I learned a very important lesson many, many years ago about the difference between real and pretend.
On the eve of Halloween, when I was four years old, my neighbor decided to show my mom her Halloween costume. She got dressed up and journeyed across our backyard to the back door of our house. It was dark outside. We didn’t have a doorbell or a light at our back door, but I heard someone knocking at it. This door was different from our front door. It was solid wood on the bottom and had a three-paned window at the top. Being too little to open the door, I parted the curtain over the window. To my absolute horror, there was a monster staring at me through the window. As I screamed, I ran from the kitchen into the arms of my mother who quieted me and opened the door so I could see who was actually there. I was SO frightened that I remember having an accident, my terrifying moment enhanced by sheer embarrassment.
After calming me down and changing my clothes, my mom told me the identity of the “monster.” As my neighbor was welcomed into my house, holding her mask in her hands, I realized who had actually been peering into the window. I cried, “It wasn’t at all real?” My neighbor said, “No. I am sorry for pretending and frightening you.” I quipped, “I am sure glad you weren’t a real monster!”
I am reminded of this story as I continue my series on the Mystery of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church and dwell on the reality of what is called the “Real Presence.” This term describes that “it is not ‘ordinary bread’ and ‘ordinary drink’ that we receive in the Eucharist, but the flesh and blood of Christ, who came to nourish and transform us, to restore our relationship to God and to one another. … The reality that, in the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ without ceasing to appear as bread and wine to our five senses is one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith. This faith is a doorway through which we, like the saints and mystics before us, may enter into a deeper perception of the mercy and love manifested in and through Christ’s sacramental presence in our midst. … The presence is called ‘real’ … to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present and whole and entire, God and man.”1
Please read that extended quote again. In the Reserve in the Tabernacle in every Catholic church in the world is Jesus Christ, His body, blood, soul and divinity. It is said that angels prostrate in front of the tabernacle because they are aware of this majestic gift given to mankind. At the same time, there is a large majority of church-going Catholics who either doubt or downright deny this reality. This is why we are focusing on the Eucharist for the next three years with a Eucharistic Revival.
There are troves of books written about the Real Presence that are more theological than what I could ever write. However, I have to appreciate, in minutia, the reason for this.
The birth of Jesus happened in time. His death and resurrection happened on specific dates in time. But when Christ’s ascension into heaven occurred, he brought to heaven what is earthly. The Eucharistic liturgy touches what is bound by time to eternity. Through this sacrament, heaven comes to earth. Through this sacrament, the outpouring of Christ’s love is once again released and is not bound by time. This is why, when we adore the Blessed Sacrament, we begin to discover the amazing outpouring of love that Jesus holds out to us. As the realization of this outpouring sinks into our heart, changing our very being, we experience a spark of heaven.
This is not pretend … but REAL!!!!
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness