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

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The Eucharist and Vatican II

Second Vatican Council in Session

"It is difficult to say something new about the Second Vatican Council. At the same time, we must always refer back to the Council, which is a duty and a challenge for the Church and for the world. We feel the need to speak about the Council in order to interpret it correctly and defend it from tendentious interpretations"

-Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 157, 1994.


The contents of this page will hopefully help you to use the Vatican II documents as a means of increasing faith and devotion to the Eucharist in your area. It is true that this council encouraged changes in the liturgy. However, many people have misinterpreted this message and thus have down played the importance of the Eucharist in the Church and in our personal lives. Some members of the Church will claim that this council stated that the Eucharist is merely a symbol, thus denying the Real Presence. On the contrary, almost every Vatican II document speaks of the Real Presence, and implies that we need to increase our devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

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Excerpts from Vatican II Documents on the Eucharist

  * Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium)
  Perhaps the most important document of the Council. This document elaborates on the nature, role, and guidelines of the Church. It boldly states that the "Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the Christian life." (Chapter II: The People of God).

  * The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium)
  This document again emphasizes the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and that we should increase our devotion to it. A powerful statement in this document to counteract some of the liturgical abuses occurring in some parishes is that "no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority" (General Norms #3)

  * Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis)
  Reiterates the same message that "The Eucharistic sacrifice is the center and root of the whole life of the priest." (Section: Unity and Harmony of Priests).

  * Decree on Priestly Training (Optatam Totius)
  States that seminarians "should be taught to seek Christ in the faithful meditation on God's word, in the active participation in the sacred mysteries of the Church, especially in the Eucharist. . ." (Sec: The Careful Development of the Spiritual Training).

  * Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio)
  Acknowledges that the Catholic understanding of the Eucharistic is not symbolic as in other Christian denominations: "Although we believe that they have not retained the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the Sacrament of Orders. . . therefore, the teaching concerning the Lord's Supper, the other sacraments, worship, the ministry of the Church, must be the subject of the dialogue." (Sec: Separated Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the West).

  * Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum)
  The document is concerned with Divine Revelation, so Eucharistic references are scant. However, it maintains that the Scriptures are best revealed in the sacred liturgy.

  * Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus)
  States the role and responsibilities of the bishop in the Church. One such responsibility is that "They should therefore see to it that the faithful know and live the paschal mystery more deeply through the Eucharist . . ."(Chapter II, Sec I: Diocesan Bishops).

  * Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People (Apostolicam Actuositatem)
  Document explains the role of the laity in the Church such that, "Charity, which is, as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate, is given to them and nourished in them by the sacraments, the Eucharist above all."(Chapter I, Sec: Foundations of the Lay Apostolate)

  * Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes)
  Document which elaborates on the Church's missionary activity. To be missionary we must know and be like Christ primarily through reception of the Sacraments: "As members of the living Christ, incorporated into Him and made like unto Him through baptism and through confirmation and the Eucharist, all the faithful are duty-bound to cooperate in the expansion and spreading out of His Body, to bring it to fullness as soon as may be (Eph. 4:13)."(Chapter VI: Cooperation)

  * On the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium Et Spes)
  This document provides direction for the Church in today's world. The Church strives to be that spotless bride to be presented at the "wedding feast of the Lamb" The Eucharist help us to become holy, "The Lord left behind a pledge of this hope and strength for life's journey in that sacrament of faith where natural elements refined by man are gloriously changed into His Body and Blood, providing a meal of brotherly solidarity and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet." (Chapter III: Man's Activity Throughout the World)

  * Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis)
  States that Christian education should help children, "become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23) especially in liturgical action . . ." (Chapter II: Christian Education)

  * Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite (Orientalium Ecclesiarum)
  "The Sacred Ecumenical Council confirms and approves the ancient discipline of the sacraments existing in the Oriental Churches . . ." (Sec: The Discipline of the Sacraments). However, as Catholics we are to celebrate the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass because of other unresolved differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches.

  * Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life (Perfectae Caritatis)
  Encourages religious to receive the Eucharist often to nourish the spiritual life, "They should celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the holy sacrifice of the Mass, with both lips and heart as the Church desires and so nourish their spiritual life from this richest of sources."

  * Other documents which do not reference the Eucharist:
  Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae), On the Relation to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), Guidelines on Religious Relations with the Jews, Decree on the Means of Social Communication (Inter Mirifica)

Articles Related to Vatican II

  * Did Paul VI Compromise the Real Presence? - Peter Vere, JCL (TCR News)
  "Mysterium Fidei is Pope Paul VI's battle cry to all faithful Catholics, calling us to gather around Christ's Real Presence in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Have you the spiritual conviction to respond?"

  * The Second Vatican Council and the Holy Eucharist - Peter Vere, JCL (TCR News)
  "The Second Vatican Council exhorts all Catholics to partake of the sacraments frequently, particularly the Eucharist which has previously been recognized in Sacrosanctum Concilium as the source and the summit of the spiritual life."

  * Canon Law, Vatican II, And Eucharistic Devotion - Peter Vere, JCL (TCR News)
  "Those who quote the spirit of Vatican II have seldom read the documents either of the council itself, or the papal encyclicals interpreting the council that came after."

  * The Second Vatican Council
  Excerpted from The Lifetime Catholic Reading Plan by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

  * Documents of the II Vatican Council - Constitutions, Declarations, Decrees - (Vatican)
  You can reference the excerpts given on these pages to the complete documents. Thus, if you need to point out what these documents really say about the Eucharist, you will know where to find them within the complete documents.


  * Other Catholic Church Documents on the Eucharist

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