTH in the Eucharist.
Jesus is really now on earth IN THE EUCHARIST.

The foregoing six statements, repeated and separately emphasized, explain why the Catholic Church has defended the reality of the Real Presence so strenuously down the centuries.

What else could she do? She believes that our Lord's promise, "I will be with you all days, even to the end of the world," is being literally fulfilled in every tabernacle of the Catholic world. He is in our midst with all that makes him man, including his pulsating Sacred Heart. And he is here to continue his work of redemption by giving us the light and strength we need to serve him with all our heart.

We speak correctly of believing in the Real Presence. But we should grow in our understanding of what this implies.

The living, breathing Jesus Christ is in the Blessed Sacrament. This is the reality. When we speak of presence, however, we are saying something more.

Two people may be really near each other physically, but not present to each other spiritually. To be present to each one means to have another person in mind by being mentally aware of their existence, and to have them in one's heart by loving that other person.

What, then, is the most important implication of our belief that Jesus is on earth in the Holy Eucharist? It is our duty to cultivate an awareness of this fact and to act on the awareness with our love.

When we sing the Tantum Ergo at Benediction, we ask "that our faith may supply for what our senses cannot perceive." What are we saying? We profess to believe that Jesus is in the Eucharist with all the qualities of his risen humanity, although our senses cannot perceive what we know, on faith, is true.

The reality of the Eucharist is clear. It is Jesus of Nazareth who was born of the Virgin Mary. But we must make ourselves mentally conscious of this reality and voluntarily respond to what we believe.

Jesus is on earth in the Blessed Sacrament. Why? In order that we might come to him now no less than his contemporaries did in first century Palestine. If we thus approach him in loving faith, there is no limit to the astounding things he will do. Why not? In the Eucharist he has the same human lips that told the raging storm, "Be still" and commanded the dead man, "Lazarus, come forth!"

There are no limitations to Christ's power, as God, which he exercises through his humanity in the Eucharist. The only limitation is our own weakness of faith or lack of confidence in his almighty love.

Copyright © 2003 Inter Mirifica

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