OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

The Body and Blood of Christ (Year A)

The Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ – is a mystery with so many layers and a depth that takes more than a lifetime to penetrate. It is not just a “thing” that we receive – however reverently – it is a person, a relationship, a belonging and a transformation that we consume, that becomes part of us: “Receive what you are – the Body of Christ”. The readings invite us to reflect on how our celebration of the Eucharist brings Christ’s words to our reality: “…who eats my flesh and drink my blood lives in me and I live in him.” The people of the Old Testament had God living in their midst, walking with them on their journey, feeding and nourishing them with the gift of manna from heaven. Jesus walks with us, not looking on from afar, journeying “in communion” with us – living within us, as we eat and drink the gifts he extends from the Last Supper. And as Saint Paul reminds us, our communion with the One Christ is also a communion with each other – God lives in us as the Church, as we become His Body.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Deuteronomy 8:2-3.14-16
 
We believe that the eucharist is all about our relationship with God – Jesus gives himself to us to eat and drink. This was also represented in the Old Testament, where the people professed faith in a God who had fed them on their journey. These words are a proclamation to the people: Moses is reminding them of the gift of God. Ensure that you emphasise the references to “manna” and “hunger”, since that is the reason for this reading today. Moses uses some dramatic imagery to describe the journey through the wilderness – take the second paragraph slowly, so that people can catch the somewhat unusual images.
 
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
 
Such an abrupt selection! And yet how full of meaning! Be very, very careful that this reading does not just disappear in a breath! It would be easy for the congregation to miss these few words. By reflecting on their meaning and importance, the reader should be able to deliver them in a way that grabs the attention of the congregation. First, read slowly, pausing frequently to make sure a concept has been delivered. The first sentence has an almost poetic balance – split it into four parts. The second sentence is not just from the past – it also refers to the gathering around the altar today: if you can look at the congregation when reading “though there are many of us”, it will help the effectiveness of the Word of God proclaimed in your parish this day.

From the Catechism

The Holy Eucharist
CCC 790, 1003, 1322-1419

The Eucharist and the communion of believers
CCC 805, 950, 2181-2182, 2637, 2845

The Eucharist as spiritual food
CCC 1212, 1275, 1436, 2837

CCC 1373 - 1377
"Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name," in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species."

The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:
It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered. And St. Ambrose says about this conversion: "Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature."

The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."

The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.

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