Sherry Hayes-Peirce reflects on deepening our belief in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is such a beautiful gift and as we just celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ or simply Corpus Christi Sunday, I reflect on receiving Communion for the first time at Mass a week ago after nearly three months without it. Although many of the faithful are choosing to remain home to be safe and are experiencing spiritual communion virtually, I had to go to Mass when my church opened.
My parish, like the rest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, had to implement strict guidelines for keeping parishioners safe. From limiting the numbers of attendees through implementing a registration process for Mass, wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing, and offering only the Sacred Host, no Precious Blood of Christ. These limitations have also caused some to feel uncomfortable with returning.
For nearly three months there was only virtual Mass and spiritual communion. Before the coronavirus there had been a Pew Research study that reported, "Most Catholics who believe that the bread and wine are symbolic do not know that the church holds that transubstantiation occurs." Gregory Smith, associate director of research at Pew Research Center in Washington, noted, "Overall, 43% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church.”
Our Catechism clearly outlines the teaching on transubstantiation:
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 (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1376).
I believe completely that when our priest consecrates the gifts of bread and wine that they are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ -- it is so real! It is that real presence that has created such a yearning in the Body of Christ these past months. At the beginning of this pandemic when we first began to attend Mass virtually -- didn’t you feel a yearning when you saw the priest or someone else receive Communion? When you prayed the spiritual communion prayer didn’t you feel a tinge of sadness or yearning for the physical experience versus a spiritual one? Maybe the anecdotal phrase “distance make the heart grow fonder” has sparked a renewed sense of transubstatiation.
My devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus helps me always remember the solemnity of the experience of receiving the Eucharist. My dearly departed childhood priest, Msgr. Thomas Acton taught me to pray “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like your Heart” when receiving one or both species at Communion. Doing this invokes such a powerful feeling of connection with my Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me." (John 6:53-57)
If you aren’t feeling the “real presence,” pray about it. It is an extraordinary gift to feel the presence of our Lord when you receive Communion. When I finally received the Eucharist at our first public Mass the tears flowed for me. There was a clumsiness with receiving in the hand and lifting the mask to consume it, that will take time to adjust to, but the presence was there. Not having the Precious Blood was hard, but understandable in complying with current COVID-19 guidelines. Being in the physical presence of other parishioners to wave at during the sign of peace and hear their voices say the prayers was so wonderful. It was like a spiritual family reunion.
There are a number of Corpus Christi Novenas and prayers that you may find in a simple Google search that can help you focus on the real presence. As we begin to return to celebrating Mass as a real vs. virtual experience let us continue to pray for our Church to serve its people in these turbulent times.
Add this to your prayer of the faithful: “Lord, send your people peace in their hearts and to cities peace on their streets. In your name we pray.”
Peace of Christ be with you!
Copyright 2020 Sherry Hayes-Peirce
Images (top to bottom):
Josh Applegate (2019), Unsplash
Copyright 2020 Robert Visty. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
About the Author
Sherry Hayes-Peirce is a Catholic social media strategist, blogger, conference speaker, podcast guest and contributing author of the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She serves as a digital engagement manager for American Martyrs Catholic Community in Manhattan Beach, CA, and St. Monica Parish in Mercer Island, WA. Sherry has a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is grateful to be a digital disciple of Christ.