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The Eucharist Is More than Words

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Book Club, Sarah Reinhard

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The Eucharist Is More than Words

The Lord (Week 17 of 23)

For almost two thousand years men have prayed and probed and fought over the meaning of these words. They have become the sign of a community that is holier, more intimate than any other, but also occasion for the profoundest schism. Hence, when we ask what they mean, let us first be clear as to how they should be taken. There is only one answer: literally. The words mean precisely what they say. Any attempt to understand them ‘spiritually' is disobedience and leads to disbelief. It is not our task to decide what they should mean in order to express ‘pure Christianity,' but to accept them reverently as they stand, and to learn from them what Christian purity is.

The Lord, Part 5: Ch. X, Paragraph 18

Through a series of two-year-olds in my life, I've come to appreciate the special talent certain adults have for being very clear.

“Bring me that glass of water.”

“Stop drawing on the wall right now.”

“Wait for me.” and then, a moment later, “Wait means STOP.”

I used to speak differently to two-year-olds, back in the days before I lived with them. I had explanations and reasons and long-winded answers. I was ready for every why.

These were young, unfettered minds, after all. They were a blank canvas and brilliant beyond my understanding. I was ready to nurture and fertilize and enjoy.

Then I became Mommy, not Auntie. And then I became Mommy to another toddler, who was veryveryvery different from my first toddler.

And then, then, God blessed us with that most vanquishing of human persons: a son.

My communications skills, though propped with a degree and vaunted by humans large and important, were somehow lacking.

My ability to interact with these small beings was…frustrating. And rewarding. In equal measure.

And yet, motherhood has opened my eyes to how I so often approach my faith life.

Maybe these words don't mean what they say, I think to myself. Maybe there's wiggle room.

“Stop right there,” God commands. “Wait means STOP.”

It's so easy to debate and discuss passages of scripture, and it's easy to forget that we're reading a translation of a translation, in many cases.

Jesus “wished to be understood, and spoke accordingly,” Guardini writes. “The disciples were no symbolists, neither were they nineteenth- or twentieth-century conceptualists, but simple fishermen much more inclined to take Jesus' words literally.”

Why do we struggle with this literal interpretation?

Because, as I've told my kids, it's GROSS.


That's not even right. It doesn't make sense. It disgusts and fascinates and horrifies me.

No WONDER people want it to be symbolic. No WONDER so many disciples left Jesus, causing him to turn to his Apostles and ask, “How about you guys?” (cf. John 6).

And yet, without that food from heaven, the Holy Eucharist, I'm less effective than my two-year-old walking across a clean floor with a gallon of red Kool-Aid.

“The institution of the Eucharist is also revelation,” Guardini reminds us. “It reveals the true relation of the believer to his God: not before him, but in him.”

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Want a piece of me?”, doesn't it?

Reading Assignment:

Part 6: Ch. III-VI

Discussion Questions:

1. How do you struggle with the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? In what ways do you grapple with the fact that the Eucharist is completely and totally the totality of Christ? Spend some time in Adoration this week, praying for the grace of deeper faith.

2. It's so easy to go to both extremes: to read too much into the words people use and to ignore deeper meanings. Pick a scripture passage referenced in this week's reading and spend some time praying and reading it deeply this week. Ask God to reveal His heart to you as you pray with it.

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

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