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HERALD ARTICLES
Linda Oppelt

Revive Alive - The Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese of Colorado Springs

By Father Jim Baron

Eucharistic RevivalWelcome to the first in a series of articles on the Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese of Colorado Springs! Once a month, we will cover important topics about the Eucharist, what that gift means for us as Catholics, and how we live that faith. There will be quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other recommended reading to help you go deeper into the subject. This page will be complemented every other issue with some thoughts on reclaiming Sunday as the Lord’s Day. We hope these sections will be helpful in your own faith, knowledge, and love of our Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist!

What is the Eucharist? At Catholic Mass, when a validly ordained Catholic priest offers the unleavened bread (the “host”) and grape wine according to the Rite of the Church, something special happens. Through the words and gestures of the priest, Jesus consecrates the bread and the wine, which means the bread and wine change into something new. Although they look and taste the same, they have really become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no longer plain bread and wine, but now there is the Eucharist, which is the resurrected and glorified Flesh and Blood. Although these continue to appear as bread and wine, based on Jesus’ own words, we know they are the Lord himself. After consecration, as long as the appearance of bread and wine remains, so does Jesus’ Real Presence. You will hear this called by a few different names, like the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, the True Presence, the Living Bread, Jesus’ Body and Blood, and a few others. 

As Catholics, everything we believe about the Eucharist comes from what Jesus himself said. His flesh is true food and his blood true drink (John 6) and that he offered bread and wine at the Last Supper, declaring them to be his Body and Blood, establishing the New Covenant. And when the Church offers this same sacrificial meal in memory of him, he becomes truly present to us in the same Body and Blood. We believe it because Jesus said it! And Catholics have held this faith from the very beginning.

To the church at Corinth, St. Paul writes “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1 Cor 11:23-25). He also writes that “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason, many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Cor. 11:27-30)

Since the beginning, Jesus’ Apostles faithfully celebrated the new Passover established by Jesus. They taught their successors to do the same. And so on through the centuries to our own time. Within the first 80 years of the Church, St. Ignatius of Antioch urged those who do not hold the Church’s belief to “abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans). The early Christian theologian Origen said, “when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish” (Homilies on Exodus 13:3). St. Cyril of Jerusalem said in the mid-300’s, “Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that, for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm” (Catechetical Discourses). This belief was deepened and further refined using the term “transubstantiation” by the Fourth Lateran Council in the year 1215 AD. There are many more examples of how the Church and her saints have held on to this essential truth.

If you have ever read the Bible cover-to-cover, you have come across many things that point toward the Eucharist. Images in the Old Testament point toward their fulfillment in the New Testament. In Genesis, the priest Melchizedek offered a sacrifice of bread and wine. In Exodus, the Pascal Lamb sacrificed and consumed in the first Passover points towards Jesus, the “Lamb of God” who offered himself on the cross and gives us himself to consume in the Eucharist. The manna that sustained the people of God as they wandered in the desert is an image of the Bread of Life that sustains us. The Show Bread before the Divine Presence in the Temple is an image of Jesus’ own Divine Presence that abides with his Church. Then in the New Testament, there are other examples that help us understand the gift of the Eucharist, like Jesus’ own multiplication of the loaves and fishes, or his teaching us to pray for our daily (supersubstantial) bread, and of course his Bread of Life Discourse (John 6), the Last Supper and the meeting along the road to Emmaus, when the disciples recognized him in the “breaking of the bread.”

There are so many things that establish and develop the Catholic belief in Jesus’ True Presence in the Blessed Sacrament! It has been a central part of Christianity from the very beginning. It is present in the Tradition of the Church, in Scripture, and developed by the teaching authority of the Church called the Magisterium. Because the Eucharist is Jesus, our Lord’s own gift of himself, we cannot reject the Eucharist without rejecting Jesus at the same time. Believing in the Lord’s true and abiding Presence in the Blessed Sacrament is so foundational that some of the Church’s pastors throughout history have even said one should not receive it if they do not believe it. That is pretty serious! The Church has received the Eucharist as a gift. The Church and all Catholics have the responsibility to treasure this gift, which is Jesus himself!

In October, we will begin a two-part reflection on the Mass — first looking at the Mass as a whole, then in November looking specifically at the second part of the Mass, which is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the meantime, check out the suggested readings below to go deeper!

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, All Praise and All Thanksgiving Be Every Moment Thine!

FOR FURTHER READING

“Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist” by Brant Pitre (Image Books)

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1373-1381

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