Sunday, June 26, 2011

Do You Believe Christ is Truly Present in the Eucharist?

Theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich provides reassurance for those who may be questioning something: "Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith."

One of the things we do in the novitiate is Scripture Sharing. We get together on Saturdays to discuss Sunday's readings. Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (or Corpus Christi), so yesterday, our discussions centered around our belief in transubstantiation. Some stories emerged while we were sharing, and I would like to leave them for you to reflect on:

How is it Possible?
Sr. Kathleen shared the following excerpt from the book: God Still Speaks: Listen! by Harold A. Buetow (1995)

"Some time ago, a street-corner preacher who knew how to make religious truth come to life was faced by a hostile crowd. 'How,' one of them demanded, 'is it possible for bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ?' The preacher looked calmly at the stout questioner for a moment and answered, 'You've grown somewhat since you were a child and have more flesh and blood than you had then. Surely, if the human body can change food and drink into flesh and blood, God can do it, too.'

"'But how,' countered the heckler, 'is it possible for Christ to be present in his entirety in a small host?' The preacher glanced up at the sky and down the city street before them and answered, 'This city scene and the sky above it is something immense, while your eye is very small. Yet your eye contains in itself the whole picture. When you consider this, it won't seem impossible for Christ to be present in his entirety in a little piece of bread.'

"Once more the heckler attacked. 'How, then, is it possible for the same body of Christ to be present in all your churches at the same time?' The preacher's answer was, 'In a large mirror you see your image reflected but once. When you break the mirror into a hundred pieces, you see the same image of yourself in each of the hundred fragments. If such things occur in everyday life, why should it be impossible for the body of Christ to be in many places at once? And tell me, just what isn't possible for God, anyhow?'" (Buetow 147-148).

Physical Evidence
St. Thomas the Apostle (John 20:24-29) and many other holy men and women needed physical evidence! :)

Sr. Leslie shared a story about a miracle that provides this evidence. The story is in a book that I am reading, and I will include it here. The excerpt is from Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life by Johnnette S. Benkovic (2004)

"In A.D. 700 a Basilian monk was faced with a crisis in his vocation. He did not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Day after day, though he celebrated Mass according to the sacred tradition, a profound doubt in the Eucharistic Presence grew within Him. Eventually, the moment of Consecration became a sever trial and a heartbreaking struggle. As he elevated the host and said the sacred words, guilt plagued his spirit and unrest tortured his soul. He prayed fervently to be released from the agony of doubt so that his vocation might be preserved.

"On a particular morning during the celebration of the Mass, the monk was fighting an unusually strong attack of doubt. As the moment of Consecration approached, he earnestly beseeched God to relieve him of this terrible spiritual affliction. Then, he prayed the prayers of Consecration and elevated the host. Suddenly, he was transfixed by what he saw. His hands began to tremble. Soon, his whole body quaked in response to the miracle he was witnessing. Slowly, he turned and faced the congregation. As he did so, he spoke these words:

"'O fortunate witnesses to whom the Blessed God, to confound my disbelief, has wished to reveal Himself in this Most Blessed Sacrament and to render Himself visible to our eyes. Come, brethren, and marvel at our God so close to us. Behold the Flesh and Blood of our most beloved Christ.'

"With these words, cries and wails filled the church. Shouts for mercy, pleas for forgiveness, tears of supplication ascended to the heavens in a symphony of worship and praise. For, as the congregation gazed upon the host in the hands of the Basilian monk, the people saw that it had become the real flesh, and the wine real blood.

"...without the use of any preservatives, defying the physical laws of nature, they remain to this day in the exact state as was first witnessed over twelve hundred years ago. Through the course of these twelve centuries many tests have been conducted...the more recent testing was done in 1970. The scientific team used the most modern equipment available at the time. The team released their findings:

"-The flesh is real flesh. The blood is real blood.
-The flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart (myocardium).
-The flesh and blood belong to the human species.
-In the blood are proteins in the same normal proportions as found in the makeup of fresh, normal blood.
-The blood and the flesh were of the same blood type, AB; and the blood contains these minerals: chlorides, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium.
-The preservation of the flesh and blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon" (Benkovic 149-150).

The Humility of God
We also pondered the humility of God to institute this Sacrament:

"Let the whole of mankind tremble
the whole world shake
and the heavens exult
when Christ, the Son of the living God,
is on the altar
in the hands of a priest.
O admirable heights and sublime lowliness!
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
That the Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself
that for our salvation
He hides Himself under the little form of bread!
Look, brothers, at the humility of God
and pour out your hearts before Him!
Humble yourselves, as well,
that you may be exalted by Him.
hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves
so that
He Who gives Himself totally to you
may receive you totally."
-St. Francis of Assisi

Finally, after scripture sharing, we viewed the following video:

"Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief!" (see Mark 9:34).


  1. Thank you so much Sister Monica for this beautiful, insightful, and reverent posting about the most central person in our lives!