Eucharistic Presence

Today’s celebration used to be called the feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) and is centered on the mystery of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

The feast of the Eucharist is primarily celebrated, of course, on Holy Thursday, the day when Jesus instituted the sacrament. Holy Thursday however is so overloaded with many add-ons, like the commemoration of the last supper, the washing of the feet, the institution of Holy Orders, the blessing of the sacred oils, the return of sinners from public penance (a practice in the early communities)… that the Church needed to set aside a day to celebrate the Eucharist itself. Thus, in the 13th century, the feast of Corpus Christi started to be observed in some dioceses and eventually spread throughout the universal Church.

Before Jesus left this world and returned to the Father, he said, “I will always be with you, even to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) Jesus fulfills this promise in many ways. He is present among us in his word, in his teachings, in the assembly of the faithful, in the priest… But it is in the Eucharist that his presence is fullest and most intimate. The bread and wine that the priest consecrates at Mass become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist is the sacrament of Christ’s permanent presence among us. He is present on our altars when we celebrate Mass and continues to be present in the tabernacle after Mass.

Today’s feast invites us to contemplate this great mystery of our faith and adore the Eucharistic Lord. What consolation this gift of the Eucharistic presence brings to those who approach Jesus in our churches and adoration chapels, especially in their greatest need. Someone once commented that while it may be unthinkable for us to seek an audience with the President of the country or the Pope, it is not so with God. We do not need any formal appointment or invitation and go through the strictest protocol. We simply walk in. He waits for us in the tabernacle 24/7.

It is always inspiring to see how our people express their faith and devotion to the Eucharistic Lord by decorating our churches and embellishing our tabernacles with precious materials and fine draperies. No doubt, the Lord is pleased by such manifestations. But I believe that more than in gilded tabernacles, Jesus really prefers to stay in our hearts. This after all is the very reason why he gives himself to us as bread and wine – so that he may unite us to himself, body and blood, soul and divinity.

The Eucharist is the most intense and intimate experience of God’s presence in us. When we eat the Body of Christ and drink his Blood in Holy Communion, we become one with him and are transformed into him. We become what we eat. How utterly awesome!

The priest’s Prayer before Communion has been a great source of security and healing for me, especially in my darkest days. It perfectly articulates my deep longing. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God… free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil… and never let me be parted from you.” With the comforting sense of calm and joy I feel after communion, I could only add, “Lord, hold me tight in your embrace, and never let me go.”

Touching as it may sound, I know of course that my personal prayer is not meant to be. For the Eucharist is a gift not only for myself but for everyone. The Lord takes me into his presence and fills me with his love so that I may bring that presence and love to everyone. Thus, every Mass concludes with “Ite, missa est.” (Go forth, I am sending you.)

The Eucharist is a mission to bring Christ’s love and be his presence in the world.*

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