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Friday, June 8, 2012

Is Jesus present in the Eucharist in the same way that he is present to us in the Scriptures, the other sacraments, and in the people of God? That is, are they all equally deserving of our worship?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

This Sunday is the Feast of Corpus Christi, or the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

So for 2000 years it has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church that Jesus is truly and substantially present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.  It is not a symbol. 

As Pope Benedict XVI has so eloquently stated, "With these words, spoken immediately after the words of consecration, the priest proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understandings."

Sometimes the Church (or rather, people in the Church misunderstanding the constant teaching of the Church) have emphasized one aspect of this theological mystery over another.  As the centuries progressed, other theological nuances were stressed.  After Vatican II, I believe that in an effort to emphasize the sanctity of the laity (a valid reform!), some Church leaders, wrongly, in my opinion, attempted to de-emphasize the adoration and worship given to the Blessed Sacrament, the Most Holy Eucharist. 

Thus, in the 1970's and 80's it was common in some Catholic circles to hear people say that we ought to be bowing and kneeling to each other and before the Sacred Scriptures, as well as before the tabernacle--for was not Christ present in the Church assembly, Scripture as well as in the Eucharist?

This was a misunderstanding of Vatican II's correct emphasis on the laity--Vatican II*rightly proclaimed that Christ is present in the assembly, and that Catholics ought to see the Scriptures as the Word of God, more than this had been emphasized in centuries past. However, it is a fallacy to place our worship of Jesus in the Eucharist on equal footing with the Scriptures and the congregation. 

As Fr. Vincent Serpa of Catholic Answers says, "The Eucharist is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ who is God and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Only the Father and the Holy Spirit are equal to him. To say otherwise is not only the result of fuzzy thinking, it’s heresy!

While we "acknowledge Jesus' presence through the Word, the sacraments, and the laity, the Church emphasizes his presence in the Eucharist in "a way that surpasses all the others." It is his presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is, for this reason, "a more consoling source of devotion, a lovelier object of contemplation and holier in what it contains" than all the other sacraments because it contains Christ himself and it is "a kind of consummation of the spiritual life, and in a sense the goal of all the sacraments. This presence is called ‘real’ not to exclude the idea that the others are ‘real’ too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and entire, God and man" (Mysterium Fidei, 38, 39). source

Thus, the short answer to this 3-minute apologetics question is:  No.  Jesus is not present in the Eucharist in the same way as he is present in those other areas.  He is present in a way that surpasses all the others. 

*Disclaimer:  I am not an expert on Vatican II and the arguments about "the spirit of Vatican II" verses what Vatican II actually proclaimed in its documents make my eyes glaze over.  So please keep this in mind as you read my comments about Vatican II.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Papal Encyclical by Pope JPII on the Eucharist

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15