Bishop Samonas was in Jerusalem one day when some of the Mohammedans decided to make a fool of him publicly by asking questions about the Holy Eucharist which they thought could not be answered.
“How is it possible for bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ’s?” One of them asked.
The bishop answered, “You have grown since you were a child and have more flesh and blood than you had then. If your body can change food and drink into flesh and blood, then surely God can do it also.”
“But how is it possible for Christ to be present entirely in a small host?” asked another.
The bishop glanced at the sky and then at the great city of Jerusalem before him, and then replied: “The landscape with the heavens above it is something very large, while your eye is very small. Yet your tiny eye contains in itself the whole big picture. Why should it be impossible for Christ to be present entirely in a little piece of bread?”
Once more the first Mohammedean spoke up. “How, then, is it possible for the same body of Christ to be present in all your churches at the same time?”
The bishop answered: “In a large mirror your image is reflected but once. When you break the mirror into a hundred pieces, you see the same image of yourself in each of the hundred fragments, don’t you? Then why should it be impossible for the body of Christ to be present in many places at once? To God nothing is impossible!” (Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik. Catechism in Stories, 206).
It is the faith of the Church that Christ is mysteriously present in the Eucharist. This faith is based on Jesus’ words. Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist on the night before his death, when he gathered the Apostles around him in the Upper Room in Jerusalem at the Last Supper. St. Paul reaffirmed, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1Cor 11:23-27).
This is the oldest account on the Eucharist that St. Paul, who was not part of the original group of the 12 Apostles, and not an eyewitness, wrote down what was being preserved as a holy mystery of faith celebrated by the young Christian community. The Lord Jesus is the One who calls us to worship God and is mysteriously present in the Eucharistic celebration. Every celebration of the Eucharist today is still the one supper that Christ celebrated with his disciples and, at the same time, the anticipation of the banquet that the Lord will celebrate with the redeemed at the end of time.” (Youth Catechism for the Catholic Church (Youcat # 212).
Following this apostolic tradition, the Church has been faithfully following the command of our Lord, and continuing to celebrate the Eucharist throughout the world. The Church believes that Christ is actually present at every Mass. The priest only stands at the altar in persona Christi capitis, which means in the person of Christ, the Head. Christ is the One who acts, through the priest, in every celebration of the Eucharist. At the celebration of the Eucharist, Christ is there with us and for us. The sacrifice of Christ for our redemption is made present at every Mass. We are actually in his presence. By making the bread into his body and the wine into his blood, Christ anticipates his death, and accepts it in his heart. The Eucharist celebration, therefore, makes Christ’s sacrifice available to us personally. At every Mass, Christ is there giving us his Body and Blood. This is the action of love.
Pope Benedict XVI says, “What on the outside is simply brutal violence -- the crucifixion -- from within becomes an act of total self-giving love. Christ is giving us his life, his body and blood out of love. He also wants us to give ourselves to him in love and be united with him. It is important that we are aware of this. The whole purpose of Jesus’ incarnation and sacrifice for our redemption is for us to be united with him in his Father’s house. He invites us to remain in his love. He reminds us that He is the vine and we are the branches. We need to remain united with him. He prays that where he is we will be also. This is clearly what he desires. He wants to be with us, and he wants us to be with him. The Second Vatican Council teaches that the celebration of “the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.” It is the source and summit of the Christian life because there is nothing greater that we could attain in this world.
When we are attending the Mass, we are in Jesus’ presence. When we receive his Body and Blood, we are united with him in a unique way. By “eating” the Body and “drinking” the blood of Christ, we are united in one Church; this one Church becomes the Body of Christ in the world. “The Church is what happens daily in a mysterious way at the altar. God gives himself to each one of us individually, and he wants to transform us through Communion with him. Once we are transformed, we are supposed to transform the world. Everything else that the Church is besides that is secondary” (Youcat, #217). Jesus Christ continues to be present in the world through His Body, the Church, of which we are members. Thus, the Eucharist is the heart of Christian communion. We are Church, not because we get along well or because we happen to be in the same neighborhood, live in the same subdivision and join in the same parish community. We are Church because we receive and being nourished by the Body of Christ and being transformed into Christ. When we celebrate the Eucharist and receive Holy Communion with faith filled hearts, and unite our works, our sufferings, our joys with Christ’s sacrifice, we are increasingly being transformed into the Body of Christ. Transformed into the Body of Christ, we make God’s presence more visible to the world.
St. Augustine explains at the time of his conversion, “it was as though I heard a voice from on high: I am the food of the strong; eat then of me and grow. But you will not transform me into yourself like food for the body, but rather you will be transformed into me.” In the Holy Eucharist, we become what we consume. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Material food first of all turns itself into the person who eats it, and as a consequence, restores his losses and increases his vital energies. Spiritual food, on the other hand, turns the person who eats it into Itself, and thus the proper effect of this sacrament is the conversion of man into Christ, so that he may no longer live for himself, but that Christ may live in Him. And as a consequence it has the double effect of restoring the spiritual losses caused by sins and defects and of increasing the power of the virtues”.
Blessed Theresa of Calcutta says, “Your life must be woven around the Eucharist. Direct your eyes to Him, who is the Light; bring your hearts very close to His Divine Heart; ask Him for the grace to know Him, for the charity to love Him, for the courage to serve Him. Seek Him longingly.”
Like Mary, the Mother of the Lord, we give our own “Fiat”, our “Yes”, to God and allow His Life to be formed within us. We now understand how beautiful and important the Mass is, we can decide to take times to prepare ourselves before we come to mass. We also decide to come to Mass on time and to stay at Mass till the end in Communion with the Lord and with one another. When we leave the church and go into the world, we are the presence of Christ to the world.