Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Catholics Believe, The Eucharist Part I

The following are some statements, in bold italics, about the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. I don't pretend that these statements are exhaustive, but they are major points on the doctrine of the Eucharist.

The Sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper.

"The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love.163 In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; "thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament.""164  (CCC 1337; 163 Cf. Jn 13:1-17; 34-35; 164 Council of Trent (1562): DS 1740.)
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to His disciples said, “Take and eat; this is My body.” Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28)
While they were eating, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many." (Mark 14:22-24)
Last Supper by Juan de Juanes, 16th cent.

When the hour came, He took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”  Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you." (Luke 22:14-20)
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is My body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes. (I Cor. 11:23-26)

Maciejowski Bible, 13th Cent.
The Church has always believed and taken our Lord Jesus at His word when He said, "This is My Body...This is My Blood."  After all that He said in John's Gospel chapter six, we take Him at His word.  

"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (verses 48-58; NAB)
Jesus repeats and emphasizes the eating of His flesh.  He never explains it away and never explains it as a parable.  We don't take His words as symbolic, but as spiritual truth.

The Last Supper is believed to be a Passover meal commemorating the Exodus.  In the New Covenant, Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb.

Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what He had announced at Capernaum: giving His disciples His Body and His Blood:
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. . . ." They went . . . and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, He sat at table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.". . . . And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My blood."166  (CCC 1339;166 Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.)
By celebrating the Last Supper with His apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to His father by His death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.  (CCC 1340)

This author has personally heard some protestants claim that the Last Supper was not Passover.  However, because of the words of the Gospel writers, it was and is believed by the Church that this was indeed the Passover supper.  The Passover meal and the by extension the Exodus takes on a special significance through Jesus' words and actions.
 In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men.184 In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them.
In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.185 "As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out."186  [184 Cf. Ex 13:3. 185 Cf. Heb 7:25-27. 186 LG 3; cf. 1 Cor 5:7.] (CCC 1363-1364)

The Eucharist nourishes the Church.
What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh "given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit,"229 preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.[229 PO 5CCC 1392]
The Bread and Wine of the Eucharist are not simply that.
Give us this day our substantial bread. This common bread is not substantial bread, but this Holy Bread is substantial, that is, appointed for the substance of the soul. For this Bread goes not into the belly and is cast out into the draught Matthew 15:17, but is distributed into your whole system for the benefit of body and soul. But by this day, he means, each day, as also Paul said, While it is called today Hebrews 3:15 .  (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23, On the Sacred Liturgy and Communion, 15)

A Catholic Tabernacle
Because the Body and Blood of Christ remain as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain, the Church worships the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.

The Church believes Christ's words, "This is My Body...This is My Blood," therefore she worships Christ in His most precious form.  He is there and He is present.  St. Cyril said of the Eucharist:
Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to you, yet let faith establish you. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouchsafed to you.  (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 22, On the Body and Blood of Christ, 6)
So, if "the Body and Blood have been vouchsafed" then the Church must treat the Eucharist with the reverence due to God.  The Body not consumed at Mass is reserved in a tabernacle.
The celebration of the Eucharist in the Sacrifice of the Mass is truly the origin and end of the worship given to the Eucharist outside the Mass. Furthermore the sacred species are reserved after Mass principally so that the faithful who cannot be present at Mass, above all the sick and those advanced in age, may be united by sacramental Communion to Christ and his Sacrifice which is offered in the Mass.”[219] In addition, this reservation also permits the practice of adoring this great Sacrament and offering it the worship due to God.  (Redemptionis Sacramentum: On Certain Matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist. From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, Rome, 25 March 2004, para. 129.)
"The Most Holy Sacrament is to be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is noble, prominent, readily visible, and adorned in a dignified manner” and furthermore “suitable for prayer” by reason of the quietness of the location, the space available in front of the tabernacle, and also the supply of benches or seats and kneelers." (Redemptionis Sacramentum, para 130)
This is a serious matter and not one to be profaned.

My intent is to write a part II to include a discussion on Transubstantiation.

Addendum from Scott:
I promised to share a story I heard our local priest tell from the pulpit on the Feast of Corpus Christi, he proclaimed it was absolutely true.   Since CathMom5 began this article on the Eucharist, I felt it fitting to add this story to her article.

Here's the story:
On the evening of the last day of his October 1995 visit to the United States, John Paul II was scheduled to greet the seminarians at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. It had been a very full day that began with a Mass at Oriole Park in Camden Yards, a parade through downtown streets, a visit to the Basilica of the Assumption, the first cathedral in the country, lunch at a local soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities; a prayer service at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in North Baltimore; and finally a quick stop at Saint Mary’s Seminary.
The schedule was tight so the plan was simply to greet the seminarians while they stood outside on the steps. But the Pope made his way through their ranks and into the building. His plan was to first make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
When his wishes were made known, security flew into action. They swept the building paying close attention to the chapel where the Pope would be praying. For this purpose highly trained dogs were used to detect any person who might be present.
The dogs are trained to locate survivors in collapsed buildings after earthquakes and other disasters. These highly intelligent and eager dogs quickly went through the halls, offices and classrooms and were then sent to the chapel. They went up and down the aisle, past the pews and finally into the side chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.
Upon reaching the tabernacle, the dogs sniffed, whined, pointed, and refused to leave, their attention riveted on the tabernacle, until called by their handlers. They were convinced that they discovered someone there.
We Catholics know they were right — they found a real, living Person in the tabernacle!
Now, I've seen this story, verbatim, on several sites - all Catholic.  I do not personally doubt the veracity of this anecdotal situation, but for others reading along, I'd like some other, preferably non-Catholic, confirmation.  If you have any other information, please share in the comments of this blog.

Other sites with this story that I've found thus far:

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