“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” John 6:40.
Jesus said these words to his disciples just before the more famous passages of the bread of life discourse. To whom was He speaking? Was He speaking only to his disciples gathered before Him at that moment? If so, are they the only ones to be raised on that last day? If not, and these words are meant for us as well, when could we possible “see” Him?
The answer to that is obviously when the priest elevates Him at Mass or when we adore Him in the monstrance. Here again, as at the Last Supper, Jesus speaks of the Eucharist and His Real Presence in it.
Jim Anderson grew up with a Methodist background, became a Lutheran when he was 19 and was still trying to determine, in his early adult life, which Christian denomination professed the truth. As many Protestants believe that the Catholic Church had strayed from its proper course over time, he turned to the writings of early Christians and came upon a letter by St. Ignatius, written in 107 A.D. to the Church in Smyrna. St. Ignatius had been ordained by St. Peter and was a student of St. John. In his letter, Ignatius proclaimed clearly that the Eucharist is the body of Christ, the same body which was sacrificed for our sins and was raised up by the Father. Anderson also considered passages in the Bible in which Jesus had promised to send the Holy Spirit and to protect His Church. If Ignatius was wrong, then Jesus had to be wrong as well. The Holy Spirit could not have been sent and Jesus could not, within a single generation of His death, have been protecting His Church. If Ignatius was right, then the Catholic Church, which teaches the same thing today about the Holy Eucharist, also had to be right.
When Anderson was 23, he would write in his personal journal:
“In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist Christ, true God and true man, is present wholly and entirely, in His Body and Blood, under the signs of bread and wine. The presence of Christ does not come about through the faith of the believers, nor through human power, but the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word. … The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. In it, the Church makes its sacrifice of praise to the Father. At the Eucharist, Christ is re-presented to His Church and the act of the Cross is brought to the present.”*
Six months later, he happened to be in Rome and knelt down in the Blessed Sacrament chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica. He later described the feeling he had as one of being at home. Having previously attended a Protestant seminary, Jim Anderson nonetheless entered the Catholic Faith at the age of 26.
He had found Christ alive and still living among His people. He found a need for the Mass, to be present when the sacrifice on the Cross was remembered and thanksgiving was offered in memory of Christ, as He had wanted it to be. He found his home.
*Grodi, Marcus, editor, Journeys Home (Zanesville, Ohio, CHResources, 2005), p. 67.
One day, someone asked St. Francis of Assisi, “Father, what do you do during those long hours before the Blessed Sacrament?” He replied: “My son, in return I ask you what does the poor man do at the rich man’s door, the sick man in presence of his physician, the thirsty man at the limpid stream? What they do, I do before the Eucharistic God. I pray, I adore , I love.”
(Taken from My Daily Eucharist by Joan Carter McHugh, and an excerpt contained there from The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by Nesta de Robeck)
Kitty Cleveland was struggling. She had given up a career as a lawyer, was beginning a transition into a career as a teacher and was wondering whether she should, instead of either, pursue a career as a singer. Her father, a lawyer and a Catholic deacon, had just been wrongly convicted on charges of tax fraud and political corruption, charges that were later to be thrown out by U.S. Supreme Court. Her life was in turmoil.
In advance of a retreat being hosted by Sister Briege McKenna (who has been the source for several stories reported earlier on this site), Ms. Cleveland went to a local Eucharistic Adoration chapel. While in the midst of her prayers, she was “interrupted” by a vision. She was sitting on a hill of green grass, under a live oak. Christ was there beside her. He was carving his initials and hers, “JC + KC,” on the tree. He said that he had always loved her, that he had called her personally by name, that she had given part of her life to Him, that He wanted her to give Him all of it, so He could live more fully in Him and He in her.
A few nights later, at the retreat, she found herself saying “ave nomine cantora,” which means “you name me a singer.” One of her other gifts, that manifested itself as early as high school, was an ability at times to speak in tongues. At a retreat in high school, she similarly found herself saying “Christe aria,” which although she did not know if then, means “song of Christ.”
Ms. Cleveland did become a “music missionary” as she calls it. She goes to Eucharistic Adoration to write songs. Two of her greatest songs, “Surrender” and “Now You Come to Me” were written before the Real Presence.
The following was submitted by someone as a:n understanding gained at Mass, after the consecration:
The gap between God and man was not settled by the Incarnation. Once divinity and humanity were combined at the Incarnation, when His human body was given up, it was given up with His divinity combined with it, so there had to be another body connected with His divinity that followed. That is the Eucharist. That is why the Last Supper was so necessary. That is why I have been feeling for months there is a connection between the Last Supper and the Cross that I was not grasping.
The Incarnation was the start. The Last Supper and the Cross were the culmination. He combined divinity with humanity at the Incarnation. He combined it at the Last Supper and the Cross. When He came into the world to be one with us, He did not intend that to stop. That is why Christmas is so special.
The Jewish people believed that God dwelt among them in the Ark of the Covenant, first in the tent that housed it and then in the Temple. With Christ, that changed. He was the New Covenant. He dwelt among us, in us. With the Incarnation, a dramatic change took place. He came into this world to replace the Old Covenant, to replace how He dwells among us. He came in knowing the Cross would be the end. He came in knowing the Last Supper would precede it. With His death on the Cross, He could not dwell among us in the body His disciples called Jesus. He would, once the change was made from Old to New at His birth, continue the change through the Last Supper.
The Eucharist is not optional. If we choose not to believe in it, it is still real. It is the culmination of His decision to enter this world and change how He dwells among us.
Imelda Lambertini was born in Bologna, Italy. At the age of 5, she asked to make her First Communion and receive the Blessed Eucharist. At that time, a child was normally not able to do this until he or she was 12 years old. Imelda’s request was declined. Sometime afterwards, she began asking her parents to join a convent. Again, she was extremely young, but her parents relented. At the age of 9, she entered a Dominican convent at Val di Pietra, near her home.
In the convent, she asked to receive her First Communion a number of times. Each time, she was reminded that she was too young. One morning, when she was 11, she went to Mass. She watched all the sisters go up and receive the Eucharist but had to remain in her place, as she had so often done before. The Mass ended and all the sisters left, but Imelda stayed behind to pray. She was alone in the church, except for the Sacristan, who was cleaning the altar. As she did, she happened to look at Imelda. She saw a light above her head and a Sacred Host suspended in the light. She immediately summoned the chaplain. He came and saw the same unusual occurrence. He understood its meaning. Imelda was then given her First Communion.
Afterwards, the prioress allowed Imelda to remain still longer, so she could offer prayers of thanksgiving as she wanted. The time for breakfast arrived and word was sent for Imelda to come. She was found still kneeling, with a smile on her face. When the message about the meal was given, she remained motionless. She did not respond at all. She had, in fact, left this earthly life.
The date this occurred was May 12, 1333. The body of St. Imelda lies today in the Church of San Sigismondo, in Bologna. It is incorrupt.
Alphonsus Liguori heard the story from a priest who was an eyewitness. On January 28, 1772, in the local parish church of a place called St. Pietro-a-Paterno, a grim and sorrowful discovery was made. The tabernacle was open and two ciboriums, containing many consecrated Hosts, were missing. An extensive search revealed nothing.
On February 18th, a youth named Giuseppe Crefici saw something strange. As he passed by property belonging to the Duke of Grotelle, he noticed a number of bright lights that seemed to resemble stars. Soon the neighbors began to notice these lights as well. Night after night they appeared. On February 23rd, a large flame was observed around a pile of straw. Giuseppe was there with his brother, Giovanni and two friends, Carlo Marrota and another boy named Piccino. As the approached the phenomenon, Piccino suddenly fell upon his face. Giuseppe then felt himself pushed on the shoulders and he also fell. The other two similarly went to the ground. All four got to their feet. As they did so, they saw a brilliant light coming from beneath a poplar tree. Out of this light a dove appeared and fluttered in the air, at a height of about five feet. The dove descended to the base of the tree and then vanished, as did the light.
Intrigued by this, several persons began digging at the base of the poplar tree. They found the Sacred Hosts buried in the ground there. There were fifty of them. They had lost none of their whiteness, although they had been buried for most of a month. The Hosts were carried back to church and returned to the tabernacle.
The next night, lights again appeared in the same field. A search was made for more Hosts, but without success. On the following evening, a number of tiny flames appeared around the pile of straw. Another search was made. This time, more of the Blessed Sacrament was unearthed.
Many people were witnesses to these events. They occurred not just on one night, but two. Lights that had not been observed before, were suddenly seen, and were seen in precisely the area where the Sacred Hosts were buried. Would this have occurred if mere bread had been left in a field?
(Adapted from an account in Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament by Rev. Frederick A. Reuter, K.C.B.S.)
About 140 A.D., Justin of Neapolis moved from Ephesus to Rome. A Greek philosopher, he was not a Catholic until his conversion about 10 years earlier. Between 153 and 155 A.D., he wrote his First Apology, a defense of Christian belief against all the accusations then prevalent in Rome. It was addressed to the Emperor, Antoninus Pius, his son and the future Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, the Senate and the Roman people in general.
On the subject of His Body and Blood, Justin wrote: “For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior having been incarnate by God’s logos took both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food eucharistized through the word of prayer that is from Him, from which our blood and flesh are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who became incarnate. For the Apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, thus handed down what was commanded them: that Jesus took bread and having given thanks said: ‘Do this for my memorial, this is my body” (1 Cor. 11:24); and likewise He took the chalice and having given thanks said: ‘This is my blood’ (cf 1 Cor. 11:25); and gave it to them alone.”*
Here we have a glimpse into the early Church. What had been handed down by Christ to the Apostles and then by the Apostles to others alive in Justin’s day is recounted and explained in this work of his.
He demonstrates there is no confusion in the early Church about the Real Presence. They understood that they received His Body in the Eucharist, the same Body that was sacrificed on the Cross. The Mass they celebrated was not just a memorial, but a continuation of that sacrifice by Christ. As with the Passover feast practiced and revered by the Jews, it was a timeless event that joined those celebrating it with those that had been witness to the original event.
For this, they would forfeit their earthly lives rather than renounce it. And so was the fate of Justin as well. Around the year 165, Justin was brought before the Roman prefect Rusticus. After refusing to declare his allegiance to Roman gods, he was sentenced to death and beheaded. He is known today as St. Justin Martyr.
*Martyr, Justin and Barnard, Leslie William, Ancient Christian Writers, The First and Second Apologies (Mahwah, N.J., Paulist Press), vol. 56, chap. 65, p. 70-71).