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Corpus Christi Sunday: A Symbolic Solemnity?

Corpus Christi Sunday:
A Symbolic Solemnity?


I wanted to share with you a conversation I found myself in a few weeks ago.* I found it relevant as these are the days we are reflecting into Corpus Christi.

Friend: “What gives you reason to believe the Eucharist is more than a symbol?”Eucharist-198x297 for post on Corpus Christi Sunday
Me: “What gives me reason to believe that it is not?”

Friend: “Because, nowhere in Sacred Scripture does Jesus Christ say that ‘I am the Eucharist.’”
Me: “Would you like to read John 6 with me?”

Friend: “No.”
Me: “Why not?”

Friend: “Because, I know Scripture, and he does not say: ‘I am the Eucharist.’”
Me: “Do you know what the word Eucharist means?”

Friend: “Does it matter?”
Me: “Only if you want your original question answered…as it relates to the Eucharist being a symbol or not.”

Friend: “Humor me.”
Me: “Thanksgiving”

Friend: “Where is that in the gospel?”
Me: “Can we read John 6 now (taking mental note at this point to be sure to go to 1 Corinthians 11 after we go through John 6)?”

Friend: “Sure.”
So it is, we carefully went through John 6, taking note of our Lord “giving thanks”, and its Greek eucharisteo (where we get the word Eucharist). As we were going through the “Bread of Life discourse” (John 6), my friend’s interest started to peak with Christ’s emphasis on the need to “eat” this bread come down from heaven. The conversation continued:

Me: “Take note of the evolution of our Lord’s language. John wants us to see something here.”
Friend: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Up to verse 54, John employed the Greek esthio, which is the more common Greek for eating. In verse 54, he uses the term trogo, which literally means “to chew, or gnaw”; Specifically, to chew or gnaw on animal stock such as mules, pigs, cattle, and so on. Recall that John has already set up his gospel to focus in on Christ as ‘the lamb of God’ (John 1:36). Strategically, John wants us to see that Christ is the new Passover lamb that we are to literally consume so as to be in covenant communion with Him.”

PassoverLamb-300x261-286x249

 

Friend: (with a growing curiosity) “Are you suggesting that Christ is establishing Himself as the one and final Passover sacrifice?”
Me: “No, Christ is!”

 

Pause, and then it happened with the simple request to read John 6:60.
Friend reading John 6:60-66:

 

“60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you that do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. 65 And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.' 66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.”

Friend (with a sigh): “I suppose I have a rhetorical question. Why would they leave if it was just a symbol?”
Me: “Exactly. Consider, these are the same men that stood by and watched his mighty works, and yet they abandon their master for the sake of something merely symbolic? By your facial expression, I am concluding that, at the very least, you see this as illogical.”

Friend: “Yes, and  if I am going to be honest, that simply does not add up.”
Me: “Can I show you something else?”

Friend: “I feel like I need to sit on this for awhile, but go ahead, fire away.”
Me: “It is the passage concerning the only time Paul directly quotes Christ.”

Friend: (with a smile) “More symbol verses reality?”
Me (laughter): “I suppose, yes. The passage is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.”

Friend: “Can I read?”
At this point, I am taking note that just five minutes ago he had no desire to read what he supposedly already knew, and now he wants to read (this is not uncommon).

Me: ‘Please!”
Friend (reading the passage):

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Me: “What do you see in this passage?”
Friend: “A command: ‘do this’, and to be honest with you, I am still taken back that these are the only words that Paul chooses to directly quote Christ. I suppose that alone should have us rethinking the importance of these words.”

Me: “Yes…Paul knows the importance of this passage, this is why he goes back to the events in the upper room, because in the words, ‘this is…the new covenant in my blood’, he is in fact saying: “my flesh, my blood: this is the New Testament! This is why I came!”
And, after reminding my good friend that it is not so much about where the New Testament is in the Mass, but in light of Christ’s words, the Mass is the New Testament, I continued:

BenedictXVIEucharistJesusChrist2“…John 6 is the backdrop to this passage (along with Mark 14: 24), because once we understand that the Eucharist is Christ’s very flesh, we are then made to ask the question: “How does this take place?’ And for the sake of time,  let’s just say (quoting my old Professor, Dr. Hahn), ‘If the Mass is just another symbolic meal, then Christ’s death was just another execution.”

Friend: “So Christ’s sacrifice is inseparable from the Eucharist?
Me: “Amen! Exactly, and when we have more time, we would be well served to take up the Letter to the Hebrews on this matter.”

Friend:  “Why are not more people aware of these passages?”
Me: “This is a question, for everyone who knows such passages, to take up personally. In other words, as I have been made aware of them, I can never share them enough. I suppose I am challenging myself to ‘go forth’, and proclaim these verses more. Pray for me.”

Friend: “In saying that, let us pray.”
Me: “Ok, before we do, can I ask you one more thing?”

Friend: “Yes, please.”
Me: “Can I leave you with a homework assignment?”

Friend (with laughter): “Once a teacher, always a teacher…yes.”
Me: “Can you reflect into why the Eucharist is not a symbol, but a living reality as it relates to our personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Friend: “Hmmm…now you are talking my language—Yes!!!”
Me: “Well…it is the first language of God: that is intimate communion.”

Friend: “Yes, I am beginning to see that.”
“Our Father…”

+

Art: First two photographs courtesy Dr. Joseph Hollcraft, used with permission. Detail from Canonization ceremony of Brazilian Friar Frei Galvão celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Campo de Marte, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Fabio Pozzebom/ABr, 11 May 2007, CCA 3.0 Brazil, Wikimedia Commons.

* This post was originally published on Dr. Hollcraft's blog and used with permission. A version of it can also be found in his book A Heart for Evangelizing, published by Emmaus Press.

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About Joseph Hollcraft

Over the past thirteen years, Dr. Joseph Hollcraft has taught at the Middle School, High School, and University level. Founder of Seeds of Truth Ministries, Joseph is an Adjunct Professor to the Avila Institute and host to the Seeds of Truth Radio program. Seeds of Truth airs daily to the north state of California and can be found as an iTunes Podcast where it reaches thousands of listeners in over 40 countries. In his first book with Emmaus Road, A Heart for Evangelizing, Dr. Hollcraft reflects into the principles of spiritual and pastoral theology, and its impact upon the new evangelization. Joseph has also been published with the likes of The Catechetical Review and the Homiletic and Pastoral Review. Joseph earned his B.A. and M.A. from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and received his Ph.D. from Graduate Theological Foundation with studies being completed at Oxford University. Most importantly, Joseph is a devoted husband and father. He lives in Chico, California with his beautiful wife Jackie, and their four children: Kolbe, Avila, Isaac, and Siena.

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  • nancyveronica

    Friend: “Why are not more people aware of these passages?”
    Me: “This is a question, for everyone who knows such passages, to take up personally. In other words, as I have been made aware of them, I can never share them enough. I suppose I am challenging myself to ‘go forth’, and proclaim these verses more. Pray for me.”

    This!
    Thank you & God bless.

    • Joseph Hollcraft

      God speed to you!

    • Valerie Saldanha

      The above lines struck me too.

  • Desert Sun Art

    So well explained. You have a gift. Thank you.

    • Joseph Hollcraft

      God bless you!

  • Jeanette

    From what I have read, only about 30% of Christians believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Let it be our prayer today on Corpus Christi Sunday that all Christians and Catholics may come to believe in our Lord Jesus’ words at the Last Supper.

    • Joseph Hollcraft

      So we pray for all Christians to come to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Hail Mary, full of grace…
      And that we increase in our devotion to the Eucharist. Hail Mary, full of grace…

  • Charles Saliba

    From what I have read, only about 30% of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

    There are for sure even priests who doesn’t believe 100%. The question which I would like to present is; If it would be the case that a priest doesn’t believe, what would happen to the Host when he administer the words, and in actual fact there is no faith in what he is performing!

    • LizEst

      Charles – Have no fear, the Eucharist is still the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ no matter how much or how little a priest may believe.

      • Joseph Hollcraft

        Yes!!

        • Charles Saliba

          But its all about faith Isn’t it?

          • LizEst

            Charles – It’s not faith that makes the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. It’s the Holy Spirit acting through the words and actions of the validly ordained priest who acts in persona Christi capitis (acting in the person of Christ the Head). When the priest pronounces the words of institution, acting in the person of Christ, he acts and speaks as Jesus to enable the transubstantiation to take place. So, whether a priest believes or not, the Eucharist does, in fact, becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ … no matter what anyone else believes.

          • Fr. JPS

            Yes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church will help clarify this more (CCC 1127-1128).

            1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power.

            1128 This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed”), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that “the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.” From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.

          • LizEst

            Thank you Fr. JPS. God love you!

          • Patricia

            it is the action of the Holy Spirit through the words of the priest that makes Christ truly present in the Eucharist as objective reality, no matter what anyone believes. It is also the action of the Holy Spirit in the soul, through the grace of supernatural virtue of Faith, that enables the soul to desire to receive Him, to perceive Him as truly present within themselves with the “eyes of the heart”, to experience Him in an intimate, personal, encounter at the time of reception, and to give Him full permission to transform their soul as He desires through our participation and cooperation with His beautiful plan of remaining and abiding in our soul.

  • Pingback: Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ A & Venerable Matt Talbot, June 18,2017 | PagadianDiocese.org()

  • Marianne

    Excellent. Thank you. Bishop Barron also explains the Real Presence beautifully in one of his episodes of ‘Catholicism’. It is so sad that so many of our Catholic sisters and brothers don’t understand, believe in, or partake in this Heavenly food. Yes, let us pray for them and ask the Holy Spirit to change their hearts.

    • Joseph Hollcraft

      Amen!

  • marybernadette

    Tragically, there is a “Crises of Faith”in our Church. Of course, it has been going on for awhile as I remember reading about Pope St. John Paul’s trouble with “dissident theologians” and Pope Emeritus Benedict’s concern about the waves inside and outside of the ” boat”
    I don’t recall the exact words but something like that. Not long ago, I went to Confession and was shocked
    when the Priest told me that Jesus was
    only present “spiritually” in the Eucharist. He said something that gave me the impression there were the “enlightened” theologians today that believed this and did not believe in
    the”miracles” of the Host showing the “Heart” of Jesus. He understood I did believe and told me I could believe it if I wanted. I admit I did not know what to do about it except pray for him and others like him. Thank you Dr. Hollcraft
    I pray for the laity and esp. the Clergy who
    have lost “Faith” in the “Real Presence”
    will return to the “Truth.”

    .

  • Fr. JPS

    Thank you for the nice reflection above that clearly explains the real presence in the Eucharist. I mentioned in my homily that if people understood the Eucharist, Catholic Churches would be packed every weekend. St. Jean Vianney said that if we truly understood the Mass, we would all die from joy. I mentioned some of the Eucharistic miracles yesterday along with explaining why the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith as all of the other sacraments flow from it. It is a foretaste of heaven that gives us joy and spiritual food for the journey.

    • Joseph Hollcraft

      Father JPS,
      Thank you for the gift of your priesthood and love of the Eucharist. In reflecting upon St. John Vianney’s words, I am reminded of Blessed Imelda Lambertini who died of such joy and ecstasy. What an extraordinary example we have in our Catholic faith!

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