The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ



Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often known as “Corpus Christi”.  You might be thinking, gee, don’t we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass?  Sure, but just as with the Lord’s Resurrection, a particular day is set aside to celebrate and reflect on this aspect of the mystery and saving work of Christ!

The Catechism, no. 1374, quotes both St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Paul VI in teaching us about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist:

“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.’  In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.’”

So, to repeat it, BOTH the Body and the Blood of Christ that we receive contain ALL of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  Christ is not just there “beside the bread” (which is a Lutheran belief, consubstantiation – not to be confused with the word consubstantial in our Creed, which is not applied to the Eucharist).  The word that we use for this is TRANSUBSTANTIATION.  The substance of the bread or wine has changed – it is no longer bread or wine!  It only retains the “appearances” (physical qualities) of bread and wine, but it is not bread and wine.

This is a great time to focus on how we approach for the reception of Holy Communion.  Do we show respect for the Eucharistic species?  How do our actions reflect our beliefs?

A couple of reminders on the reception of Holy Communion:

1)      Bow, before both the Body and Blood of Christ.  This still applies even if you are not receiving!  (So don’t just walk past the Blood of Christ like it’s not there.  Is that how you would pass Jesus in the street??)

2)      If you are receiving in the hand, consume the consecrated Host immediately.  Do not walk anywhere with the sacred species. If you drop Him, pick Him up and consume!

3)     The reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue is always permitted!

Finally, another reminder – go to confession! To receive the Most Holy Eucharist, one should be in a state of grace. If it is not possible to get to confession, make a perfect act of contrition before reception, and then go to confession!  How amazing and awesome the endless mercy of God…chalice


The Path to Heaven

Ghent altarpieceIn my last entry, I briefly described purgatory.  Here is a quick review: It is a purification on the way to heaven, if we are not prepared to go immediately to heaven.  This is due to the effects of sin throughout our lifetime.  As long as we are not in the state of mortal sin (so go to confession) when our time on this earth comes to an end, we either go straight to heaven, or spend a bit of time getting ready for heaven, being conformed more to Christ to be truly prepared to enter the kingdom.  It is said that the souls in purgatory sing the Gloria, because they know for sure they will be united with God in heaven someday. (So, again, go to confession!!!)

So…what is heaven like?  I mean, we all want to go there, don’t we?

Often, people believe heaven to be like one big party, with everyone doing their own self-expressive dance and having a great time doing whatever they want.  Sorry to tell you, that’s not what heaven is like!  Heaven is not chaos, with everyone doing whatever they feel like!  Heaven is the ordered praise of God, all creation united as one in a song of joy.

The Catechism teaches: “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ.” (CCC 1023).  It continues, “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of like and love with Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called ‘heaven’.  Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” (1024)

This perfect state is often described in Scripture as the heavenly banquet, the wedding feast, the heavenly Jerusalem.  When we participate in the Sacraments, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is said that the veil between heaven and earth is lifted and we catch a brief glimpse of heaven.  The manner of our participation will affect how closely we can represent the heavenly banquet, and therefore how clearly the symbols speak – remember that to be truly symbolic, sacramental, means to make present invisible heavenly realities.

Here are a couple of questions (courtesy an exercise one of my professors often does in presentations) to reflect on what heaven is like:

Is heaven radiant or dull?  Light or dark?  Living or dead?  Earthly or detached from earthly things?  “Modern” or transcending beyond all ages?  Empty or populated?  (With whom?) Is heaven ordered or chaotic?

Purgatory and Indulgences

purgatoryWhat on earth are indulgences?? And does purgatory STILL exist??

This topic came up for me recently during the sede vacante period. In preparing a special Holy Hour for the Pope, I was asked if the papal intentions persist (yes), and if so, if you may still gain an indulgence under the usual conditions (yes). I thought to myself how awesome it was that someone was thinking about this!

Really, though, I do not think many Catholics today have any idea about indulgences. Among the things I have heard are: “oh Vatican 2 did away with that” or “the Church used to sell those but not anymore”.

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven…” (Catechism 1471)

This means it is taking away the punishment that we might have after death due to sins we committed in our lives.  I do not mean hell (that is a different topic), I mean purgatory.  Purgatory is  basically the state after death of a soul that will eventually go to heaven, but must be purified first (and that purification is not easy or pleasant).

Sin has consequences.  We may think, well, I confessed my sin, that’s it.  The consequences of sin are twofold: first,  grave sin deprives us of communion with God and makes us incapable of eternal life (damnation), and second, all sin involves an unhealthy attachment that must be purified to free us from the “temporal punishment of sin”(purgatory).  We can overcome the first consequence easily: go to confession.  The second consequence is overcome by conforming ourselves more to Christ, by works of mercy and charity, as well as by works of prayer and penance.

Think of it like this: you were playing ball, and you broke your neighbors’ window (maybe just through carelessness), and it is your fault.  You go and ask your neighbor for forgiveness, and they are really nice and forgiving type of people, so they say, you know what, it’s okay, thanks for saying you are sorry.  So you are forgiven!  But you still have to pay for the window.

“Indulgences” through works of prayer basically involve a whole-hearted prayer stipulated by the Church, and you usually must have gone to confession and received the Eucharist in a state of grace in a short period of time before or after.  Indulgences may be partial (some amount of time) or plenary (this gets rid of all your time in purgatory).  One might think this is not needed, but I’m pretty sure most of us want to get to heaven as quickly as possible.  This prayer may be applied to yourself, or it may be applied to anyone who has died.

There are plenty of souls in purgatory that do not have someone to pray for them… and they could get to heaven sooner if you helped them!  Do you include them in your prayers?  I sure hope that people pray for me when I die.


As a note: This is just a quick primer on purgatory and indulgences. I’d encourage everyone to find out some of the opportunities for indulgences. Here is a great one on the official Year of Faith website: Check it out!