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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Communion Rite – Communion (2)
“The Body of Christ.”
The moment has finally come to welcome Our Lord into your heart once again, to become one with him. Through the sacrament this is the closest you can physically be to Our Lord before Heaven and before you receive him in Holy Communion. Whatever form or shape the consecrated bread takes, you are standing before God the Son. This is the moment you’ve been preparing for throughout Mass.
If you’ve participated in Mass until this point consciously and actively, this is the culminating moment of everything for which you’ve been praying, singing, and contemplating. If you’ve been battling distraction, this moment has been the rallying point to regain your focus and prepare, over and over again. The encounter may be brief, but the preparation and the results are long and enduring.
“The Blood of Christ.”
Depending on local practice you may also have an opportunity to receive the Precious Blood in Holy Communion. Some parishes offer this at every Mass; others on solemnities and special feast days. Our Lord is fully present under both kinds (bread and wine); wherever and however he is sacramentally present he is present Body, Blood, soul, and divinity. Whether you stand before him on the consecrated host or in the chalice, you stand before him, and in receiving either kind, you are receiving him fully.
The Catechism summarizes this teaching as the teaching of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’ (Council of Trent : DS 1651). ‘This presence is called “real”—by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be “real” too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.’” (n. 1374).
If this moment leaves you speechless, don’t worry, it should. You stand before God and are about to achieve a deeper communion with him because he has chosen to become the Bread of Life and the chalice of salvation for you. He’s chosen to become your food and drink so that you may attain eternal life.
The words of the minister giving you communion (“The Body of Christ…The Blood of Christ”) are not just a statement; they’re an invitation to make a profession of faith that what is before you is truly the Body (host) or Blood (chalice) of Christ—body, blood, soul, and divinity. We’ve all said innumerable “Amen’s” in our lives, but each “Amen” is meant to be a concise way of saying, “truly; it is so; let it be done” and to signify agreement with something that has been said (see “Amen” in the glossary of the Catechism).
There’s room for all these meanings in this moment, and we should have them all when we respond. We truly believe that Our Lord is sacramentally present in the host being shown to us or the chalice being offered to us. Independently of whether we believe it or not, he is present in that consecrated host and wine. If we receive him with the correct dispositions we are expressing our hope that something wonderful will happen through receiving him once again into our hearts, a little fiat (cf. Catechism, n. 2865) that our hopes and the hopes of Our Lord become one and become real.
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