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Reflections on the National Eucharistic Revival

by Catherine Vincie, RSHMCategory: Updates

priest distributing communion to woman

Throughout the dioceses of the United States, the Church has initiated a three-year Eucharistic Revival to counter what some people perceive as a lack of belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the present reality of very low participation in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist by the Catholic community, it is not surprising that there is also a lack of understanding of what the Church believes about how Christ is present under the forms of bread broken and wine poured out. What the Church has come to call “transubstantiation” as the most adequate (but not complete) way of understanding the change that takes place to the bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ is indeed a pastoral issue that needs to be addressed. My concern is that the single focus on the Real Presence and on adoration of the reserved host1 alone is not sufficient by itself to contribute to a much-needed Eucharistic Revival in the lives of the Catholic community.

Let me explain further. The history of eucharistic celebration, its structure, meaning and practice across the centuries has always involved the Church struggling with how to keep faithful to God’s covenant of love with us through the incarnation, death and resurrection of the second person of the Trinity, the divine Logos. Covenant in the Sacred Scriptures always involves the divine offer of salvation and the human response of acceptance, praise, and thanksgiving to God for this offer. This is true of the covenants in the Hebrew scriptures and true of the New Covenant made known in Jesus Christ. Through his life, death, resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand, Jesus redefined what covenant love was about. He articulated this at the Last Supper through service in the washing of the disciples’ feet in John’s Gospel and through ritual table-sharing in a Seder-like meal in other Gospel accounts.

picture - taken from back of crowded church - of all parishioners in pews

In the synoptic accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus reinterpreted the long-standing covenants of God with the Chosen People. At the Last Supper, Jesus’ actions revealed that God’s action in him went beyond all previous covenants. It was as if he were saying, “In me, and through me, God’s salvific love is definitively made known and offered. I am the new ‘turning point’ of salvation.” Additionally, Jesus provided the means of remaining present to the faith community through their memorial of him. “In light of my upcoming death and absence from you, I will be present to you when you remember me in sharing bread and cup and in service to others. Under the very visible symbols2 of bread and wine, I will be present, really present in truth, with you.” When the Church keeps memory of Jesus Christ through prayer, praise, thanksgiving and petition to the Holy Spirit, God’s covenant love is renewed, made actual and offered to the faith community. We need to be present to this offer and make our response—especially in the Sunday Eucharistic assembly.

This is what the faith community engages in when it celebrates Eucharist. Through sharing the Scriptures, praying the great Eucharistic (memorial) Prayer and sharing the Body and Blood of Christ in eucharistic symbols of bread and wine, it engages the living God through Christ and the Spirit in a renewal of Covenant commitment. When we remember, as Jesus asked us to do, then there is a promise of real presence.

priest holding Eucharist up over chalice as part of consecration

It is this whole mystery of Eucharist that needs revival in the Catholic community. We need to revitalize our commitment to gather in the Sunday assembly as God has summoned us to do, to share the Word, to engage in heartfelt praise and thanksgiving for this offer of covenant love, to eat and drink the Eucharistic elements—the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ— and to serve one another in all aspects of life. Yes, the presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine is real, is true and is substantial. However, this doctrine of Catholic faith needs to find its proper context in the actual gathering of the community to receive the gift of God’s love and to respond in praise, thanksgiving, offering and service.

  1. The reserved Eucharistic host is secondary to and derived from the primary celebration of Eucharist.
  2. A “real symbol” in theological terms truly participates in the reality itsacramental presence.” The sacramental read and wine are filled with the real presence of Christ.

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