The Eucharist: Bodies, Bread, & Resurrection: Bodies, Bread and Resurrection

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The Eucharist is a divine mystery— the Divine Mystery—that exceeds our finite natural understanding see John 6: We cannot know everything about this sacrament in this life; but we can know some things. Obviously, the early Church thinkers did not have the understanding of the Blessed Sacrament that today's theologians have and continue to unfold, examine and discern. Development of doctrine is an ongoing process of unravelling and fine-tuning the Church's understanding of the apostolic teachings; and thus, the Sacrament of the Eucharist—like every other Catholic article of faith—has been unravelled by the Church since its institution the night before Christ died.

This suggests that the discernment and definition of the fine details of the Eucharist has been a "work in progress" since the Last Supper to today; but in regards to the early Church Fathers there is one thing that appears certain: Paul is rather explicit in his affirmation of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. After recalling Christ's words "This is my body Sharing the same reverence for the Eucharist as St. Paul, Ignatius of Antioch a disciple of St. John wrote around A. These are not the words of a solo theological opinion. These are the sobering words of a authoritative Church leader, a bishop, demanding orthodoxy—or "right belief" at the local church level.

Justin Martyr, a great defender of Christianity in the 2nd century, wrote:. Justin, in his defense or apologia, also labours at the service of Christ for the sake of Eucharistic orthodoxy. He, along with the early Church writers who came after him, like Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origin, Cyprian of Carthage, Cyril of Jerusalem and Augustine, affirmed in unison throughout the early centuries that Christ's "is" was literal at the Last Supper. A poem by Christopher Derrick titled, "The Resurrection of the Body", stimulates the mind into contemplation of the mysterious power of the Blessed Sacrament:.

With God nothing is impossible.

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He is mysteriously omnipotent, and can appear in any "form" He desires Mark Indeed He does dwell under the species of bread and wine, resting now in a thousand tabernacles probably within a few blocks of where you are right now. Truly this reality is no small matter, for this reality transcends the universe. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. Clearly, if the Real Presence is false, Catholics are worshipping a piece of bread.

But if it is true—if Jesus really meant what He said—then that little "piece of bread" is really the body, blood, soul and divinity of the omnipotent God of the universe. We are compelled to make a decision. Piggybacking on the commonsensical genius of G. Chesterton, Catholic convert and writer, Mark Shea, sums up the gravity of the "Real Presence or no presence" dilemma by stating with an almost comical simplicity:. Matt holds a B. Eucharist , Jesus Christ , Sacraments. Justin Martyr , St.

Word on Fire Blog. Print Back to Word on Fire Blog. Here are a few things to consider: As Karl Keating points out: Its usual meaning is the literal, although it can be used figuratively, just as in English. If this crucial term is supposed to be read as "represents", why was not clearly put so in the Greek? O'Brien, who points out an interesting problem that would have arisen from a figurative understanding of Jesus' words: To interpret the phrase figuratively then would be to make our Lord promise life everlasting to the culprit for slandering and hating Him Christ would be saying, 'He that reviles me has eternal life.

The young wonderworker from Nazareth, in reaction to the rising blood pressure of the crowd, responds with the following phrases: In his description of Jesus' multiplication of the loaves, notice the evangelist's choice of wording: Indeed it is so today. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes. Justin Martyr, a great defender of Christianity in the 2nd century, wrote: Final Thoughts A poem by Christopher Derrick titled, "The Resurrection of the Body", stimulates the mind into contemplation of the mysterious power of the Blessed Sacrament: Turns water into wine, wine into blood— I wonder what He turns blood into?

Chesterton, Catholic convert and writer, Mark Shea, sums up the gravity of the "Real Presence or no presence" dilemma by stating with an almost comical simplicity: In the eucharistic celebration we do not simply remember an event in history. Rather, through the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic celebration the Lord's Paschal Mystery is made present and contemporaneous to his Spouse the Church.

Furthermore, in the eucharistic re-presentation of Christ's eternal sacrifice before the Father, we are not simply spectators. The priest and the worshiping community are in different ways active in the eucharistic sacrifice. The ordained priest standing at the altar represents Christ as head of the Church.

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"The Eucharist: bodies, bread and resurrection" by Andrea Bieler & Luise Schottroff

All the baptized, as members of Christ's Body, share in his priesthood, as both priest and victim. The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ becomes the sacrifice of the members of his Body who united to Christ form one sacrificial offering cf. As Christ's sacrifice is made sacramentally present, united with Christ, we offer ourselves as a sacrifice to the Father. Lumen Gentium , no.

In the celebration of the Eucharist, the glorified Christ becomes present under the appearances of bread and wine in a way that is unique, a way that is uniquely suited to the Eucharist. In the Church's traditional theological language, in the act of consecration during the Eucharist the "substance" of the bread and wine is changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the "substance" of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

At the same time, the "accidents" or appearances of bread and wine remain. Thomas Aquinas in their efforts to understand and explain the faith. Such terms are used to convey the fact that what appears to be bread and wine in every way at the level of "accidents" or physical attributes - that is, what can be seen, touched, tasted, or measured in fact is now the Body and Blood of Christ at the level of "substance" or deepest reality.

This change at the level of substance from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is called "transubstantiation. This is a great mystery of our faith—we can only know it from Christ's teaching given us in the Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church. Every other change that occurs in the world involves a change in accidents or characteristics. Sometimes the accidents change while the substance remains the same. For example, when a child reaches adulthood, the characteristics of the human person change in many ways, but the adult remains the same person—the same substance.

At other times, the substance and the accidents both change. For example, when a person eats an apple, the apple is incorporated into the body of that person—is changed into the body of that person. When this change of substance occurs, however, the accidents or characteristics of the apple do not remain.

As the apple is changed into the body of the person, it takes on the accidents or characteristics of the body of that person. Christ's presence in the Eucharist is unique in that, even though the consecrated bread and wine truly are in substance the Body and Blood of Christ, they have none of the accidents or characteristics of a human body, but only those of bread and wine. In order for the whole Christ to be present—body, blood, soul, and divinity—the bread and wine cannot remain, but must give way so that his glorified Body and Blood may be present.

Thus in the Eucharist the bread ceases to be bread in substance, and becomes the Body of Christ, while the wine ceases to be wine in substance, and becomes the Blood of Christ. Yes, for this way of being present corresponds perfectly to the sacramental celebration of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist Bodies, Bread, & Resurrection

Jesus Christ gives himself to us in a form that employs the symbolism inherent in eating bread and drinking wine. Furthermore, being present under the appearances of bread and wine, Christ gives himself to us in a form that is appropriate for human eating and drinking. Also, this kind of presence corresponds to the virtue of faith, for the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ cannot be detected or discerned by any way other than faith. That is why St. And so believing this is especially meritorious" In IV Sent.

On the authority of God who reveals himself to us, by faith we believe that which cannot be grasped by our human faculties cf. In everyday language, we call a "symbol" something that points beyond itself to something else, often to several other realities at once. The transformed bread and wine that are the Body and Blood of Christ are not merely symbols because they truly are the Body and Blood of Christ.

At the same time, however, it is important to recognize that the Body and Blood of Christ come to us in the Eucharist in a sacramental form. In other words, Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine, not in his own proper form. We cannot presume to know all the reasons behind God's actions. God uses, however, the symbolism inherent in the eating of bread and the drinking of wine at the natural level to illuminate the meaning of what is being accomplished in the Eucharist through Jesus Christ.

There are various ways in which the symbolism of eating bread and drinking wine discloses the meaning of the Eucharist. For example, just as natural food gives nourishment to the body, so the eucharistic food gives spiritual nourishment. Furthermore, the sharing of an ordinary meal establishes a certain communion among the people who share it; in the Eucharist, the People of God share a meal that brings them into communion not only with each other but with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Paul tells us, the single loaf that is shared among many during the eucharistic meal is an indication of the unity of those who have been called together by the Holy Spirit as one body, the Body of Christ 1 Cor To take another example, the individual grains of wheat and individual grapes have to be harvested and to undergo a process of grinding or crushing before they are unified as bread and as wine.

Because of this, bread and wine point to both the union of the many that takes place in the Body of Christ and the suffering undergone by Christ, a suffering that must also be embraced by his disciples. Much more could be said about the many ways in which the eating of bread and drinking of wine symbolize what God does for us through Christ, since symbols carry multiple meanings and connotations. During the celebration of the Eucharist, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, and this they remain.

They cannot turn back into bread and wine, for they are no longer bread and wine at all. There is thus no reason for them to change back to their "normal" state after the special circumstances of the Mass are past. Once the substance has really changed, the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ "endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist" Catechism , no. Against those who maintained that the bread that is consecrated during the Eucharist has no sanctifying power if it is left over until the next day, St. Cyril of Alexandria replied, "Christ is not altered, nor is his holy body changed, but the power of the consecration and his life-giving grace is perpetual in it" Letter 83, to Calosyrius, Bishop of Arsinoe [ PG 76, ].

The Church teaches that Christ remains present under the appearances of bread and wine as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain cf. While it would be possible to eat all of the bread that is consecrated during the Mass, some is usually kept in the tabernacle. The Body of Christ under the appearance of bread that is kept or "reserved" after the Mass is commonly referred to as the "Blessed Sacrament.


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First of all, it is used for distribution to the dying Viaticum , the sick, and those who legitimately cannot be present for the celebration of the Eucharist. Secondly, the Body of Christ in the form of bread is to be adored when it is exposed, as in the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, when it is carried in eucharistic processions, or when it is simply placed in the tabernacle, before which people pray privately.

These devotions are based on the fact that Christ himself is present under the appearance of bread.

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Many holy people well known to American Catholics, such as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. The Body and Blood of Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine are treated with the greatest reverence both during and after the celebration of the Eucharist cf. For example, the tabernacle in which the consecrated bread is reserved is placed "in some part of the church or oratory which is distinguished, conspicuous, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer" Code of Canon Law , Can. According to the tradition of the Latin Church, one should genuflect in the presence of the tabernacle containing the reserved sacrament.

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the traditional practice is to make the sign of the cross and to bow profoundly. The liturgical gestures from both traditions reflect reverence, respect, and adoration. It is appropriate for the members of the assembly to greet each other in the gathering space of the church that is, the vestibule or narthex , but it is not appropriate to speak in loud or boisterous tones in the body of the church that is, the nave because of the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.

Also, the Church requires everyone to fast before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ as a sign of reverence and recollection unless illness prevents one from doing so. In the Latin Church, one must generally fast for at least one hour; members of Eastern Catholic Churches must follow the practice established by their own Church.

If "to receive" means "to consume," the answer is yes, for what the person consumes is the Body and Blood of Christ. If "to receive" means "to accept the Body and Blood of Christ knowingly and willingly as what they are, so as to obtain the spiritual benefit," then the answer is no. A lack of faith on the part of the person eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ cannot change what these are, but it does prevent the person from obtaining the spiritual benefit, which is communion with Christ.

Such reception of Christ's Body and Blood would be in vain and, if done knowingly, would be sacrilegious 1 Cor Reception of the Blessed Sacrament is not an automatic remedy. If we do not desire communion with Christ, God does not force this upon us. Rather, we must by faith accept God's offer of communion in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, and cooperate with God's grace in order to have our hearts and minds transformed and our faith and love of God increased.

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The attitude or disposition of the recipient cannot change what the consecrated bread and wine are. The question here is thus not primarily about the nature of the Real Presence, but about how sin affects the relationship between an individual and the Lord.

Before one steps forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, one needs to be in a right relationship with the Lord and his Mystical Body, the Church - that is, in a state of grace, free of all mortal sin. While sin damages, and can even destroy, that relationship, the sacrament of Penance can restore it.

Paul tells us that "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup" 1 Cor Anyone who is conscious of having committed a mortal sin should be reconciled through the sacrament of Penance before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, unless a grave reason exists for doing so and there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, that is, an act of sorrow for sins that "arises from a love by which God is loved above all else" Catechism , no.

"The Eucharist: Bodies, Bread and Resurrection" by Andrea Bieler & Luise Schottroff

The act of perfect contrition must be accompanied by the firm intention of making a sacramental confession as soon as possible. Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is wholly present under the appearance either of bread or of wine in the Eucharist. Furthermore, Christ is wholly present in any fragment of the consecrated Host or in any drop of the Precious Blood. Nevertheless, it is especially fitting to receive Christ in both forms during the celebration of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist: Bodies, Bread, & Resurrection

This allows the Eucharist to appear more perfectly as a banquet, a banquet that is a foretaste of the banquet that will be celebrated with Christ at the end of time when the Kingdom of God is established in its fullness cf. Eucharisticum Mysterium , no. Christ is present during the Eucharist in various ways. He is present in the person of the priest who offers the sacrifice of the Mass.

According to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, Christ is present in his Word "since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. Furthermore, he is likewise present in other sacraments; for example, "when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes" ibid. We speak of the presence of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine as "real" in order to emphasize the special nature of that presence.

What appears to be bread and wine is in its very substance the Body and Blood of Christ. The entire Christ is present, God and man, body and blood, soul and divinity. While the other ways in which Christ is present in the celebration of the Eucharist are certainly not unreal, this way surpasses the others. First, the Body of Christ refers to the human body of Jesus Christ, who is the divine Word become man.

During the Eucharist, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. As human, Jesus Christ has a human body, a resurrected and glorified body that in the Eucharist is offered to us in the form of bread and wine. Paul taught us in his letters, using the analogy of the human body, the Church is the Body of Christ, in which many members are united with Christ their head 1 Cor This reality is frequently referred to as the Mystical Body of Christ.

All those united to Christ, the living and the dead, are joined together as one Body in Christ. This union is not one that can be seen by human eyes, for it is a mystical union brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The central act of the Church is the celebration of the Eucharist; the individual believers are sustained as members of the Church, members of the Mystical Body of Christ, through their reception of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Playing on the two meanings of "Body of Christ," St. Augustine tells those who are to receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist: In another sermon he says, "If you receive worthily, you are what you have received" Sermon The work of the Holy Spirit in the celebration of the Eucharist is twofold in a way that corresponds to the twofold meaning of "Body of Christ.

In the eucharistic prayer, the priest asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit down upon the gifts of bread and wine to transform them into the Body and Blood of Christ a prayer known as the epiclesis or "invocation upon". On the other hand, at the same time the priest also asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit down upon the whole assembly so that "those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit" Catechism , no.

It is through the Holy Spirit that the gift of the eucharistic Body of Christ comes to us and through the Holy Spirit that we are joined to Christ and each other as the Mystical Body of Christ.