Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ and this Feast probably means more to us this year than anytime in the past. This is a year when we were not permitted to receive Holy Communion because of the restrictions necessary to avoid the spread of the Coronavirus. As the old saying goes: “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and the absence of being able to receive Communion is one that leaves an emptiness in our lives and in many ways, next to martyrdom, is probably the ultimate sacrifice that we can make. One consolation for many is the rediscovery of the beauty of making a “Spiritual Communion” When I was young the practice of receiving daily Communion was not common, and even though at the Catholic Elementary School I attended we began each day by attending Mass, daily Communion was discouraged. We were instructed to receive once or twice a week, usually all of us received on Friday. On the other days only those students who had seriously reflected and prayed about what day to receive would go up for Communion. Sister taught those of us who did not receive to make a Spiritual Communion by uniting our souls to the presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. After Mass when we went to our classroom sister would lead the class in a prayer for spiritual communion. Our present experience of people expressing disappointment and, in some cases, anger over not being able to receive Communion brought back this childhood memory. This is an opportunity for us to take make the most out of not being able to receive Communion in two ways; The first is the rediscovery of making a Spiritual Communion, and the second is a renewed appreciation in the importance of the Eucharist.
On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we celebrate the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. The bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. How can this be? It is by transubstantiation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1376) tells us, “Transubstantiation: The scholastic term used to designate the unique change of the Eucharistic bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. ‘Transubstantiation” indicates that through the consecration of the bread and the wine there occurs the change of the entire substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ, and of the entire substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ – even though the appearances or ‘species’ of bread and wine remain.” Yes, his flesh is real food and his blood real drink, and he gives it to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
I know that I told the following once before, but it is worth telling again. A friend of mine studied in Japan and her host asked many questions about the Catholic Faith and attended Mass with her on several occasions. He was truly amazed at the belief of the Real Presence in Holy Communion. As she was preparing to return home he told her that he still did not understand this “Real Presence.” He said that if he believed that the host and wine were God he would not be walking up the aisle, but crawling on his belly out of humility and reverence to be in God’s presence. Maybe the absence of being in Church and not being able to receive Holy Communion could lead us to be more mindful of the reality of His presence. The next time we genuflect before a tabernacle and walk up the aisle for Holy Communion we will be more mindful of who we are about to receive.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Artwork: The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci.