Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this great solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Church celebrates Christ’s gift of Himself in the Eucharist. At the Last Supper, Jesus gives the Apostles, and by extension the Church, the gift of His Body and Blood, the new and eternal sacrifice. He gives them the power and authority to speak His words: “This is my body, this is my blood.” When we receive Holy Communion, we are truly receiving the new Passover lamb, the one who gave His life on the Cross for our salvation. The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in the form of bread and wine. St. Thomas Aquinas beautifully explained this truth with the word “transubstantiation.” By this miracle, the substance of bread and wine changes, though the accidents remain. In this case, the word “accidents” refers to the characteristics – the taste, appearance, texture, smell, etc. of bread and wine. So in the Eucharist, though the taste, appearance, texture, and smell of bread and wine remains the same, the actual substance – what it is – has changed. Thus, the bread and wine consecrated at the altar is no longer mere bread and wine, but truly the Body and Blood of our Savior.
The truth of the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist should be a cause of great rejoicing for us. Our patron, Pope St. Pius X, said “If the angels could envy, they would envy us for Holy Communion.” We are so privileged to be able to receive the Lord, to be invited to approach the Holy One! With the rejoicing we have in our hearts, we must also cultivate reverence. This reverence begins in the interior of our own heart. The Church has always taught that we ought to approach Holy Communion with a proper spiritual disposition. This means that we should be in a state of grace, free of grave, mortal sin. The practice of going to confession prior to receiving Holy Communion is very helpful in this regard! By confessing our sins, we not only ask for God’s forgiveness and experience His healing mercy, we also prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus, the one who frees us from sin and invites us into a relationship with the Father! If it has been a while since your last confession, I encourage you to go soon! The reverence required of us in receiving Holy Communion then extends to our outward disposition. Upon entering the Church, we recognize the presence of the Eucharistic Lord in the Tabernacle and genuflect, that is, we bend our right knee to the ground in a sign of adoration, love, respect, and greeting. Anytime we pass before the Tabernacle, we ought to genuflect if we are physically able. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive with utmost reverence.
Bishop Caggiano has asked all parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport to include an insert in our bulletins this weekend describing the proper reverence we are to show when receiving Holy Communion. I would like to call attention once again to an important directive included therein. If you receive in the hand, it is absolutely necessary to receive with two hands. It is never acceptable or appropriate to receive with one hand. The Eucharist is too precious a gift to handle casually with one hand. Two hands, always, please. One hand should be extended flat, with the other (dominant) hand directly underneath. The host should be consumed immediately. Please do not present two hands side-by-side, please to do not present hands slanted, as the host can easily be dropped or slip off the hand. Please do not grab at the host, or move fingers so as to intercept the host. If your hands are encumbered by some object (purse, cane, keys, etc.) or person (young child), please receive on the tongue. The act of receiving Holy Communion reminds us that our hearts are to be receptive to the graces of the Lord, that we are God’s beloved children and are being given a beautiful gift that deserves our care and love. Receiving Holy Communion helps us to be humble, and with the grace that Jesus gives us, we are truly sanctified and strengthened for the important work of bringing the Gospel to the whole world. Pope St. Pius X tells us that “Holy Communion is the shortest way to heaven.” May the Eucharist we celebrated, not only today on Corpus Christi, but every day, be for us a call to greater reverence, holiness, and apostolic zeal and service in the world!
Next week, I will be with our teenagers on their annual mission trip with Catholic Heart Workcamp. Our teens always do an amazing job carrying the love of God to those they serve. Please pray for them as they give of themselves in service. Fr. Tim will fill in for me next week, so keep an eye out for his bulletin column!