Corpus Christi; The Body of Christ, Amen

Greg Kandra is the editor of Couric & Co, the blog associated with the CBS Evening News broadcast. He is also a recently-ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church, and how lucky is the parish in Forest Hills, Queens, to have so talented a wordsmith, and so faithful a servant of God and man, preaching from the Ambo. This Sunday they will feast on this bounty:

First Reading: Gen 14:18-20, Melchizedek bringing bread and wine and blessing Abram

Then Psalm 110

The Lord’s revelation to my Master:
“Sit on my right:
your foes I will put beneath your feet.”

The Lord will wield from Zion
your scepter of power;
rule in the midst of all your foes.

A prince from the day of your birth
on the holy mountains;
from the womb before the dawn I begot you.

The Lord has sworn an oath he will not change.
“You are a priest forever,
a priest like Melchizedek of old.”

The Master standing at your right hand
will shatter kings in the day of his great wrath.

He shall drink from the stream by the wayside
and therefore he shall lift up his head.

Second Reading: Cor 11:23-26 St. Paul on bread and wine in the sacrifice of the mass: “The Lord Jesus…took bread,and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you…” In the same way he took the cup… saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood…”

Then the Gospel reading; Luke 9:11b-17
wherein Jesus tells the apostles, “give them food yourselves.” And he shows them how, with five loaves and two fishes to feed a multitude.

After all that, the faithful will then receive this – here’s an excerpt from Kandra’s gorgeous and goosebump-inducing sermon for Corpus Christi Sunday:

…the most adventurous thing I attempted was trying to bake bread…If you’ve ever tried this, you know: it’s an all day affair. You take the ingredients and knead the dough and then you knead it again and then you have to wait for it to rise and then you have to actually bake it.
[...]
But there is something wondrous about it. The smell, the texture, even the flavor of just-baked bread is unlike any other experience. And if you add butter or jelly or even use fresh bread to make a sandwich, well, it’s transformative. It is truly astounding to consider what bread can become.

And that, I think, is the point of this feast, Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ: It is astounding to consider what bread can become.

The work it takes to bake a loaf of bread can’t begin to compare with what has gone into creating the Eucharist. It is the labor of a lifetime – Jesus’s lifetime – and all that He taught and lived and suffered and died has been poured into that sanctifying moment when bread becomes His body. By the hands of the priest and the grace of God, the mundane becomes a miracle.

And when we receive that miracle, we are transformed. We bring God into us, and He becomes us.

It is more just than transubstantiation…It is nothing less than a resounding echo of the incarnation.
[...]
A few years ago, my wife and I had the good fortune to make a pilgrimage through Italy. One of the stops was in a town called Lanciano

About 1200 years ago, a priest there had begun to doubt the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Then one morning, during mass, he was stunned to discover that the bread and wine in his hands had become actual flesh and blood.

Today, it’s been preserved in a glass case, on its own altar. You can walk around it and see the host from many different angles. The blood has congealed naturally into five distinct pellets – just like the five wounds of Christ. In 1970, scientists were given permission to take samples and analyze it.

They weren’t prepared for what they found.

The bread is actually myocardial tissue — tissue from the heart.

And what had been wine is, in fact, type AB blood. The universal recipient blood type.

It has been so perfectly preserved, the investigators ruled out any kind of fraud. They determined it was human, and could not have come from a cadaver, or it would have spoiled.

Instead, the flesh and blood that were hundreds of years old appeared new.

In other words: ageless.

Jesus Christ promised to be with us until the end of time. And He is. What happened in Lanciano 1200 years ago is a powerful testament to that.

So is what will happen on this altar in a few moments. Prepare to receive the greatest gift God can give us. The gift of Himself.

It is astounding to consider what bread can become.

Back in December, writing about the Feast of the Immaculate Conception I said:

When I think of all of this – how the whole theme of “something from nothing” permeates the world and our lives – then I wonder…how is it that people of faith can find so much about which to be contentious? For the God who created “something from nothing,” immaculate conceptions and virgins births are cake walks! So, for that matter, is the changing of humble bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the One who said, “my Flesh is real food, my Blood is real drink…”

“With God, nothing is impossible…” That’s true. But also, perhaps, “With God…’nothing’ is literally ‘not possible.”

With God, there is no nothing, for even “nothing” is filled with Intention. And Intention…Assents. And Assent…brings forth. It Creates. And in every assent we utter, every stitch we knit, every empty bowl we fill, every lonely life we consent to touch, every hateful remark we respond to with love, we create something where there was nothing. With our every “yes,” we assist in creation, with the continuation of the world. We work with the Creator, for whom no need is too small, for whom love knows no limits.

It is the great secret.

How better to “assist in creation” than with his own Being flowing within our veins?

Back in 2005, discussing Thomas Merton’s classic book of conversion and discovery, The Seven Storey Mountain, I quoted him writing of the Holy Eucharist:

I tell you there is a power that goes forth from that Sacrament, a power of light and truth, even in to the hearts of those who have heard nothing of Him and seem to be incapable of belief.

And too he said, of the Eucharist:

…that tremendous, secret and obvious immolation, so secret that it will never be thoroughly understood by a created intellect, and yet so obvious that its very obviousness blinds us by excess of clarity; the unbloody Sacrifice of God under the species of bread and wine.

Blinds us by excess of clarity. Yes.

I know that Catholic apologists will do the “fight with scripture tooth and nail” thing, trying to convince our separated Christian brethren of the Reality of Christ’s Physical Presence under the species of bread and wine. They talk about Paul admonishing Christians who received unworthily…they go to John 6 and quote Christ, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have do not have Life within you,” (He being the “Way, Truth and Life”) but I often think, if Christ himself could not explain this and convince people using words, then what’s the point of my even trying? Truly, when Jesus spoke those words, many ran away, repulsed or fearful, and his own apostles – typically – had no idea what he was talking about. But after his resurrection, they recognized him – and beheld their encounter with the Messiah – as he revealed himself in the breaking of bread.

For me, Eucharistic chat is all well and good, but it does not make me believe in the Real Presence. What does that is the Eucharist itself – with each encounter, with each breaking of the bread, with each hour of Adoration, Jesus’ Real Presence becomes more undeniable as he reels me in and I flop down before him, a landed grouper, both unable to escape and not wanting to. For me, His Presence in the Eucharist cannot be talked…it must be experienced. A half-hour before the monstrance, an hour before a closed tabernacle in an empty church…nothing compares, nothing instructs so sweetly, or sears me with such unrelenting gentleness. John Paul II wrote every one of his encyclicals while seated before the Tabernacle in his chapel.

Merton said, “there is a power that goes forth from that Sacrament…” It is true. A power so vast that you can even perceive it over the air or via cables and transistors. Visit for a little while, and see if you don’t.

Related:
Buster and the Gift Freely Given
Adoration and the Mist, the Veil
Weakness is Sown; Strength Rises Up
Do you know where the greatest place to be is?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • kuvasz

    Dear Miss A,

    Lutherans believe the wine and bread are the Body and the Blood as we receive them, too. We just don’t believe a priest has to be there to do the conversion. God does it directly. When Malanchthon was going to Augsberg to try to iron out the differences with the Pope, he asked Luther about it. Luther replied, “When I bite down, my teeth feel flesh.”

    Your piece is beautifully written.

    Regards,
    Sarah

  • http://jscafenette.com Jeanette

    Anchoress, please help this old Baptist to understand your faith more.

    You speak of taking the Eucharist as bringing the Real Presence of Jesus into your being.

    Communion is very sacred to me also, but we don’t have it at every service. We are to examine ourselves and pray to confess any sin that would prevent us from accepting this sacrament of our church. If there is sin unconfessed or turmoil unresolved we are not to partake until it is resolved.

    My confusion is this: What does the Catholic Church teach is necessary for one to get into Heaven?

    Is it baptism? The Eucharist? A profession of faith as we have?

    I’m honestly trying to understand your faith, which is the faith of my family until shortly before I was born. I am the first in my family to not be baptized Catholic, but I was baptized by total immersion in a river at the age of 16.

    Because my family had left the Catholic Church they never talked about what things meant and I’m so interested in what the Catholic faith is when we get down to the nuts and bolts of it.

    Thank you for your consideration of my many questions.

  • KIA

    Thanks for the beautiful post Anchoress! I agree that it’s not likely to “talk” anyone into believing. However…I do find it interesting that the ones who blaspheme, mock and scoff the most are the least likely to take my challenge. Being that one must experience the Eucharist, I challenge any non-believer to walk into any Catholic church (preferably at an off time), look for the red candle, and sit quietly and reverently in front of the tabernacle and ask Jesus Himself! JUST SIT THERE, and see what happens! Boy do they run fast, and NOT towards the church. Jesus was right, it’s just too hard for most and requires the strongest of faith. Everytime I sit, physically, in front of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I think, WHY, WHY, isn’t EVERYONE here? If they only knew of the “early heaven plan!” BTW, Fulton Sheen also did most of his writing in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

    Here’s a link to all of the miracles, now a Vatican Exhibit. [link added - admin] Also for Jeanette, catholic.com has great articles (archives) you can search

    Kia

    p.s. I’m becoming more convinced that the the biggest reason for “non-belief”, is simply this. IF true, it’s life altering!

  • sam

    My mom introduced me to Adoration on Holy Thursday when I was a little girl. Since that first visit so many years ago, I don’t think I’ve missed a Holy Thursday vigil. It has since grown to weekly Adoration. I am amazed at the peace and contentment that I find sitting in his Presence. During my darkest hours just sitting in front of Him in Adoration made all my fears and hurts and pains seem trivial. He gave me peace and the promise that all would be well if I just rested in Him. I have introduced my children to Adoration as well. Now, whenever we pass the Church or go to the Rectory to drop something off or pick something up, my little girl will ask, “Mom, can we go visit with Jesus?”. We are only able to stay for 15 minutes or so but it is enough…

  • http://ramblinggopsoccermom.blogspot.com GOPSoccerMom

    Anchoress,

    This is one of my favorite Eucharistic miracle stories! I’m so glad you shared it!

    I am so grateful for the Sacraments! God is so good to us!

  • TheAnchoress

    Jeanette, I have to run out for an appointment, but here’s something to get started on. :-)

  • bluestationwagon

    Dear Anchoress – I enjoy your writings immensely. Once when my son was only four and at daily Mass with me, we talked about what was happening. When I explained the Consecration to him, how the wine changes to Jesus’ Blood, his comment was “And you drink it? Ewww.” After that, I often thought that it was as a great favor to us that Jesus’ Body and Blood retain the outward appearance of bread and wine.

    Thank You, dear God.

  • NewEnglandDevil

    In the Anabaptist tradition, we were taught that Communion was symbolic. When I converted to Catholicism I didn’t have a problem believing that the conversion was real as I already believed that a) Miracles are real, and b) God can do Miracles through us. What reason would I then have to believe that this particular Miracle would not be real?

    Thank you for sharing this story!

  • TheAnchoress

    Bluestation I’ll tell you a funny story. I once took an anthropology class and we were studying tribal customs of the I-forget-who and the professor talked cannibalism and then – trying to make a joke – referred to us as “the last real cannibals, the cannibalistic Catholics who eat their own God.”

    I started laughing and when she asked what I thought was so funny, I said, “you – the atheist secular Jew – just confirmed the Flesh and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist; we consume the Lamb of God as the Jews consumed the passover lamb. If we are cannibals we can only be so if what we are eating is really Jesus Christ.”

    She had a great sense of humor and enjoyed that, but she also winced and said, “hmmm, remind me not to try that one again!”

    We were great friends and she tried mightily to get me to seriously study in her field, but…you know, I get distracted, never could settle into a degree…

    Gotta run, I’m late as usual.

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