What is meant by the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?
The Holy spirit’s gift of faith enables Catholics to believe the awesome truth that in the Eucharist
the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained.
The early reaffirmation and documentation of this took place at the Council of Rome under the form of the Oath of Berengar of Tours in the year 1079, to be once again documented and reaffirmed in the teachings of the Council of Trent in the Decree of the Most Holy Eucharist in 1551.
This presence of Christ in the consecrated species of bread and wine is called the ‘real presence’. This does not mean that the Lord is not present in other ways; rather, it emphasises his fullest presence in the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus Christ – God made man – makes himself wholly and entirely present to us, that is substantially present. Exactly how Jesus is present in the consecrated bread and wine is a mystery. The term transubstantiation expresses that at the consecration of the Mass the reality, that is the substance, of the bread and wine is changed into the reality of Jesus; his risen, glorified body and blood. The Lord is present whole and entire in each species from the moment of consecration for as long as the Eucharistic species subsists. To receive Jesus in the species of bread or of wine is to receive the whole Christ since he is totally present in both species. It is an honour and a grace to be able to receive the Lord in the Eucharist and it is therefore that we need to prepare ourselves to receive him worthily by ensuring that we are in a state of grace, abstaining from food for one hour before the commencement of Mass: I am fully aware that Code of Canon Law §919 states ‘one hour before receiving Holy Communion’, but should the homily take 30 minutes you could even finish your hamburger on the steps of the church and then receive Holy Communion. Should we receive the Sacred Host on our hand, to ensure that our hands are clean of dirt and of any writing.
This brings us to the subject of Eucharistic Adoration and veneration. To begin with veneration. One may well ask, “Why do we genuflect?” Genuflection is the going down on one knee (touching the ground, if possible) as a sign of respect and reverence: we are entering the presence of our Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Should it not be possible to genuflect, a deep and reverend bow is made; from the waist. At this juncture I state that it is not necessary to make the Sign of the Cross every time one genuflects. In the presence of Our Lord, it is most respectful to maintain our focus on him and to avoid unnecessary nattering: this will also show one’s respect for others in the vicinity who may well be in prayer. We genuflect on entering the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, when we pass in front of the Tabernacle, and when we depart from the presence. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament usually takes place when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. Here we have a chapel reserved for this purpose when people may come and go at will to spend time with the Lord, exposed in the reservation of the Tabernacle. This is a time of silence and meditative prayer, private communication between the individual and the Lord. This time could be long or short: a quick greeting and acknowledgment, or a prolonged time of meditation. Adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacrament could be likened to being in the presence of Jesus, face to face.
Fr James Ralston