Proclaiming and Defending the Most Holy Eucharist: Using the Gift of Speech
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
©Catholic Online 2005
Such a marvelous treasure as the Most Holy Eucharist demands that we use accurate language when describing this incredible Sacrament.
There is a hymn used in some Catholic parishes that begins: "Precious body, precious blood, here in bread and wine . . . ."
This hymn should not be sung by Catholics.
Sadly, this assertion is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. Jesus' Body and Blood are not present in the bread and wine used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If bread and wine are present on an altar in a Catholic church, then the Consecration of the Mass has not yet occurred and the Body and Blood of Christ are not yet present on that altar.
But if the Body and Blood of Christ are present on an altar in a Catholic Church, then the Consecration has happened and bread and wine no longer exist.
The first line of this hymn bespeaks of Consubstantiation, which is the position that the Body and Blood of Christ are present along with the bread and wine. This is a tenet of Lutheranism.
The Catholic Church rejects Consubstantiation and rather holds to Transubstantiation, which means that the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Hence, the first line of this hymn is patently false--it is heresy. I make no judgment as to the intention of the composer, thereby casting no aspersions on him.
Recently, I was reading an article in a Catholic magazine that is geared towards the Catholic laity. I noted the following four statements.
I. "The Eucharistic action--Vatican II reminds Christians--is not only the experience of Jesus as bread and wine, but also of Jesus present in the Word and in the assembly."
II. "2. The liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the bread and wine constitute a unity, but there are differing ways to enter more fully into each. As Jesus becomes present to us in the bread and wine, Jesus also is present in the proclamation of the word of God."
III. "The Carmelite contemplative tradition has wisdom about the journey to the Beautiful, a journey made possible by presence at the table of the word and at the table of bread and wine."
IV. "We are called upon at the Eucharist to become, as Jesus has become for us, bread and wine for our neighbor."
Perhaps unwittingly, the author identifies Jesus as "bread and wine" (I., IV.). II. is especially redolent with the theory of Consubstantiation, which, as mentioned above, is in opposition to Transubstantiation.
I confess that I have never heard the expression, "the liturgy of the bread and wine," (II.) I contend that this is at least misleading, if not fraught with serious error. So is "the table of bread and wine." (III.)
Of course, Jesus has not become bread and wine for us (cf. IV.). Instead, the bread and wine have become Jesus for us.
If you are looking for a book that explains well just what the Church proclaims concerning the Most Blessed Sacrament, then "A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist" by Abbot Anscar Vonier, O.S.B. (Bethesda, Maryland: Zaccheus Press, 2003) is for you.
We must use precise language when referring to the Most Holy Eucharist. This magnificent Sacrament deserves nothing less.
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Most Holy Eucharist
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