It is the greatest gift that the Heavenly Father has given to our Church, the greatest gift that He has given to the world: the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Our aim here is not so much to give a Catholic defense of the Real Presence, nor is it to give a basic overview of the theology of the Eucharist; rather, it is our hope that this treatise will instill within each one of us a deeper devotion and love for our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Our hope is to help all to begin to develop, or to continue to develop, a spiritual life; one which truly has the most Holy Eucharist as its center. We will focus on two areas: 1) the Mass as Sacrifice, and 2) Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. These are two concepts which we believe must be brought to the forefront of our spiritual lives.
THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
We do not hear very much today about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the emphasis seems to be completely on celebration. And while acknowledging that it is absolutely true that the Church celebrates the Eucharist; that the Mass is that celebration of the whole Paschal Mystery (Passion, Death, and Resurrection); that we receive the Risen, Glorified Christ in Holy Communion; we strongly believe that we need to re-emphasize the sacrificial aspect of the Mass. Our reasoning is simple: if we try to do away with speaking about the Mass as sacrifice, then the focus of the Mass will turn from Christ to community, from the divine to the human. What do we mean by this? Well, we often wonder, when we are at Mass, how many people realize what is happening at the time of Consecration? We mean to focus on this and to emphasize what we believe happens at the point of Consecration for two reasons: 1) because, as we stated, there needs to be a re-catechizing in the area of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and 2) because we believe that once we have this understanding of the Mass as sacrifice rooted in our minds and hearts, we will begin to see a deepening in our spiritual lives, a deepening which is the result of a desire to live in union with our Lord Jesus. The Church teaches, and thus we believe that at the time of Consecration of the bread and wine, the Redemptive Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary is made truly present; it is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice on Calvary. Some quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church will serve to elaborate on this point.
The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body (#1362).
When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present (#1364).
The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross. . . (#1366).
It will serve well to add a little apologetic note here. Non-Catholic Christians will often raise the objection that Catholics believe that Christ is crucified and dies again at every Mass; thus, they will say that we believe that the one sacrifice of Christ was not efficacious, that it was not sufficient. WE DO NOT BELIEVE that Christ is crucified and dies at every Mass; rather, we believe that it is the unbloody, re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. The one sacrifice of Jesus Christ was sufficient, and we as Roman Catholics believe this. However, the infinite merits of the Redemption which Christ won for us must still be applied; and this is what occurs in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by the power of the Holy Spirit. As the Catechism says:
The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. 'The victim is one and the same: the Same offers now through the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.' 'In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner' (#1367).
This is such a profound and awesome mystery. When we kneel at Mass for the consecration, we are kneeling at Calvary. With this in mind, our interior attitude, our interior disposition, should be one of uniting ourselves to the sacrifice of Jesus. While listening to the words of consecration, our prayer can be: "Lord, I unite myself to Mary at the foot of the cross. As she stood at the foot of the cross '...and associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consent[ed] to the immolation of this victim...' (Lumen Gentium, n. 58), I too consent to the offering of Jesus. I offer my fiat with the fiat of Mary: let it be done, let it be done for the salvation of the world. I offer myself in union with the sacrifice of Your Son. I offer You all that I am: my body, my life, my vocation, my sufferings, my joys, everything, in union with the one sacrifice of Your Son and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". This is what it means to assist at Holy Mass: the priest, acting in persona Christi (in person of Christ), offers the one sacrifice of Jesus to the Father, and we the Church join in this offering. Let us ponder this for a moment. If we look at the state of the world and all of the evil that there is, why, we can ask, has the Father continued to pour forth His mercy upon us? It is because of the Mass! The Heavenly Father looks upon the Church and sees her continually offering His Son to Him in atonement for the sins of the world. When the greatest act of divine mercy and love, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is continually made present by the power of the Holy Spirit and is offered by the Church to the Father, the Father accepts this sacrifice and continually grants His mercy. The Mass is Mercy! This is the reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! And as we take on this interior, prayerful disposition of uniting ourselves to Jesus when we are at Mass, we will find ourselves desiring, more and more, to be in a deeper, more intimate union with our Blessed Savior; we will find ourselves to be more and more in love with Him; we will find ourselves to be more and more in awe of His passionate love for us, the love which led Him to sacrifice His life for us, and the love which grants us the grace to receive Him in the most Blessed Sacrament.
The life which our Lord Jesus is calling us to is a life of intimate union with him, and surely this life of union with our Lord deepens as often as we receive him in Holy Communion; however, our contact, for lack of a better term, with the Bread of Life must not stop there. Not only have we been given the grace to receive him in Holy Communion, but as our Lord told us in Matthew's Gospel, he would be with us always until the end of time (Matt 28:20). Truly we see the fulfillment of this Scripture as we see Jesus reserved in all the tabernacles throughout the world; Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Beyond receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, we are called to adore him in the Blessed Sacrament. The intimacy which our Lord is calling us to with him goes beyond just receiving him. He desires that each of us be united to his very life. To put it simply, he desires that each of us spend time with him, contemplating the mystery of his Real Presence in this holy Sacrament. We believe it is very important o try to understand the depth of the intimacy which Jesus desires to have with us; we will therefore use an example. The marital act between husband and wife is the deepest, most profound way in which they express their love to one another; our Lord desires to have a much deeper intimacy with us. And this life of intimacy, this union with Jesus, comes through receiving him and adoring him in the most Blessed Sacrament. Why adore him? Why spend time in his presence when we truly receive him into our very being? It is very simple. We can use the example of husband and wife again. A husband and wife would never have wedded if they did not spend time with one another, if they did not get to know one another. The way they come to love one another is by being with one another: the lover with the beloved. In the same way, we must spend time with Jesus to come to know him in a more intimate way, to come to love him in a deeper, more intimate way. Spending time daily in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament I to spend time with Love Incarnate, it is to spend time with the Source of Love. And as we adore the Source of Love, our lives are transformed into lives which are animated by divine love. As St. Paul says: "All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory...(2 Cor. 3:18). The advice of the saints and other holy men and women who have gone before us is to spend time in adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Some people who are in the habit of spending time before our Lord in Eucharistic adoration often speak of making a daily Holy Hour. Often times we'll hear them say, "I still have to make my Holy Hour today", or maybe they'll ask a friend, "did you make your Holy Hour today?". We would like to suggest that we change this terminology of "making a Holy Hour" because we believe the saints would tell us differently: saints do not make daily Holy Hours, daily Holy Hours make saints. We are transformed by the grace, mercy, and love which our Lord Jesus pours forth into our hearts as we adore him. All over the world we are beginning to see an explosion of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Spirit is stirring in the hearts of Christ's Faithful People and they are coming to a deeper realization of the life-transforming power and love in Eucharistic adoration. While adoring our Lord in this Holy Sacrament, we can offer prayers of reparation; we especially need to pray in reparation for the sins of the world committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and especially for the sins of our own country. We must believe not only in the transforming power of Eucharistic adoration for our own lives, but also the power of transformation which it provides for the whole world. Pope John Paul II sees and understands the power of Eucharistic adoration, and indeed he has been an impetus in the explosion of perpetual adoration throughout the world. He himself sees Eucharistic adoration as being intimately bound up with the ushering in of the third millennium of Christianity. As we know, 1997 marked the beginning of the three year preparation for the year 2000, and we believe that as we approach the third millennium we will continue to see an increase in Eucharistic adoration throughout the world. In fact, our Holy Father had said that the year 1999 will be "intensely Eucharistic". Our prayer for all is that we may become "intensely Eucharistic" people. May we, who are transformed by receiving and adoring our Lord Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament, be the instruments which the Holy Spirit uses to transform the world!
May the Heart of Jesus, in the most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved, with grateful affection, at every moment, in every tabernacle of the world, even until the end of time!
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You!
Because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world!