Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Christi: It's WHO The Eucharist Is, Not What The Eucharist Is

Pieter Pauwel Rubens - The Last Supper (Notice the look on Judas Iscariot's face)

In his First Letter To The Corinthians [1 Corinthians 10:16-17], Saint Paul confronts the Corinthians’ sacrilegious, scandalous, faithless and sloppy attitudes and behavior toward the Holy Eucharist by asking them if they truly believe: “Brothers and sisters: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

Father Walter Ciszek, SJ
In contrast, let's look at a group of people who had the right attitude toward Holy Communion.

During World War II, the Soviet Russians arrested Father Walter Ciszek, a Jesuit priest. He was accused of being a "Vatican spy" and spent the next 23 years in prisons and Siberian work camps. When he finally got out of prison, he wrote about his experiences in a book entitled, He Leadeth Me.

Some of the moving stories in the book concern the sacrifices prisoners made to receive the Holy Eucharist in prison.

In the days of World War II, prior to the Second Vatican Council, it was Church law that one must abstain from all food and drink for twelve hours before receiving Holy Communion. Keep that in mind as you read what Father Ciszek wrote:
"I have seen prisoners deprive their bodies of needed sleep in order to get up for a secret Mass before the wake-up bell. We would be severely punished if we were discovered saying Mass, and there were always informers...
"All this made it difficult to have many prisoners in attendance, so we would consecrate extra bread and distribute Holy Communion to the other prisoners when we could.
"Sometimes that meant we would only see those men when we returned to the barracks at night before dinner.
"Yet these men would actually fast all day long and do exhausting physical labor without a bite to eat since dinner the night before -- just to be able to receive the Holy Eucharist -- that was how much the Sacrament meant to them."
Every year, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I usually propose a series of questions for Catholics to ask themselves. I begin with this quote:

“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.’” [John 6:51-58]
Hans Memling - Portrait Of A Young Man At Prayer
  • What does Holy Communion mean to me?
  • Do I appreciate the Holy Eucharist as much as I did the first time I received it?
  • Do I still appreciate the precious gift the Holy Eucharist is?
  • Do I still get excited about Holy Communion?
  • Do I observe the one-hour of fasting as spiritual preparation before receiving the Eucharist?
  • Am I chewing gum or sucking on candy when I enter church or during Mass?
  • When the Priest, Deacon, or Minister Of Holy Communion says, "The Body of Christ," or "The Blood of Christ," do I answer by professing my faith in Christ in the Eucharist by saying, “Amen”?
  • How reverently do I handle and touch the Eucharistic Host when I receive it in my hand from the Priest, Deacon, or Minister of Holy Communion -- do I receive the Holy Eucharist carelessly, without dignity?
  • Do I reverence the Tabernacle where the Presence of Jesus remains in the Eucharist -- do I face toward the Tabernacle and genuflect when I enter and leave the church and while passing near the Tabernacle?
  • Do I reverence the Altar where His Body and Blood first enter our midst -- do I face toward the Altar and reverently bow when I enter and leave the church and while passing near the Altar?

The next time you attend Holy Mass – as you walk down the aisle to receive the Body and Blood of Christ -- focus your thoughts in a special way on Who it is you will receive. In your heart, say to yourself:
  • I will be receiving the Living Body of Christ.
  • I will be receiving the same Christ Who died in agony on the Cross for me.
  • I will be receiving the same Christ Who rose from the dead for me.
  • I am not receiving just bread and wine. I am receiving the Lord Jesus Himself.
  • Only a loving God could have given me such an unimaginable gift.





Remember: It is WHO the Eucharist is, not what the Eucharist is.


May we praise and adore Christ present in the Holy Eucharist.

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