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제목 Christmas and the Eucharist – 1/ the Real Presence
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-12-25




Christmas and the Eucharist – 1/ the Real Presence


My dear brethren,


Continuing our study of the Christian doctrine, we are now learning about the Holy Eucharist. The very feast of Christmas is very fitting for this. Indeed, in Hebrew language, “Bethlehem” means “house of bread”: Beth (‎בֵּ֥ית) means house, and lehem (לָֽחֶם) means bread. Now our Lord Jesus Christ is “the bread that came down from heaven” (Jn. 6:59). And as soon as He was born, the Blessed Mother “laid him in a manger” (Lk. 2:7): He came … to be eaten, to be the food of our soul! Thus from the very beginning of His life on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ manifests us the importance of the Holy Eucharist: He came in the house of bread and was laid in a manger as if He wanted to make us hunger for Him from the beginning.

Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ chose as the matter of this Sacrament bread and wine, under which appearance He would give us His own Body and Blood, because they signify the fruit of this sacrament: nourishment of our whole soul. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day” (Jn. 6:55).

Around the year 250, St Cyprian points out that our Lord chose bread and wine to transform into His Body and Blood, because both bread and wine are made of many grains crushed together into one paste and one drink: this signifies beautifully both that the Eucharist is the fruit of the Passion of Christ and the need of unity of all the members of Christ: as the grains of wheat and grapes are perfectly joined into one paste and drink to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so should we be perfectly united with one another in the Mystical Body of Christ.

St Cyprian tells us that, by divine institution, the priest must also put one drop of water into the wine; St Justin already made allusion to that 100 years earlier. This drop of water signifies ourselves: we must be united with Jesus in order to be transformed into Him. As St Paul says, “we are the sons of God, and if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16-17).

This Sacrament was instituted during the Last Supper also to signify that it is a food for our soul. In the Last Supper, our Lord first celebrated the Paschal Lamb, so that He might go from the figure of the Old Testament to the reality of the New Testament, from the shadow  to the substance.

Indeed, this Sacrament is so important that it was announced in figures in the Old Testament: the manna victims of the diverse sacrifices they were offering, eating its flesh, and they were many other images, such as the food given by the Angel to Elias. But the sacraments of the Old Testament were mere images, mere symbols: they did not contain the reality of what they signified. St Thomas Aquinas tells us with very truth that it belongs to the perfection of the New Testament that its sacraments contain the very reality of what they signify.

Thus, after having celebrated the Old Testament Pascal Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ took some bread and said: “Take ye, and eat. This is my body.” And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: “Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins” (Mt. 26:26-28). So if one had asked, before these words of our Lord Jesus Christ, what was on the table, the answer was simple: before, it was bread and wine. But after the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, if one asks: what is it? The only true answer is that which our Lord Jesus Christ Himself has given: this is His Body, this is his Blood! In order to keep the full truth of these words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church calls this transformation “transubstantiation”: that is, the complete change of the substance of the bread into the Body of Christ and of the substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ.

Indeed, if one asks: what is it? And you answer: “it is white”, you have not really answered the question; if you answer: “it is round”, you have not really answered the question either; if you answer: “it is small” neither have you not answered the question. But if you answer: it is the Body of Christ, then you have answered the question, though you do not know how big it is, what colour it may be, etc. The substance of a thing is the answer to the question: “what is it?” “The colour of a thing, the size of a thing, the weight, etc. are called “accidents” of that thing: one thing can change size (e.g. when a child grows), or colour (when someone gets angry…), or weight, and yet remain the same thing. So, it is quite clear that one should not confuse the substance of a thing and its “accidents”. In the Holy Eucharist, there is the miraculous transformation of the whole of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the words of Christ Himself, though the “accidents” of the bread and wine remain: these “accidents” are only the superficial aspects that can be reached by our senses. Our Lord is the Word of God, by which all things were made (Jn. 1:3, 1 Cor. 8:6), the Almighty Word to which nothing is impossible (Lk. 1:37). He is the Word of Truth (Jn. 1:14, 14:6): what He says is true, because He said it. The Word of God makes things true.

This is the first aspect of the Holy Eucharist: the Real Presence: the fact that under the appearances of bread and wine after the Consecration, there is really and substantially present the very Body, Blood together with the Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We say that Jesus is “hidden” in the Blessed Sacrament, because we do not see Him with the eyes of our body. But we should remember that the holy Angels do see Him and the Saints in Heaven too. At Christmas, neither did the shepherds, nor St Joseph, nor even the Blessed Virgin Mary see the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ: He “looked like” any other little new-born baby, yet the Angels sang “Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will!” and these Angels told the shepherds: “this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11). The Angels could see that He was the Saviour; the Angels could see that He was “Christ the Lord”; but the shepherds, St Joseph and our Lady could not see: they believed that which they did not see, in the very same way as we now believe that which we cannot see: we believe that Jesus is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, which the Angels in Heaven – and now St Joseph and above all our Lady – can see! That Jesus be hidden in the Blessed Sacrament is good for our Faith, for the merit of our Faith: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed” (Jn. 20:29).

Why does the Church teach that Jesus is present there “with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity”? St Thomas Aquinas explains that the Body of Christ is inseparable from His Blood and Soul and Divinity, since now Christ is risen from the dead. If one Apostle had consecrated the Eucharist on Holy Saturday, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, there would not have been there the soul of Christ because His soul had left His body then, yet there would have been His divinity because It did not leave even the dead Body of Christ: hence we say in the Creed that “He (the Son of God) was buried…” Also, the host would only have the Body and the Divinity of Christ, and in the chalice, there would only be the Blood and Divinity of Christ. But after the Resurrection, all were reunited and now Christ dies no more. We have the Risen Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, i.e. the living Body of Christ.

Because our Lord Jesus Christ, true man and true God, is really present there, we must adore Him. This is the antique Faith of the Church. St Augustine says about Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: “Let no one eat this flesh unless first he adored it... and not only we do not sin if we adore, but we sin if we don't adore.”  If there is one moment when we owe that adoration to our Lord, it is when we come the closest to Him, at the moment of Holy Communion. When the Magi “entered into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him” (Mt. 2:11). Archbishop Lefebvre used to point out that the rubrics of the Traditional Mass mandate this adoration to the priest in the very consecration itself even up to FOUR times! After having pronounced the very words of Jesus, by which virtue the bread and wine are transformed into His Body and Blood, even before the elevation, the priest must “genuflect, adore, then stand and elevate the host, then again genuflect, adore again…” and the same for the precious Blood. And then every time the priest would touch the consecrated host, he would genuflect before and after. The faithful are required in the Traditional Mass to kneel down and receive our Lord on the tongue. No such mention is done in the new Mass, and this is very grievous.

The ritual is the book that contains the instructions for the sacraments, blessings and other ceremonies; the traditional ritual says beautifully: “a great and diligent care must be employed to treat religiously and in a holy manner all the sacraments, but above all in the administration of the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Indeed, the Church of God possesses nothing more worthy, nothing holier, nothing most admirable than this Sacrament, because it contains the greatest and most important gift of God, the very source and author of all grace and holiness, Christ the Lord!” This is the Faith of the Church and the reason for our adorations.

This admirable change of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ takes place during the consecration by virtue of the words of Christ pronounced by a duly ordained priest, acting in the very person of Christ, that is, Christ Himself acting in and through him. This presence of Christ remains not only until holy Communion, but as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain; when those appearances are destroyed – either through digestion when duly received, or through any other agent, such as water or fire – then and only then, there is no longer that hidden presence of Jesus. Thus, when the consecrated hosts are kept in the tabernacle, Jesus is really there. This is the reason why, traditionally, the tabernacle was kept at the centre in the place of honour on the main altar of churches, so that all thing in the church would converge towards our Lord Jesus Christ, really present in that tabernacle. It is a scandal, and the sign of what is really in the hearts of the modernists, that the tabernacle has been put aside, sometimes in rather remote place difficult to find: Jesus has been put aside; He is no longer at the centre of their worship. Many today enter the church and go and sit down with no mark of adoration for the divine Guest. This is not right at all. The presence of our Lord in the tabernacle is signified by the red lamp, that should be constantly burning on its side, indicating that “the Master is there, and calleth for thee” (Jn. 11:28).

There were many miracles throughout history related to the real Presence of Christ: some hosts bled, some others took the aspects of real flesh such as at Lanciano: and this was verified by medical experiments in the early 1970s. In Sienna, some consecrated hosts have been kept intact for more than 280 years, which would be impossible for bread. I have been both at Lanciano and at Sienna and have seen these hosts. In some other miracle, there was light shining from the hosts to reveal where a thief had hidden them in the ground. In another miracle, the monstrance with its host went up in the air in order to avoid a fire that destroyed much of everything but not the Blessed Sacrament. All these and many others were performed by our Lord in order to strengthen our faith in this “mystery of Faith”: it is indeed a test of Faith. But essentially our faith relies on the very words of Christ: “This is my body… this is my blood”.

It is the traditional practice for all faithful as soon as they arrive in a church where our Lord is duly present in the tabernacle to genuflect to our Lord and thus acknowledge that presence, and every time they pass across the centre aisle in front of our Lord to genuflect again. Please do your best to make a proper genuflection, that is, with the right knee down to the ground – don’t make a quick half-genuflection, that is not really worthy of our Lord. Only when you will be getting up in age and your body will no longer be sufficiently supple, then you will be excused from a proper genuflection, and sometimes even from receiving our Lord kneeling down: one is not bound to do that which one is unable to do. But as long as you can, you should do such nice genuflection. Archbishop Lefebvre told us that he had asked the grace to be able to make good genuflections until the end of his life, which grace was granted to him.

When I arrived at the seminary, back in 1976, there was an elderly priest, Father Barielle, who had very bad legs: one leg was completely purple. He could not genuflect normally, but, when saying Mass, he made a very special effort to genuflect to the ground after each consecration: he was leaning heavily on the altar and needed all his strength (he was strong, and rather heavy): it took him a good while to do it, and it was a beautiful example for all of us young seminarians to see this elderly man do his best for such genuflection. So, when you genuflect, watch yourself: have you gone down to the ground? Was it really worthy of our Lord?
 
It is good to honour our Lord Jesus Christ really present in the Blessed Sacrament by paying “visits to the Blessed Sacrament.” These can be short, or can be long. Many Saints would spend hours in front of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, even some times the whole night, taking their delight to be in the presence of the Lord, opening their heart to Him, filling it with Him. Like our Lady and St Joseph in Bethlehem and later in Nazareth, their take their delight just to be with Jesus. It is a beginning of everlasting life, where the Saints in Heaven delight in God: “Delight in the Lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart” (Ps. 36:4). They say to Him with the psalmist: “For thee my flesh and my heart hath fainted away: thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever… But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God” (Ps. 72:26, 28). “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever” (Ps. 83:5).

Sometimes, the Church organises greater honour for our Lord and does an “exposition of the Blessed Sacrament”, where the host is put in a very adorned monstrance, with many candles and incense. Some other times, the Church organises an even greater honour and does a “procession of the Blessed Sacrament”, so that many have an opportunity to adore Him on the way, and to give testimony to Him by their singing and adoration. These devotions were very popular until the Council; now they are rarer.

The Blessed Sacrament is the greatest treasure of the Church, as the Child Jesus was the greatest treasure of our Lady and St Joseph: their home was an image of the Church, the “house of God and gate of Heaven” (Gen. 28:17). “If [all men] would know the gift of God” (Jn. 4:10), and Who it is that dwells in the Tabernacle, we would all flock there and take our delight in His presence. We would come in spite of our unworthiness and of our sins, so that He would cleanse our soul and give us the necessary contrition; we would come in spite of our inabilities, to be strengthened by Him Who is the Almighty; we would come in spite of our busy schedules, because the short time spent with Him is more valuable for eternity than all our earthly activities: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33). And there we have, in the blessed Sacrament, the very King of Heaven and the Author of all justice.

May the blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph give us their faith in the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, their love for the presence of Jesus with us, Emmanuel, and obtain that one day we may see Him with no longer the veils of the sacrament, but face to face in Heaven! Amen.


Fr. F. Laisney(sspxasia)