He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: First, Middle, and Last Holy Communion
Next weekend we have children making their First Holy Communion at both Sunday Masses. Before receiving Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament for the first time they have been studying and examining many of the Catholic Church teachings, especially those dealing with the sacraments of reconciliation or confession, and of the Holy Eucharist. For the most part, each of the children had already been exposed to the most important teachings simply through observation while at Mass, or by tagging along with mom and dad when they went to confession, and other such normal things Catholic families do. But even so, deeper understanding often is sought with great enthusiasm when there is an important goal in mind, and, since the goal of receiving Holy Communion is to give greater glory to God and to receive extra grace even unto Eternal Life, children preparing for this “event” go at it with great gusto. But how about the adults? After receiving Our Lord countless times over many years or decades, do they ever go back to school, so to speak, and, with the eagerness of a second grader look more closely at what they are doing? Those receiving Communion for the second, last, or in-between times should occasionally brush up on basics, too.
First off let me remind you of the very basic truth that all must know and believe. Jesus said, “Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.” Throughout the remainder of the Bread of Life Discourse in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus made it clear that the Eucharist was to be not simply a symbol of His body and blood but was to actually be Him. He is both man and God, so in the Eucharist we know that the fullness of His manhood (man is composed of body, blood, and soul) and the fullness of His Godhead (His Divinity) is to be found. The priest, consecrating wheat bread (unleavened in the Latin Church) and grape wine, procures, through the power of God, a substantial change in those simple foods, and, although the “accidents” remain, the very substance of bread and wine are changed into the very substance of Jesus; His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. He did not explain the details about how this “Transubstantiation” would happen, but He was very clear that it would happen. At the Last Supper, He was very clear who would make this happen (his apostles, the first priests and bishops of His Church, and their successors) and when they would do so (the fulfillment of the Passover Meal was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass). Jesus offered His true self (not a symbol) on the cross. Only by that offering can we be saved; can we have eternal life. The Mass brings that same sacrifice to us in an unbloody manner, and it is through full participation in this sacrifice, including consuming (in a state of grace) the true Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, Who was slain and Who rose again, that we receive eternal life.
It is also helpful, almost necessary, to know about “Concomitance.” By this term, the Church means to explain that, although the one offering the sacrifice (the priest) must consume both Species, that is, both the consecrated Bread and the consecrated Wine, in order to complete the sacrifice, the rest of the people need not receive under both Species to receive the fullness of Jesus. For one can be assured that the fullness of Jesus, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, is contained in either Species, in fact, in the smallest particle or droplet of either Species.
Before we receive Him in Holy Communion, though, we must first of all believe that He is really the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and that what He says is true. For if He is not God, or if He is a god who speaks falsehoods, it would be an abominable thing to receive communion, for it would be unholy and a sacrilege. But if He is Whom He both claimed and proved Himself to be — God — then we must approach Holy Communion in fear and trembling! We must confess our sins and allow Him to cleanse our soul before we dare to approach and consume the Sacred Host. Moreover, we must put aside our natural eyes and gaze upon the Host with eyes of Faith and say with the apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” while those without Faith will see only bread and wine even after the consecration.
Knowing that It is the Bread of Life, the True Bread from Heaven which we are to receive at Mass, we must fast from all natural food and drink (water and medicine excluded) for a minimum of one hour before receiving this supernatural food. We must never hunger for food that nourishes only our bodies in the same way as that true Food that gives us Eternal Life.
Finally, don’t forget to stay and say your prayers of thanksgiving after Mass! Rushing to receive coffee, milk, and donuts without first saying at least an “Anima Christi” would seem to make a mockery out of the fast before the Mass!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka