Pope John Paul II, has declared 2005 the year of the Holy Eucharist. It may seem strange to Catholics that a special year is needed to concentrate on the most basic truth of the Catholic Church that Christ is present in the Eucharist, Body, Blood Soul and Divinity.
Year of the Eucharist Is Needed
But the fact is that many Catholics during the pass thirty years have not learned that basic truth. Through a lack of consistent teaching and by abandoning many former devotions to the Eucharist, and even through the actions of some ministers in treating the Eucharist without the respect due to it, confusion as to its full significance has crept in to the point that some polls indicated barely one-third of Catholics fully believe in the Real Presence.
Yet Christ was clear when he spoke of the Eucharist. Early in his ministry he told his followers that unless they ate the flesh of the Son of Man and drank His blood they would not have life in them. Many found this saying hard and left Him.
Had he been speaking symbolically he surely would have called them back and explained that. However, instead of calling them back, He turned to His Apostles and asked if they would leave him because of this hard saying.
Peter spoke for them when he said, “Lord to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” Peter probably did not understand fully what Christ meant at the time, but he knew that Christ would not say something this important if he did not mean it to be taken literally.
When Christ instituted the Eucharist at the last Supper He made it clear that the bread he broke and gave His Apostles was His real flesh, his body, and that the wine, after he consecrated it with the worlds, “This is the chalice of My blood” was his blood, shed for them and future generations.
Then He commanded them to do the same thing to continue the effects of His passion and death through all ages, for the expiation for sin to continues until the end of the world. He told them “Do This,” and for two thousand years an unbroken line of bishops have passed on this power through valid consecrations and ordinations.
A Difficult Teaching
St. Thomas Aquinas understood the difficulties people would have in recognizing the true presence when he wrote the Adorote Devote:
Sight, touch and taste in Thee are each deceived.
The ear alone most safely is believed:
I believe all the Son of God as spoken,
Than Truth’s own word there is no truer token.
It is the most basic of Christian Truths, the word of Christ to his followers. St Thomas explains that the real body and blood of Christ is present in this sacrament, though this presence cannot be perceived either with the senses or with the intellect but only with faith, supported by the authority of God.
Personally, I don’t know many Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence. When I discussed the real presence with my separated brethren they presented a number of arguments, such as “Christ is really present if you believe He is,” or “It’s only a symbol of Christ.”
I often wonder why so many non-Catholics take Christ literally on everything except this most important doctrine. But despite this huge difference in belief in a basic Christian truth, I still find many of our most zealous pro-life activists among our non-Catholic brethren, totally given to Christ and dedicated to saving his little ones. And many have come to believe and now have the Sacrament of the Eucharist to give them even greater strength.
Year of the Eucharist Activities
In this Year of the Eucharist there are already many activities underway across the globe, including pilgrimages, special masses, lectures, opening of Eucharistic Spiritual Centers, discussion groups, Eucharistic Adoration centers, new publications on the Eucharist, and two new websites.
Eucharistic Congresses are being planned. And we will speak more on the Eucharistic Year in future Action News Hotlines. Stay tuned.