Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, or in other terms, the Solemnity of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ. While every Sunday is devoted to the Eucharist, we celebrate today a liturgy that is especially so for that Most Blessed Sacrament. In the Eucharist we find everything we need to live the Christian life. We find strength, grace, fellowship, unity, and most importantly, the very life of our Lord Jesus Christ within us. We are reminded of this fact when we hear the Introit:
He fed them with the finest wheat, alleluia! And filled them with honey from the rock, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Ps. 80:2. Sing joyfully to God, our helper, sing aloud to the God of Jacob.
As was discussed in Trinity Sunday, we must look at our relationship to God as a family, as the Trinity is also in a sense a family. As a child, what is one of the greatest things a parent provides outside of love? Quite simply, food. If a child is not nourished by a parent, they are grossly neglecting their child. A good parent keeps their child well fed and sustained.
God proves himself the ultimate parent in the Eucharist. In the Old Covenant He fed His flock with manna from heaven and water from the rock, making sure their earthly needs were met during their exodus. For the New Covenant, God does even more! He gives us in His own Son the true bread of eternal life. While manna perished, the Eucharist does not. Eventually, the nutritional sustenance of manna subsided. The spiritual nourishment of each and every Eucharist provides enough grace to last us a lifetime, if only we would open ourselves to it!
O God, we possess a lasting memorial of Your Passion in this wondrous Sacrament. Grant that we may so venerate the mysteries of Your Body and Blood that we may always feel within ourselves the effects of Your redemption; who lives and rules with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
If we look at the Eucharist as simply an esoteric spiritual sustenance, we are doing it wrong. For in the Eucharist, we have an anamnesis of the Lord’s victory over sin upon the tree. Anamnesis, a word many are probably not very familiar with. Put simply, it is the “remembrance” Christ commands at the Last Supper when he says “do this in remembrance of me.” In this simple sentence, there is much to understand.
When we hear to “do” we normally do not think much of it. Yet the word used is quite pregnant with theological meaning. To “do” in this case is to offer sacrifice in the Old Testament. When we speak of the “remembering” we are not simply calling to mind a past event, we must make this eminently clear. A popular criticism of Catholicism is that our Mass and our entire religion is a “dead” religion. Nothing could be further from the truth! The memorial offering of the Old Covenant was a way of making the past present. Therefore, when our Lord commands “Do this in remembrance of me” he is telling His Priests to offer the very same sacrifice He offers. While bringing us back to the moment of Calvary 2,000 years ago, we see on the altar that very event every Sunday. Just as the blood and water cleansed the Roman Centurion, so the Blood of Christ cleanses us from our sins every time we receive the Eucharist! For as the Hebrew writer wrote:
For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer, being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?
While we see here in the Eucharist a great gift, let us also remember the great responsibility that comes with it, as described in the Epistle:
Breathren: For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, And giving thanks, broke and said: "Take ye and eat: This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of me." In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: "This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come." Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.
Returning to our earthly analogy about food, we must always remember that food is a great gift, meant for our nourishing. Yet we see in today’s culture, one of the greatest problems is that of obesity. Why? We have approached food with an improper intention. Rather than eating for sustenance, we gorge our desires at the table. While before food sustained us, now food places us in great danger when we approach it in this manner.
God gave this to us for a lesson. Just as a temporal good can be abused, so can a spiritual, yet with even graver consequences. We must carefully discern our intentions. This is why Holy Mother Church reminds Catholics that those not in a state of grace may not receive the Blessed Sacrament. Why would the reception of this sacrament unworthily bring upon us the guilt of Christ’s crucifixion?
We return to the concept of the anamnesis for our answer. As was said, at our reception of the Eucharist, we make present what occurred 2,000 years ago. Yet if we are in a state of mortal sin, we are in a state of willfully disobeying God on a serious manner. We would be akin to the Pharisees who mocked Christ on the cross. We would be the “wicked” thief who reviled Christ and taunted Him as He hung on the tree. We are in a real sense crucifying Christ again willingly. How could we partake of the fruits of such a sacrifice, when we knowingly, willingly, and blindly drive the nails into His flesh? The Pharisees could at least proclaim ignorance in whom they were killing (Forgive them Father; they know not what they do.) When we sin mortally, we know precisely what we are doing, and who we are killing. This is why we must repent immediately and seek the grace of the Sacrament of Penance if we are in mortal sin. Only after that point, can we approach the altar not with the desire to crucify Christ anew, but beg His pardon and salvation, asking Christ to remember us in His Kingdom.
I would like next to come upon the Post Communion (Prayer After Communion) which states:
O Lord, grant that we may enjoy the eternal presence of Your divinity, which is foreshadowed by our earthly reception of Your Precious Body and Blood; who lives and rules with God the Father
Here on Earth, food sustains us towards our goal. Indeed, being famished, the snack I had helped myself to gave me the energy to write this column. The sustenance is a means to an end for the righteous. For the gluttonous, sustenance is the end in and of itself. Likewise for the Eucharist, we have an end in mind when we receive communion. That end is ultimately the time when such sacramental veils will not be necessary. In heaven and the consummation of the age, there will no longer be a Sacrifice of the Mass. Instead, Christ will offer Himself in full and total union with His Spouse, the Church, us. Every time we receive this Holy Sacrament, we move ourselves closer and closer to that eternal goal. Let us pray that we stay upon this path, that one day, we will behold our Lord and Redeemer face to face.