Catholic Teaching

Gestures and Postures

During my travels I have visited many Churches in various dioceses. On these visits, usually during daily or Sunday Mass, I have noticed that many Catholics show complete reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, and many others show only a cursory respect, if they show any at all!

Jesus Christ gave us the greatest gift ever given to mankind; His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This gift is the center and core of our Holy Catholic Church and is reserved in Tabernacles all over the world under the accidental appearance of bread.

Many polls offer differing statistics concerning the percentage of Catholics who really believe that the Eucharist is the actual Body of Christ, but the average would be about 30 percent! The following statement may be difficult for some to accept, but it is dogmatic Church teaching that the bread and wine, after they are consecrated, are the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the accidental appearance of bread and wine, and we must accept this teaching if we claim to be Catholic! Many people who profess to be Catholic believe that the Sacred Host and Chalice of Blood are only symbols or remembrances of Jesus, and scripture forbids this belief! St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians, 11:28, writes: "Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment unto himself."

Our Holy Mother Church has taught this from the beginning of Her existence. In John, 6:51 Jesus said: "I am the living bread which came down from Heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews found this difficult to accept and Jesus went on further to say, in verse 56, (using the verb for 'gnaw' or 'chew') "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever."

Many of the disciples, when they heard this, believed it was cannibalism and therefore walked away. Jesus made no effort to correct them, instead He asked the Apostles if they would also leave and Simon Peter responded: "Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John, 6:68) It is very important that we discern exactly why Jesus used the verb to gnaw or chew when He made His second statement; He was telling us in no uncertain terms that the Holy Eucharist which we receive is His actual Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Pope Lucius III, at the Council of Verona, 1184, in his decree "Ad abolendum", declared that those who denied Church teaching on the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ be judged as heretics, and he bound them with perpetual anathema. (Anathema means a person is no longer in the Church. They are ostracized from the sacraments. In effect it is the same as excommunication)

Over the centuries many "theologians" have questioned the truth in Jesus' words. This dissent was made very obvious during the Protestant Reformation by the 'reformers', among whom, was John Wycliffe, who taught that the substance of the bread and wine were not changed, but remained as bread and wine. He also taught that Jesus was not present in the Sacred Species, but was merely a symbol. The Council of Constance condemned his teachings in 1418, referring to his teachings, and those of John Hus as erroneous, heretical, audacious and seditious, as well as being offensive to the ears of the pious.

The Council of Trent was very forceful in its declaration on the Real Presence. In chapter 4 of the concilliar documents it stated: "But since Christ, our Redeemer, has said that this is truly His own body which He offered under the species of bread, (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1Cor.11:24 ) it has always been a matter of conviction in the Church of God, and now this holy Synod declares it again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a conversion takes place of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This conversion is appropriately and properly called transubstantiation by the Catholic Church."

The second canon on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, from the Council of Trent states: "If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist there remains the substance of bread and wine together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and the entire substance of the wine into the blood, the species (also known as the accidental appearances) only remaining, a change which the Catholic Church most fittingly calls transubstantiation: let him be anathema."

Our Catholic Church in this country is in serious need of catechesis concerning the Holy Eucharist. Proper reverence to the Eucharist is called latria, and Church instruction is very clear relative to proper reverence always being shown when we are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. However, Her instructions, in many cases, are completely ignored!

If the Tabernacle is visible in the Church, and the sanctuary lamp is lit, signifying the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we are to genuflect toward it when we pass in front of it. I doubt that half of our Catholics do this; usually, giving just a slight bow instead. I have even noticed altar servers, who should have been better instructed, merely bow, when they are preparing for Mass. Physical inability and insufficient room are exceptions to this instruction. Before, and after Mass, we are instructed to maintain silence and decorum in our actions. Many Churches sound like a social club before Mass, and a high school gymnasium after Mass. This might indicate that the pollsters were not that far off when they claimed only about 30 percent of Catholics truly believe that the Tabernacle contains the actual Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ!

It is important that you remember what two thousand years of Church teaching maintains: If you do not accept that the Holy Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, you are anathema!

Fred Paschall, MI



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