Eucharistic Appetizer: Revelations & The Mass

Eucharistic Appetizer  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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6th in a 7-part series on "The Eucharist" in short form (5-15 minutes) as a precursor to an evening of reflection on Prayer & Presence (Sacred Story/Examen). Chosen to compliment the 3-year USCCB Eucharistic Revival


Where we started...

If you recall, we began these so-called Appetizer Formation Talks to recenter our hearts and minds on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to honor the Eucharistic Revival called for by the United States’ Bishops. This Revival is, in part, a response to the famous 2019 Pew Research Survey which found that, of the people polled who identified as being Catholic, only 30 percent believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It’s a staggering statistic, and we could see the ripple-effects over the next couple of years as our Church navigated the pandemic. So, the truth of the Eucharist is an important concept to get right.
In our time together over the past few months, hopefully, you’ve become more intimate with God’s gradual revelations to us about the importance of the Eucharistic bread and wine in covenantal history, namely through sacrifice and worship.
We’ve also discussed how Jesus laid a foundation throughout his ministry that was fulfilled from the Last Supper through the Crucifixion, equating the Eucharistic bread and wine with his own sacrifice of body and blood and telling his disciples to take and eat his flesh and drink his blood in a perpetual memorial.
And, last month, we looked at the risen Jesus’ first encounter with his disciples, and how the disciples finally knew Jesus through the breaking of the bread as the first post-Resurrection Mass was celebrated, complete with the Liturgy of the Word on the Road to Emmaus and the Liturgy of the Eucharist as they were gathered around the table.
We also discussed Jesus’ promise to his disciples to remain with them until the end of the age and how that promise points to the Mass. This evening, let’s pick-up there and start by discussing what the Mass is.
Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who is leading the Eucharistic Revival in the American Church said that the “Mass is first and foremost, an act of worship; not the worship of the priest or the congregant, or even the Church, but the worship of Jesus. The Mass makes present the one true act of worship that ever happened in the history of the world: the worship of Jesus Christ to the eternal Father” through his sacrifice on the Cross.
What happens at Mass is that we’re able to unite my poor, weak, and imperfect worship with the one true, perfect worship of Christ, and Jesus takes our meager offerings and offers them to the Father on our behalf.”
This is why the Church understands that the priest at the altar, during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, acts in persona Christi, literally in the person of Christ as Jesus bridges the gap between our mere creatureliness and God’s divinity, uniting our worship to his own through the hands of the priest. This is why we see the priest bend over the offering of bread and wine as he repeats Jesus’ own words of consecration from the Last Supper and the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus Christ through, what the Church calls, transubstantiation, literally the thing changes substance.
According to St. Aquinas, everything that exists is actually made up of 2 elements: it’s substance (essence) and its properties (attributes we can ascertain through our 5 senses). A thing’s properties are subjective because our senses can be deceived while a thing’s substance is objective; it’s true. When the priest says the words of the Last Super, the properties of the Eucharist don’t change. They still look, taste, feel, smell like bread and wine. But, their substance does change. This reality is much like the incarnate Jesus himself: to all appearances, human but in all reality, human and divine.
When we consume the Eucharist, we are literally bringing God within our bodies, becoming living tabernacles. By participating in the Eucharist, we are entering the covenant and of the New Testament, declaring “I am one with the Church; I am one with Christ’s Body (literally, assuming him into my being); I am in communion with what is here.” When we say “Amen” throughout Mass and, most importantly, after receiving communion, we are stating “yes, I believe” or, more literally from the Hebrew, “I declare and affirm the covenant.”
This is one of the biggest reasons why we request that non-Catholics not consume the Eucharist: it would be inviting them to swear a false oath before God. It would be professing a belief they don’t have.
Incidentally, this is also why faithful Catholics shouldn’t receive Communion in a state of mortal sin or without observing the 1 hour fast or any other principles set forth by the Church as a way to prepare our body, soul, and mind for the Mass. We must be in communion with the Church, otherwise, we are telling a lie with our bodies before God. (1 Cor 11:27-29). So often, we think of these rules as judgmental when they are, in fact, proclaimed out of love to avoid the ultimate judgment.
If you haven’t spent time reading the stories of the Bible and what happens to those who glibly enter the presence of God without sufficient preparation or encounter something holy without sufficient reverence, just remember what happens in Raider’s of the Lost Ark when the Old Covenant is profaned. No one is saying that your face will melt off if you participate in the Eucharist 58 minutes after eating a bagel, but it is serious stuff, and we should take it seriously.
And Mass isn’t a merely temporal thing, a thing of this world. Mass is an eternal celebration, entered into by all segments of the Church from us in the Church militant to our brothers and sisters undergoing the sanctification of Purgatory in the Church suffering, and finally with our departed brothers and sisters who join in our hymns of praise in heaven in the Church triumphant. Mass is such a cosmic event that the Church encourages us to only use natural materials in our physical churches: stone, wood, oil, beeswax candles, real flowers, glass, metals, linen etc., all of it awaits the restoration and redemption of the entire created order. In fact, this eternal, cosmic event is so universal that even the angels in heaven join in our hymns of praise in the Holy, holy, holy as was revealed to St. John in the book of Revelations. Sit and think about that for a second…at Mass, present all around us, are our ancestors, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, friends, anyone who we’ve lost in our lives. In purgatory or heaven, they are caught up with us in the Mass. Even your child, parent, friend who has fallen away from the Church, their guardian angels are present with us in the Mass and can be strengthened in their mission through the prayers of the faithful. Mass is a really big deal.
A great book to look into is Dr. Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper,” where he examines the Book of Revelations as a blueprint of the Mass from the vestments and gestures to the instruments and words. We see through the Book of Revelations that the Mass is the earthly form of a heavenly reality that we can only get a glimpse at through the veil of, what my Protestant uncle calls, “the smells, bells, and swells” of the Mass.
And with the Book of Revelations, we’ve made it to the end of the Bible, our written text of salvation history, and how the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has been foretold since the dawn of time and fulfilled in the Triduum and available to us through the Mass. That’s a lot of knowledge. And that knowledge doesn’t always translate into participate or even attention. The Mass, for sure, is not entertainment and can, sometimes, be downright boring.
The Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote a beautiful treatise on the Mass where he said that the reason we might not get anything out of the Mass is because we aren’t bringing anything to it. We must unite our sacrificial worship, meager though it may be, with the sacrificial worship of Jesus on Cavalry, and the avenue through which God has prepared for us throughout Salvation History is through the bread and the wine, now brought to fruition in the body and blood of Christ.
So, what now? Ultimately, this knowledge can only bring us so far. Any doubts we still harbor need to be overcome by faith, through the grace of God, so please take them to prayer. For me, I find children to be the best guides. What turns into skepticism as we get older is manifested in curiosity for a young child. So, get in touch with your childlike faith, and be curious about your doubts and what God is revealing to you through them.
Open your heart to what is happening beyond the veil of mortal sight and join in the eternal worship of Jesus to his heavenly Father in the celebration of the Mass. After all, the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.
Instead of a verbal prayer, I’d like to conclude our time for this segment with a brief video from 2019 that has spoken volumes for my family and our commitment to the Eucharist in the Mass:
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