Catholic Teaching

MY LORD AND MY GOD

My Lord and my God are only five small words, but they are so very powerful in their content at the time of the consecration. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass a priest or bishop, because of the power of the Holy Spirit etched into his heart at the time of his ordination, is empowered to change a piece of unleavened bread and a cup of grape wine into the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is known by the liturgical term transubstantiation; only priests and bishops of the Catholic Church are able to perform this miracle.

Many people witness this mysterious and miraculous changing of common dietary elements such as bread and wine into actual flesh and blood and never realize the depth or profundity of the event.

In liturgical terms this is known as mysterium fidei, “a mystery of faith”, and must be accepted by all Catholics, without exception!

Many other Christian Churches celebrate the Eucharist but it is usually referred to as a “remembrance” or a “memorial”. Others use various terms to signify the event, such as “consubstantiation”, which translates as the result being both bread and wine, and at the same time, the symbolic Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Other denominations accept that at the time of the consubstantiation the bread and wine actually are the Body and Blood of Jesus, but after Communion, it is just plain bread and wine. It is important that we, as Catholics, accept the proper Church teaching that the consecrated bread and wine, although retaining the appearance of bread and wine, (known as the accidental appearance) is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. What an awesome gift our Lord has given to us: His actual Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, to be taken into our bodies, and there to nourish us with the gift of eternal life.

Our Holy Mother Church has taught, since Apostolic times, that when we receive Communion we are receiving the actual Body of Christ; not symbolically, but actually. Many people today in our Church still do not really accept this teaching. Many polls reveal an alarming percentage of so-called Catholics just think of the Eucharist as merely a symbol of Christ’s love for us, not His actual Body. I feel very sad for them, as they don’t know the unbounded joy which can be felt when He enters into our bodies.

Let us carefully examine and meditate on the words of Jesus in John 6:51-58, while He was preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum: “I am the living bread which has come 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 then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day, for my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 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.”

After this discourse and teaching by Jesus on exactly what the Bread of Life is, many of His followers left Him, because they understood this to be eating human flesh, which was in direct violation of Jewish law. Jesus made absolutely no effort to correct them. Instead, He asked His Apostles if they would also leave, to which Peter responded by saying: “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Jesus was very clear in His teaching, just as the Church He founded is clear in her teaching on the Holy Eucharist being the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus, when He first mentioned eating His flesh, used a word in Aramaic meaning, “to accept as food into the body.” The second time He was much more specific, for He used the Aramaic word for the verb to chew, or gnaw. There was absolutely no question in the minds of the Apostles about what He meant, even though it was difficult for them to comprehend.

The theological term describing this is: Real Presence or Sacramental Presence. It has been known in our Church to be true from the time of the Last Supper, but at the Council of Trent, 1545 to 1563, it was definitively stated, because of the attacks on Catholic teachings by Protestant reformers.

Our Holy Mother Church, in Her divinely established authority, has set forth various directives to us detailing the manner in which we are to show our belief in the Real Presence. The term used for this is latria, a Greek word meaning service. I am sure we are all aware of the First Commandment’s admonition to “not place any Gods before Me.” The Church only allows us to adore the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. The Mother of God, Mary, is revered by hyperdulia, and the other saints are revered by dulia, but latria is reserved only for God.

The Catholic Church instructions on how to properly show latria to the Blessed Sacrament are very explicit and leave very little room for personal interpretation. They are called rubrics, from the Latin word for red, as they were written in red ink to emphasize their importance. Some of these instructions follow.

In a Church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a tabernacle we are instructed to genuflect to the tabernacle before taking our seat in a pew. We are also instructed to genuflect every time we pass in front of the tabernacle. The only exceptions are a lack of room, or a physical inability to do so. Ministers and servers are also required to genuflect to the tabernacle before Mass and before the recessional, but not during the Mass itself. If they are carrying anything, such as candles or a cross, they merely bow slightly at the entrance or recessional when the others genuflect. The celebrant and deacon genuflect after each elevation of the Sacred Species, and before the “ecce”. (Behold the Lamb of God etc.)

We are also instructed to show a sign of reverence to the Host before we receive Communion. The new General Instructions of the Roman Missal state that the bishops will determine what sign of reverence to use. In the United States the sign is a bow. It is important to note at this time that our bishops carefully worded their instructions to us in terms that are easily understood. In the Communion procession we bow to show reverence, but at all other times, when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle, we are required to genuflect. Failure to genuflect when we are instructed to do so is disobedience to Church instruction, and may well be seen as an expression of a lack of Faith in the Real Presence.

It should not be difficult for us to be obedient, and properly adore the Body of Him who sacrificed His life with a horrible death on the Cross, as a gift to us.

Fred Pascall

 

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