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The History of Eucharistic Adoration

The History of Eucharistic Adoration

Development of Doctrine in the Catholic Church

 

by John A. Hardon, S.J.

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

 

 

I. APOSTOLIC TIMES TO EARLY MIDDLE AGES…………….

 

II. BERENGARIUS TO ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI…………

 

III. MIDDLE AGES TO THE COUNCIL OF TRENT….

 

Before the Council of Trent….

The Council of Trent………..

 

IV. DEVELOPMENT OF EUCHARISTIC ADORATION…………

 

Forty-Hours Devotion ……….

Perpetual Adoration………..

Visits to the Blessed Sacrament….

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament….

Eucharistic Congresses……..

 

V. WHY DEVELOPMENT OF EUCHARISTIC DOCTRINE…

    

Basic Premises of Doctrinal Development ………

Experienced Benefits of Eucharistic Adoration

 

VI. THE CHURCH’S MAGISTERIUM………….

 

Pope Pius XII…………….

Pope John XXIII…………..

Pope Paul VI……………..

Pope John Paul II…………

 

VII. GRACE THROUGH THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST…..

 

 

Introduction

 

The phenomenal growth of devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in

the Holy Eucharist has puzzled not a few sincere people. Nocturnal

Adoration societies, Perpetual Adoration groups, national

associations of the faithful promoting organized visits to the

Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hours before the tabernacle, monthly, weekly

and even daily exposition of the Eucharist in churches and chapels,

in one country after another, have become commonplace.

 

What to make of all of this? Is this another form of pious

eccentricity, or is it founded on authentic Catholic doctrine and

grounded on the solid rock of Christian revelation?

 

It is authentic Catholic doctrine and it rests on the unchangeable

truth of our revealed faith. But it needs to be explained, and the

explanation is a classic example of what we call development of

doctrine.

 

By development of doctrine, we mean that some divinely revealed truth

has become more deeply understood and more clearly perceived than it

had been before. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom Christ

promised to send to teach us, the Church comes to see more deeply

what she had always believed, and the resulting insights find

expression in devotion of the faithful that may have been quite

uncommon in the Church’s previous history. The whole spectrum of

Christology and Mariology has witnessed such dogmatic progress.

Adoration of the Eucharist, therefore, is simply another, though

dramatic, example of doctrinal development.

 

Always implied in such progress is that, objectively, the revealed

truth remains constant and unchanged. But through the light of the

Holy Spirit, the subjective understanding of the truth becomes more

clear, its meaning becomes more certain and its grasp by the

believing mind becomes increasingly more firm.

 

Our purpose in this short study is to show how the Real Presence of

Christ in the Eucharist has undergone a marvelous development over

the centuries. We are now witnessing what can only be described as

the work of the Holy Spirit, Whom Christ promised, “the Father will

send in My name. He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind

whatever I have said to you” (John 14:25).

 

Chapter I

 

APOSTOLIC TINES TO THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES

 

Belief in the real, physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist grew

out of the teaching of the evangelists and St. Paul. They made it

plain to the apostolic Church that the Eucharistic elements were

literally Jesus Christ continuing His saving mission among men.

 

John and Paul were especially plain. The skepticism of Christ’s

followers, when He preached the reality of His Body and Blood as food

and drink, made John record the fact that “many of His disciples

withdrew and no longer went about with Him.” Seeing this, Jesus asked

the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave me?” Simon Peter did not

understand any more than those who left Christ, but his loyalty was

more firm. “Lord,” he answered, “to whom shall we go?” (John 6:66-

68).

 

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians rebuked them for making the Agape,

which should have been a beautiful sign of unity, into an occasion of

discord. He reminded them that the Eucharist is no ordinary food. It

is actually the Body and Blood of Christ according to “the tradition

which I handed on to you that came to me from the Lord Himself” (I

Corinthians II: 23-26).

 

At the turn of the first century, Ignatius of Antioch, on his way to

martyrdom in Rome, had to warn the Christians not to be taken in by

the Gnostics–a good modern term would be “visionaries,” who denied

the Real Presence. Ignatius said these people abstained from the

Eucharist because they did not accept what true Christians believe,

that in the Eucharist is the same Jesus Christ Who lived and died and

rose from the dead for our salvation.

 

Under the impact of this faith, the early hermits reserved the

Eucharist in their cells. From at least the middle of the third

century, it was very general for the solitaries in the East,

especially in Palestine and Egypt, to preserve the consecrated

elements in the caves or hermitages where they lived.

 

The immediate purpose of this reservation was to enable the hermits

to give themselves Holy Communion. But these hermits were too

conscious of what the Real Presence was not to treat it with great

reverence and not to think of it as serving a sacred purpose by just

being nearby.

 

Not only did they have the Sacrament with them in their cells, but

they carried it on their persons when they moved from one place to

another. This practice was sanctioned by the custom of the

<fermentum>, that certainly goes back to as early as 120 A.D. The

rite of <fermentum> was a particle of the Eucharistic bread

(sometimes dipped in the chalice) transported from the bishop of one

diocese to the bishop of another diocese. The latter would then

consume the species at his next solemn Mass as a token of unity

between the churches. It was called a <fermentum> not necessarily

because leavened bread was used but because the Eucharist symbolized

the leaven of unity which permeates and transforms Christians, so

that they become one with Christ.

 

Already in the second century, popes sent the Eucharist to other

bishops as a pledge of unity of faith; and, on occasion, bishops

would do the same for their priests.

 

As monasticism changed from solitary to community life, the monks

received something of the same privilege of carrying the Eucharist

with them. They would have it on their persons when working in the

fields or going on a voyage. The species was either placed in a small

receptacle (<chrismal>) worn bandoleer-fashion, or in a little bag

(<perula>) hung around the neck under their clothes. Irish and

British manuscripts make frequent mention of the practice. It was not

only to have the hosts ready for Communion but also to insure safety

against robbers and protection against the hazards of travel.

 

The life of St. Comgall (died 601) tells how on one occasion he was

attacked by heathen Pietists while working in a field. On seeing the

<chrismal> around his neck, the attackers did not dare touch him for

fear of some retaliation since they surmised (as the narrator says)

that Comgall was carrying his God. The saint was so moved by the

experience that he exclaimed, “Lord, you are my strength, my refuge,

and my Redeemer.”

 

As early as the Council of Nicea (325) we know that the Eucharist

began to be reserved in the churches of monasteries and convents.

Again, the immediate reason for this reservation was for the sick and

the dying, and also for the ceremony of the <fermentum>. But

naturally its sacred character was recognized and the place of

reservation was set off from profane usage.

 

From the beginning of community life, therefore, the Blessed

Sacrament became an integral part of the church structure of a

monastery. A bewildering variety of names was used to identify the

place of reservation. <Pastoforium>, <diakonikon>, <secretarium>,

<prothesis> are the most common. As far as we can tell, the Eucharist

was originally kept in a special room, just off the sanctuary but

separated from the church where Mass was offered.

 

Certainly by the 800’s, the Blessed Sacrament was kept within the

monastic church itself, close to the altar. In fact, we have a poem

from the year 802, telling of a pyx containing the Sacred Species

reserved on the high altar of the abbey church at Lindisfarne in

England.

 

The practice of reserving the Eucharist in religious houses was so

universal that there is no evidence to the contrary even before the

year 1000. In fact, numerous regulations are extant which provided

for protection of the sacred elements, as the wording went, “from

profanation by mice and impious men.” The species were to be kept

under lock and key and sometimes in a receptacle raised high enough

to be out of easy reach of profaning hands.

 

It is interesting to note that one of the first unmistakable

references to reserving the Blessed Sacrament is found in a life of

St. Basil (who died in 379). Basil is said to have divided the

Eucharistic Bread into three parts when he celebrated Mass in the

monastery. One part he consumed, the second part he gave to the

monks, and the third he placed in a golden dove suspended over the

altar.

 

This would suggest that, though we have less access to Oriental

sources, the Eastern monasteries were centuries ahead of the West in

reserving the Eucharistic elements in the monastic church proper and

not only in a separate place.

 

Among the treasures of Monte Cassino that seem to have been destroyed

during the Second World War were two small ancient tabernacles, one

of gold and the other of silver. They were gifts of Pope Victor III

(died 1087), who had been abbot at Cassino before his election to the

papacy.

 

 

 

Chapter II

 

BERENGARIUS TO ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

 

Toward the end of the eleventh century we enter on a new era in the

history of Eucharistic adoration. Until then the Real Presence was

taken for granted in Catholic belief and its reservation was the

common practice in Catholic churches, including the chapels and

oratories of religious communities. Suddenly a revolution hit the

Church when Berengarius (999-1088), archdeacon of Angers in France,

publicly denied that Christ was really and physically present under

the species of bread and wine. Others took up the idea and began

writing about the Eucharistic Christ as not exactly the Christ of the

Gospels or, by implication, as not actually there.

 

The matter became so serious that Pope Gregory VII ordered

Berengarius to sign a retraction. This credo has made theological

history. It was the Church’s first definitive statement of what had

always been believed and never seriously challenged. The witness came

from the abbot-become-pope, whose faith in the Blessed Sacrament had

been nourished for years in a Benedictine monastery.

 

Gregory’s teaching on the Real Presence was quoted verbatim in Pope

Paul VI’s historic document <Mysterium Fidei> (1965) to meet a new

challenge to the Eucharist in our day–very similar to what happened

in the eleventh century.

 

I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine

placed upon the altar are, by the mystery of the sacred prayer and

the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and

life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after

the consecration, there is present the true body of Christ which was

born of the Virgin and offered up for the salvation of the world,

hung on the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and

that there is present the true blood of Christ which flowed from his

side. They are present not only by means of a sign and of the

efficacy of the Sacrament, but also in the very reality and truth of

their nature and substance.

 

With this profession of faith, the churches of Europe began what can

only be described as a Eucharistic Renascence. Processions of the

Blessed Sacrament were instituted; prescribed acts of adoration were

legislated; visits to Christ in the pyx were encouraged; the cells of

anchoresses had windows made into the church to allow the religious

to view and adore before the tabernacle. An early ordinal of the

Carmelites included the words “for the devotion of those in the

choir” when referring to the reservation of the species.

 

From the eleventh century on, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament

reserved in the tabernacle became more and more prevalent in the

Catholic world. At every stage in this development, members of

religious orders of men and women took the lead.

 

The Benedictine Lanfranc, as Archbishop of Canterbury, introduced

from France into England numerous customs affecting the worship of

the Real Presence.

 

St. Francis of Assisi, who was never ordained a priest, had a great

personal devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. His first

admonition on the Holy Eucharist could not have been more precise.

 

Sacred Scripture tells us that the Father dwells in “light

inaccessible” (I Timothy 6:16) and that “God is spirit” (John 4:24)

and St. John adds, “No one at any time has seen God” (John 1:18).

Because God is a spirit He can be seen only in spirit; “It is the

spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). But

God the Son is equal to the Father and so He too can be seen only in

the same way as the Father and the Holy Spirit. That is why all those

were condemned who saw our Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity but did

not see or believe in spirit in His divinity, that He was the true

Son of God. In the same way now, all those are damned who see the

Sacrament of the Body of Christ which is consecrated on the altar in

the form of bread and wine by the words of our Lord in the hands of

the priest, and do not see or believe in spirit and in God that this

is really the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

It was this clear faith in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist that

sustained Francis during his severest trials. It was this same faith

which inspired a whole new tradition among religious communities of

women. Convents had the Sacrament reserved for adoration–apart from

Mass and Holy Communion.

 

 

 

Feast of Corpus Christi.

 

There was nothing startling, therefore, when Pope Urban IV, in the

thirteenth century, instituted the feast of Corpus Christi. When

establishing the feast, the Pope stressed the love of Christ who

wished to remain physically with us until the end of time.

 

In the Eucharist, said the Pope, “Christ is with us in His own

substance.” For “when telling the Apostles that He was ascending into

heaven, He said, ‘Behold I am with you all days, even to the

consummation of the world,’ thus comforting them with the gracious

promise that He would remain and be with them even by His bodily

presence” (August 11, 1264).

 

Urban IV commissioned Thomas Aquinas to compose the Liturgy of the

Hours for the feast of Corpus Christi, to be celebrated annually on

the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.

 

Three hymns which Aquinas composed for the feast are among the most

beautiful in the Catholic liturgy. They express the unchangeable

faith of the Church in the abiding Presence of her Founder on earth.

They also explain why the faithful adore Christ in the Blessed

Sacrament. All three hymns are part of the Divine Office. They are

best known by each of their last two verses, which have become part

of the treasury of Catholic hymnology.

 

* <O Salutaris Hostia> is an act of adoration of Christ the Saving

Victim who opened wide the gate of heaven to man below.

 

* <Tantum Ergo Sacramentum> is an act of adoration of the Word-made-

flesh, where faith supplies for what the senses cannot perceive.

 

* <Panis Angelicus> is an act of adoration of that Wondrous Thing

where the lowly and poor are fed, banqueting on their Incarnate Lord

and King.

 

Aquinas, like the Church, never separated the Eucharist as Sacrifice,

Communion and Presence. But, with the Church, he also realized that

without the Real Presence there would be no real sacrifice nor real

communion. Aquinas assumed that God became man so He might offer

Himself on Calvary and continue to offer Himself in the Mass. He

became man that He might give Himself to the disciples at the Last

Supper and continue to give Himself to us in Holy Communion. He

became man to live in flesh and blood in Palestine and continue to

live now on earth as the same Jesus Who died and rose from the dead

and is seated at the right hand of His heavenly Father.

 

 

 

Chapter III

 

MIDDLE AGES TO THE COUNCIL OF TRENT

 

Since Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Christi, the

bishops of Rome had been vigilant to protect the Church’s faith in

her Founder’s unceasing presence on earth in the Holy Eucharist. But

every time a new difficulty arose, it became a stimulus to making

this faith more clear and meaningful, in a word there was increased

development of Eucharistic doctrine.

 

Before the Council of Trent.

 

A variety of situations occasioned papal declarations of the

Eucharist.

 

In the fourteenth century, the Armenians asked Clement VI for

financial assistance to pay the heavy subsidies laid on them by the

reigning sultan. Correspondence with the Armenian bishops made him

wonder if they professed the full Catholic faith. Among other

propositions he required them to accept was the statement that,

“After the words of consecration there is present numerically the

same (<idem numero>) Body of Christ as was born of the Virgin and was

immolated on the Cross” (September 29, 1351).

 

Twenty years later, a theoretical question was raised that had

serious practical implications. Some writers speculated whether

Christ still remained in the Eucharist when the sacred species were

desecrated. Pope Gregory XI demanded <rejection> of the following

statements:

 

If a consecrated Host falls or is thrown into a sewer, the mud, or

some other profane place, even though the species remain, the Body of

Christ ceases to be present and the substance of bread returns.

 

If a consecrated Host is eaten or consumed by a rodent or some other

animal, even while the species remain, the Body of Christ ceases to

be present under the species and the substance of bread returns

(August 8, 1371).

 

More serious was the problem created by the so-called Calixtines in

the fifteenth century. They claimed that the whole Christ is not

received unless the faithful receive Holy Communion under both forms,

including the chalice. This time, the General Council of Constance

decided to “declare, decree and define” as an article of faith that

“the entire Body and Blood of Christ are truly contained both under

the species of bread and under the species of wine.” This definition

was confirmed by Pope Martin V (September 1, 1425). The implications

for the exposition and adoration of the Eucharist are obvious.

 

The Council of Trent.

 

By the sixteenth century, the whole spectrum of Catholic belief in

the Holy Eucharist was challenged by the Reformers. As a consequence,

the Council of Trent treated this subject exhaustively. Every aspect

of the Sacrifice of the Mass, Holy Communion and the Real Presence

was clarified and defined.

 

For our purpose, the Council’s teaching on the Real Presence was

historic. It was the dawn of the most significant development of

Eucharistic doctrine since apostolic times. Even a few sentences from

Trent are revealing.

 

The other sacraments do not have the power of sanctifying until

someone makes use of them, but in the Eucharist the very Author of

sanctity is present before the Sacrament is used. For before the

apostles received the Eucharist from the hands of our Lord, He told

them that it was His Body that He was giving them.

 

The Church of God has always believed that immediately after the

consecration the true Body and Blood of our Lord, together with His

soul and divinity, exist under the species of bread and wine. His

Body exists under the species of bread and His Blood under the

species of wine according to the import of the words. But His Body

exists under the species of wine, His Blood under the species of

bread, and His soul under both species in virtue of the natural

connection and concomitance which unite the parts of Christ our Lord,

who has risen from the dead and dies now no more.

 

Moreover, Christ’s divinity is present because of its admirable

hypostatic union with His body and soul. It is, therefore, perfectly

true that just as much is present under either species as is present

under both. For Christ, whole and entire, exists under the species of

bread and under any part of that species, and similarly the whole

Christ exists under the species of wine and under its parts.

 

Given this fact of faith, Trent could logically go on to declare

that, “The only-begotten Son of God is to be adored in the Holy

Sacrament of the Eucharist with the worship of <latria>, including

external worship. The Sacrament, therefore, is to be honored with

extraordinary festive celebrations (and) solemnly carried from place

to place in processions according to the praiseworthy universal rite

and custom of the holy Church. The Sacrament is to be publicly

exposed for the people’s adoration.” Approved by Pope Julius III

(October 11, 1551), these conciliar statements became the foundation

for dogmatic and devotional progress ever since.

 

 

 

Chapter IV

 

DEVELOPMENT OF EUCHARISTIC ADORATION

 

As we have seen, there had been reservation and adoration of the

Blessed Sacrament since the early days of the Church. But with the

Council of Trent began a new era in the devotion of the faithful to

Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

 

The Forty-Hours Devotion.

 

Before the end of the sixteenth century, Pope Clement VIII in 1592

issued a historic document on what was called in Italian <Quarant’

Ore> (Forty Hours).

 

The devotion consisted of forty hours of continual prayer before the

Blessed Sacrament exposed. Introduced earlier on a local scale in

Milan, the Bishop of Rome not only authorized the devotion for Rome,

but explained how it should be practiced.

 

We have determined to establish publicly in this Mother City of Rome

an uninterrupted course of prayer in such wise that in the different

churches [he specifies them] on appointed days, there be observed the

pious and salutary devotion of the Forty Hours; with such an

arrangement of churches and times that, at every hour of the day and

night, the incense of prayer shall ascend without intermission before

the face of the Lord.

 

About a century later (1731) his successor, Clement XIII, published a

detailed set of instructions for the proper carrying out of the

Forty-Hours’ devotion, for example:

 

* The Blessed Sacrament is always exposed on the high altar, except

in patriarchal basilicas.

 

* Statues, relics and pictures around the altar of exposition are to

be removed or veiled.

 

* Only clerics in surplices may take care of the altar of exposition.

 

* There must be continuous relays of worshippers before the Blessed

Sacrament and should include a priest or cleric in major orders.

 

* No Masses are to be said at the altar of exposition.

 

Gradually the Forty Hours devotion spread throughout the Catholic

world. Proposed by the Code of Canon Law in 1917, the new Code states

that in churches or oratories where the Eucharist is reserved, “it is

recommended (<commendatur>) . . . that there be held each year a

solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for an appropriate, even

if not for a continuous, time so that the local community may more

attentively meditate on and adore the Eucharistic Mystery” (Canon

942).

 

 

 

Perpetual Adoration.

 

The term “perpetual adoration” is broadly used to designate the

practically uninterrupted adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The

term may mean several things:

 

* The adoration is literally perpetual, so that someone is always in

prayer before the Holy Eucharist.

 

* The adoration is morally perpetual, with only such short

interruptions as imperative reasons or uncontrollable circumstances

require.

 

* The adoration is uninterrupted for a longer or shorter period, a

day or several days, as in the Forty-Hours devotion.

 

* The adoration is uninterrupted in one special church or chapel.

 

* The adoration is uninterrupted in different churches or chapels in

a locality like a diocese or a country, or throughout the world.

 

Some writers trace the first beginnings of perpetual adoration to the

late fourth century, when converts to the faith in some dioceses were

to adore the Blessed Sacrament exposed for eight days after their

baptism. It is certain, however, that even before the institution of

the feast of Corpus Christi, not only religious in convents and

monasteries but the laity practiced Eucharistic adoration.

 

After his victory over the Albigenses, King Louis VII of France asked

the Bishop of Avignon to have the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the

Chapel of the Holy Cross (September 14, 1226). The throng of adorers

was so great that the bishop decided to have the adoration continue

day and night. This was later ratified by the Holy See and continued

uninterrupted until 1792 during the

 

 

French Revolution. It was resumed in 1829.

 

It was not until after the Council of Trent, however, that perpetual

adoration began to develop on a world-wide scale. We may distinguish

especially the following forms.

 

<Cloistered Religious Institutes> were founded for the express

purpose of adoring the Holy Eucharist day and night. Some, like the

Benedictines of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in

Austria (1654), took a solemn vow of perpetual adoration.

 

<Apostolic Religious Institutes> were started to both practice

adoration themselves and promote perpetual worship of the Eucharist

among the faithful. Thus began the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts

of Jesus and Mary, and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed

Sacrament of the Altar. Formally approved in 1817, its aim is to

honor and imitate the four states of Christ’s life to be honored and

imitated by the exercise of adoration of the Eucharist.

 

<Men’s Nocturnal Adoration> societies began on an international scale

in Rome in 1810 with the founding of the Pious Union of the Adorers

of the Most Blessed Sacrament. They spread throughout Europe and into

North and South America. Their focus was (and is) on perpetual

adoration in the strict sense.

 

<Perpetual Eucharistic Associations> of the faithful go back to the

seventeenth century. One of the earliest was started by Baron de

Renty in 1641 at St. Paul’s parish in Paris. It was a perpetual

adoration society for ladies. At Boulonge in France (1753), the

parishes were divided into twelve groups representing the twelve

months of the year. Each group contained as many parishes as there

were days in the month it represented. Each church in every group was

assigned one day for Eucharistic adoration.

 

Among the apostles of perpetual adoration for the laity, none has had

a more lasting influence in the modern world than St. Peter Julian

Eymard. In 1856 he founded the Blessed Sacrament Fathers in Paris and

two years later, with Marguerite Guillot, he established the Servants

of the Blessed Sacrament, a cloistered contemplative congregation of

women. Peter Eymard’s published conferences on the Real Presence have

inspired numerous lay associations. They have taken his words

literally when he said, “In the presence of Jesus Christ in the Most

Blessed Sacrament, all greatness disappears, all holiness humbles

itself and comes to nothing. Jesus Christ is there!”

 

 

 

Visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

 

Not unlike perpetual adoration, so the history of visits to the

Blessed Sacrament is best known from the monastic spirituality of the

early Middle Ages. In the thirteenth century <Ancren Riwle>, or Rule

for Anchoresses, the nuns were to begin their day by a visit to the

Blessed Sacrament.

 

Priests also, who had easy access to the reserved Holy Eucharist,

would regularly visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Thus the

martyr, St. Thomas a Becket (1118-1170), in one of his letters writes

to a friend, “If you do not harken to me who have been wont to pray

for you in an abundance of tears and with groanings not a few before

the Majesty of the Body of Christ” (<Materials>, V, 276).

 

By the fourteenth century, we read how the English mystic, Richard

Rolle, strongly exhorts Christians to visit the nearby church as

often as they can. Why? Because “In the Church is most devotion to

pray, for there is God upon the altar to hear those who pray to Him

and to grant them what they ask and what is best for them” (<Works>,

I, 145). Church historians tell us that by the end of the century,

the practice of people visiting the Blessed Sacrament became fairly

common.

 

One of the sobering facts of the Reformation is to know what happened

when the English Reformers separated from Rome. At first they did not

forbid the clergy to reserve some of both species after the Lord’s

Supper ceremony–to be taken to the sick and the dying. But before

long, reservation of the Eucharistic elements became rare. This was

to be expected after the <Thirty-Nine Articles> (1571) declared that

transubstantiation was untrue and that the Eucharist should not be

worshiped or carried about in procession.

 

Three hundred years later, the Anglicans, who started the Oxford

Movement, restored continuous reservation of the Eucharist and

encouraged visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Credit for this return to

Catholic Eucharistic piety belongs to the Anglican Sisterhood of St.

Margaret, founded in 1854. The community records show that soon after

its foundation the Sisters were making daily visits to the Eucharist

in their oratory and, about the same time, Benediction of the Blessed

Sacrament was introduced.

 

In the Catholic Church, visits to the Blessed Sacrament have become a

standard part of personal and communal prayer. The first Code of

Canon Law urged the “faithful to visit the Most Blessed Sacrament as

often as possible” (Canon 1273). The new Code is more specific.

 

Unless there is a grave reason to the contrary, a church, in which

the Blessed Eucharist is reserved, is to be open to the faithful for

at least some hours every day, so that they can pray before the

Blessed Sacrament (Canon 937).

 

Members of religious institutes are simply told that each day they

are to “adore the Lord Himself present in the Sacrament” (Canon 663,

#2).

 

 

 

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

 

As with other Eucharistic devotions, Benediction, as it is commonly

called, began in the thirteenth century. It was strongly influenced

by the establishment of the feast of Corpus Christi. Two hymns,

especially <O Salutaris Hostia> and <Tantum Ergo>, composed by St.

Thomas Aquinas, became part of the Benediction service.

 

One aspect of the history of Benediction that is not commonly known

is its early association with devotion to the Blessed Virgin. This

was already expressed- in the <Pange Lingua> for the First Vespers of

the Corpus Christi liturgy, saying, “To us He was given, to us he was

born of a pure Virgin.” Except for Mary, there would have been no

Incarnation, and except for the Incarnation there would be no

Eucharist.

 

As related by historians, by the early thirteenth century there were

organized confraternities and guilds in great numbers, whose custom

was to sing canticles in the evening of the day before a statue of

Our Lady. The canticles were called <Laude> (praises) and were often

composed in the vernacular or even the local dialect of the people.

In the hands of such people as the Franciscan Giacopone da Todi

(1230-1306), these hymns helped to develop a native Italian

literature. The confraternities were called <Laudesi>.

 

With the stimulus given by the Feast of Corpus Christi, these Marian

canticle meetings were often accompanied by exposition of the Blessed

Sacrament. What began as a practice to add solemnity to the Marian

devotions became, in time, a distinctive form of Eucharistic piety.

 

In France these Marian canticle sessions were called <Salut>, in the

Low Countries <Lof>, in Germany and England simply <Salve>. They were

gradually combined with exposition of the Eucharist, especially when

the Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession and/or the sick were

blessed with the Holy Eucharist. When people made out their wills,

many included bequests for the continued support of these evening

song-fests honoring Our Lady and would specify that the Blessed

Sacrament should be exposed during the whole time of the <Salut>. The

generations-old practice of blessing the sick with the Holy Eucharist

at Lourdes is merely an extension of this combining of Benediction

with devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

 

 

Eucharistic Congresses.

 

As public demonstrations of faith in the Real Presence, local

Eucharistic congresses go back to the Middle Ages. But the first

international congress grew out of the zeal of Marie-Marthe Tamisier

(1834-1910) a French laywoman who from childhood had an extraordinary

devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. She called a day without Holy

Communion her Good Friday. Having several times tried unsuccessfully

to enter a religious community, she spent much of her life spreading

devotion to the Real Presence. Inspired by the conferences of Peter

Julian Eymard and directed by Abbe Chevier of Lyons, she first

promoted pilgrimages to shrines where Eucharistic miracles were

reported to have taken place. Finally the first international

Eucharistic Congress was held at Lille in 1881. At the fifth Congress

at Toulouse in 1886, over fifteen-hundred bishops and priests, and

thirty-thousand of the laity participated.

 

By now international congresses have been held on all the continents,

including Africa, Asia and Australia. Pope Paul VI attended the

thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth Eucharistic congresses at Bombay in

1964 and Bogota in 1968. Pope John Paul was to have attended the

centenary congress at Lourdes in 1981, but was prevented because of

the assassination attempt on his life on May 13th of that year.

 

National congresses have become widespread. During one of these, at

Bogota in 1980, Pope John Paul II synthesized the role which, in

God’s providence, a Eucharistic congress is meant to serve.

 

The Eucharistic Congress is first and foremost a great community act

of faith in the presence and in the action of Jesus in the Eucharist,

Who remains with us sacramentally to travel with us along our ways,

so that with His power, we can cope with our problems, our toil, our

suffering.

 

From this moment let us unite round the consecrated Host, the divine

Pilgrim among pilgrims, eager to draw from Him the inspiration and

strength to make ours the needs and aspirations of our emigrant

brothers.

 

The Eucharistic Congress should demonstrate particularly and

highlight the fact that the People of God here on earth lives by the

Eucharist, that it draws from It its strength for everyday toils and

for the struggles in all spheres of its existence (June 30 and July

9, 1980).

 

More than a century of experience has verified this judgement of the

Pope.

 

 

Chapter V

 

WHY DEVELOPMENT OF EUCHARISTIC DOCTRINE

 

We now move from considering development of Eucharistic adoration to

progress in Eucharistic doctrine. The two forms of development are

related, but they are not the same.

 

We may say that, historically, the growth in devotion led to

development of doctrine. But saying this is not yet proving it. And

our purpose from here on will be to show how the blessings

experienced by the faithful from their worship of the Blessed

Sacrament led, under the Church’s guidance, to a phenomenal growth in

understanding the Real Presence as a marvelous source of grace to

those who believe.

 

 

 

Basic Premises of Doctrinal Development.

 

The Second Vatican Council will go down in history as the Council of

dogmatic progress. It was exactly four hundred years since the close

of the Council of Trent (1563), when the Second Vatican Council

opened (1962).

 

During these four centuries, one after another of the cardinal

mysteries of the Christian faith had grown immensely. The essential

deposit of faith has remained the same, of course. But the meaning of

this faith had developed to a degree that has scandalized many, been

misunderstood by others and, we may say, is recognized by relatively

few.

 

It is not surprising, therefore, that Vatican II should have laid

down the basic principles for dogmatic development. After declaring

that divine revelation, found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, has

been entrusted for safekeeping by the Church, the Council goes on to

say that there is more to the Church’s role than just preserving

revealed truth. Her mission is also to provide for growth in

assimilating this truth. The revealed deposit “that comes from the

apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy

Spirit.”

 

There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are

passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the

contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their

hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which

they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who

received, along with their rights of succession in the episcopate,

the sure charism of truth. Thus, as the centuries go by, the Church

is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until

eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her (<Dogmatic

Constitution on Divine Revelation>, II, 8).

 

Among the ways that the Church has grown in her understanding of the

Sacrament of the Eucharist, we shall concentrate on only one, namely

“experience.”

 

 

 

Experienced Benefits of Eucharistic Adoration.

 

The Council of Trent declared that Christ should be worshiped now in

the Eucharist no less than He had been in first century Palestine.

Why? Because in the Blessed Sacrament “it is the same God Whom the

apostles adored in Galilee” (<Decree on the Holy Eucharist>, chapter

5). The adorableness of the Eucharistic Christ, therefore, is an

article of the Catholic faith.

 

What has become increasingly clear, however, is that Christ in the

Eucharist is not only adorable but entreatable. He is not only to be

adored, like Thomas did, by addressing Him as, “My Lord and my God.”

He is also to be asked for what we need, like the blind man who

begged, “Lord, that I may see,” or approached like the woman who said

to herself, “If I can even touch His clothes, I shall be well again.”

By now countless believers have begged the Savior in the Eucharist

for what they needed, and have come close to Him in the tabernacle or

on the altar. Their resulting experience has profoundly deepened the

Church’s realization of how literally Christ spoke when He promised

to be with us until the end of time.

 

The experience has been mainly spiritual: In giving light to the mind

and strength to the will, in providing graces for oneself and others,

in enabling weak human nature to suffer superhuman trials, in giving

ordinary people supernatural power to accomplish extraordinary deeds.

 

Sts. John Fisher (1469-1535) and Thomas More (1478-1535) were

strengthened in life and prepared themselves for martyrdom by fervent

adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In one of More’s prayers,

published after his death, we read, “O sweet Saviour Christ, by the

divers torments of Thy most bitter Passion, take from me, good Lord,

this lukewarm fashion or rather key-cold meditation, and this

dullness in praying to Thee. And give me Thy grace to long for Thy

Holy Sacraments, and especially to rejoice in the Presence of Thy

blessed Body, sweet Saviour Christ, in the Holy Sacrament of the

Altar, and duly to thank Thee for Thy gracious visitation therewith.”

 

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) after preaching and baptizing all day

would often spend the night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi (1566-1607) was a Carmelite nun from the

age of seventeen. She recommended to busy people in the world to take

time out each day for praying before the Holy Eucharist. “A friend,”

she wrote, “will visit a friend in the morning to wish him a good

day, in the evening, a good night, taking also an opportunity to

converse with him during the day. In like manner, make visits to

Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, if your duties permit it. It

is especially at the foot of the altar that one prays well. In all

your visits to our Savior, frequently offer His precious Blood to the

Eternal Father. You will find these visits very conducive to increase

in you divine love.”

 

St. Margaret Mary (1647-1680), a Visitation nun, found before the

Blessed Sacrament the strength she needed to endure what witnesses at

her beatification process declared were “contempt, contradictions,

rebukes, insults, reproaches, without complaining, and praying for

those by whom she was ill-treated.”

 

St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), patron saint of confessors, wrote

a whole book on visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He advised,

“withdraw yourself from people and spend at least a quarter of an

hour, or a half-hour, in some church in the presence of the Blessed

Sacrament. Taste and see how sweet is the Lord, and you will learn

from your own experience how many graces this will bring you.”

 

St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars (1786-1859), told his people, “Our

Lord is hidden there in the tabernacle, waiting for us to come and

visit Him, and make our requests to Him…In heaven, where we shall

be glorious and triumphant, we shall see Him in all His glory. If He

had presented Himself, before us in that glory now, we should not

have dared to approach Him; but He hides Himself like a person in

prison, who might say to us, ‘You do not see Me, but that is no

matter; ask of Me all you wish and I will grant it.”‘ The Cure of Ars

spent most of his long hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

During his homilies, he would often turn towards the tabernacle,

saying with emotion, “He is there!”

 

So the litany of witnesses to the power of the Real Presence went on.

By the time of the first international Eucharistic Congress in 1881,

the evidence was more than sufficient for the Church’s magisterium to

speak extensively on the subject.

 

 

 

Chapter VI

 

THE CHURCH’S MAGISTERIUM

 

It was no coincidence that international Eucharistic Congresses came

into existence because of the experience of the faithful. As

mentioned before, it was a laywoman, Marie-Marthe Tamisier, whose

personal awareness of the spiritual energy available from the Real

Presence that Providence used to bring about the first international

Eucharistic Congress at Lille, in France, in 1881.

 

In the papal brief which Leo XIII addressed to those attending that

Congress, he spoke of the “great joy” he had in commending the

bishops who organized the assembly. He approved its purpose, namely

“of repairing the iniquities wreaked upon the Most Holy Sacrament and

of promoting Its worship.” He praised the laymen for “the great

extension of the work of Nocturnal Adoration” and for the report of

“how this salutary institution is taking root, progressing and

bearing fruit everywhere.”

 

The key factor, according to Pope Leo, is that Eucharistic Adoration

is bearing supernatural fruit wherever the practice is nourished by

the faith of the people.

 

St. Pius X’s devotion to the Real Presence, biographers say, was at

the heart of his historic promotion of early and frequent Holy

Communion. On the day of his canonization, Pope Pius XII identified

the source of his predecessor’s apostolic genius: “In the profound

vision which he had of the Church as a society, Pope Pius X

recognized that it was the Blessed Sacrament which had the power to

nourish her intimate life substantially, and to elevate her high

above all other human societies” (<Quest’ ore di fulgente>, May 29,

1954).

 

Anticipating the publication of his decree on frequent, even daily,

Communion (December 20, 1905), Pius X requested that the

international Eucharistic Congress that year should be held in Rome.

It was the sixteenth in sequence and the first one in the Eternal

City. The Pope opened the Congress with the Mass which he celebrated

and then participated in the procession with the Blessed Sacrament.

 

Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI carried on the papal tradition of

encouraging adoration of the Holy Eucharist, and prayers of expiation

and petition to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

 

It was Benedict XV who issued the first Code of Canon Law in 1917

which legislated the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in “every

parish or quasi-parish church, and in the church connected with the

residence of exempt men and women religious” (Canon 1265, #1). It was

this same Code which encouraged the private and public exposition of

the Holy Eucharist.

 

Pope Pius XI associated the worship of Christ in the Blessed

Sacrament with expiation for sin. St. Margaret Mary had been

canonized in 1920, just two years before Achille Ratti was elected

Pope. In 1928, he wrote a lengthy encyclical on Reparation to the

Sacred Heart. Its whole theme is on the desperate need to plead for

God’s mercy, especially through the Holy Eucharist. During her

prayers before the Blessed Sacrament, Christ revealed to Margaret

Mary “the infinitude of His love, at the same time, in the manner of

a mourner.” The Savior said, “Behold this Heart which has loved men

so much and has loaded them with all benefits, and for this boundless

love has had no return but neglect and contumely, and this often from

those who were bound by a debt and duty of a more special love.”

 

Among the ways to make reparation to the Heart of Christ, the Pope

urged the faithful to “make expiatory supplications and prayers,

prolonged for a whole hour-which is rightly called the ‘Holy Hour”‘

(<Miserentissimus Redemptor>, May 8, 1928). It was understood that

the Holy Hour was to be made even as the original message was

received by St. Margaret Mary, before the Holy Eucharist.

 

 

 

Pope Pius XII.

 

With Pius XI’s successor, we begin a new stage in the Church’s

teaching on the efficacy of prayer addressed to Christ really present

in the Sacrament of the altar.

 

A year before his election to the See of Peter, Cardinal Pacelli was

sent as papal legate to the international Eucharistic Congress at

Budapest in Hungary. It was 1938, a year before the outbreak of the

Second World War. The theme of Pacelli’s address at the Congress was

that Christ had indeed left this earth in visible form at His

Ascension. But He is emphatically still on earth, the Jesus of

history, in the Sacrament of His love.

 

Pius XII published forty-one encyclicals during his almost twenty

year pontificate. One feature of these documents is their reflection

of doctrinal development that has taken place in the Catholic Church

in modern times. Thus, development in the Church’s understanding of

herself as the Mystical Body of Christ (<Mystici Corporis Christi>,

1943); in her understanding of the Bible (<Diving Afflante Spiritu>,

1943); in her understanding of the Blessed Virgin (<Deiparae Virginis

Mariae>, 1946), proposing the definition of Mary’s bodily Assumption

into heaven.

 

The Encyclical <Mediator Dei> (1947) was on the Sacred Liturgy. As

later events were to show, it became the doctrinal blueprint for the

Constitution of the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.

 

Nine complete sections of <Mediator Dei> deal with “Adoration of the

Eucharist.” This provides the most authoritative explanation of what

the Pope describes as “the worship of the Eucharist,” which

“gradually developed as something distinct from the Sacrifice of the

Mass.”

 

It seems best briefly to quote from these sections and offer some

commentary.

 

1. <Adoration of the Eucharist>. The basis for all Eucharistic

devotion is the fact that Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is the Son

of God in human form.

 

The Eucharistic Food contains, as all are aware, “truly, really and

substantially the Body and Blood together with the Soul and Divinity

of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is no wonder, then, that the Church,

even from the beginning, adored the Body of Christ under the

appearance of bread; this is evident from the very rites of the

august Sacrifice, which prescribe that the sacred ministers should

adore the Most Holy Sacrament by genuflecting or by profoundly bowing

their heads.

 

The Sacred Councils teach that it is the Church’s tradition right

from the beginning, to worship “with the same adoration the Word

Incarnate as well as His own flesh,” and St. Augustine asserts that:

“No one eats that flesh without first adoring it,” while he adds that

“not only do we not commit a sin by adoring it, but we do sin by not

adoring it.” (<Mediator Dei>, paragraph 129-130)

 

Everything else depends on this primary article of faith: that the

Eucharist contains the living Christ, in the fullness of His human

nature, and therefore really present under the sacred species; and in

the fullness of His divine nature, and therefore to be adored as God.

 

2. <Dogmatic Progress>. There has been a deeper grasp by the Church

of every aspect of the mystery of the Eucharist. But one that merits

special attention is the growing realization, not only of Christ’s

sacrificial oblation in the Mass, but of His grace-filled presence

outside of Mass.

 

It is on this doctrinal basis that the worship of adoring the

Eucharist was founded and gradually developed as something distinct

from the Sacrifice of the Mass. The reservation of the Sacred Species

for the sick and those in danger introduced the praiseworthy custom

of adoring the Blessed Sacrament which is reserved in our Churches.

This practice of adoration, in fact, is based on strong and solid

reasons. For the Eucharist is at once a Sacrifice and a Sacrament:

but it differs from the other Sacraments in this that it not only

produces grace, but contains, in a permanent manner, the Author of

grace Himself. When, therefore, the Church bids us adore Christ

hidden behind the Eucharistic veils and pray to Him for the spiritual

and temporal favors of which we ever stand in need, she manifests

living faith in her divine Spouse who is present beneath these veils,

she professes her gratitude to Him and she enjoys the intimacy of His

friendship (131).

 

The key to seeing why there should be a Eucharistic worship distinct

from the Mass is that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ. No less than His

contemporaries in Palestine adored and implored Him for the favors

they needed, so we should praise <and> thank Him, and implore Him for

what we need.

 

3. Devotional Development. As a consequence of this valid progress in

doctrine, the Church has developed a variety of Eucharistic

devotions.

 

Now, the Church in the course of centuries has introduced various

forms of this worship which are ever increasing in beauty and

helpfulness; as, for example, visits of devotion to the tabernacle,

even every day, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament; solemn

processions, especially at the time of Eucharistic Congresses, which

pass through cities and villages; and adoration of the Blessed

Sacrament publicly exposed. Sometimes these public acts of adoration

are of short duration. Sometimes they last for one, several and even

for forty hours. In certain places they continue in turn in different

churches throughout the year, while elsewhere adoration is perpetual,

day and night (132).

 

To be stressed is that these are not merely passing devotional

practices. They are founded on divinely revealed truth. And, as the

Pope is at pains to point out, “these exercises of piety have brought

a wonderful increase in faith and supernatural life to the Church

militant upon earth.”

 

Are these practices liturgical? “They spring from the inspiration of

the Liturgy,” answers Pius XII. “And if they are performed with due

decorum and with faith and piety, as the liturgical rules of the

Church require, they are undoubtedly of the very greatest assistance

in living the life of the Liturgy.”

 

Does this not confuse the “Historic Christ” with the Eucharistic

Christ? Not at all, says the Pope.

 

On the contrary, it can be claimed that by this devotion the faithful

bear witness to and solemnly avow the faith of the Church that the

Word of God is identical with the Son of the Virgin Mary, Who

suffered on the Cross, Who is present in a hidden manner in the

Eucharist and Who reigns upon His heavenly throne. Thus St. John

Chrysostom states: “When you see It (the Body of Christ) exposed, say

to yourself: thanks to this Body, I am no longer dust and ashes, I am

no more a captive but a freeman: hence I hope to obtain Heaven and

the good things that are there in store for me, eternal life, the

heritage of the Angels, companionship with Christ” (134).

 

Among other forms of Eucharistic devotion recommended by Pope Pius

XII, he gave special attention to Benediction of the Blessed

Sacrament. He spoke of the “great benefit in that custom which makes

the priest raise aloft the Bread of Angels before congregations with

heads bowed down in adoration and forming with It the sign of the

cross.” This “implores the Heavenly Father to deign to look upon His

Son who for love of us was nailed to the Cross and for His sake and

through Him willed . . . to shower down heavenly favors upon those

whom the Immaculate Blood of the Lamb has redeemed” (135).

 

Pope John XXIII.

 

Unlike his predecessor, John XXIII did not publish any extensive

documentation on the Eucharistic Liturgy. But he took every occasion

to urge the faithful, especially priests, to pray before the Blessed

Sacrament.

 

In the life of a priest nothing could replace the silent and

prolonged prayer before the altar. The adoration of Jesus, our God;

thanksgiving, reparation for our sins and for those of all men, the

prayer for so many intentions entrusted to Him, combine to raise that

priest to a greater love for the Divine Master to whom he has

promised faithfulness and for men who depend on his priestly

ministry.

 

With the practice of this enlightened and fervent worship of the

Eucharist, the spiritual life of the priest increases and there are

prepared the missionary energies of the most valuable apostles.

 

All the while that he was urging priests to pray before the altar,

the Pope reminded them that “the Eucharistic Prayer in the full sense

is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” (Encyclical <Sacerdotii Nostri

Primordia>, August 11, 1959). After all, without the Mass there would

be no Real Presence. We might say that Christ’s abiding presence in

the Holy Eucharist is an extension of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

 

On the eve of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John participated in

the Corpus Christi procession of the Blessed Sacrament in Rome. On

that occasion, he composed an earnest prayer for Christ’s blessings

on the forthcoming Council.

 

O Jesus, look upon us from your Sacrament like a good Shepherd, by

which name the Angelic Doctor invokes you, and with him Holy Church.

O Jesus, good Shepherd, this is your flock, the flock that you have

gathered from the ends of the earth, the flock that listens to your

word of life, and intends to guard it, practice it and preach it.

This is the flock that follows you meekly, O Jesus, and wishes so

ardently to see, in the Ecumenical Council, the reflection of your

loving face in the features of your Church, the mother of all, the

mother who opens her arms and heart to all, and here awaits,

trembling and trustful, the arrival of all her Bishops (June 21,

1962).

 

Words could not be plainer. They could also not be more

authoritative. The Vicar of Christ was teaching, by example, how

effective prayer to our Lord in the Eucharist can be not only for

ourselves personally, but for the whole Church of God.

 

 

 

Pope Paul VI.

 

Although Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council and lived

through its first session in 1962, he did not promulgate any of its

sixteen documents. That was done by his successor, Pope Paul VI.

 

The first conciliar document issued by Paul VI was the <Constitution

on the Sacred Liturgy> (December 4, 1963). Less than two years later,

just before the last session of the Council, he published the

encyclical <Mysterium Fidei> (September 3, 1965). It is a remarkable

document in several ways.

 

* It was issued during the Second Vatican Council.

 

* It opens with a glowing tribute to the Council’s Constitution on

the Liturgy.

 

* It praises those who “seek to investigate more profoundly and to

understand more fruitfully the doctrine on the Holy Eucharist.”

 

* But then it goes on to give “reasons for serious pastoral concern

and anxiety.” Specifically, Paul VI says that opinions are being

spread which reinterpret “doctrine already defined by the Church,”

and in particular “the dogma of transubstantiation” (I).

 

Most of the encyclical, therefore, is a doctrinal analysis of the

Real Presence. By all accounts, it is the most extensive and

penetrating declaration in papal history on two articles of the

Catholic faith: the corporeal presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed

Sacrament and His communication of grace through this Eucharistic

presence now on earth.

 

1. The Real Presence. If we are to understand the sacramental

presence of Christ in the Eucharist, “which constitutes the greatest

miracle of its kind, we must listen with docility to the voice of the

teaching and praying Church.” What does the doctrine and devotion of

the Church tell us? This voice, which constantly echoes the voice of

Christ, assures us that the way Christ is made present in this

Sacrament is none other than by the change of the whole substance of

the bread into His Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into

His Blood, and that this unique and truly wonderful change the

Catholic Church rightly calls transubstantiation. As a result of

transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on

a new meaning and a new finality, for they no longer remain ordinary

bread and ordinary wine, but become the sign of something sacred, the

sign of a spiritual food. However, the reason they take on this new

significance and this new finality is simply because they contain a

new reality which we may justly term ontological. There is no longer

under the species what had been there before. It is something

entirely different. Why? Not only because of the faith of the church,

but in objective reality. After the change of the substance or nature

of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, nothing

remains of the bread and wine but the appearances, under which

Christ, whole and entire, in His physical reality is bodily present

(V).

 

Of course this presence is beyond our comprehension. Of course it is

different from the way bodies are naturally present and therefore can

be sensibly perceived. Subjectively, we cannot see or touch the Body

of Christ in the Eucharist. But objectively (in reality) and

ontologically (in His being) He is there.

 

2. Communication of Grace. Once the Real Presence is properly

recognized, it is only logical to conclude that we should worship the

Savior in the Blessed Sacrament. It is equally logical to expect Him

to confer blessings on a sinful world by His presence among us. Three

passages in <Mysterium Fidei> make this conclusion perfectly clear.

 

In the first statement, Pope Paul recalls the teaching of St. Cyril

of Alexandria (died 444) who had been so active in defending the

physical union of Christ’s humanity in the Incarnation as well as in

the Eucharist. The reason is that the Eucharist is the Incarnate Son

of God who became, and remains, the Son of Mary.

 

St. Cyril of Alexandria rejects as folly the opinion of those who

maintained that if a part of the Eucharist was left over for the

following day, it did not confer sanctification. “For” he says,

“neither Christ is altered nor His Holy Body changed, but the force

and power and revivifying grace remain with it” (VI).

 

Once the elements of bread and wine have been consecrated and

transubstantiation has taken place, the living Christ remains as long

as the Eucharistic species remain. Then, because Christ is present,

His humanity remains a source of life-giving grace.

 

In his second statement on the Eucharist as a channel of grace, Pope

Paul carefully distinguishes between the Eucharist as Sacrifice and

Communion, and the Eucharist as Presence.

 

Not only while the Sacrifice is offered and the Sacrament is

received, but as long as the Eucharist is kept in our churches and

oratories, Christ is truly the Emmanuel, that is “God with us.” Day

and night He is in our midst, He dwells with us, full of grace and

truth. He restores morality, nourishes virtues, consoles the

afflicted and strengthens the weak (VI).

 

These verbs–restores, nourishes, consoles and strengthens–are all

forms of divine grace which Christ confers by His presence in the

Eucharist.

 

In his third statement on the efficacy of the Real Presence, Paul VI

adds the final touch to his teaching. No doubt the living Savior in

the Blessed Sacrament is there “full of grace and truth.” But there

must be a responsive faith on our part.

 

Anyone who approaches this august Sacrament with special devotion,

and endeavors to return generous love for Christ’s own infinite love,

will experience and fully understand–not without spiritual joy and

fruit–how precious is the life hidden with Christ in God, and how

great is the value of converse with Christ. For there is nothing more

consoling on earth, nothing more efficacious for advancing along the

road of holiness (VI).

 

The important word in that last sentence is “efficacious.” Provided

we approach the Real Presence with believing love, Christ will

perform wonders of His grace in our lives.

 

 

Pope John Paul II.

 

Building on the teaching of his predecessors, John Paul II has come

to be known as the Pope of the Real Presence. In one document and

address after another, he has repeated what needs repetition for the

sake of emphasis: “The Eucharist, in the Mass and outside of the

Mass, is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and is therefore

deserving of the worship that is given to the living God, and to Him

alone” (Opening address in Ireland, Phoenix Park, September 29,

1979).

 

But the Pope has done more than merely repeat what had been said

before. He placed the capstone on the Eucharistic teaching of the

magisterium that we have been examining. He did so by explaining in

the most unambiguous language that there is only one Sacrament of the

Eucharist. Yet this one Sacrament confers grace in three different

ways. Each manner of giving grace corresponds to the three forms in

which the Eucharist has been instituted by Christ.

 

It is at one and the same time a Sacrifice-Sacrament, a Communion-

Sacrament, and a Presence-Sacrament (Encyclical <Redemptor Hominis>,

March 4, 1979, IV, 20).

 

The revealed foundation for this conclusion is the fact of Christ’s

abiding presence in the Eucharist. It is the “Redeemer of Man” who by

His Passion and death on the Cross merited the grace of our

salvation. But it is mainly through the Eucharist that the same Jesus

Christ now channels this grace to a sinful human race.

 

It is in this comprehensive sense that we can say, “the Church lives

by the Eucharist, by the fullness of this Sacrament.” This fullness,

however, spans all three levels of its sacramental existence, where,

by “sacrament” the Church means a sensible sign, instituted by

Christ, through which invisible grace and inward sanctification are

communicated to the soul.

 

The Mass is the Sacrifice-Sacrament of the Eucharist. As the Council

of Trent declared, the Sacrifice of the Mass is not only an offering

of praise and thanksgiving. It is also a source of grace: “By this

oblation, the Lord is appeased, He grants grace and the gift of

repentance, and He pardons wrongdoings and sins,” the blessings of

Redemption which Christ won for us by His bloody death on Calvary are

now “received in abundance through this unbloody oblation” (September

17, 1562).

 

Holy Communion is the Communion-Sacrament of the Eucharist. As the

same Council of Trent defined, Christ present in the Eucharist is not

only spiritually eaten, but also really and sacramentally. We

actually receive His Body and Blood, and we are truly nourished by

His grace. It was Christ’s will “That this Sacrament be received as

the soul’s spiritual food, to sustain and build up those who live

with His life.” It is also to be “a remedy to free us from our daily

defects and to keep us from mortal sin” (October 11, 1551).

 

The Real Presence is the Presence-Sacrament of the Eucharist. How?

The Real Presence is a Sacrament in every way that the humanity of

Christ is a channel of grace to those who believe that the Son of God

became man for our salvation.

 

 

 

Chapter VII

 

GRACE THROUGH THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST

 

The underlying theme of the Church’s Eucharistic teaching is the fact

of “Christ’s consoling presence in the Blessed Sacrament. His Real

Presence in the fullest sense; the substantial presence by which the

whole and complete Christ, God and man, is present” (Pope John Paul

II, September 29, 1979).

 

Once this fact of faith is recognized, it is not difficult to see why

prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is so efficacious. Indeed it

explains why, without a second thought, Catholics have simply

referred to the Real Presence as the Blessed <Sacrament>. It is a

Sacrament, or better, it is the one Sacrament which not only confers

grace but contains the very source of grace, namely Jesus Christ.

 

As we read the Gospels, we are struck by the marvelous power that

Christ’s humanity had in effecting changes in the persons who came

into contact with Him. Already in the womb of His mother, He

sanctified the unborn John the Baptist the moment Elizabeth heard the

voice of Mary. At Cana in Galilee, at His Mother’s request, Jesus

told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the steward

tasted the water, it had turned into wine.

 

Jesus spoke with human lips when He preached the Sermon on the Mount,

when He taught the parables, when he forgave sinners, when he rebuked

the Pharisees, when He foretold His Passion and told His followers to

carry the cross. Jesus touched the blind with human hands, and healed

the lepers by speaking with a human voice. On one occasion a sick

woman touched the hem of His garment. “Immediately,” relates St.

Mark, “aware that power had gone out from Him, Jesus turned round in

the crowd and said, ‘who touched My clothes?”‘ The woman was

instantly healed. Significantly, Jesus told her, “your faith has

restored you to health.”

 

All through His public ministry, the humanity of Christ was the means

by which He enlightened the minds of his listeners, restored their

souls to divine friendship, cured their bodies of disability and

disease, and assured them of God’s lasting peace. That is what St.

John meant when, in the prologue of his Gospel, he said, “though the

Law was given through Moses, grace and truth come through Jesus

Christ.” Why? Because Christ is the only-begotten Son of God who

became flesh, and not only lived but, in the Eucharist, continues to

live among us .

 

In order to draw on these resources of infinite wisdom and power,

available in the Eucharist, we must believe. In the words of the

<Adoro Te>, we can say: “I believe everything that the Son of God has

said, and nothing can be truer than this word of the Truth. Only the

Godhead was hidden on the cross, but here the humanity is hidden as

well. Yet I believe and acknowledge them both.”

 

Those who can thus speak to Christ in the Eucharist will learn from

experience what the Church means when she tells us that the Real

Presence is a Sacrament. It is the same Savior Who assumed our human

nature to die for us on Calvary and who now dispenses through that

same humanity, now glorified, the blessings of salvation.

 

*******************************

 

<This study of the History of Eucharistic Adoration was done by a

professional theologian. It is part of a planned series on the

doctrinal foundations of the Sacrifice, Communion and Presence-

Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

 

In an age of widespread confusion and disbelief, this document offers

unprecedented clarity in the most important element of our faith. I

recommend that it be prayerfully studied and widely circulated. It is

thoroughly researched and well-documented, and promises to enlighten,

instruct and inspire countless souls to an undying love of our

Eucharistic Lord.>

 

Bishop Jerome J. Hastrich Gallup, New Mexico U.S.A.

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