The Church from the Eucharist

The Church from the Eucharist
Intro By Jeff Armbruster (based on Pope Saint John Paul II’s  Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

The introduction to Pope Saint John Paul II’s April 2003 Encyclical, Ecclesai de Eucharistia (The Church from the Eucharist) states eloquently: “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist…This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.”

The Pope goes on to add (from the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium), “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our Passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy spirit, he offers life to men.” “…Consequently, the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to the Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestations of his boundless love.” The Holy Father could not be more clear in explaining the foundational connection between the Church and the Eucharist. Nor could he be any clearer about the Church’s timeless teaching about transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In this Encyclical, the 14th and final of his 26-year papacy, John Paul II poured out his heart and soul, in beautiful, near lyrical language, his love of and devotion to the Eucharist. Although the letter is a bit long, 33 pages long, if you are able to make the time to read the entire document, you will be greatly rewarded. For those who might want to get the essence of the message of the encyclical without reading the entire document, a copy of it is attached, with key elements highlighted in yellow. Please note, highlighting was not done by a member of the clergy, rather by this layman, and reflects those parts of the document that spoke most profoundly to him. You may find other portions equally meaningful.

For those who may not already have a deep devotion to the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II provides beautiful explanations of why the Church has been steadfast in her teachings about the Eucharist (from the beginning) and why we should embrace those truths. Sharing in the Eucharistic sacrifice is, after all, the essence of our relationship with our merciful God and Father. “The Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history. This explains the lively concern which she has always shown for the Eucharistic mystery, a concern which finds authoritative expression in the work of the Councils and the Popes.” Hopefully, reading the entire document, or even the highlighted portions of it will touch your heart with a reason to become a firm believer.

For those who already take, as Gospel, belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the beauty and theological elegance of the Pope’s message will inspire and enlighten. “The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work. Nor does it remain confined to the past, since “all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times.”

Read Pope Saint John Paul II’s  Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, HERE

Meditations on the Eucharist

Meditations on the Eucharist written by Jeff Armbruster

Popular ‘opinion’ among many Christians, including many who identify themselves as Catholic (even a surprisingly large percentage of those attending Mass weekly), is that the Eucharist is just a symbol—a good symbol, but no more than that. Yet, there is a remarkable treasury of evidence (based on Jesus’ own word and recorded in scripture) to the opposite, i.e., that the Eucharist is, in fact, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ Himself. In our most recent post on the validity of the Real Presence of the Eucharist, we shared what many of the Early Church Fathers had to say in support of that foundational teaching of the Church. But such support and verification are not just from the early days of the Church, it spans the two millennia since then, including the meditations included here.

Arguably one of the most remarkable intellectual and spiritual giants of the nineteenth century is one of the Church’s newest saints, St. John Henry Cardinal Newman. Newman spent the first half of his 90 years as an Anglican (he was an ordained priest in that Protestant tradition) and the remainder as a Roman Catholic priest, rising to the rank of Cardinal. He is now being considered for designation as ‘Doctor of the Church.’ His scholarship is noteworthy on a wide range of topics, but his meditations on the Holy Eucharist are simply extraordinary. In these two reflections (from a collection entitled, Everyday Meditations (2013)), ‘Holy Communion’ and ‘Food for the Soul,’ Newman shares from the depth of his heart the realities of this beautiful, loving, compassionate, salvific gift our loving Savior has given to us, His unworthy creations. Jesus did not give us a symbol of Himself, He gave us Himself. One of the most beautiful of Newman’s descriptions of Jesus giving of Himself in the Eucharist is, “My Lord, my Savior, to me, you come, hidden under the semblance of earthly things, yet in that very flesh and blood which you took from Mary. You, who first inhabited Mary’s breast, come to me.”

Should you choose to read these two brief meditations, please know they are not a simple read. They are written in Victorian English and it is sometimes a bit tough to understand, so consider reading slowly, with the intent of meditating on each phrase. While not simple, the meditations are rich, beautiful, and remarkably insightful. Newman knew what he wrote about—and he did not write about a symbol! My hope is that if you will take the time to absorb the magnificence of his words, you will be rewarded.

 “Everyday Meditations” (2013)

(41) Holy Communion

Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman

My God, who can be inhabited by you, except the pure and holy? Sinners may come to you, but to whom should you come except to the sanctified? My God, I adore you as the holiest; and, when you came upon earth, you prepared a holy habitation for yourself in the most chaste womb of the Blessed Virgin. You did make a dwelling place special for yourself. She did not receive you without first being prepared for you; for from the moment that she was at all, she was filled with your grace, so that she never knew sin. And so she went on increasing in grace and merit year after year until the time came when you sent down the archangel to signify to her your presence within her. So holy must be the dwelling place of the Highest. I adore and glorify you, O Lord my God, for your great holiness.

O my God, holiness becomes your house (cf Ps 93:5), and yet you make your abode in my breast. My Lord, my Savior, to me you come, hidden under the semblance of earthly things, yet in that very flesh and blood which you took from Mary. You, who first inhabited Mary’s breast, come to me.

My God, you see me; I cannot see myself. Were I ever so good a judge about myself, ever so unbiased, and with ever so correct a rule of judging, still, from my very nature, I cannot look at myself, and view myself truly and wholly.  But you, as you come to me, contemplate me. When I say, “Lord, I am not worth,” you whom I am addressing alone understand in their fullness the words I use. You see how unworthy so great a sinner is to receive the one Holy God, whom the seraphim adore with trembling. You see, not only the stains and scars of past sins, but the mutilations, the deep cavities, and the chronic disorders they have left in my soul. You see the innumerable living sins, though they be not mortal, living in their power and presence, their guild, and their penalties, which clothe me. You see all my thoughts, my multitude of infirmities and miseries, yet you come. You see most perfectly how little I really feel what I am now saying, yet you come. O my God, left to myself should I not perish under the awful splendor and the consuming fire of your majesty? Enable me to bear you, lest I have to say with Peter, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

My God, enable me to bear you, for you alone can. Cleanse my heart and mind from all that is past. Wipe clean all my recollections of evil. Rid me from all languor, sickliness, irritability, feebleness of soul. Give me a true perception of things unseen, and make me truly, practically, and in the details of life, prefer you to anything on earth, and the future world to the present. Give me courage, a true instinct determining between right and wrong, humility in all things, and a tender longing love of you.

(42) The Food of the Soul

In you, O Lord, all things live, and you give them their food. Oculi omnium in te sperant—“The eyes of all hope in you” (Ps. 145:15). To the beasts of the field you give meat and drink. They live on day by day, because you give them day by day to live. And, if you give not, they feel their misery at once. Nature witnesses to this great truth, for they are visited at once with great agony, and they cry out and wildly wander about, seeking what they need. But as to us your children, you feed us with another food. You know, O my God, who made us, that nothing can satisfy us but you, and therefore you have caused your own self to be meat and drink to us. O most adorable mystery! O must stupendous of mercies! You most glorious, and beautiful, and strong, and sweet, you knew well that nothing else would support our immortal natures, our frail hearts, but you; and so you took on human flesh and blood, that they, as being the flesh and blood of God, might be our life.

Oh, what an awesome thought! You deal otherwise with others, but, as to me, the flesh and blood of God is my sole life. I shall perish without it; yet shall I not perish with it and by it? How can I raise myself to such an act as to feed upon God? O my God, I am in a straight—shall I go forward, or shall I go back? I will go forward; I will go to meet you. I will open my mouth and receive your gift. I do so with great awe and fear, but what else can I do? To whom should I go but to you? Who can save me but you? Who can cleanse me but you? Who can make me overcome myself but you? Who can raise my body from the grave but you? Therefore, I come to you in all these my necessities, in fear, but in faith.

My God, you are my life; if I leave you, I cannot but thirst. Lost spirits thirst in hell, because they have not God. They thirst, though they fain would have it otherwise, from the necessity of their original nature. But I, my God, wish to thirst for you with a better thirst. I wish to be clad in that new nature, which so longs for you from loving you, as to overcome in me the fear of coming to you. I come to you, O Lord, not only because I am unhappy without you, not only because I feel I need you, but because your grace draws me on to seek you for your own sake because you are so glorious and beautiful. I come in great fear but in great love. Oh, may I never lose, as years pass away, and the heart shuts up, and all things are a burden, let me never lose this youthful eager, elastic love of you. Make your grace supply the failure of nature. Do the more for me, the less I can do for myself. The more I refuse to open my heart to you, so much the fuller and stronger be your supernatural visiting, and the more urgent and efficacious your presence in me.

 

Teaching about the “Real Presence” Is Integral to the Church’s DNA

There are many today (Catholic and non-Catholic) who argue the Church’s teachings about the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist are erroneous. Others maintain they are exaggerations. Still, others suggest the Church’s teachings are fantasies of over-zealous ancient and modern-day theologians. Yet, there is an enormous body of evidence that proves otherwise. Many of those who lived in the time of Christ, those who knew Him, and all the Church leaders in the first few hundred years after the Resurrection, that is, the early Church Fathers, are remarkably clear about what they believed to be the truth about the Eucharist as taught by Jesus, Himself. A “Cliff-Notes” style article by the online resource, Catholic Answers, summarizes critical teachings of a dozen spiritual giants of our faith from the first four and a half centuries of the Church’s history (including Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr and Augustine), and the benchmark conclusions of the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. (A link to the article is provided below.)

Some modern-day “deny-ers” of the Real Presence argue the early Church Fathers did not believe in the Real Presence, rather they believed that the Eucharist was just symbolic. But they ignore the reality that the early fathers of the Church unconditionally believed the words of Christ, Himself. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper are identical in all three synoptic Gospels, “This is My body…This is My blood.” His words are direct, precise, and most importantly, creative. They are not symbols. They are not suggestions. They are reality. They are the truth! And those closest to Jesus believed those truths because all are substantiated in Holy Scripture.

The “Bread of Life Discourse,” in Chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel is the very substance of Jesus’s teaching about the Eucharist. “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.” (John 6:51). And: “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.” (John 6:53-57).

But, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, is also extremely clear: 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.

Please click the link and read more about what the early Church Fathers believed and taught.

The Real Presence
“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Reflection on The Bread of Mercy

Blaise Pascal, a French physicist, mathematician, and philosopher commented, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every [person] which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” For Catholics, there is no more perfect way to fill the vacuum in our soul than receiving Holy Communion and spending time in Eucharistic adoration. But going to Holy Communion and spending time in adoration only makes sense if we truly believe we are receiving or adoring the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Still, many who profess they are Catholic either do not believe in the Real Presence or they have allowed their faith to waver. Over recent months, we have shared three separate videos of notable scholars speaking from their theological expertise about the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This contribution is different in that it is a reflection written by a lay person without similar credentials — a person who believes to his core that the Holy Eucharist is, in fact, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. His reflection blends scripture passages, stories from the lives of the saints, excerpts from credible scholars, and his own personal life experiences to unapologetically explain why he believes that Transubstantiation is true and why it is so important to accept that truth. The author shares his thoughts and feelings with the hope they will encourage others who already believe, but entice those who do not or are not sure, they believe that they would benefit from more deep reflection on this tenet of our faith.

Read MORE: Jeff Armbruster’s Reflection on The Bread of Mercy

The Real Presence of Christ In the Eucharist: Why Isn’t It More Obvious?

Why Does Jesus Come to us in the form of Bread and Wine?

During this remarkable year of the National Eucharistic Revival, we have been sharing important insights into the Church’s teachings about Transubstantiation – the truth that at the Consecration of the Mass, the ordinary bread and wine we can see and taste is miraculously transformed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The first two such insights were videos (one by Bishop Robert Barron and the second by Father Mike Schmitz). Both were a bit lengthy, but, oh-so rich in content.

Recently, in the Gospel for the Feast of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9), we are told Saint Peter began to see that Jesus was no ordinary teacher. He began to see that Jesus was the Lord…and what he saw filled his heart with joy. So, Peter said, “Lord, it is good that we are here” (17:4). By extension, in the Holy Eucharist, it is good for each of us to be with the Lord! It is what we were created for. Whether we realize it or not, our hearts yearn for God and an awareness of His presence. He is our greatest good and He longs to reveal His goodness to us even more than we long to know Him. That is why He took on flesh and became a man. That is why He poured out His Holy Spirit. And that is why He is truly and fully present in the Eucharist at every Mass. Jesus wants to give you a glimpse of His glory.

The video (link below) is relatively short, less than 8 minutes, but it reveals truths and insights that will likely surprise even those of you who are believers in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Take a few minutes, quiet your heart, and listen. For those who are nonbelievers or who may be skeptics, you might find these few minutes eternally useful.

Father Mike Schmitz Speaks at Notre Dame

Volumes have been written and much recorded via other media, about the Holy Eucharist being the source and summit of our Catholic faith, yet many overlook or deny the truth about the Eucharist as taught by Jesus, Himself.  Many others, while they maintain belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, would be well served by some gentle and beautiful reminders, of just how important the Eucharist is in our eternal lives. The below video is one such reminder for them, and maybe a catalyst for those who may have allowed their belief to drift from the Gospel truth about the Eucharist being the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Father Mike Schmitt is a gifted and dynamic speaker. The entire video of his presentation at Notre Dame 3 years ago is about an hour and ten minutes (and is remarkable), but if you are unable to set aside that much time, please consider advancing to 32 minutes and 10 seconds into the video and watch the final 39 minutes or so. Father Mike’s presentation is transformational. Enjoy!

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist with Bishop Baron

Enjoy the YouTube video (view below) of Bishop Robert Barron’s presentation to the 2020 Religious Education Congress. Please be aware the presentation is about 75 minutes long but truly worth setting aside the time to watch. All the early Church Fathers believed in and taught the Real Presence. The Church’s teachings haven’t changed for millennia, but the beliefs of many of our fellow Catholics have. Hopefully, this information will enrich you and your family.