On June 19, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi kicked off a three-year National Eucharistic Revival. Sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, this grassroots movement will include a year of diocesan renewal and a year of parish revival and will end with a National Eucharistic Congress. At a time when, according to Pew Research, only 31 percent of Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, this revival offers an exciting opportunity to renew our devotion and reverence for this sacrament.
In 1551 AD, the Council of Trent explained that “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God … that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord.This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” If we truly believe that Christ becomes present to us in this real, tangible way, then our actions and attitudes regarding the Eucharist should reflect that. St. Augustine writes that “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.”
This adoration of the Eucharist can be expressed through many different kinds of reverence. One simple way that we can bear witness to our belief in the real presence is simply by making the sign of the cross whenever we drive past a Catholic church. This act acknowledges Christ’s presence in the Eucharist hosts that are reposed in the tabernacle. Similarly, we genuflect upon entering a Catholic church both in order to remind ourselves by a physical gesture that our Lord and God is present in the tabernacle, and to pay him homage.
This reverence for the Eucharist should reach its climax in our reception of holy Communion: the part of the Mass when we receive Christ’s body and blood into our own bodies. The church asks that we abstain from food and drink (besides water and medication) for one hour prior to receiving the Eucharist. To knowingly break this fast and then receive communion constitutes a mortal sin. We also must be in a state of grace (not conscious of having committed any mortal sins) when we approach communion. To receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is itself a mortal sin, and one does not receive the graces that the sacrament would usually bestow.
We ought to approach communion prayerfully, with hands folded, bowing as an expression of our respect for Christ in the blessed sacrament. The norm in the United States is to receive communion while standing, but the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Divine Worship also considers kneeling an appropriate posture for receiving the Eucharist. Although less widespread than in the past, receiving holy Communion while kneeling is still permitted and is an excellent way to adore our Lord, as well as to reinforce our belief in the real presence through our physical orientation. (Redemptionis Sacramentum, nos. 90-91).
The Eucharist is the greatest gift we can receive as Catholics: Our Lord’s gift of himself to us. During this three-year Eucharistic Revival, let us renew our devotion and reverence for this great sacrament. Pope St. John Paul II states that “By giving the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, and by being careful not to diminish any of its dimensions or demands, we show that we are truly conscious of the greatness of this gift … There can be no danger of excess in our care for this mystery, for ‘in this sacrament is recapitulated the whole mystery of our salvation.’”
Aidan Jones a parishioner of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior.