It is no secret that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. Then why does it often seem that so many of us do not really believe? Why have I but only recently come to truly believe in the real presence?
St. Cyril writes: Do not see in the bread and wine merely natural elements, because the Lord has expressly said that they are his body and blood: faith assures you of this, though your senses suggest otherwise.
And yet my senses do—and have—suggested otherwise. Growing up in the Church, attending parochial schools, I received instruction on the real presence; I learned the big word “transubstantiation,” learned how to approach the altar, how to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. Yet, it never occurred to me that I would not fully understand this mystery; I kept waiting to grow up and “get it.”
My limited understanding went as far as the Eucharist, being a sacrament, was a sign or symbol. I did not understand that in this thinking I was creating an unnecessary dichotomy between the sign and the reality of the Eucharist. This mindset became a bit of the devil’s playground, eclipsing any hope that I would be able to embrace the mystery and the truth of the Eucharist.
Still, I have a fleshy heart, filled with sight and compassion. Complementing this heart is the often-recited prayer “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” It was through Augustine that I first realized the Eucharist is both sign and reality: there is no contradiction. He said, “Christ bore himself in his hands, when he offered his body saying: ‘this is my body.'” Again, Augustine: “Whatever has been preached and believed throughout the whole Church with true Catholic faith since the days of antiquity is true, even if not subject to rational investigation, and even if it is not explained in words.”
I move forward in faith, trusting in Revelation, not reason. Christ is present in the Eucharist. The Church has celebrated the paschal mystery always: it is the life of the church. He is the life, exclusively in/with/from the Church.
Christ is with us. He is with us for our own redemption and for the world.
St. Pope Paul VI has instructed us “to avoid any misunderstanding of this type of presence, which goes beyond the laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind. We must listen with docility to the voice of the teaching and praying Church.”
Indeed, Sacrosanctum Concilium states: For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church. I believe. Though my eyes do not see Christ, my heart does. Though my ears think they hear not his voice, my heart does, and my heart hears and believes that he is with us to the end of time. Though I may have occasional pangs of doubt, my Church does not, for she is the way the truth and the life: she is Christ, and brings Christ to me, in total.
Lord, where else would a mother go?