Baltimore Catechism qq. 343-378
LESSON 26 - The Holy Eucharist
343. What is the Holy Eucharist?
The Holy Eucharist is a sacrament and a sacrifice. In the Holy Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received.
(a) The whole Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. We use the words "really, truly, and substantially" to describe Christ's presence in the Holy Eucharist in order to distinguish Our Lord's teaching from that of mere men who falsely teach that the Holy Eucharist is only a sign or figure of Christ, or that He is present only by His power.
(b) All Christians, with but few minor exceptions, held the true doctrine of the Real Presence from the time of Christ until the Protestant Revolution in the sixteenth century.
(c) The word "Eucharist" means "Thanksgiving."
344. When did Christ institute the Holy Eucharist?
Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the night before He died.
(a) About a year before the Last Supper Our Lord promised to give us the Holy Eucharist. This promise is related in the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. The fulfillment of this promise took place at the Last Supper.
1: The Promise
"'I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert, and have died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that if anyone eat of it he will not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.'
"The Jews on that account argued with one another, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'
"Jesus therefore said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me. This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever"' (John 6:48-59).
II: The Institution
"And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke. and gave it to his disciples, and said, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' And taking a cup, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, 'All of you drink of this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins"' (Matthew 26:26-28).
"And while they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessing it, he broke and gave it to them, and said, 'Take; this is my body.' And taking a cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it; and he said to them, 'This is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many"' (Mark 14:22-24).
"And having taken bread, he gave thanks and broke, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In like manner he took also the cup after the supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which shall be shed for you"' (Luke 22:19-20).
"For I myself have received from the Lord (what I also delivered to you), that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks broke, and said, 'This is my body which shall be given up for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In like manner also the cup, after he had supped, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.' Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the cup; for he who eats and drinks unworthily, without distinguishing the body, eats and drinks judgment to himself" (I Corinthians 11:23-29).
345. Who were present when Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist?
When Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist the apostles were present.
"Now when evening arrived, he reclined at table with the twelve disciples" (Matthew 26:20).
"Now when evening arrived, he came with the Twelve" (Mark 14:17).
"And when the hour had come, he reclined at table, and the twelve apostles with him" (Luke 22:14).
346. How did Christ institute the Holy Eucharist?
Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist in this way: He took bread, blessed and broke it, and giving it to His apostles, said: "Take and eat; this is My body;" then He took a cup of wine, blessed it, and giving it to them, said: "All of you drink of this; for this is My blood of the new covenant which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins;" finally, He gave His apostles the commission: "Do this in remembrance of Me."
347. What happened when Our Lord said: "This is My body . . . this is My blood"?
When Our Lord said, "This is My body," the entire substance of the bread was changed into His body; and when He said, "This is My blood," the entire substance of the wine was changed into His blood.
(a) Christ could not have used clearer, more explicit words than "This is My body." He did not say, "This is a sign of My body," or "This represents My body," but, "This is My body." Catholics take Christ at His word because He is the omnipotent God. On His word they know that the Holy Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.
See Scripture, question 344, Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20; I Corinthians 11:23-29.
348. Did anything of the bread and wine remain after their substance had been changed into Our Lord's body and blood?
After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into Our Lord's body and blood, there remained only the appearances of bread and wine.
(a) Because the appearances of bread and wine remain in the Holy Eucharist, we cannot see Christ with our bodily eyes in this sacrament. We do see Him, however, with the eyes of faith. Our bodily eyes, moreover, do not deceive us when they see the appearances of bread and wine for these appearances really remain after the Consecration of the Mass.
349. What do we mean by the appearances of bread and wine?
By the appearances of bread and wine we mean their color, taste, weight, shape, and whatever else appears to the senses.
350. What is the change of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ called?
The change of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is called Transubstantiation.
351. Is Jesus Christ whole and entire both under the appearances of bread and under the appearances of wine?
Jesus Christ is whole and entire both under the appearances of bread and under the appearances of wine.
(a) We know that Christ is whole and entire under both appearances because, "Christ having risen from the dead, dies now no more" (Romans 6:9). Because Christ cannot die, His blood must remain united always to His body, and His soul to both. The divinity of Christ, moreover, always remains united to His body and blood and soul because He is God made man.
(b) The whole Christ is present under each part of the sacred appearances and remains present as long as the sacred appearances remain.
See Scripture, question 344, Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24. Luke 22:19-20: I Corinthians 11:23-29.
352. How was Our Lord able to change bread and wine into His body and blood?
Our Lord was able to change bread and wine into His body and blood by His almighty power.
(a) God, who created all things from nothing, who fed the five thousand with five loaves, who changed water into wine instantaneously, who raised the dead to life, can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Although the Holy Eucharist is a great mystery, and consequently beyond human understanding, the principles of sound reason can show that this great gift is not impossible by the power of God.
"And looking upon them, Jesus said to them, 'With men this is impossible but with God all things are possible"' (Matthew 19:26).
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).
353. Does this change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continue to be made in the Church?
This change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continues to be made in the Church by Jesus Christ, through the ministry of His priests.
(a) Only ordained priests have the power of changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. When they consecrate, they act in the person of Christ, through the power received in the sacrament of Holy Orders.
SCRIPTURE: See Scripture, question 344, Luke 22:19-20; I Corinthians 11:23-29.
354. When did Christ give His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood?
Christ gave His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood when He made the apostles priests at the Last Supper by saying to them: "Do this in remembrance of Me."
355. How do priests exercise their power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ?
Priests exercise their power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ by repeating at the Consecration of the Mass the words of Christ: "This is My body . . . this is My blood."
356. Why does Christ give us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist?
Christ gives us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist: first, to be offered as a sacrifice commemorating and renewing for all time the sacrifice of the cross; second, to be received by the faithful in Holy Communion; third, to remain ever on our altars as the proof of His love for us, and to be worshipped by us.
IMPORTANT TRUTHS ABOUT THE HOLY EUCHARIST
When we love someone very much, we desire to be constantly in his company Our Divine Lord had an immeasurable love for every member of the human race, and gave proof of this by shedding His blood for the salvation of all mankind. However, after His task on earth was completed, He was destined to ascend into heaven to take His place at the right hand of His Father; and so it would seem that He could no longer associate intimately with men. But His love and power devised a means whereby He could still remain on earth, not merely in one place but in every church, and thus be the intimate companion of every one of His faithful followers. This means is the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, wherein Our Lord remains truly present under the appearances of bread and wine.
The Catholic doctrine of the Holy Eucharist contains many mysteries. It is beyond our comprehension how the same living Christ who is in heaven should also be on earth, in every place where the Holy Eucharist is consecrated. We cannot understand how the body of our Savior with its full stature can be present beneath the small host. We cannot attempt to explain how our Divine Redeemer can be present, whole and entire, in the smallest portions of the consecrated species of bread and wine, although we have some resemblance to this miracle in the presence of our entire soul in every portion of our body. But we have the statement of Our Lord Himself for the truth of these mysteries and hence it is our duty to believe them without hesitation. When Our Savior first announced the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist to His followers, some of them would not believe. They said: "This is a hard saying, who can listen to it ?" (John, 6, 62), and some of them even left Him forever. Today there are many persons in the world who say that the doctrine of the Real Presence is too hard to believe, and claim that the Eucharist is only bread and wine representing Christ. But Catholics accept the words of Our Lord Himself who said: "This is my body . . . this is my blood," and adore Him as truly present in the Holy Eucharist.
The Holy Eucharist is the very center of Catholic worship, the heart of Catholic life. Because the Church believes that the Son of God is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, she erects beautiful cathedrals and adorns them with exquisite sculpture and priceless paintings. The most magnificent liturgical ceremonies of the Catholic Church are directed toward honoring the King of kings, who for the love of mankind dwells beneath the appearances of bread and wine. Music and lights and incense and flowers the Church uses lavishly in her desire to show fitting honor to the Son of God, dwelling in our midst. Twice a year the Church celebrates in a special manner the great privilege of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. On Holy Thursday the Church recalls to our minds the institution of the Blessed Sacrament by Our Divine Lord on the night before His death. But since our predominant sentiment in Holy Week is sorrow, the Church has assigned another day, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, to be the Feast of Corpus Christi, when with sentiments of unrestrained joy we thank Our Savior for the wonderful gift of the Holy Eucharist. Moreover, it is customary to have annually in every parish church the Forty Hours' Devotion, when Our Lord is enthroned in the monstrance for a period of almost three days. The purpose of Eucharistic Congresses, bringing together Catholics from all parts of the earth, is to give glory and praise to Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Every loyal Catholic should be in harmony with the Church in expressing his devotion toward the Holy Eucharist in a fitting manner. The first sentiment of our hearts toward Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament should be profound adoration, for even in His human nature Jesus Christ is a divine person, worthy of the highest form of worship. Our next sentiment should be ardent love. It was out of love for us that He established this wondrous sacrament; in return He asks our love. We can testify our love for the Holy Eucharist in many ways- Mass, Holy Communion, visits to Our Lord in the tabernacle. Whenever we enter a church in which the Blessed Sacrament is kept our first thought should be: "Our loving Lord is present here just as truly as He was present in the little house of Nazareth when He dwelt on earth nineteen centuries ago."
RESOLUTION: Resolve to learn and to use some short prayers in honor of the Holy Eucharist, such as: "O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, and praise and all thanksgiving be every moment shine" and "May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world even to the end of time. Amen."
LESSON 27 - The Sacrifice of the Mass
357. What is the Mass?
The Mass is the Sacrifice of the New Law in which Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine.
(a) The name "Mass" comes from the Latin word Missa meaning dismissal. In the early days of the Church the catechumens were asked to leave after the gospel and sermon were finished. The faithful, however, remained until they were dismissed after the sacrifice was completed. Then, as now, this was done by saying or singing Ite Missa Est. In the course of time the word Missa, or dismissal, was used to designate the entire sacrifice.
"I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive a gift of your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles: and in every place there is sacrifice and there is offered to my name a clean oblation" (Malachias 1:10-11).
"Therefore, beloved, flee from the worship of idols. I am speaking as to men of sense; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not the sharing of the blood of Christ? And the bread that we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread. Behold Israel according to the flesh, are not they who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What then do I say? That what is sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No; but I say that what the Gentiles sacrifice, 'they sacrifice to devils and not to God'; and I would not have you become associates of devils. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils; you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (I Corinthians 10:14-22).
"We have an altar, from which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13:104).
See Scripture, question 344, Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; I Corinthians 11:23-29.
358. What is a sacrifice?
A sacrifice is the offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, and the destruction of it in some way to acknowledge that He is the Creator of all things.
(a) By his very nature man wants to adore and thank his Creator. Men mistaken at times about the nature of the true God have offered false worship; but they have always recognized the obligation of adoring the Supreme Being. As far back as the history of man is recorded, there is evidence that men acknowledged their dependence on the Supreme Being by offering sacrifices to Him. (b) Before the coming of Christ, sacrifices were offered to God in many different ways. The patriarchs and Jewish priests at the command of God offered fruits, wine, or animals as victims. Cain, for example, offered fruits; Abel offered some sheep of his flock; Melchisedech offered bread and wine. The destruction of these offerings removed them from man's use and thereby signified that God is the Supreme Lord and Master of the entire created universe and that man is wholly dependent upon Him for everything. Sacrifice, therefore, is the most perfect way for man to worship God.
(c) All these different sacrifices of the Old Law were only figures of the sacrifice which Christ was to make of Himself. His offering of Himself on the cross was the greatest sacrifice ever offered to God. All the sacrifices of the Old Law derived their efficacy, or value, from the sacrifice which Christ was to offer on the cross.
SCRIPTURE: See Scripture, question 357, Malachias 1:10-11.
359. Who is the principal priest in every Mass?
The principal priest in every Mass is Jesus Christ, who offers to His heavenly Father, through the ministry of His ordained priest, His body and blood which were sacrificed on the cross.
(a) The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross. It is now in the New Law, the sacrifice that is acceptable to God.
SCRIPTURE: See Scripture, question 344, Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20.
360. Why is the Mass the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross?
The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same, and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ.
(a) Christ, though invisible, is the principal minister, offering Himself in the Mass. The priest is the visible and secondary minister, offering Christ in the Mass.
(b) The most important part of the Mass is the Consecration. In the Consecration bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ who then is really present on the altar. Through the priest He offers Himself to God in commemoration of His death on the cross.
(c) The other most important parts of the Mass are the Offertory and the Communion. In the Offertory the priest offers to God the bread and wine that will be changed into the body and blood of Christ. In the Communion the priest and the people receive the body and blood of Our Lord under the appearances of bread and wine.
"And Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.' And having said this, he expired" (Luke 23:46).
See Scripture, question 344, Luke 22:19-20.
361. What are the purposes for which the Mass is offered?
The purposes for which the Mass is offered are: first, to adore God as our Creator and Lord; second, to thank God for His many favors; third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men; fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.
(a) In every Mass adoration, praise, and thanksgiving are given to God, and reparation is made to Him.
(b) Besides the purpose for which the Mass is offered and the effects that it produces, there are also special fruits of the Mass. The fruits Of the Mass are the blessings that God bestows through the Mass upon the celebrant, upon those who serve or assist at it, upon the person or persons for whom it is offered, and also upon all mankind, especially the members of the Church and the souls in purgatory.
(c) The measure of these blessings depends especially on the dispositions of those to whom they are given.
SCRIPTURE: See Scripture, question 360, Luke 23:46.
362. Is there any difference between the sacrifice of the cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass?
The manner in which the sacrifice is offered is different. On the cross Christ physically shed His blood and was physically slain, while in the Mass there is no physical shedding of blood nor physical death, because Christ can die no more; on the cross Christ gained merit and satisfied for us, while in the Mass He applies to us the merits and satisfaction of His death on the cross.
(a) On the cross Christ was offered in a bloody manner; in the Mass He is offered in an unbloody manner. On the cross Christ alone offered Himself directly; in the Mass He offers Himself through the priest, who is the secondary but true minister, dependent upon Christ.
(b) On the cross Christ suffered and died; in the Mass He can no longer suffer or die. On the cross He paid the price of our redemption; in the Mass He applies to us the merits of His Sacrifice on the cross.
(c) There are various kinds of Masses:
first, a Solemn Mass, which is celebrated by a priest who is immediately assisted by a deacon and a sub-deacon; second, a High Mass, in which the celebrating priest sings certain parts of the Mass; third, a Low Mass, in which the priest reads all the parts of the Mass: fourth, a Pontifical Mass, which is celebrated by a bishop and by certain other prelates.
Any of these kinds of Masses can be a Requiem Mass, which is one offered for the dead. In a Requiem Mass the celebrating priest wears black vestments and reads or chants special prayers for the dead.
(d) Some prayers make up the "Ordinary" of the Mass and are practically always the same; others make up the "Proper" of the Mass and differ according to the seasons and the feasts of the ecclesiastical calendar.
(e) Ordinarily Mass must be offered on an altar stone consecrated by a bishop or by his delegate.
(f) The priest wears the following vestments during Mass:
first, the amice, a white linen cloth placed over the shoulders and about the neck;
second, the alb, a long white linen garment covering the body;
third, the cincture, a cord tied about the waist;
fourth, the maniple, a short band of cloth hanging from the left arm;
fifth, the stole, a long narrow band of cloth worn over the shoulders and crossed in front of the body; and
sixth, the chasuble, an outer garment covering the greater part of the body.
These vestments have an ancient origin, and most of them resemble the garments worn by the apostles.
(g) The colors of the outer vestments worn during Mass are: white, which signifies purity of soul and holiness, red, which signifies the shedding of blood and burning love; green, which signifies hope; violet, which signifies penance; black, which signifies mourning; rose, which signifies joy in the midst of penance; and gold, which is used on solemn occasions in place of white, red, or green vestments.
White vestments are worn on feasts of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, saints who were not martyrs, and during the Easter season; red is used on the feasts of the Holy Ghost, the passion of Our Lord, and martyrs; green is used on the Sundays outside of Advent, Lent, and the Christmas and Easter season; violet is worn in Lent, Advent, and on penitential days, black is worn in Masses for the dead; rose may be used instead of violet on the third Sunday of Advent and on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
(h) Some of the important articles used during Mass are: the chalice, or gold-lined cup, in which the wine is consecrated; the paten, or gold-covered plate, on which the host is placed; the purificator, or cloth, for wiping the chalice, the pall, or linen-covered card, used to cover the chalice; the corporal, or square linen cloth, on which the host is placed; the missal, or book, from which the priest reads the prayers of the Mass; the beeswax candles; the crucifix over the altar; and the three linen cloths that cover the altar.
"For we know that Christ, having risen from the dead, dies now no more, death shall no longer have dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life that he lives, he lives unto God" (Romans 6:9-10).
"For Jesus has not entered into a Holies made by hands, a mere copy of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear now before the face of God on our behalf; nor get has he entered to offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the Holies year after Year with blood not his own; for in that case he must have suffered often since the beginning of the world" (Hebrews 9:24-26).
"Because Christ also died once for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Put to death indeed in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit" (I Peter 3:18).
363. How should we assist at Mass?
We should assist at Mass with reverence, attention, and devotion.
(a) There are different ways of assisting at Mass devoutly: using the missal to follow the priest, saying the Mass prayers as found in a prayer book, reciting the Rosary, or singing hymns.
364. What is the best method of assisting at Mass?
The best method of assisting at Mass is to unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice, and to receive Holy Communion.
(a) It is evident from the words of the priest himself that we do unite with him in offering up the Holy Sacrifice. After the Offertory he turns to the people and says: "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty." In the second commemoration of the Canon of the Mass he says: "Remember, O Lord, Thy servants . . . for whom we offer, or who offer up to Thee, this sacrifice of praise . . . "
365. Who said the first Mass?
Our divine Savior said the first Mass, at the Last Supper, the night before He died.
SCRIPTURE: See Scripture, question 344.
IMPORTANT TRUTHS ABOUT THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
Man naturally seeks some way of showing externally his adoration and gratitude toward His Creator. From the beginning of time the method by which men most clearly manifested their reverence toward God has been by the ceremony of sacrifice. By this ceremony man takes a creature-for example, an animal, or a cup of wine-and makes a gift of it to God. This is an expressive way of saying that God is the Lord of all created things. Also implied in this offering is man's acknowledgment that God gives him everything he has, and so he thanks the Almighty for His favors in the past and begs Him to continue His favors in the future. Then the offering is destroyed-for example, the animal is killed, or the wine is poured out. This too has a symbolic meaning. It signifies that man confesses that he has sinned, and deserves to be punished by God, and by this ceremony he implores pardon. Thus, the purposes of every sacrifice are four-adoration, gratitude, petition, and atonement for sin and for its punishments. Sacrifice is a public act-that is, it is offered by a group or society, through their representative, an official known as a priest.
There are many references to sacrifices in the Old Testament. Cain and Abel, the sons of our first parents offered sacrifices, the former of the fruits of the earth, the latter some of the sheep of his flock. Noe offered a sacrifice on leaving the Ark. Melchisedech offered a sacrifice of bread and wine on meeting Abraham. God Himself prescribed many forms of sacrifice for the Jewish people. However, all these sacrifices were but preparations for the great sacrifice that was to be offered on Calvary, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of which He was both priest and victim. As St. Paul says: "At the end of the ages, He has appeared for the destruction of sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebr. 9, 26)
The sacrifice of Himself which Our Lord offered was of infinite worth, because of the infinite dignity of the priest and victim, and so it gave infinite praise and adoration to God, and was capable of satisfying for the sins of all mankind.
However, Our Lord wished that the sacrifice of Calvary should not be limited to one place or one time. He willed that all men should have an opportunity of assisting at the sacrifice of His body and blood. And so, on the night before His death He established the Sacrifice of the Mass. This was to be a renewal of Calvary, in the sense that the same body and blood that were offered on the cross were to be offered again. There was to be no new death of Our Savior; but His death was to be represented vividly by the twofold consecration of the bread into His body and the wine into His blood, typifying the separation of body and blood that actually took place on Calvary. This sacrifice was to apply to the souls of men the merits and satisfaction which Our Savior earned by His death. It was this sacrifice, the Mass, which God through the prophet Malachias announced, more than four centuries before Christ: "From the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles: and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation" (Mal., 1, 11).
The Sacrifice of the Mass is therefore the greatest possible act of divine worship. It is the only form of sacrifice now acceptable to God. The power to offer Mass is the greatest power of the Catholic priest. However, the members cf. the laity should remember that they too have a share in the offering of this divine sacrifice. It is in their name that the priest officiates; they offer the body and blood of Our Savior to His eternal Father through the hands of the priest. And the more fervently they participate in the offering of the Mass, the more benefits they will receive from this precious sacrifice by which the death of our Redeemer on Calvary is daily represented and its benefits applied on thousands of altars throughout the Catholic Church.
The more actively and intimately a person participates in the offering of the Mass, the greater benefits will he derive. Thus, a boy who serves Mass or a person who sings in the choir will partake more abundantly of the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice, other things being equal, than one who merely assists as a member of the congregation.
RESOLUTION: Resolve to become familiar with the ceremonies of the Mass, the vestments, the sacred vessels, and especially the prayers of the Mass, so that you can follow intelligently the Holy Sacrifice with the Missal.
LESSON 28 - Holy Communion
366. What is Holy Communion?
Holy Communion is the receiving of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
(a) Just as it is necessary to nourish our bodies with material food, so also it is necessary to nourish our souls with spiritual food. Our Divine Savior so loved us that He gave us Himself in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; He gave us His own body and blood as food for our souls.
(b) It is not necessary that we receive Our Lord's body and blood under the appearances of both bread and wine. Christ is entirely present under the appearances of bread, and also entirely present under the appearances of wine. Therefore, we receive Him whole and entire under the appearances of bread alone or of wine alone.
(c) In some Eastern Churches the faithful receive Holy Communion under the appearances of both bread and wine. In the Western Church the faithful receive Communion only under the appearances of bread.
"Jesus therefore said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me. This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever"' (John 6:54-59).
"And they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread and in the prayers" (Acts 2:42). See Scripture, question 344, Luke 22:19-20.
367. What is necessary to receive Holy Communion worthily?
To receive Holy Communion worthily it is necessary to be free from mortal sin, to have a right intention and to obey the Church's laws on the fast required before Holy Communion out of reverence for the body and blood of Our Divine Lord. However, these are some cases in which Holy Communion may be received without fasting.
(a) Venial sin does not make us unworthy of receiving Holy Communion; but it does prevent us from receiving the more abundant graces and blessings which we would otherwise receive from Holy Communion.
"For I myself have received from the Lord (what I also delivered to you), that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks broke, and said, 'This is my body which shall be given up for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In like manner also the cup, after he had supped, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.'
Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the cup; for he who eats and drinks unworthily, without distinguishing the body, eats and drinks judgment to himself. This is why many among you are infirm and weak, and many sleep. But if we judged ourselves, we should not thus be judged. But when we are judged, we are being chastised by the Lord that we may not be condemned with this world. Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together unto judgment. The rest I shall set in order when I come" (I Corinthians 11:23-34).
368. Does he who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receive the body and blood of Christ and His graces?
He who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but he does not receive His graces and commits a grave sin of sacrilege.
(a) To receive Holy Communion unworthily is a serious abuse of the sacred body and blood of the Lord, and therefore a sacrilege.
See Scripture, question 367, I Corinthians 11:23-34.
369. What should we do to receive more abundantly the graces of Holy Communion?
To receive more abundantly the graces of Holy Communion we should strive to be most fervent and to free ourselves from deliberate venial sin.
370, Does the Church now command us to fast from midnight before Holy Communion?
The Church does not now command us to fast from midnight before Holy Communion, as it did formerly. The laws enacted by Pope Pius XII now regulate this matter by the number of hours we must fast.
(a) For many centuries the Church commanded a strict fast from midnight before one could receive Holy Communion. However, in 1953 Pope Pius XII introduced a much more lenient form of fasting before Holy Communion, and in 1957 the same Pope granted greater concessions, in order to give Catholics an opportunity to receive Holy Communion more frequently.
(b) Pope Pius XII also allowed the celebration of afternoon and evening Masses every day, when the spiritual good of a considerable number of the faithful requires it. It is the right of the bishop of each diocese to decide when such Masses may be offered in his diocese.
371. When may Holy Communion be received without fasting?
Holy Communion may be received without fasting when one is in danger of death, or when it is necessary to save the Blessed Sacrament from insult or injury.
(a) Ordinarily the danger of death comes from sickness or injury. But it is not necessary that a person be in danger of death from sickness in order to receive Holy Communion without fasting. The danger of death may come from some other cause. A soldier, for example, who is about to go into battle or a person about to be executed may receive Holy Communion without fasting.
372. What are the laws enacted by Pope Pius XII regarding the fast required before Holy Communion?
The laws enacted by Pope Pius XII regarding the fast required before Holy Communion are the following:
1. Water may be taken at any time before Holy Communion without breaking the fast.
2. Sick persons, though not confined to bed, may receive Holy Communion after taking medicine or non-alcoholic drinks. A priest's permission is not necessary.
3. All Catholics may receive Holy Communion after fasting three hours from food and alcoholic drinks and one hour from non-alcoholic drinks. This applies to Holy Communion at midnight Mass as well as at Masses celebrated in the morning, afternoon or evening. A priest's permission is not necessary.
4. Catholics are urged to observe the eucharistic fast from midnight as formerly, and also to compensate for the use of the new privileges by works of charity and penance, but these practices are not obligatory. One who has already received Holy Communion may not receive the Blessed Sacrament again on the same day, except in danger of death.
373. How should we prepare ourselves for Holy Communion?
We should prepare ourselves for Holy Communion by thinking of Our Divine Redeemer whom we are about to receive, and by making fervent acts of faith, hope, love, and contrition.
(a) We should be neat, clean, and modest in our appearance, and respectful and reverent in our manner.
(b) Each time we receive Holy Communion we should try to be as devout and fervent as if it were the only Communion of our lives.
(c) When actually receiving Communion we should raise the head and extend the tongue. We should swallow the sacred host as soon as possible not allowing it to dissolve in the mouth.
"Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:8).
"Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). See Scripture, question 366, John 6:54-59.
374. What should we do after Holy Communion?
After Holy Communion we should spend some time adoring Our Lord, thanking Him, renewing our promises of love and of obedience to Him, and asking Him for blessings for ourselves and others.
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. Or what man is there among you, who, if his son asks him for a loaf, will hand him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent? Therefore, if you, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7-11).
375. What are the chief effects of a worthy Holy Communion?
The chief effects of a worthy Holy Communion are:
first, a closer union with Our Lord and a more fervent love of God and of our neighbor; second, an increase of sanctifying grace;
third, preservation from mortal sin the and remission of venial sin;
fourth, the lessening of our inclinations to sin and the help to practice good works.
SCRIPTURE: See Scripture, question 366, John 6:54-59.
376. When are we obliged to receive Holy Communion?
We are obliged to receive Holy Communion during Easter time each year and when in danger of death.
377. Why is it well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily?
It is well to receive Holy Communion often, even daily, because this intimate union with Jesus Christ, the Source of all holiness and the Giver of all graces, is the greatest aid to holy life.
"And they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread and in the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
See Scripture, question 344, Luke 22:19-20; question 366, John 6:54-59.
378. How should we show our gratitude to Our Lord for remaining always on our altars in the Holy Eucharist?
We should show our gratitude to Our Lord for remaining always on our altars in the Holy Eucharist, by visiting Him often, by reverence in church, by assisting every day at Mass when this is possible, by attending parish devotions, and by being present at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
(a) Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a ceremony in which the sacred host is exposed for a time on the altar, usually in the monstrance. During Benediction the priest blesses the people with the sacred host.
(b) The monstrance, or ostensorium, is a large vessel in which the host is exposed to view through a glass-covered opening in the center.
(c) The long cloak-like vestment worn by the priest at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is called a cope. The humeral veil is placed over the priest's shoulders before he gives the blessing.
IMPORTANT TRUTHS ABOUT HOLY COMMUNION
Just as the body needs food for the support of man's natural life, so the soul must be nourished for the preservation and the strengthening of its supernatural life. For this purpose Our Lord has given us a most precious food, His own body and blood. It is indeed a token of His immeasurable love for souls that He wills to come personally into our hearts 1n order to help and to console us in the difficulties and temptations of our journey through life. And He makes the conditions of receiving Him in Holy Communion very simple. Nothing more is necessary than that we have the proper intention and that we be in the state of sanctifying grace; venial sins do not make us unworthy. The Church, out of reverence for this great sacrament, demands that we observe the law of fasting described above, before Holy Communion, but in certain circumstances, particularly in danger of death, this law does not bind. Even though one is not sick, if there is danger of death-as in the case of a soldier going into battle-he may receive Holy Communion without fasting at any hour of the day or night.
Ordinarily it is permitted to receive Holy Communion only once a day, but there are exceptions to this rule. Thus, a person who has received Holy Communion in the morning may receive the Blessed Sacrament again as Viaticum if he falls into the danger of death in the course of the day. Again, a person who has already received Holy Communion could on the same day consume the Blessed Sacrament in order to protect It from insult or injury. Finally, a priest may receive Holy Communion more than once on the same day-namely, when he celebrates two or more Masses.
If we were permitted to receive Holy Communion only once in our lifetime we should surely prepare carefully for this great event. But we are allowed to receive this sacrament every day, except Holy Saturday, when the Easter Vigil Mass is celebrated after midnight. The frequency with which we can approach the holy table should not diminish our fervor. Each time we receive Our Lord we should prepare our souls for His coming, considering that we are to have a privilege even greater than that of Martha and Mary and the other friends of Christ who welcomed Him into their homes when He dwelt on earth.
Even when we cannot actually receive Holy Communion we can make an act of spiritual communion, which is an act of faith and love toward Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, with an ardent desire to receive Him.
Until comparatively recent times daily Communion was very rare in the Church. However, children were generally not admitted to their First Communion until they were about ten years old. But a great and holy Pope, Pius X, who ruled the Church from 1903 to 1914, urgently invited all Catholics to partake of the Divine Banquet frequently, even daily, telling them that the only necessary conditions are the state of grace and a right intention. He also laid down the law that children are to be admitted to Holy Communion as soon as they reach the age of reason, when they are about seven years old. Certainly Our Lord must be pleased that through the efforts of this great Pope He has the opportunity of coming so frequently into the hearts of His faithful, especially into the innocent hearts of little children.
Sometimes we hear a person say that he intends to receive Holy Communion for someone else, and we should understand correctly what is meant by this. We cannot receive Holy Communion for another in the sense that we can transfer to him the graces conferred by the sacrament, for these belong to the recipient alone. But we can receive Holy Communion for another in the sense that we can pray for him at the time of Holy Communion, when our prayers have great value, and if we receive Holy Communion for a deceased person we can offer for him any indulgences we may gain on that occasion.
No matter what difficulties we may encounter, no matter how many temptations we may have to overcome, no matter what sorrows may enter into our life, Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament will give us the grace and the strength that we need. And we are permitted not only to receive Him in Holy Communion but also to visit Him in the tabernacle, where He remains day and night, saying to us as He said long ago to those who were in pain and sorrow: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11: 28).
RESOLUTION: Resolve that whenever you receive Holy Communion, you will make a worthy preparation, and will spend at least about fifteen minutes afterwards in fervent thanksgiving.
Taken from the Baltimore Catechism, lessons 26-28.