by Fr. Aaron Johanneck
Over the past months, we have explored in these articles diﬀerent aspects of the nature of the Sacred Liturgy. As we have seen, the liturgy is a profound mystery. It is the prayer of Christ. It is our participation in the worship and adoration of heaven. It is the memorial and re-presentation of the sacriﬁce of Christ on Calvary that actually makes that sacriﬁce present. We could say that the reality of the liturgy can be summed up in the words prayer, praise, and presence. Let us reﬂect a bit more now on the liturgy as presence and on what our response to that presence, the Real Presence, should be.
The Eucharist: what an amazing gift from God. God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, love us so much, that Jesus remains with us always. We all know what happens when the priest prays the words of consecration during the Eucharistic Prayer: the bread and wine are truly changed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. The Holy Sacriﬁce of the Mass makes present his perfect oﬀering to the Father. It also, as we know, makes Christ himself present.
The Church calls the change that takes place at the consecration “transubstantiation.” What it means is that while the appearance and characteristics of bread and wine remain – what are referred to as the accidents – the reality is no longer the same. The bread looks and tastes like bread, but it is not; it has become the Precious Body of our Lord. So with the wine: it looks and tastes like wine, but it is not; it is the Precious Blood of the Lord. What has changed is the very reality of what these elements are – what is referred to as the substance. Thus, tran-substance-tiation.
The reality of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which is brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit acting through an ordained priest, is not just something interesting for us to memorize for a religion test, or to ponder as an interesting fact. It is a reality that (whom) we should receive in Holy Communion at Mass, if we are properly disposed to do so. And it is a profound reality that (whom) we must adore. It is Jesus, God himself.
St. Augustine wrote, “No one eats that ﬂesh without ﬁrst adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes, “In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us…Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 66).
Our adoration of Christ in the Eucharist deepens our disposition to be able to receive the grace that Jesus pours out upon us through receiving Holy Communion, the greatest of which is intimate union with himself.
Whenever we gaze upon the Sacred Host and the Precious Chalice as they are elevated by the priest after the consecration, or when we are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle or in the monstrance, let us adore him! Let us make the words of St. Thomas Aquinas (translated by priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins) our own:
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.