The Mystery of Faith: TRANSUBSTANTIATION
The words of Our Lord cannot be watered down: the bread which I
shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.
This is the mystery of Faith, we proclaim immediately after the
Consecration at Mass. It has been and is the touchstone of the Catholic
faith. By transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine are no
longer common bread and common drink, but rather the sign of
something sacred and the sign of spiritual food. But they take on a
new expressiveness and a new purpose for the very reason that they
contain a new reality: which we are right to call ‘ontological’. For
beneath these appearances there is no longer what was there before
but something quitedifferent, since on the conversion of the bread and
wine’s substance, or nature, into the Body and Blood of Christ,
nothing is left of the bread and wine but the appearances alone.
Beneath these appearances Christ is present whole and entire, bodily
present too, in his physical reality although not in the manner in
which bodies are present in a place.
We look at Jesus present in the Tabernacle, perhaps just a few yards
away, and we tell him that we know, through faith, that he is present.
In Holy Communion Christ himself, perfect God and perfect man,
gives himself to us; he is mysteriously hidden, but wishes to
communicate divine life to us. When we receive him in this sacrament,
his Divinity acts on our soul by means of his glorious Humanity, with a
far greater intensity than when he was here on earth. None of the
people who were cured – Bartimaeus or the paralyzed man of
Capharnaum or the lepers -were as close to Christ as we are every time
we go to Holy Communion.
The effects produced by that Living Bread, Jesus, in our soul
are immeasurable and of an infinite richness. The Church expresses it
clearly in the following words: All the effect which material food and
drink have with regan1 to the life of the body, sustaining, restoring and
delighting it, is carried out by this sacrament with regan1 to the
Hidden under the sacramental species, Jesus waits for us. He has
remained there so that we can receive him and be strengthened in his
love. We must examine our faith today; let us ask ourselves what our
love is like, how do we prepare ourselves for Communion, when so
many people neglect Our Lord entirely. We must say with Peter: we
have known and believed that you are the Christ. You are our
Redeemer, our raison d’etre.
The effects of Communion on the soul: it sustains, restores,
delights. Communion sustains the life of the soul in away similar to that in
which food sustains the body. The reception of the Blessed Eucharist
keeps Catholics in God’s grace, since the soul recovers its energies from
the continual wear and tear it suffers through the wounds of original
sin and of personal sins. It maintains the life of God in the soul, freeing
it from lukewarmness; and it helps us to avoid mortal sin and
struggle effectively against venial sins. The Blessed Eucharist increases
supernatural life also: it makes it grow and develop. And while it fills
the soul spiritually, it gives it an increasing desire for eternal goods.
Finally, the grace we receive in each Communion delights the person
who receives with good dispositions. Nothing can be compared to the
joy of the Holy Eucharist, to the friendship and nearness of Jesus,
present within us. Jesus Christ, during his life on earth, never passed by
anywhere without pouring out his abundant blessings, from which we
can deduce how great and precious must be the gifts which those who
have the happiness of receiving Him in Holy Communion must share;
or rather, that all the happiness we can have in this life consists in
receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.
Communion is the remedy for our daily needs, the medicine of
immortality, the antidote against death, and food by which to live
forever in Jesus Christ. It grants to the soul the peace and joy of Christ
which is truly a foretaste of eternal happiness. Among all the practices of piety there is none whose sanctifying effectiveness can be compared to the worthy reception of this sacrament. In it, not only do we receive grace, but the Source and Fountainhead from which all
All the sacraments are ordained towards the Blessed Eucharist: it is the pivotal sacrament. Hidden under the accidents of bread, Jesus wants us to come and receive him frequently. The banquet, he tells us, is ready. Many indeed are those who are absent, and Jesus waits for us to tell all those others that he is also waiting for them in the Tabernacle.
We must ask Our Lady to help us go to Communion every day with better dispositions.
The Mystery of Faith, that is, the ineffable gift of the Eucharist that the Catholic Church received from Christ, her Spouse, as a pledge of His immense love, is something that she has always devoutly guarded as her most precious treasure, and during the Second Vatican Council she professed her faith and veneration in a new and solemn declaration.
In dealing with the restoration of the sacred liturgy, the Fathers of the Council were led by their pastoral concern for the whole Church to regard it as a matter of highest importance to urge the faithful to participate actively, with undivided faith and the utmost devotion, in the celebration of this Most Holy Mystery, to offer it to God along with the priest as a sacrifice for their own salvation and that of the whole world, and to use it as spiritual nourishment.
For if the sacred liturgy holds first place in the life of the Church, then the Eucharistic Mystery stands at the heart and center of the liturgy, since it is the font of life that cleanses us and strengthens us to live not for ourselves but for God and to be united to each other by the closest ties of love.
Pope Paul VI: Encyclical Mysterium Fidei