Evangelization: The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

A significant number of Catholics — according to the latest Pew Research Center survey, almost two-thirds of self-identifying Catholics — do not believe in the Real Presence. 1 They believe the Eucharist to be a symbol; that it represents the Body and Blood of Christ rather than truly and really being the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord. This grave error in belief has led many Catholics to feel that it is not necessary to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass since they feel they can encounter Christ in the same way anywhere. It is in the Eucharist that we receive Jesus Christ, the Son of God as He sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, His Real Presence hidden in the consecrated host. The Eucharist is the “sacrament of sacraments” because we truly receive a taste of Heaven on Earth. Evangelization is necessary to inform Catholics about the truth: the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

But what is the Eucharist? According to the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, we are instructed to believe that:

The Most Holy Eucharist is the most august sacrament, in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered and received, and by which the Church constantly lives and grows. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated over the centuries, is the summit and the source of all Christian worship and life; it signifies and effects the unity of the people of God and achieves the building up of the Body of Christ. The other sacraments and all the ecclesiastical works of the apostolate are closely related to the Holy Eucharist and are directed to it. 2

The term Eucharist means “thanksgiving” and comes from the Greek language, which refers to the blessings proclaimed in Judaism, especially during a meal, which recalls God’s works of creation, redemption, and sanctification. 3

In the Hebrew language the tōda is the “thanksgiving sacrifice” in which a man celebrates his divine deliverance and redemption. 4 The Eucharist is considered thanksgiving and praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial of Christ and His Body, and the presence of Christ by the power of His word and of His Spirit. The Eucharist is considered thanksgiving and praise to the Father because the sacrifice offered to the Father made by the members of the Body of Christ, is to give praise in thanksgiving for the Father’s work of creation. It is by the death and resurrection of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit that the entire creation is presented to the Father. 5 Saint Faustina Kowalska once said, “The most solemn moment of my life is the moment when I receive Holy Communion and for every Holy Communion I give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity” 6

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the anamnesis, sacrificial memorial of Christ and His Body, in that it is a re-presentation of the sacrifice of the cross. The sacrifice at Calvary and the sacrifice of the altar is the same one single sacrifice. The same Christ who offered Himself on the Cross in a bloody manner is offering Himself on the altar in an unbloody manner. The Eucharist is both the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Church since Christ is the Head of the Body, the Church, and it is the Body of Christ that offers Her Head. The Christian faithful along with Christ are offering the sacrifice to the Father. It is the entire Body of Christ; Church Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant together who offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. 7

The Eucharist provides nourishment for our souls, and increases our sanctifying grace. Christ becomes present in the Eucharist by the transformation of the whole substance of the bread into His Body and of the whole substance of the wine into His Blood by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit. Christ, the God-man is wholly and entirely made present. 8 It is by the epiclesis that the action of the Holy Spirit leads to the conversion (conversion substantialis totalis) of the matter and form of the whole substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Transubstantiation is a special type of substantial conversion where the entire substance is changed into the Whole Christ; truly, really, and substantially made present, and where only the accidents of bread and wine remain in appearance. Each species of the Eucharist; the bread and the wine, offers the Whole Christ. It is at the consecration that the terminus formalis a quo (substance of bread and wine) ceases to exist and there begins the Real Presence of Christ; the commencing of the terminus formalis ad quem (the Body and Blood of Christ). 9

According to the teachings of the Church, God created man with a body and a soul, which means that a human being is both corporeal and spiritual; 10 therefore, Christ, the God-man in the Eucharist has His whole human nature together with His Divine nature. He is a living body (Rom. 6:9) (Concomitantia naturalis), and His humanity is hypostatically united to His Divinity (concomitantia supernaturalis). Christ is consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 11  At the same time Jesus is True God and True Man fully present in the Eucharist as the Second Person of the Trinity. 12

Why did Christ institute the Most Holy Eucharist?

One of the reasons that our Lord, Jesus Christ, instituted the Holy Eucharist was because He desired to unite all men with Himself and to nourish the souls of everyone with His Divine life. It is by the Eucharist that men are able to join together with God’s aim of making our lives meet the divine by augmenting our humanity. As human beings we become what we are nourished by, and it is by the Eucharist that we receive in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we can strive to become more and more perfected into the image and likeness of God, our original state before the fall of man. We can grow into an even fuller union with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Since the Eucharist is Divine and leads us more and more to unite our hearts with Christ, it is preparing us for Heaven, where our souls will be made worthy to become a part of the Church Triumphant surrounded by the angels and saints in Heaven. It is by an interior change in the hearts, minds, and souls of mankind resulting from the nourishment by the Food of the Eucharist that we will be able to experience at the end of our earthly journey the Beatific vision; the glory of seeing God face to face in Heaven.  “The veneration of God, Who is love, springs, in Eucharistic worship, from that kind of intimacy in which He Himself, by analogy with food and drink, fills our spiritual being, ensuring its life, as food and drink do.13

The Eucharist not only provides us with comfort, strength, and victory over evil, but is God’s gift to help us to increase in sanctifying grace and to attain all of the virtues in our souls before we meet our heavenly reward.  It is the grace given to us that will lead to our glory in Heaven to be forever with the Triune God. The gift of His grace that we freely accept leads to an increase in all virtues where we will shine “like the stars forever and ever.” (See Dan 12:3)

It is the obligation of everyone after receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, and pastors in particular, to help other Catholics to realize what the Eucharist really and truly means for all Catholics.14 They are receiving our Lord into their very souls during Holy Communion; a beautiful gift that unites all of us with the crucified, resurrected, and glorified body of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and enables us to receive the fruits of His Resurrection 15 and the foretaste of the life to come. 16 It is important for all Catholics to understand that they are receiving the Blessed Sacrament, but they also need to be taught that they are receiving Jesus, God-Incarnate, the Word made Flesh. St. Cyril, in his mystagogical catechesis to the neophytes, taught them that they truly received the Body and Blood of Christ, yet at Holy Communion the consecrated species appears to human taste as the bread and wine:17

Do not think of the elements as bare bread and wine; they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ. Though sense suggests the contrary, let faith be your stay. Instead of judging the matter by taste, let faith give you an unwavering confidence that you have been privileged to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. 18

The Eucharist is our Hidden Lord, and it is in the tiny, white, consecrated host where He dwells in His cell; the Tabernacle, with His Sacred Heart burning with zeal for the great love of all mankind. Christ awaits in His Prison for all of His children to come home to the Catholic Church to receive Him with free will into their hearts, minds, and souls. It is by free will that the God-man chose to hide Himself in the Eucharist because of His infinite love for us, and it is only by free will that the hearts of all mankind can choose to return their love for Him. Jesus awaits as a prisoner in the Tabernacle with an ardent desire for everyone to come spend time with Him in silence and listen with the quiet of their own hearts. It is the responsibility of learned men in the faith to show other Catholics who do not yet know and understand that Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, is waiting for them to love Him and offer Him consolation as He loves and offers humanity consolation in the gift of the Eucharist if they choose to receive Him in Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity:

The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift — however precious — among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work. Nor does it remain confined to the past, since “all that Christ is — all that he did and suffered for all men — participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times.” 19

The Eucharist is the sacramentum caritatis, the sacrament of love, because the Eucharist is the essence of God, and “God is love” (1 Jn 4:9). The effect of Holy Communion is the manifestation of His Divine love, the fulfilment of the wedding banquet, for every man and woman. By consuming the Eucharist we become in communion with Christ, and with the love we receive from Christ we are able to share the “Mystery of Faith”: 20

This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet “in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.” 21

The Sacrament of the Eucharist draws us into the Paternal-Filial relationship and life of the Trinity.

Christ instituted the Eucharist before He was arrested, mocked, and beaten and led to His death on Calvary. He knew His time was coming to remain obedient to the Father, which meant He would suffer immensely, and die to save all men from their sins and to open the gates of Heaven. A selfless act of His love was the institution of the Eucharist, where He gave all men the gift of Himself; His Body and Blood: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6:57). The Eucharist was a gift to the same men who were about to torture Him and crucify Him on the Cross, but prior to His Passion Christ’s desire was not to leave us alone in our wretchedness and misery to continue on Earth without Him, but to leave us with the Eucharist; a pledge for Heaven, which would continue to nourish us with His Hidden Presence: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you” (Jn 6:53).

Jesus was not bitter and resentful before His Crucifixion, but instead portrayed a strong expression of love: “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19) and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Lk 22:20). It is by sharing in the Pascal Banquet when we receive the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist that we come to fully realize the saving efficacy of the Eucharistic sacrifice: “. . .we receive the very One who offered Himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the Cross and his blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Mt 26:28). 22

The Eucharist is the sacrament of sacraments because we truly receive a taste of Heaven on Earth. Christ gives Himself to the Christian faithful, sacredly veiled, in crucified and resurrected body, blood, soul, and divinity as True God and True Man while He also offers Himself at the same time as a sacrifice to the Father. “. . . the Holy Eucharist, unlike the other sacraments, is substantially Christ, the Source of Grace Himself, not an instrument of Christ’s grace.” 23 It is by eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood that one gains eternal life; the true heavenly bread descends from Heaven and confers eternal life on the world (Jn 6:32-40). The Eucharist is the bridge between Heaven and Earth, and by evangelizing Catholics concerning the Eucharist, we can help them with God’s grace to understand and believe in the Real Presence.

  1. OSV Editorial Board, “The Real Presence,” Our Sunday Visitor, 2019: 19.
  2. CIC, C. 897.
  3. See CCC 1328.
  4. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 54-55.
  5. See CCC 1358-1361.
  6. Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul (Stockbridge, MA: Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, 1987), 1804.
  7. See CCC 1357-1371, CIC 899 §1.
  8. See CCC 1333, Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei (September 3, 1965): AAS 57 (1965), 764.
  9. See CCC 1374-1377, and Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, IL: The Mercier Press, 1960), 380.
  10. See CCC 362-368.
  11. Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 384.
  12. Phillip Michael Tangorra, Holiness and Living the Sacramental Life (Ohio: Emmaus Road, 2017), 101.
  13. Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae (February 24, 1980), 12: AAS 72 (1980), 142.
  14. See CIC 879, CIC 898.
  15. Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 18: AAS 95 (2003) 445.
  16. Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 18-19: AAS 95 (2003) 445-446.
  17. Tangorra, Holiness and Living the Sacramental Life, 85.
  18. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Lectures: Fourth Lecture on the Mysteries, 6.
  19. Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 17-18: AAS 95 (2003) 445.
  20. Benedict XVI, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (22 February 2007), AAS 99 (2007), English translation from Vatican website, www.vatican.va, no. 1
  21. CCC, 1323.
  22. Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 23: AAS 95 (2003) 445.
  23. Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 370.
Christina M. Sorrentino About Christina M. Sorrentino

Christina M. Sorrentino is a licensed special education science teacher, and writer who holds a Master's in Education; Special Education Middle Childhood Generalist, and later studied Theology at the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University and Religious Education at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She is an active member of St. Joseph-St. Thomas, St. John Neumann Parish, and is currently involved with young adult and women's ministry, and leads the Pray for Our Priests Campaign on Staten Island. She is the author of Called to Love A Listening Heart - A Book of Catholic Poetry, and has contributed to Ignitum Today, Catholic365, Radiant Magazine, Joy in Truth, Blessed is She, The Young Catholic Woman, Pilgrim - A Journal of Catholic Experience, Leonie's Longing, and the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals. Her own blog, Called to Love - A Listening Heart, is at https://cmsorr4610.wixsite.com/calledtolove.

Comments

  1. Avatar Denis Jackson says:

    A good thoughtful article . I have been a cradle active Catholic for all my 76 years . However in the last 5/6 years my ideas about the Eucharist and the so called ‘Real Presence’ have changed . I cannot see much difference between a sacramental presence and a spiritual presence as God is One . I know the dogmatic difference etc but it doesn’t seem to matter in a mystical sense anymore . God is all around us so the idea of Him residing in a goblet chalice in a locked box ..tabernacle seems ludicrous . It’s so anthromorphic and ungodly . I wonder if many catholic folk think the same …I have talked about this with Catholic friends and they agree with me . Are these friends representative of the large percent who are now listed and labelled as those who no longer believe in the Real Eucharistic Presence on the altar ? I can’t see how this makes them any less authentic as believing Catholics .
    Has something happened in our perception of Our Lord , in the
    Christ , in our spiritual lives ?
    I read a little book about the Eucharistic meal by NT Wright and he seemed to be saying that Roman Catholic Eucharistic theology had grown out of a reaction to the denial of the mass from the Protestant revolution . In other words an Anglican view of the Eucharist is just as valid as Catholic one . Jesus Christ is truly Present when we re enact the Last Supper . It’s got to be that simple, childlike.
    So my point is that it is a huge misunderstanding to dramatise the notion that a vast majority of Catholics do not believe in the ‘Real Presence’ . They do believe otherwise why do they attend mass and receive Holy Communion . What has changed is the pious devotion attached to the Eucharist .

  2. Why did you take off the comment by Denis Jackson it is the problem we have in our church.
    the disbelieve we have in the Eucharist is that it is a living person (Miracle Lanciano) I have spend more time in a chapel sitting there looking at a monstrance with that host in it than anybody, you are ever going to meet. The last 42 years of my life i spend on educating myself. i love this Church and i owe whatever I have is to the Blessed Mother i have lead the Rosary for last 42 years in the church I go too. You can learn a lot visiting an Adoration Chapel just sitting there you looking Jesus and HE is looking at you. God Bless and have a joyful day

  3. Avatar Mary Ann Chimera says:

    Is it any wonder that so many American Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence when so many of our bishops apparently do not. Our newest Cardinal implicitly stated his disbelief when he said a few weeks ago that he intends to give this holy Body and Blood or Our Lord to the renegade Catholic politician Joe Biden. If the Cardinal truly believed that it is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ that he holds in his hands, would he be so eager to provide it to a man who has stated his intention to remove all barriers to abortion, same sex “marriage,” transgenderism, and many other evils forbidden by the Church? The parade of politicians who call themselves Catholic who march up to the altar to receive the Eucharist has been going on for years and gets longer every year. Seems to me that our bishops must be first in line to be catechized about the Real Presence. Maybe when they show that they believe, the Catholics in the pews will have reason not to doubt.

  4. Those poor misguided men we call Apostles were of the opinion that the bread and wine actually became the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Church Fathers also. Me Too.

  5. Hello Ms. Sorrentino, and Happy New Year!

    Your opening sentence states that about 31% of Catholics do NOT believe in the Real Presence. If you read the Pew Research report, it states that only about 31% of Catholics DO believe!

  6. Hello Ms. Sorrentino, and Happy New Year!

    Your opening sentence states that about 31% of Catholics do NOT believe in the Real Presence. If you read the Pew Research report, it states that only about 31% of Catholics DO believe! …..how very sad!

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