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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Mystery of the Holy Eucharist - Real Presence in Real Time

Catholics process publicly with the Eucharist because the whole world needs the Body and Blood of Christ. A priest, flanked by altar servers with candles and incense, processes through the streets with a circular container called a monstrance, usually golden. This monstrance shows the Blessed Sacrament, earthly bread become the Body of Christ, by holding, in its circular center, a consecrated host.

This procession is actually spectacular—something that is meant to be seen not only by believers but also by those who do not believe. More than raising questions, this spectacle is meant to witness. As parishioners follow behind, they believe that the pilgrim God is walking before them once again, leading them through the desert of their lives to the promise land. In the Blessed Sacrament whose reality they believe guides them home, they have found and proclaim a splendor that is even now breaking in on us, even if this glory seems hidden from our eyes, disguised as it is in the suffering, alienation, social strife and political vitriol of the moment.

Such spectacles are not tolerated in contemporary societies, especially during pandemics. This too is part of the mystery of Corpus Christi—how one looks on the Body of the Lord unveils where one stands in life. Secular society is soul-less because it will not welcome the Soul and Divinity of the Savior. If there is discomfort around Eucharistic processions, there is a contemporary prejudice that presumes religion to be something that should be kept in the privacy of the home or at least behind closed doors. When religion is relegated to the realm of emotion one may well be embarrassed to allow it on our streets. But is it really only a crutch for difficult moments as we hobble through this world? And if we are hobbling through, where are we actually headed. Religious gatherings are socially accepted only insofar as they help us manage painful moments of life, but true prayer must stay out of the marketplace of ideas. Here is this Eucharistic procession right into that marketplace. The media only presents it as reckless endangerment in a time of crisis. But what threat does God actually pose our collapsing civilization? His saving presence might have something to speak into the mobs whose anger still resonates with "Crucify Him." Those who want a public square free of religion might allow it whenever it is useful politically - scapegoating is a very real phenomenon of ritual purification on a communal skill. Others might grant that some religious practices are therapeutic at least personally. Others might allow religion to provide social gratification. Ver few want to be challenged by the fact that God is truly present and on the march, Real Presence in Real Time. The mystery of the Eucharist processes forward against the tendency to remove God from human affairs. This mystery by which the memory of Christ's passion is renewed signifies the deepest truth of all: that God has come, at great price, to save us. Those who participate in this Great Mystery by faith are filled with the most healing and wonderful power every unleashed on Earth. This pure gift comes through the wounds that God suffered for our sake to transform not only the way we live, but the whole world in which we move and have our being. It is the most real thing in all space time and space, the single still point around which the world turns—for what God has done stands above all the threatening exigencies that oppose what is good and true about humanity, and on this ground, we find the freedom to stand and to move forward, to finally fully become what we are meant to be. The Eucharist shows us how great is the mystery of Christian piety. This devotion to God and to our neighbor is given to us when we gather for the Mass and lift up our hearts before the Living God. What makes life worth living is knowing the truth and falling in love. Through this Sacrament we know that God has fallen in love with humanity and He unveils, by real true Presence, the truth that we need for life. Not merely a symbol to placate our psyche, but a truly personal presence that engages the reality of our whole being and implicates us in the very truth about our own existence, the existence of our neighbors, and the existence of all that is. This Sacred Banquet is the only food that can address the spiritual malnutrition that afflicts the hearts of men and women of our time. This Body and Blood is the only real answer to injustice - not only in our communities but in our hearts. Those who welcome the Risen Presence not only find the courage to ask for forgiven, but are given true strength to forgive. Starving for truth those deprived of this food may rage or despair, but they are not free to live. Thwarted by death and goading against it, they need this medicine of immortality if love might reign anew in their hearts. No matter how much we demand that our dignity be recognized, without this antidote for death, nothing else can restore our integrity and make us just. Yet, those who will humbly seek and ask can freely receive that which is no less than a pledge of future glory.

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