Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Holy Eucharist - The Body and Blood of Christ

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Corpus Christi, a splendid feast that reminds us of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

The Eucharist according to the Catechism is the source and summit of our Christian life. The Eucharist is the visible and tangible presence of Christ in His One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church. What a great gift this is that we so often take for granted. In our modern and secular age, how many still believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Probably not many and that's sad. If anybody wishes to know how far he has advanced in the spiritual life, he just needs to become aware of how much importance and devotion he has towards the Holy Eucharist. An important realization I had lately is that the crisis of faith in the Church, the crisis of morality in our society, the crisis threatening the family can only be mitigated if we as a people of God will have a genuine renewal of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Not too long ago I had the opportunity and privilege to attend a Latin Mass and to experience for myself for the very first time what the celebration of the Mass looked like in the not so distant past. I must say it left a deep impression on me especially on the way the Latin Mass goers receive Holy Communion - kneeling in front of a communion rail and on the tongue with a deep reverence for Our Lord. I cannot help but compare it to the way we approach Holy Communion during Mass nowadays.

On this solemn feast of Christ's Body and Blood, I just want to encourage my fellow Catholic Christians to accord to this sacrament the highest form of reverence and respect we can muster for isn't it Jesus Christ Himself, our Supreme Eucharistic Lord, whom we receive every time we go to Communion?

Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano is officially recognized by the Catholic Church as a true Eucharistic Miracle that took place in 8th century A.D. in the Church of St. Legontian in Lanciano, Italy as a direct response to a Basilian monk's doubt about the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. The relics were scientifically investigated and found to be real flesh and real blood that are still remarkably preserved more than twelve centuries later.

State of Grace

Every time I see the number of people line up to receive Holy Communion and the number of people who line up in the Confessional I cringe. How many of us sufficiently examine ourselves whether we are in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin? We are all sinners of course and we often say at Mass that we are not worthy to receive Jesus, but still St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians admonishes us on the importance of examining oneself first in order to receive communion worthily.

Therefore 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. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor. 11:27-29)

One who is conscious of grave sin ought to have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation first prior to receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. If I know I am conscious of some grave sin, I just make a spiritual communion with Jesus by praying the Anima Christi until such time I am able to go to Confession and receive Him worthily again. Why is this such a big deal? Well, if you're in a state of mortal sin, your soul is comparable to a stinking septic tank filled with poops. What a great insult to our Lord to make Him dwell in such a horrible state of our soul?

Eucharistic Fast

Canon 919 of the Code of Canon Law states, "One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion." This practice dates back to the traditions of the early Christians. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, especially those with regards to the sick and elderly.

Why fast? The fast before receiving Holy Communion creates a physical hunger for the Lord, which should augment our interior disposition to unite ourselves with Him spiritually. In the Old Testament, Moses fasted for 40 days before He received the Ten Commandments. Likewise, Christ Himself fasted for 40 days as a preparation for His public ministry.

Proper Disposition & Modesty

Every time we go to Mass, we should strive to develop the right disposition, appreciation and gratitude of Who it is we are going to receive or we run the risk of attending Mass for the sake of fulfilling our Sunday obligation and just going through the motions.

Do we show outward reverence when receiving Holy Communion? Are we fully aware that what we are receiving is the Lord Himself? Do we spend some quiet time in prayer after Communion to thank God for this immense gift of Himself? Have we fallen to the trap of receiving Holy Communion out of habit?

With regards to modesty inside the Church, I cannot emphasize this enough. In the olden days, Christians attended church wearing their Sunday best, an expression that pertains to the practice of wearing one's best and finest clothing in church on Sundays. This may not sound practical nowadays but at least make an effort to be as presentable and modest in the eyes of God and others. You don't want to be an occasion of sin for your neighbors do you?

Missing Mass on Sundays

One of the seven precepts of the Church is to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligations. Canon 1247 of the Code of Canon Law states, "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. They are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord's Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body."

I practically grew up and received full Catholic education from elementary school to college, having been a product of a local parochial school and a prestigious Catholic university in Manila, but would you believe that nobody ever taught me that skipping Mass on Sundays without sufficient reason is a serious sin? This teaching was never ingrained firmly in my consciousness until only by the time I took my faith seriously by the grace of God. That should give you a glimpse of the sad state of our Catholic educational institutions nowadays. 

Communion in the Hands versus Communion on the Tongue

Although both ways are allowed by the Church, I have a personal predilection towards receiving communion on the tongue even before I attended the Latin Mass. For me it is more reverent and less subject to profanation like small particles falling off to the ground and hence being trampled underfoot, the host not being consumed right away, etc.

Blessed Mother Teresa was once asked by Fr. George Rutler, "What do you think is the worst problem in the world today?" she replied without hesitation: "Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand." I can personally attest to this fact as I have had the privilege of attending Masses with the Missionary of Charity Sisters. They don't have qualms about touching Christ in the guise of the poor and the sick entrusted to their care but they choose, however, not to touch Him in His Real Presence in Holy Communion.

St. Thomas Aquinas has something to say on this matter:

"Out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hand, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency" (Summa Theologica, III, Q. 82, Art. 3).

On this subject matter, I want you to watch a short informative video by Michael Voris, a Catholic apologist.  You'll be surprised to know how the practice of communion in the hand came about and why communion on the tongue has always been the norm in the Universal Church.

On this feast of Corpus Christi, let us strive to live out a Eucharistic way of life with the sole aim of giving glory and honor to God. I firmly believe that these practices will help strengthen our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Holy Communion and the Saints

"With all the strength of my soul I urge you young people to approach the Communion table as often as you can. Feed on this bread of angels whence you will draw all the energy you need to fight inner battles. Because true happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind." - Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Every morning during meditation, I prepare myself for the whole day's struggle. Holy Communion assures me that I will win the victory; and so it is. I fear the day when I do not receive Holy Communion. This bread of the Strong gives me all the strength I need to carry on my mission and the courage to do whatever the Lord asks of me. The courage and strength that are in me are not of me, but of Him who lives in me - it is the Eucharist. - St. Faustina Kowalska

"If someone knows from experience that daily Communion increases fervor without lessening reverence, then let him go every day. But if someone finds that reverence is lessened and devotion not much increased, then let him sometimes abstain, so as to draw near afterwards with better dispositions." - St. Thomas Aquinas

"All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man." - St. John Vianney, Cure d'Ars

"When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence." - St. Francis de Sales

"If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion." - St. Maximilian Kolbe

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. - John 6:53

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