Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 6


St. Paul refers to the Real Presence in another passage of the same epistle in which he says: " The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all who partake of one bread " (i Cor. 10: 16, 17). 

In this passage St. Paul states in the plainest words that the chalice really and substantially contains the blood of Christ, and that the real body of the Lord is received under the appearances of bread. But this is not all. St. Paul even goes so far as to declare that those who partake of the Eucharist become one body with Christ and with one another. In his epistles he maintains that the Christians with Jesus Christ form but one (mystical) body, of which Jesus is the Head and the individual Christians are the members. And here he tells us that the Eucharist, that is, the body of Christ received by the faithful, is the vital principle of the Christian body, the bond of union between all who partake of it and makes of them but one (mystical) body; and therefore the reception of the Eucharist is rightly called Communion, the efficient bond of the common union of the faithful with one another in Christ. Those who deny the Real Presence, deny not only the clear teaching of St. Paul, but also these effects attributed to Holy Communion by St. Paul who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, " the Spirit of Truth." 

Only a divine food is able to produce such admirable supernatural results of the mystical union of the faithful in one body among themselves and with Jesus Christ.

Next to the Scriptural proofs of the Real Presence, omitting for the present the dogmatical definitions of the Church, comes the testimony of all the various ancient liturgies. All of them, even the most ancient that can be traced back to the apostolic age, all testify to the faith in the Real Presence. The very offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass prescribed in them proves beyond all doubt the belief in the Real Presence. Moreover, the ancient liturgies and writings of Fathers of the Church testify to the faith of the primitive Christians in the Real Presence. What we now believe about the Real Presence and the other doctrines of the Catholic Church, is identically the very same that has been believed in all ages of the Church from the time of the apostles, for, like truth itself which is ever one and unchangeable, the doctrines of the Catholic Church have always been the same and have ever remained unchanged. This is easily proved by the testimony, the writings of the Fathers of the Church. But some one may say: " What do I care about what those ancient writers, the Fathers of the Church, wrote on any subject? 

Their views can have no bearing on what we are to believe." To such a one we give this answer: The writings of the Fathers of the Church are of the greatest importance in religious matters, for they testify as to what was the faith of the Church at the time in which they were written; they are the competent witnesses of what the Christians believed in their time. He who reads these writings, finds out exactly what the Christians then believed, how they understood the various texts of Scripture, the words of our divine Savior and the writings of the apostles. The writings of the Fathers of the Church are unquestionable witnesses that, like Jesus Christ, her Founder, the Catholic Church is " the same yesterday, today and for ever " (Hebr. 13:8). Why should we not be allowed to adduce the testimony of the Fathers of the Church in favor of our holy faith? Why should we be permitted to believe historians narrating events they themselves have not witnessed, and be forbidden to believe and adduce the testimony of those learned, holy and conscientious writers who testify to what they themselves have seen and personally known and believed. If lawyers and judges prove their views and their decisions by adducing the testimony of those who framed the laws and of those who preceded them on the bench, why should not we be allowed to prove the oneness and sameness, in one word, the perfect identity of the Catholic faith in all centuries by the testimony and decisions of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church? If we find in their writings the identical doctrines which the Catholic Church now holds and teaches, it is a most conclusive proof that the faith of the Catholic Church has never varied, that it is unchangeable, and, therefore, true. This is in accordance with the teaching of even human reason and common sense.

The testimonies of the Fathers of the Church on the Real Presence would be far more numerous than they are, had it not been for the " discipline of the secret." In what did this discipline consist? The ancient pagans, like our modern atheists, were in their views so gross, coarse and material, that the Church, enlightened by God and by a wise experience, did not consider it prudent to publish to the pagan world some of the deepest mysteries of divine revelation, for fear of their being entirely misunderstood and shockingly misrepresented. The ineffable mystery of the Real Presence was one of these; its very meaning was entirely beyond the grasp, the comprehension of the base minds of the pagans, just as it is now perfectly incomprehensible to our modern infidels. When writing on or referring to the Blessed Eucharist the early Christians of the first three centuries were usually so guarded in their words, that the pagans could not understand what they were referring to. Even converts were not instructed in this mystery until they had been baptized and had given proofs of fidelity to their faith. And yet history tells us that something of this grand mystery leaked out among the pagans, for they accused the Christians of feasting, at their religious meetings, on the flesh of an infant. Such was the explanation the pagans gave of the faith of the Christians in the Real Presence and of Holy Communion. This very calumny is a capital and conclusive proof of the faith of the early Christians in the Real Presence.

In some of the most ancient liturgies, containing the prayers, ceremonies, etc., of the Mass, we find, after the prayer to be delivered from evil, this invocation : " Christ Jesus, we eat Thy body crucified for us, we drink Thy blood shed for us." The meaning conveyed by these words clearly denotes faith in the Real Presence. The Fathers of the Church in their writings warn their readers and hearers not to credit the testimony of their corporal senses, but to believe unhesitatingly and firmly the words of Christ declaring that what seems to be only bread and wine, is really His body and His blood; they admonish the faithful that Jesus wished to give Himself to us under the appearances of bread in order to enable us to submit our reason to faith in His words, and not to yield to the testimony of our senses, for were He to give Himself to us in His human nature as our food, it would be too repulsive to us. The Holy Fathers all declare the Blessed Eucharist a great miracle, an awe-inspiring mystery, an adorable, living inconsumable food, a most holy and incorruptible Bread, and that the Lord Himself enters into all who eat it. They unanimously require all Christians to adore, that is, to pay divine honor to the Blessed Eucharist. They expressly teach that they who receive it, are incorporated in Christ, that Christ, at the Last Supper, after consecrating the bread and wine, actually held Himself in His hands; that they who hold the Eucharist in their hands, really handle Jesus Christ Himself, and that the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion impress immortality in the recipients and, as it were, ferment in them into a glorious resurrection at the last day. The teaching of the Holy Fathers on the Blessed Eucharist is therefore identical with the faith and teaching of the Catholic Church in our own day.

We can draw another proof of the truth and unchangeableness of the Catholic doctrine of the Blessed Eucharist from the very enemies of the Catholic Church. All the ancient Christian sects, separated from the Catholic Church, that believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, also believe most firmly in the doctrine of the Real Presence; this proves that when they, each in its own time, left the Church, the universal belief of the Church in the Real Presence was the same as it is now; hence the faith of the Church in the Blessed Eucharist has never changed, and, consequently, it is the same as Jesus Himself taught His Apostles, and is true beyond all reasonable doubt.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 5



St. Paul expressly declares that Jesus Christ Him self had revealed to him the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. " I have received of the Lord," he writes, " that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread and giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat; this is My body, which shall be delivered for you; this do for a commemoration of Me. In like manner, also the chalice, after He had supped, saying: This chalice is the New Testament in My blood; this do ye, as often as ye shall drink, for the commemoration of Me. For, as often as you shall eat this bread, you shall show the death of the Lord until He come " (i Cor. 11: 23-26). These words, which are St. Paul's testimony of the revelation he received from our divine Savior Himself, prove beyond all doubt that Jesus Christ in instituting the Eucharist gave His apostles to eat not bread, but His very living body which He was going to deliver to death for mankind on the following day; and that He gave them to drink, not wine, but His very living blood, which Jesus Himself declared to be the blood of the New Testament. The Old Testament, that is, the Covenant of God with the Israelites, was dedicated by sprinkling the people with the blood of the victim, a lamb, the figure of the Savior of mankind. The New Testament was dedicated on Good Friday by the shedding of the blood of Jesus, the Immaculate Lamb, and applying it to mankind; the partaking of the body and blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist would enable all recipients to participate in the merits of the death of the Savior. Moreover, the text of St. Paul also proves that Jesus Christ empowered His apostles, His Church, to change bread and wine, as He had done, into His living body and blood for the benefit of those who were to believe in Him, until Jesus would again come upon earth at the last day to judge all mankind.

But this is not all, for St. Paul further on uses such clear, forcible and awe-inspiring language as to impress deeply on all the doctrine of the Real Presence, the necessity of a due preparation for receiving the Holy Eucharist, and the horrid crime and terrible effects of its unworthy reception.

" Wherefore," he says, " whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself; and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord" (i Cor. 11:27-29). For those who deny the Real Presence, these words of St. Paul are an insolvable enigma. If the Blessed Eucharist is not the real body and the real blood of Jesus Christ, how could St. Paul declare that he who ventures to receive the Holy Eucharist, without the requisite condition of being free from the least grievous sin, would be guilty of a crime against the body and the blood of the Lord ? And this crime, according to St. Paul, is most heinous, for, he says, " he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." And why is this crime so grievous, as to cause the sinner to " eat and drink his own condemnation " ? Because he uses that food and drink as if it were ordinary and merely material food and drink, and does not discern it, that is does not regard it and treat it as the very body and blood of the Lord. If the Eucharist were mere bread and wine, it would not be so heinous a crime, so horrid a sacrilege to partake of it without " having proved oneself/' that is, without having rendered oneself worthy by the removal or forgiveness of one's sins. But St. Paul expressly enjoins this " proving of oneself" as an indispensable obligation for the worthy reception of the Eucharist, for he says: " Let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice." If the unworthy reception of the Eucharist is so horrid a crime as to draw down on the offender the very eating and drinking of his own condemnation, it must be be cause it is actually the horrible profanation of the very body and the very blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This proves beyond all doubt the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The great Apostle of the Gentiles does not speak in such strong and terrible terms of any other sin, nor does he require so careful a preparation for the performance of any other act, however holy it may be. This should suffice to convince any fair-minded person that the Blessed Eucharist is really and indeed the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 4


But how could our Divine Savior cause a piece of bread to become His very body and a little wine to become His very blood? Let us recall to mind that our Savior, being God, is almighty. His words are not like our words. Our words go no further than to express our meaning, our thoughts, our intentions. But the words of God not only express His meaning, but, as St. Ambrose declares, they are also operative, that is, His words actually do, effect and perform what they mean. For instance, when God, in the beginning of creation, said: " Let there be light," these His words actually brought light into existence without any further act or effort on His part. Hence St. Paul says: " The word of God is living and effectual" (Hebr. 4: 12). This is evident also from the manner in which Jesus Christ performed miracles, saying, for instance, to the paralytic: " Arise, and walk;" to a blind man: " Be thou seeing;" to the dead Lazarus in the tomb: " Lazarus, come forth." These words produced their effect instantaneously. In like manner, when Jesus said over the bread He held: " This is My body," the bread at once became His true body, and there was no longer any bread in His hands, but only its external appearance. And when He pronounced over the wine in the chalice He held these words: " This is My blood of the New Testament/' the wine had immediately become His true blood, and there was no longer wine in the chalice, but only its appearance. The words our Savior then used were the instrument which effected these most wonderful changes. This can present no difficulty to the Christian who really believes in our Savior's divinity, who believes in the creation, in the miracles of Jesus Christ, and that the word of God is almighty (Wisd. 18:15).

Let us bear in mind that our Divine Savior instituted the Blessed Eucharist on the eve of His death for the salvation of mankind, after He had eaten His last Pasch with His apostles. He began by saying to His apostles: " With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer" (Luke 22: 15). How could Jesus so ardently desire to eat that Pasch with His apostles if He did not in tend before dying, to give them an extraordinary token of His love? And could that extraordinary token consist only of a little bread and wine, according to the explanation of those who reject the doctrine of the Real Presence? Had He not daily for three years eaten bread with His apostles? Why should eating it once more before dying create such an ardent desire on His part? Moreover, had He not promised a year previous to feed them with His own flesh and blood as the principle of imparting to them life everlasting, that is, eternal salvation? Deny the Real Presence, and you can show no proof that Jesus ever kept His promise of furnishing His disciples with the means of securing life everlasting. And yet He had declared: " Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you " (John 6:54). Jesus could not have said so ardently: " with desire have I desired to eat this Pasch with you before I die," unless He was about to give His apostles, His Church, such a token, such a testimony of His boundless love towards them, as would, beyond all conception, surpass all the marks of love and affection He had hitherto bestowed on them. Let us also recall to mind that Jesus, as the Savior of men, had come on earth to abrogate the Law of Moses, a law of fear, and replace it by the law of love, the law of the children of God, which should last for ever and most intimately unite us with our heavenly Father. To effect this, He wished to make us His brethren and to incorporate us as the adopted children of His Father and render us "partakers of the Divine Nature" (2 Pet. 1:4), and for this purpose He wished to feed us with His own flesh and blood in the Eucharist which He was about to institute as the greatest proof of His love for us.

It was, therefore, at the Last Supper that Jesus Christ, to fulfil the prophecies of the Old Testament, made the New Testament, or Covenant, the New Law for His Church which was to endure till the end of time. Wherefore, He was then about to bequeath to His Church the means of saving man kind, of applying to them the merits and fruits of His passion and death. In short, it was at the Last Supper, which He had so ardently desired, that He made His last will. For the last time before His death He was speaking familiarly with His intimate friends, " to whom it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God" (Mark 4: n). To them He spoke plainly, "without parables," for He was then instructing " His successors and representatives, who were to teach all nations " (Mat. 28: 19-20). Wherefore, He must have spoken to them clearly, simply, plainly, intelligibly, literally, without obscurity, without figures. What, then did He, could He mean when He said: " THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH IS GIVEN FOR YOU " (Luke 22: 19) ? If it was NOT His BODY, how could He say " THIS is MY BODY? " And to leave no doubt about His meaning, Jesus says expressly, " WHICH is GIVEN FOR YOU." Was it only a " piece of bread" which Jesus then gave His apostles and which He gave up for them on the cross the next day? No, by no means, for on the following day He really and indeed sacrificed His own true, living body on the cross for the salvation of mankind. Therefore the plain, clear meaning of Jesus when He said: " Take ye and eat, this is My body which is given for you " is this: " This is no longer bread, but My very body, which is to be sacrificed on the cross for you." And the plain meaning of Jesus when He said: " Drink ye all of this, for this is My blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many " is: " Drink ye all of this, for this is no longer wine, but My true living blood, which shall be shed for the salvation of mankind." The Real Presence cannot be expressed more clearly, more plainly, more appropriately, or more correctly. And surely our Divine Savior would not have taken all that trouble and used all these clear, simple and plain expressions, in order to give His apostles merely a piece of bread to eat and a little wine to drink, unless He intended to deceive them; and the Evangelists would not have so carefully and so minutely related the actions and words of Jesus, had there been question of only a little bread and wine! Moreover, if Jesus Christ then really intended to give and actually gave His apostles, as He had promised them a year previous, His own flesh to eat and His own blood to drink, could He have done so in words more appropriate or more effective than those He used at the Last Supper, saying: " THIS is MY BODY, THIS is MY BLOOD? "