Most Blessed Sacrament
FR. STEPHANO MANELLI
Imprimatur: 1973, Naples, Italy
The Real Presence
The Real Presence of Jesus in our tabernacles is God's mystery, God's Gift, God's Love. During the Holy Mass at the time of the Consecration, when the priest pronounces Jesus' Divine words, "This is My Body. ..This is the chalice of My Blood" (Matt. 26:26-27), the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. The substance of the bread and of the wine are no longer there, because they have been transformed --- "transubstantiated" --- into the Divine Body and Blood of Jesus. The bread and wine keep only their appearances, to express the reality of food and drink, according to Jesus' words, "My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink" (John 6:56).
Behind the veil, the disguise, of the Host, and within the Chalice, there is the Divine Person of Jesus with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This is what is given to whoever receives Holy Communion, and is what continually remains in the consecrated Hosts placed in the tabernacle.
St. Ambrose wrote: "How is the change of bread into the Body of Christ brought about? It is by means of the Consecration. With what words is the Consecration accomplished? It is with the words of Jesus. When the moment arrives for accomplishing this sacred wonder, the priest ceases to speak as himself; he speaks in the person of Jesus."
The words of Consecration are the most wonderful and awesome words that God has given to the Church. They have the power, through the priest, to transform a bit of bread and wine into our crucified God, Jesus! They achieve this wonderful, mysterious feat by a supreme power which surpasses the power of the Seraphim and belongs only to God and to His priests. We should not wonder that there have been holy priests who suffered a great deal when they pronounced those Divine words. St. Joseph of Cupertino, and in our time, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, appeared visibly weighed down with distress, and they managed only with difficulty and with pauses to complete the two formulas of Consecration.
The Father Guardian ventured to ask St. Joseph of Cupertino, "How is it you recite the whole Mass so well, and stammer at each syllable of the Consecration?"
The Saint answered, "The sacred words of the Consecration are like burning coals on my lips. When I pronounce them, I have to do it like one who has to swallow boiling hot food."
It is through these Divine words of Consecration that Jesus is on our altars, in our tabernacles, and in the Hosts. But how is it that all this comes about?
"How is it possible," an educated Mohammedan asked a missionary bishop, "that bread and wine should become the flesh and Blood of Christ?"
The bishop answered, "You were small when you were born. You grew big because your body changed the food you took into flesh and blood. If a man's body is able to transform bread and wine into flesh and blood, then God can do it far more easily."
The Mohammedan then asked: "How is it possible for Jesus to be wholly and entirely present in a little Host?"
The bishop answered, "Look at the landscape before you and consider how much smaller your eye is in comparison to it. Now within your little eye there is an image of this vast countryside. Can God not do in reality, in His Person, what is done in us by way of a likeness or image?"
Then the Mohammedan asked, "How is it possible for the same Body to be present at the same time in all your churches and in all the consecrated Hosts?"
The bishop said, "Nothing is impossible with God and this answer ought to be enough. But nature also answers this question. Let us take a mirror, throw it down on the floor and let it break into pieces. Every piece can carry the same image that the whole mirror formerly reproduced. Likewise, the self-same Jesus reproduces Himself; not as a mere likeness, but as a reality, in every consecrated Host. He is truly present in each One of Them."
Eucharistic wonders are recorded in the lives of St. Rose of Lima, Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Philip Neri, St. Francis Borgia, St. Joseph of Cupertino and many other Saints, whose senses perceived the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle and in the consecrated Hosts, as they saw Jesus with their own eyes or experienced His ineffable fragrance. We have also accounts of how St. Anthony of Padua once proved to an unbeliever the Real Presence by showing him a hungry mule kneeling before a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, in preference to devouring the basket of oats placed beside the monstrance. Also remarkable was an episode concerning St. Alphonsus M. Liguori when he received Holy Communion in his sickbed. One morning, as soon as he had received the host, he sighed aloud with tears, "What have you done: You have brought me a host without Jesus, an unconsecrated host!" The matter was investigated and it was learned that the priest who had said the Mass that morning had been so distracted that he had left out everything from the Memento for the Living to the Memento for the Dead in the Roman Canon, and had thereby completely omitted the consecration of the bread and wine. The Saint had detected the absence of Our Lord from the unconsecrated host!
Many other episodes taken from the lives of Saints could be mentioned. Likewise, instances of exorcism could be told where obsessed persons were delivered from the demon by means of the Eucharist. Also, one could cite those great witnesses of faith and love which are the Eucharistic Congresses and the celebrated Eucharistic shrines (such as those at Turin, Lanciano, Siena, Orvieto, and the shrine of St. Peter of Patierno), shrines that even today offer worthy, up-to-date testimony of astonishing events of the past confirming the Real Presence.
But outweighing all these factual histories and evidences, is the faith by which the truth of the Real Presence is assured and on which we must base our unwavering certainty that it is the truth. "Jesus is the Truth" (John 14:6), and He has left us the Eucharist as a mystery of faith for us to believe with our whole mind and our whole heart.
When the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, was brought Holy Viaticum, he rose up out of the ashes where he had been laid, got on his knees, and said, "I would not believe with greater assurance that He Whom I am to receive is the Son of the Eternal God, even if I had a clear enlightenment about it a thousand times clearer than that of faith."
Mysterium fidei (Mystery of faith)
With these words Pope Paul VI chose to caption his encyclical on the Eucharist, simply because the Divine realities have no source of truth and of certainty that ranks higher than theological faith. It was due to this faith that Saints merited to see Jesus in the Host, though they had wanted no further proof than what they had; namely, God's word. Pope Gregory XV declared that St. Teresa of Jesus (whom he canonized) "saw Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in the Host so distinctly with the eyes of her spirit, that she said she did not begrudge the happy lot of the Blessed who behold the Lord face to face in Heaven." And St. Dominic Savio once wrote in his diary, "I need nothing in this world in order to be happy. I only need to see Jesus in Heaven, Whom I now see and adore on the altar with the eyes of faith."
It is with this faith that we ought to approach the Holy Eucharist and keep ourselves in that Divine Presence, loving Jesus in this Sacrament and making others love Him.
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