The Gospel of John makes this clear. If this is true, the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, has in fact become the food and drink that alone satisfies. A profound intimacy of communion with the Divine takes place when the body and blood of Christ, who takes away the sins of the world, are received by the believer. This moment is truly a foretaste of that eternal communion for which we are destined. Put another way: to hunger and thirst for righteousness is to hunger and thirst to do the will of God. The will of God is the salvation of humanity accomplished through Jesus Christ, the same Jesus who offers us his body and blood in atonement for the sins of the world.
To hunger and thirst for righteousness, then, is to hunger and thirst for the Bread of Life that alone can satisfy our hunger and thirst for eternal life. This same Bread of Life is offered to us freely through the grace of God in the Eucharist. What a gift! Catholics are obliged to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, preferably during the Easter season. It is worship offered to the Father by Christ as it was at the moment of his passion, death and resurrection, but now it is offered through the priest acting in the person of Christ, and it is offered as well by all of the baptized, who are part of Christ's Body, the Church.
This is the action of Christ's Body, the Church at Mass. And what is most important, we do not offer Christ alone; we are called to offer ourselves , our lives, our individual efforts to grow more like Christ and our efforts as a community of believers to spread God's Word and to serve God's people, to the Father in union with Christ through the hands of the priest. Most wonderful of all, although our offering is in itself imperfect, joined with the offering of Christ it becomes perfect praise and thanksgiving to the Father.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal no. The main elements of which the Eucharistic Prayer consists may be distinguished from one another in this way:.
This acclamation, which constitutes part of the Eucharistic Prayer itself, is pronounced by all the people with the Priest. The Church's intention, indeed, is that the faithful not only offer this unblemished sacrificial Victim but also learn to offer their very selves, and so day by day to be brought, through the mediation of Christ, into unity with God and with each other, so that God may at last be all in all.
The rite begins with the Lord's Prayer. Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples when they asked how to pray cf. Mt , Lk In this prayer, the people join their voices to pray for the coming of God's kingdom and to ask God to provide for our needs, forgive our sins, and bring us to the joy of heaven. The Rite of Peace follows.
The celebrant prays that the peace of Christ will fill our hearts, our families, our Church, our communities, and our world. As a sign of hope, the people extend to those around them a sign of peace. The action of breaking the bread recalls the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper, when he broke the bread before giving it to his disciples. One of the earliest names for the Eucharistic celebration is the breaking of the bread Lk ; Acts , Before receiving Holy Communion, the celebrant and assembly acknowledge their unworthiness to receive so great a gift. At the same time, the "accidents" or appearances of bread and wine remain.
Thomas Aquinas in their efforts to understand and explain the faith. Such terms are used to convey the fact that what appears to be bread and wine in every way at the level of "accidents" or physical attributes - that is, what can be seen, touched, tasted, or measured in fact is now the Body and Blood of Christ at the level of "substance" or deepest reality. This change at the level of substance from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is called "transubstantiation.
This is a great mystery of our faith—we can only know it from Christ's teaching given us in the Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church. Every other change that occurs in the world involves a change in accidents or characteristics.
Catechism of the Catholic Church - The sacrament of the Eucharist
Sometimes the accidents change while the substance remains the same. For example, when a child reaches adulthood, the characteristics of the human person change in many ways, but the adult remains the same person—the same substance. At other times, the substance and the accidents both change. For example, when a person eats an apple, the apple is incorporated into the body of that person—is changed into the body of that person. When this change of substance occurs, however, the accidents or characteristics of the apple do not remain.
As the apple is changed into the body of the person, it takes on the accidents or characteristics of the body of that person. Christ's presence in the Eucharist is unique in that, even though the consecrated bread and wine truly are in substance the Body and Blood of Christ, they have none of the accidents or characteristics of a human body, but only those of bread and wine.
In order for the whole Christ to be present—body, blood, soul, and divinity—the bread and wine cannot remain, but must give way so that his glorified Body and Blood may be present.
Thus in the Eucharist the bread ceases to be bread in substance, and becomes the Body of Christ, while the wine ceases to be wine in substance, and becomes the Blood of Christ. Yes, for this way of being present corresponds perfectly to the sacramental celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus Christ gives himself to us in a form that employs the symbolism inherent in eating bread and drinking wine.
Furthermore, being present under the appearances of bread and wine, Christ gives himself to us in a form that is appropriate for human eating and drinking. Also, this kind of presence corresponds to the virtue of faith, for the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ cannot be detected or discerned by any way other than faith. That is why St. Bonaventure affirmed: "There is no difficulty over Christ's being present in the sacrament as in a sign; the great difficulty is in the fact that He is really in the sacrament, as He is in heaven.
And so believing this is especially meritorious" In IV Sent. I, art. On the authority of God who reveals himself to us, by faith we believe that which cannot be grasped by our human faculties cf. In everyday language, we call a "symbol" something that points beyond itself to something else, often to several other realities at once. The transformed bread and wine that are the Body and Blood of Christ are not merely symbols because they truly are the Body and Blood of Christ.
John Damascene wrote: "The bread and wine are not a foreshadowing of the body and blood of Christ—By no means! At the same time, however, it is important to recognize that the Body and Blood of Christ come to us in the Eucharist in a sacramental form. In other words, Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine, not in his own proper form. We cannot presume to know all the reasons behind God's actions. God uses, however, the symbolism inherent in the eating of bread and the drinking of wine at the natural level to illuminate the meaning of what is being accomplished in the Eucharist through Jesus Christ.
There are various ways in which the symbolism of eating bread and drinking wine discloses the meaning of the Eucharist. For example, just as natural food gives nourishment to the body, so the eucharistic food gives spiritual nourishment. Furthermore, the sharing of an ordinary meal establishes a certain communion among the people who share it; in the Eucharist, the People of God share a meal that brings them into communion not only with each other but with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Similarly, as St. Paul tells us, the single loaf that is shared among many during the eucharistic meal is an indication of the unity of those who have been called together by the Holy Spirit as one body, the Body of Christ 1 Cor To take another example, the individual grains of wheat and individual grapes have to be harvested and to undergo a process of grinding or crushing before they are unified as bread and as wine.
Because of this, bread and wine point to both the union of the many that takes place in the Body of Christ and the suffering undergone by Christ, a suffering that must also be embraced by his disciples. Much more could be said about the many ways in which the eating of bread and drinking of wine symbolize what God does for us through Christ, since symbols carry multiple meanings and connotations. During the celebration of the Eucharist, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, and this they remain. They cannot turn back into bread and wine, for they are no longer bread and wine at all.
There is thus no reason for them to change back to their "normal" state after the special circumstances of the Mass are past.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Once the substance has really changed, the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ "endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist" Catechism , no. Against those who maintained that the bread that is consecrated during the Eucharist has no sanctifying power if it is left over until the next day, St. Cyril of Alexandria replied, "Christ is not altered, nor is his holy body changed, but the power of the consecration and his life-giving grace is perpetual in it" Letter 83, to Calosyrius, Bishop of Arsinoe [ PG 76, ].
The Church teaches that Christ remains present under the appearances of bread and wine as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain cf. While it would be possible to eat all of the bread that is consecrated during the Mass, some is usually kept in the tabernacle. The Body of Christ under the appearance of bread that is kept or "reserved" after the Mass is commonly referred to as the "Blessed Sacrament.
First of all, it is used for distribution to the dying Viaticum , the sick, and those who legitimately cannot be present for the celebration of the Eucharist. Secondly, the Body of Christ in the form of bread is to be adored when it is exposed, as in the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, when it is carried in eucharistic processions, or when it is simply placed in the tabernacle, before which people pray privately.
These devotions are based on the fact that Christ himself is present under the appearance of bread. Many holy people well known to American Catholics, such as St.
John Neumann, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. The Body and Blood of Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine are treated with the greatest reverence both during and after the celebration of the Eucharist cf. Mysterium Fidei, nos. For example, the tabernacle in which the consecrated bread is reserved is placed "in some part of the church or oratory which is distinguished, conspicuous, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer" Code of Canon Law , Can.
According to the tradition of the Latin Church, one should genuflect in the presence of the tabernacle containing the reserved sacrament. In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the traditional practice is to make the sign of the cross and to bow profoundly. The liturgical gestures from both traditions reflect reverence, respect, and adoration. It is appropriate for the members of the assembly to greet each other in the gathering space of the church that is, the vestibule or narthex , but it is not appropriate to speak in loud or boisterous tones in the body of the church that is, the nave because of the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.
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Also, the Church requires everyone to fast before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ as a sign of reverence and recollection unless illness prevents one from doing so. In the Latin Church, one must generally fast for at least one hour; members of Eastern Catholic Churches must follow the practice established by their own Church. If "to receive" means "to consume," the answer is yes, for what the person consumes is the Body and Blood of Christ. If "to receive" means "to accept the Body and Blood of Christ knowingly and willingly as what they are, so as to obtain the spiritual benefit," then the answer is no.
A lack of faith on the part of the person eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ cannot change what these are, but it does prevent the person from obtaining the spiritual benefit, which is communion with Christ. Such reception of Christ's Body and Blood would be in vain and, if done knowingly, would be sacrilegious 1 Cor Reception of the Blessed Sacrament is not an automatic remedy.
If we do not desire communion with Christ, God does not force this upon us. Rather, we must by faith accept God's offer of communion in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, and cooperate with God's grace in order to have our hearts and minds transformed and our faith and love of God increased.
The attitude or disposition of the recipient cannot change what the consecrated bread and wine are. The question here is thus not primarily about the nature of the Real Presence, but about how sin affects the relationship between an individual and the Lord. Before one steps forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, one needs to be in a right relationship with the Lord and his Mystical Body, the Church - that is, in a state of grace, free of all mortal sin. While sin damages, and can even destroy, that relationship, the sacrament of Penance can restore it.
Paul tells us that "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup" 1 Cor Anyone who is conscious of having committed a mortal sin should be reconciled through the sacrament of Penance before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, unless a grave reason exists for doing so and there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, that is, an act of sorrow for sins that "arises from a love by which God is loved above all else" Catechism , no.
The act of perfect contrition must be accompanied by the firm intention of making a sacramental confession as soon as possible. Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is wholly present under the appearance either of bread or of wine in the Eucharist.