Holy Hour Reflection: Eucharist - the Presence of Christ
by Diocese of Des Moines | April 21, 2021
By Bishop Emeritus Joseph Charron, C.PP.S.
The two men on the road to Emmaus experienced the presence of the risen Lord. The disciples on the evening of that first day of the week were graced with the presence of the risen Lord among them. We are also graced by the living presence of the risen Lord.
As I said [in the previous reflection], the most basic of our beliefs is that the bread and wine offered on the altar is transformed into the body and blood of Christ. What is seen and tasted as bread and wine is truly and substantially the body and blood of Christ.
Jesus is present to us in many ways; in the Word of God proclaimed to us, in the person of the priest, the sacraments of the Church, and in those he gathers together for worship. He is most especially present in the Eucharist!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “the mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as the ‘perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend. (#1374)’” St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, Italy in the fourth century, is quoted in the catechism: “Could not Christ’s word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature (#1375).” All things are possible for God!
Our faith also tells us that this presence does not cease as our worship ends. Christ is truly risen! He lives! His presence is always with us as he promised - “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Mt. 28:20).”
Our faith then presents us with a unique and wonderful opportunity to be with our Lord. Through prayer and contemplation we can come to know more intimately Christ the Lord present among us. In past writings, I have asked each of us to reflect on how well we understand the Eucharist. This understanding is not simply a declaration of faith in the real presence but comes from a deep and personal relationship with our Lord. Learning more about the Eucharist is to know more about Christ. All of our relationships require nurturing and communication. Responding to the love Christ shares with us constantly calls us to know him and to love him in return.
Growing in the awareness of the all-abiding presence of Christ, I encourage all to strive to include more time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Simply going to your parish Church and spending some time in prayer and contemplation, knowing of Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament, helps us to nurture our relationship with the Lord.
Participating in a holy hour or other experiences of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is another way of nurturing our relationship with Jesus. Many parish communities celebrate this devotion on a regular basis. These periods of exposition provide us with an excellent opportunity for contemplation. More than praying rote prayers, contemplation can take the form of spiritual reading, or reflection on the Scriptures. More importantly, contemplation involves simply being present and silent to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Our relationships with our loved ones do not always require conversation and activity – but at times simply being with them!
Whatever devotional practices we choose, those practices should lead us back to the celebration of the Eucharist – the Mass. Which leads me to another important consideration that the celebration of the Eucharist needs preparation. The Church requires that we fast one hour before receiving the Eucharist. We are also to be free of serious sin. But I am also referring to a different kind of preparation. Reading and praying about the Holy Scripture that will be proclaimed to us is one way to prepare to celebrate Eucharist. Spending extra time before Mass begins in silent prayer is another. I am aware of the frantic pace of our lives, going from one task to another. I ask that each of us strive to devote more time to preparing for the Sunday Eucharist.
- Do I take the time to nurture my relationship with the Lord, through communication, reflection, and simply being with Jesus?
- Are there areas in my life that I need to slow down, so that I can be still and present to Jesus, who is constantly present to me?
- That the people of our Diocese may find time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, so that being present to Jesus we may more fully recognize the “all-abiding presence of Christ” in our own lives, we pray…
- For a greater recognition of, and appreciation for, the presences of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the Word of God proclaimed, in the priest, in those gathered together in prayer, and most especially in the Holy Eucharist, we pray…
- That we may have the grace to prayerfully prepare to receive the Lord in the Eucharist before every Mass, so that our hearts may be more fully open to receiving the infinite grace that is offered, we pray…
Reflection from “Do This in Memory of Me”, a pastoral letter written by Des Moines Bishop Emeritus Joseph Charron C.PP.S. in celebration of the Year of the Eucharist, 2004.