“This is My Body. This is My Blood”
In the account of the Eucharist given by St. Paul we find that it had already become subject to abuse:
“I praise you not… ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you…”
Thus from the very beginning down to the present time we see that strife is introduced where this true Feast of Divine Love is celebrated. At its very institution, which we observe this evening, the hand of Judas was upon the table of the Apostles when Satan entered into his heart. And just the sun was rising upon the infant Church at Corinth, the Agape, which in that day was joined to the Sacrament, became the occasion of selfishness and intemperance. St. Paul says:
“For in eating, every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken…”
We also learn from the Epistle that the right understanding of this Sacrament was so important to God that He made the institution itself the object of special and immediate revelation handed over to the Apostles who then handed it over to the Church. And this is exactly what was handed over to St. Paul by the Apostles and St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that he, in turn, handed over to them what had been handed over to him. He then takes them back to the Upper Room to find a remedy for their obvious unhappiness and disorder.
It is in the Tabernacle of God, Holy Mother Church, the Ark of Safety, that we shall find happiness, peace, and godly order. Through reverence, worship and devotion to this Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ we discover, adore, and cherish his most holy, visible, and real Presence upon the Altar. And at the Altar and flowing from the Altar we may worship and act as one self-sacrificing Body in remembrance, in gratitude, treasuring his every word, his every action, his every gift. St. Paul writes: “For I have received,” he says, “of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,” as a sacred deposit ever entrusted the Church till the day he returns for his Holy Bride. “That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed,” — that is, Jesus was now, as it were, consciously, intelligently, intentionally preparing himself to be bound to the Heavenly Altar as the Victim, the Lamb of God. In the very night which preceded that day of His death, “He took bread: and when He had given thanks,” — by a solemn act of sacerdotal benediction, as the High Priest consecrating the Sacrifice — “He brake it, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My Body, Which is broken for you’” — Words, please consider this, words indeed, that could not have been understood at the time; Words that must have confused the ever-bewildered Apostles. But also Words from God that effect what they signify. Hear that please — the Words effect what they signify when they are spoken.
His words, “This is My Body,” remain full of power at every Altar and in every Catholic Church “yesterday, today and till the end comes.” “Even,” says St. Chrysostom, “as the words, increase and multiply and replenish the earth, were once pronounced (by God himself), still at all times (they) effect the same as they did that night.”
“This do in remembrance of Me.” Like all Scriptural words, they are deep and weighty. They effect what they declare — the very participation of Christ in the Sacramental life of his Church and our very participation in his Life – “made one body with him, that he may dwell in us and we in him.” Here is realized the Father’s finality: The Creator has entered his creation as a creature so that the creature may participate in the uncreated life of the Creator. Now this is realized in the Church.
St. Paul again repeats in the delivery of the cup: “After the same manner also,” —with the like solemnity of a Divine institution — “He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My Blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.” St. Paul further and more fully sets forth this ever-continuing and perpetual memorial of Christ dying — this ever-present sacrifice. Which is not a new sacrifice, not a repetition of the sacrifice of Calvary, and certainly it is not merely a reenactment of Calvary. In the Mass we have Calvary itself, the whole self-oblation of the Son upon the Cross is made present for his Church, as a permanent reality communicated to His Bride in the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood. By communication I mean “communion” and “participation.” We participate in and partake the very Sacrifice of Calvary itself.
In the next place, the lesson for this day declares that the neglect of love and all other disorders within the Church arise from not discerning in the Mass the Lord’s Body. This was St. Paul’s complaint. Our Lord is, we believe, present in this Sacrament visibly upon the Altar – in the very elements of Bread and Wine. We know Christ to be present because of His words, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood.” Now all this is a vast mystery infinitely beyond our weak reason to understand but that is no excuse to escape into defamation of reason. Rather our reason is made exceedingly reasonable in and through the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. Human reason is elevated, eucharisized, and made truly reasonable by the Heavenly Virtues and that alone is our safeguard against the arts of Satan, tempting us to unbelief, to despair, to coldheartedness, and to division.
This evening when you come to the Altar to receive the very Life of God, the Body and Blood of Christ – I pray that you pray for the peace and unity of Holy Mother Church. I pray that you discern that this Sacrament is the Sacrifice of Calvary made visible for you upon this very Altar. And I pray that Christ will teach us to love holiness and fear nothing but sin.