A New Form Within

We, as Catholics, are often looked upon like we are a little bit crazy. We have the men who walk around in robes, wear funny, pointed hats and never marry; we even have ladies who shave off their hair before donning head coverings and vowing never to leave their cloistered environments. But the thing that sends people over the edge, when it comes to the Catholic faith, is the fact that they think we worship a piece of bread.

As a child, I had a fascination with that round, white thing that everyone but me was getting to eat at Church. I asked many questions to my parents, teachers, and our Priest. I was told it was Jesus but couldn’t figure out how he could be in all those little, white, wafers at the same time. My mind wasn’t able to comprehend the teachings about the Eucharist so, as I grew up, I received it and believed it, because I was told it was so.

God is mysterious and has presented himself to us in many ways. When we read the Old Testament, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush; yet, didn’t burn up the bush. He appeared to the Israelites escaping from Egypt as a pillar of fire to guide them. In the Gospel of Luke, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and at Pentecost as tongues of fire upon the Apostles. God takes “another form” because we, as human beings, need a familiar or earthly form to wrap our minds around the complex being that is God.

When God made a covenant with Abraham and asked him to leave the comfort of his home and travel to a foreign land, Abraham listened to God and believed. The covenant was established with a sacrifice of animals and the shedding of their blood. God even tested Abraham’s faith with asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac (who was around 30 some years old and could have easily fought off his father) but was spared. The faith of both Abraham and the willing faith of his son Isaac to be a “type” of Jesus, knowing that God could bring Isaac back to life and having such all-consuming faith in God, shows us that we should have the same strength of faith.

When God sent Jesus to be in human form, it was for our benefit. Jesus fulfilled all the prophesies of the Old Testament about there being one final sacrifice that is completed for all mankind, and the forgiveness of sins. It is a form of a final covenant between God and man. Whenever there was a covenant between people, there was a sort of “formula” that was followed. After an agreement was reached, it was “sealed” with a meal. The meal included, bread, wine and usually some form of meat (which required killing and draining of blood.) Also, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1334, “In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator.”

Jesus uses what we know. He knew the symbolizing of the breaking of the bread, drinking of the wine were things the Jews knew to be important. When He told his disciples, “This is my body, and this is my blood” many left, saying it was too hard of a saying to be believed. Jesus wanted to leave something behind after his crucifixion for us to know that He would always be with us and He did so by establishing the Eucharist. St. Thomas says, “In this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood and is something that cannot be apprehended by the senses, but only by faith.” This is why we don’t see any outward changes to the host which has changed interiorly. St Cyril says, “Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he IS the truth, he cannot lie.”

Changing of form wasn’t something unusual for Christ. He transformed himself on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, John, and James. He also appeared to his disciples in “another form” after his resurrection on the road to Emmaus and wasn’t recognized by them until he sat down at a meal and broke the bread with them. Jesus changing the interior form without changing the outward appearances of the species of bread and wine, allow us to respond to His “other form” with faith and reverence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states, “Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.” This helped me understand that Christ is fully present in the most minute piece of the species bread or drop of wine that is offered to us and we must inspect our hands for any particles and eat them, if receiving Him this way. We must also remember that we must not receive Him if we aren’t fully prepared to. This means fasting at least 1 hour before receiving, being without mortal sin, and being in full communion with the beliefs of the Catholic faith; otherwise, we can condemn ourselves by receiving Him unworthily.

As Jesus requested his disciples to “do this in memory of me” our priests were commissioned to continue to offer the Eucharist as a sacrifice by re-presenting to the Father, the Body of His Son, as an offering for us, for the forgiveness of our sins, for the Church, and all that we as the Body of Christ offer with Him in Thanksgiving and Praise of the One True God.

No longer do I look upon that little, round, piece of bread as something I was told is Jesus. I know what has taken place by the Holy Spirit and through the sacrifice offered up by the priest who is representing Jesus to us in “another form.” I recognize Jesus is truly with us and allows us to consume him, so he is within us in body and in spirit, and that will forever change MY form if I let it.

This Bread is Our Life

I used to consider going to Mass an obligation that took an hour ( if I had a short-winded priest) of my Sunday or Saturday evening. I wouldn’t put it past me to miss Mass if something better came up or if I had stayed out too late the night before, and just couldn’t rouse myself in time for even the latest Mass of the morning. I know that sounds horrible and, at the time, I didn’t even know that knowingly missing Mass was a sin and yet, my life was a mess. I was stressed, anxious and depressed and looking back, it’s not hard to see why.

We have Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church and these Sacraments are seven special means, instituted by Jesus Christ by which God reaches down to us and shares His Divine Life with us through Baptism, Confirmation, The Eucharist, Penance, The Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. They help us in our journey through life and give us special graces to handle the stressors, worries, and anxieties of living and the more we participate, the more graces we receive. Needless to say, I didn’t participate much and the graces were lacking.

The one Sacrament we have the ability to participate in almost daily is the Eucharist. It is the one Sacrament that all others are oriented. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, ” The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life by the invocation of the Holy Spirit and with bread and wine and the very words of Christ repeated by an ordained priest, become Christ’s own body, blood, soul and divinity.” CCC 1324  In other words, Christ is fully present through a process called Transubstantiation.  If you break down that word, Trans means “to change,” and Substance means “the very essence of a thing.” Even though the outward appearances still resemble ordinary bread and wine, through the words given to the apostles by Jesus to ” Do this in memory of me,” transubstantiation changes the essence.

Both Scripture and Tradition tell us this is Christ fully present with us. God of the Universe can do what we can’t comprehend; yet, he doesn’t want to overwhelm our measly, little brains by coming to us in all his omnipotence and power. In the Bible, He appears to men in ways they could handle; like a burning bush, a cloud, or a still small voice. He was often called upon by the Israelites when they cried out to him when they feared they would starve. He sent Manna (which in Aramaic means, “what is it”) to them from Heaven to be gathered and eaten. The Jews ancestors were nourished by this “bread” while on their journey out of Egypt; however, they ultimately died. Jesus was sent by God to become the living bread, and whoever ate this bread would never die. But, why bread?

Bread is found throughout the Old Testament and, in many cultures today, it is a staple of one’s diet. We even have popularized terms like, “breaking bread,” for anything having to do with gathering to eat or, “gonna go make some bread,” for acquiring money to live. Isn’t it interesting that to live and eat are often associated with the word bread?

When poorly Catechized Catholics or non-Catholics attend Holy Mass and look at the bread and wine, I’m sure they ask themselves, “What is it?” and don’t fully understand their question should be “Who is it?” because the God of the Universe chose to appear to us in the form of bread and wine.

I’m sure you are still saying, “It still looks the same,” or, “I don’t see any changes in its appearance,” and that is because the outward appearance is still the same chemical make-up of bread and wine. What is really taking place during transubstantiation is underneath the outward appearances of the consecrated host; we believe Jesus is truly present by changing into the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord told us at the last supper when, “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, this is my body which will be given up for you, do this in memory of me.” Luke 22:19

Dr. Sean Innest says, ” All the Sacraments are all profound mysteries and their outward signs, their appearances, are usually very humble.” They are signs – visible realities which point to the invisible, to a divine grace. For instance, when water is poured over someone during Baptism, it represents cleansing of ones soul, and in Confirmation, when we profess our beliefs in the Catholic Churches teachings and promise to live them out, we are anointed with oil to make us witnesses for our beliefs. When we participate in the Mass and receive the Eucharist, we eat bread that is sustenance for us, both physically and spiritually. These are natural things pointing to the supernatural.

When we share in the Eucharist during the celebration of Holy Mass, we are in effect sharing a table. We can find the importance of sharing a table (meal) in Biblical times, as well as, our own special holiday celebrations where those closest to us, come to celebrate a meal and bond with one another. God wants an intimate, profound union with us and has since He originally created us. The Eucharist is the uniting of Our Lord’s body, blood, soul and divinity with us, and in us. How awesome is that?

The Father’s of the Church said that the Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men become the sons of God. This is the ultimate goal of God; He loves us so much He wants to be with us in all aspects of our life. He is just waiting for us to come to Him through the Sacrament of the Holy Mass and the source and summit of our faith- The Holy Eucharist.

Why not make a visit to Our Lord, today?