On this Solemn Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ), may I just say this about the Holy Eucharist, particularly to my precious Protestant Christian family and friends on this FB page and blog? When I was first coming back to the Catholic Church, I went to an all night prayer vigil in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I stayed for around an hour in silence before the altar, adoring with the faithful who had gathered that night. I had not yet worked through any particular theology about the Real Presence, but I knew I felt something I had not once recalled ever feeling or sensing during my most evangelistically fervent moments, and there were many over the years.
I won’t try to explain it but I will just say it was the most powerful moment I had ever felt with God in my life. Ever. I was speechless but that was okay, because no words could suffice anyway. I only knew one thing and that only–that Jesus was present that night in a way I had never recognized before, and, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I saw and felt Him literally in the breaking of the Bread, or in this case the monstrance on the altar of that consecrated Host. I did not care if the bread-like Host was actually Jesus or if He was somehow just lurking, hidden behind or all around it. Nor did I attempt too hard to figure it out at that point. What I did know is that I was absolutely transfixed and being changed by Him. And that He was waiting for me there.
Later, going through RCIA, I worked through the Catholic understanding of the doctrine of Transubstantiation and dogma of the Real Presence, meaning that, after the words are spoken by the priest, “This is my Body” and “This Is my Blood,” the physical elements involved would become substantially the risen Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. And, just as we are made up of chemicals, but yet are substantially humans in the image of God, no chemical change was needed for that to occur. That had always been my hang up. I knew that, even if taken to the finest laboratories in the world, the scientists who tested it would normally find flour, water, and fermented wine. But, just like us, and like Jesus in His earthly form, the soul, that which made Him who He was and is, and ours too, do not show in such tests. Nor do they need to.
In any case at that moment a decade ago I was content with the mystery that He was there, and powerfully so, somehow in a way I had been missing during my most charismatic moments over the last 35 years.
If you do not believe in this teaching, and I did not for a long time, here is my challenge for you today– go sit in front of a Monstrance or a Tabernacle (the box behind the altar which the remains of the Blessed Sacrament are kept) for an hour, and do it with an open heart. That is all. Whether it changes your theology or not, today or in the future, I believe you will know one thing at least–we as Catholic Christians are not “bread worshippers.” Worship the Christ in the bread, behind the bread, around the bread, whatever you must do, but worship Christ during that hour and focus on Him. I believe you will eventually find that it is simply somehow Jesus and you just may want more. And that is why we have the Feast of Corpus Christi. No other reason is needed or necessary.
If you want a fuller and more theologically astute explanation, and frankly I hope you do, please check out this fine link to the Catholic Encyclopedia article from New Advent. Do not just take my word or experience for it. Explore for yourself. You owe that much to the one who had given us His Body to eat and His blood to drink. (see John 6). It has never been “just a symbol.” Here is the link:
Blessed Corpus Christi to all!