The Eucharist Is Not Just a Symbol

The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ sacramentally present under the form of bread and wine, has been in the news quite a bit lately.

Of course, we were all stunned and horrified by the desecration of the Tabernacle at Saint Augustine’s Church in Park Slope. As devastating as the theft of the priceless tabernacle was, even more hurtful was the blasphemous way the Eucharistic species was treated by the thieves.

Likewise, we see again the major conflict between those bishops who do not, for the sake of the soul of those professed Catholic politicians who actively promote abortion, think the Eucharist should be distributed to them, and those bishops who believe that partaking in the Eucharist should be an individual choice of the politi- cian.

Even militant abortion “rights” groups have threatened this summer, should the United States Supreme Court overturn the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, to desecrate the Eucharist in Catholic Churches across the nation.

It’s interesting — if the Eucharist wasn’t the true Body and true Blood of the Blessed Lord Jesus, then none of these current issues concerning the Eucharist would be a big deal. Even unbelievers know that the Eucharist is special.

There is a famous story about a meeting between two famous Southern writers of the 20th century — Flannery O’Connor and Mary McCarthy — at a party. Flannery O’Connor, a great Catholic short story writer, recounts her encounter in “The Habit of Being.”

She writes: “Toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one.

“I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

If the Eucharist is merely a symbol, if it’s merely a nice thing to show community and unity among people, then we as Catholics are wasting our time.

The Eucharist is not just a sign; it is not just a symbol. We believe that it is the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus, sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine.

There can be no doubt that we have in many ways lost a sense of wonder and awe concerning the Eucharist.

The U.S. Bishops’ Eucharistic Revival, which began in our parishes last weekend, will no doubt assist us all, each in our unique Christian vocations, to grow in reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ truly, substantially present in the Eucharist. Through our reverent participation at Mass and through time spent in prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament, may we prove to the world that our Lord Jesus, the true bread come down from heaven, is with us, and have the courage and strength to help make the Lord known and loved at every moment, even until the end of time.