REALITY OR SYMBOL? (1)
For Catholics, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus, and any attempt to say otherwise, no matter how cleverly formulated or deftly articulated, is insufficient. As the Vatican II fathers pointed out, Christ is indeed present in a variety of ways—in the very intelligibility of the universe, in the gathered assembly at Mass, in the reading of the Scriptures, in the person of the priest—but he is “really, truly and substantially” present, that is to say, present in a qualitatively different way, in the Eucharistic elements….If Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is only symbolic, then the sacrifice is mitigated, and if the sacrifice is mitigated, the communion is compromised. In a word, the Real Presence is the glue that holds together the elements that we’ve been considering.
[In Chapter 6 of the Gospel of St. John, Jesus says]: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life” (John 6:27). Ordinary bread satisfies only physical longing, and it does so in a transient way… . But the heavenly bread, Jesus implies, satisfies the deepest longing of the heart, and does so by adapting the one who eats it to eternal life.
“Heavenly bread” catches much of the paradox of the orthodox teaching concerning the Eucharist: though it remains ordinary bread, the Eucharist in fact participates in a properly transcendent mode of existence and possesses, consequently, the power to produce eternal life. [And this is] precisely why the heavenly bread has this virtue: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51)…. that stubborn realism upon which the Catholic tradition will insist. Jesus unambiguously identifies himself with this bread that will nourish his people to eternal life.
Robert Barron, Eucharist, (2021)
©Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, Park Ridge, IL