Sunday, June 23, 2024

Eucharistic Revival Series: The Two Bodies of Christ

Many years ago, during a Holy Thursday liturgy, the celebrant shared the following story with all his congregants:

“When I was a seminarian in Columbia, South America, I was assigned to the Cathedral to serve during the Triduum that year. All throughout the liturgy, I was struck by its beauty and the never-ending effects that the first Holy Thursday gave us. But I really didn’t completely understand its meaning until after the processional. As everyone was leaving the church, I saw a young teen who lived on the street, engaged in begging for an empanada at a street stand. The woman at the stand showed great mercy on this boy because she gave him two of the meat patties. The boy, smiling, walked across the street to the side of the church where there were three other younger children waiting. The older boy took his two empanadas and divided them among the three children. When they finished their meal, the younger children gave the older boy a hug. This image, for me, is what the Eucharist is all about. Christ not only shared food with us, but rather, He shares His being with us in the form of food.”

I could not help thinking about this story as I continue my series on the Eucharist. In “The Eucharist, Our Sanctification,” Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa tells us that in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we read that Jesus said, “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you.” Yes, the ultimate gift of Christ on the cross is what this “given” is all about. In this sacrifice, the Church is born! “‘Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you!’ What a mystery! Jesus has united me to himself in the most sublime and holiest action in history; in the only action really ‘worthy of God,’ worthy of his holiness and his majesty. Let the heavens marvel, the earth exult, the angels rejoice, the demons tremble: God has obtained what the universe was created for; his plan and wish have been fulfilled; nothing could prevent it, not even sin; his creatures went back to him in a spontaneous gesture of love; he has given in sacrifice what he had received from God as a gift.”1

Because of the grace of our baptism and its effect of incorporating us within the mystical Body of Christ, we can also say, “This is my body which I give up for you.” I give my body in the service of humanity.

“This is, therefore, a clear and safe point of view on Eucharistic consecration. There are two bodies of Christ on the altar: the real body (the body ‘born of the Virgin Mary,’ risen and ascended into heaven) and the mystic body, the Church,” Cardinal Cantalamessa writes. “This, his real body, is really present and his mystic body is mystically present, ‘mystically’ meaning in virtue of its inseparable union with the Head [Christ]. There is no confusion and no division between the two presences which are distinct.  … As there are two ‘offerings’ and two ‘gifts’ on the altar, that which is to become the Body and Blood of Christ (bread and wine) and that which is to become the mystical body of Christ, we also have two ‘epiklesis’ in the mass, or two invocations of the Holy Spirit. The first one says: ‘And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.’ In the second one, after the consecration, we pray: ‘Grant that we … may be filled with his Holy Spirit and become one body, one spirit in Christ. May He (the Holy Spirit) make us an everlasting gift to you.’ Now we know that the Eucharist makes the Church: the Eucharist makes the Church by making the Church Eucharist! The Eucharist is not only the source and cause of the Church’s holiness, it is also its model. Christian holiness must be realized according to the ‘form’ of the Eucharist, it must be Eucharistic holiness. Christians cannot limit themselves to celebrating the Eucharist, they must be Eucharist with Jesus.”2

Now don’t you wish to have a group hug, praising God for this amazing gift?

1Cantalamessa, Raniero. The Eucharist, Our Sanctification. St Pauls, 2016. Pg. 19.

2 Ibid, pg 21.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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