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The Eucharist: The Source and Summit of the Christian Life

For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch

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“The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments,

and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the

Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual

good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch." (CCC 1324) The sacredness and the

importance of the Eucharist to the Catholic Church and Her practices cannot be denied. The

Catechism explains all aspects of the faith, even the other sacraments, are dependent on the

Eucharist. St Euphrasia said “To speak of the Blessed Sacrament is to speak of what is most

sacred. How often, when we are in a state of distress, those to whom we look for help leave us;

or what is worse, add to our affliction by heaping fresh troubles upon us. He is ever there,

waiting to help us.” Because of the sacredness and importance for the faithful to always have

access to the Eucharist, especially in times of distress, the Code of Canon Law has put codes into

place to regulate and ensure the practice of Eucharistic adoration. Those canons are as followed:

Canon 941. §1 In churches or oratories which are allowed to reserve the blessed Eucharist, there may be exposition, either with the pyx or with the monstrance, in accordance

with the norms prescribed in the liturgical books.

§2 Exposition of the blessed Sacrament may not take place while Mass is being celebrated in the

same area of the church or oratory.

Canon 942. It is recommended that in these churches or oratories, there is to be each year a

solemn exposition of the blessed Sacrament for an appropriate, even if not for a continuous time,

so that the local community may more attentively meditate on and adore the eucharistic mystery.

This exposition is to take place only if a fitting attendance of the faithful is foreseen, and the

prescribed norms are observed.

Canon 943. The minister of exposition of the blessed Sacrament and of the eucharistic blessing

is a priest or deacon. In special circumstances the minister of exposition and deposition alone,

but without the blessing, is an acolyte, and extraordinary minister of holy communion, or another

person deputed by the local Ordinary, in accordance with the regulations of the diocesan Bishop.

Canon 944. §1 Wherever in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop it can be done, a procession

through the streets is to be held, especially on the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, as

a public witness of veneration of the blessed Eucharist.

§2 It is for the diocesan Bishop to establish such regulations about processions as will provide

for participation in them and for their being carried out in a dignified manner.

Belief in the real presence of Jesus has been an essential teaching of the Church,

beginning with the Apostles and Saint Paul. Saint John wrote extensively in his Gospel regarding

the Eucharistic. He even recalls one encounter Jesus had with his disciples. "many of His

disciples withdrew and no longer went about with Him." Seeing this, Jesus asked the Twelve,

"Do you also want to leave me?" Simon Peter did not understand any more than those who left

Christ, but his loyalty was more firm. "Lord," he answered, "to whom shall we go?" (John

6:66-68). There was a natural draw to Jesus felt by those who truly believe in him. Paul's letter to

the Corinthians rebuked them for making the Agape, which should have been a beautiful sign of

unity, into an occasion of discord. He reminded them that the Eucharist is no ordinary food. It is

actually the Body and Blood of Christ according to "the tradition which I handed on to you that

came to me from the Lord Himself" (1 Corinthians 2: 23-26). Even early Church hermits and

those who resembled what we now know as the monastic life preserved the Eucharist in their

cells and monasteries. It was a way for them to draw closer to the Lord in prayer and to give

themselves the Blessed Sacrament when traveling to Mass with the Bishop was hard to do.

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. wrote in his book “The History of Eucharistic Adoration:

Development of Doctrine in the Catholic Church” “Not only did they have the Sacrament with

them in their cells, but they carried it on their persons when they moved from one place to

another. This practice was sanctioned by the custom of the fermentum, that certainly goes back

to as early as 120 A.D. The rite of fermentum was a particle of the Eucharistic bread (sometimes

dipped in the chalice) transported from the bishop of one diocese to the bishop of another

diocese. The latter would then consume the species at his next solemn Mass as a token of unity

between the churches. It was called a fermentum not necessarily because leavened bread was

used but because the Eucharist symbolized the leaven of unity which permeates and transforms

Christians, so that they become one with Christ.” The Eucharist has always been a unifying

branch between members of the Church separated by large geographical distances. The reverence

for Christ in the Eucharist can be traced back to at least the 4th century. Father John Hardon, S.J.,

tells us: “As early as the Council of Nicea (325) we know that the Eucharist began to be reserved

in the churches of monasteries and convents…. naturally its sacred character was recognized and

the place of reservation was set off from profane usage.” Although we can assume this practice

was to offer viaticum to the dying, it established a safe practice of keeping the Eucharist in

Churches for people to see.

It took until the Council of Trent to truly define and see law promulgated regarding the

real presence and exposition of the Eucharist. The Council of Trent was the backbone of the

counter-reformation and was called because of the spread of the Protestant Reformation.

Protestants see the Eucharistic celebration merely as a remembrance or symbol of the Last

Supper but do not accept or acknowledge the real presence. Chapter One of Session XIII of the

council states “In the first place, the holy Synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that,

in the august sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our

Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the

species of those sensible things. For neither are these things mutually repugnant,-that our Saviour

Himself always sitteth at the right hand of the Father in heaven, according to the natural mode of

existing, and that, nevertheless, He be, in many other places, sacramentally present to us in his

own substance, by a manner of existing, which, though we can scarcely express it in words, yet

can we, by the understanding illuminated by faith, conceive, and we ought most firmly to

believe, to be possible unto God.” The fathers of this great council make note that Jesus is

present to us sacramentally. It did not take long for the inspiration of this council to bear fruit in

the Church.

Pope Clement VIII in 1592 issued a historic document on what was called in Italian

Quarant' Ore (Forty Hours). This document instituted a devotion of forty hours of continual

prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. “A solemn high Mass, "Mass of Exposition", is

sung at the beginning, and another, the "Mass of Deposition", at the end of the period of forty

hours; and both these Masses are accompanied by a procession of the Blessed Sacrament and by

the chanting of the litanies of the saints.” (New Advent). We see from this practice the source of

Canons 941 and 942 which recommend every year a solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

in a suitable Church or oratory. Section two of Canon 941 tells us Mass and exposition cannot be

celebrated simultaneously in the same area of the Church. This is consistent with a decree by

Pope Clement XIII who issued rules for the forty hour devotion, one of them stating “No Masses

are to be said at the altar of exposition.” In Cathedrals and Basilicas with multiple side altars, the

canon and decree by the late Pope are not clear whether low Mass can be offered on a side altar

separate from the high altar. Father Peter once told me “Once while in South America I saw

adoration in a church while Mass was being celebrated on a different altar of that same church.

Gave me a different sense of that canon!” We continue to wait on clarification but for now it does

not read that it would be improper to do so.

The Feast of Corpus Christi, or Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ,

was instituted in 1264 by Pope Urban IV. It celebrates the Real Presence of the Body and Blood,

Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the elements of the Eucharist. “Moreover we know that,

while we were constituted in a lesser office, it was divinely revealed to certain Catholics that a

feast of this kind should be celebrated generally throughout the Church. Therefore, to strengthen

and exalt the Catholic Faith, we decree that, besides the daily memory that the Church makes of

this Sacrament, there be celebrated a more solemn and special annual memorial. Then let the

hearts and mouths of all break forth in hymns of saving joy; then let faith sing, hope dance,

charity exult, devotion applaud, the choir be jubilant, and purity delight. Then let each one with

willing spirit and prompt will come together, laudably fulfilling his duties, celebrating the

Solemnity of so great a Feast.” (Transiturus de hoc mundo) Pope Urban IV saw the need for

greater recognition of the Eucharist besides our Sunday obligation. Although the Eucharist is the

focal point of every sacrifice of the Mass, it is often a subject overlooked in the homily. We see a

tendency to focus on the readings and the impact they have in our Christian lives. This is good,

but fails to always remind us why after hearing this we feed upon the body, blood, soul, and

divinity of Jesus. Having one solemn day a year set aside to proclaiming the truth of the real

presence and showing the world that God is still alive and moving about or frail existence is

essential to the people of God. Saint Thomas Aquinas was tasked with writing the hymns for this

feast day. He wrote five Eucharistic hymns: Lauda Sion ("Sion, Lift Up Thy Voice And Sing"),

Pange Lingua ("Sing, My Tongue, The Saviour's Glory"), Panis Angelicus ("Bread of Angels"),

Verbum Supernum (“The heavenly Word proceeding forth”), and Adoro te devote (“Humbly We

Adore Thee”). Saint Thomas’ Verbum Supernum and Pange Lingua are used today in the

traditional benediction rite of the Church as prescribed in the proper liturgical books. It is

customary at the end of the Corpus Christi Mass to have a Eucharistic procession. The Eucharist

is displayed in a monstrance and is carried by the priest. He is covered by a canopy and is led by

altar servers or assisting clergy with candles and a thurible. According to section two of canon

984, it is the local Bishop who regulates these processions. Guidelines are traditionally published

through the office of worship prior to Corpus Christi.

Before the forty hour devotion and Corpus Christi, there was perpetual adoration of the

Blessed Sacrament. The term "perpetual adoration" is broadly used to designate the practically

uninterrupted adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In the “Holy Communion and Worship of the

Eucharist outside Mass” document published by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship,

general directives are given. no. 90, states that, according to their constitutions and regulations,

some religious communities and other pious groups have the practice of perpetual eucharistic

adoration or adoration over extended periods of time. Permission from the local ordinary is

necessary. The liturgical text always makes it clear that it is desirable that the Eucharist is never

alone and two adorers are recommended. According to an article from Catholic News Agency,

“the first recorded perpetual adoration was in Avignon in 1226. On September 11th, King Louis

VII asked to expose the Blessed Sacrament as a way to celebrate victory over the Albigensians, a

sect that flourished in southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Holy See later ratified

this perpetual adoration, which was maintained uninterruptedly until 1792, when it was stopped

by the chaos of the French Revolution. It was resumed in 1829, thanks to the efforts of the Grey

Penitents, a group of several confraternities.” This one example shows the significance role the

Eucharist plays in our lives. An entire country, who during this period of time, faced revolutions,

war, famine, economic stability, found their strength and courage in the Eucharist. I think it is

important to note that the directions didn’t come from a priest or a devout layperson, but rather,

the ruler of the country.

Entire religious institutions and societies were now being founded around adoration of

the Blessed Sacrament. Cloistered monastic groups were beginning to take vows of perpetual

adoration like the Benedictine Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “In

this life of adoration Christ reveals himself in the charity, warmth and unity of a community

formed by a common vision of faith. Nourished by the Eucharist, we recognize his presence in

the “breaking of the bread” and the fellowship of our common table.” (Constitution of the

Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration) Although it is easier for them who live cloistered

with all like minded sisters to achieve this, this mentality should be one of the entirety of the

Body of Christ because the Code of Canon Law allows for us to do so. This community is not the

only active one still. Sisters of Perpetual Adoration founded in 1807 in Rome continue to preach

the practice and benefits of Eucharistic Adoration. The sisters establish and still regulate the

"Pious Union" of Secular Adorers. Lay faithful pledge to pray everyday before the Blessed

Sacrament for: The Pope, combat atheism, unite and promote perpetual adoration, and more.

With the declining number of consecrated religious vocations, these secular orders are becoming

increasingly more important to do the work we use to rely so heavily on the monastics to do for

us, which is continuous prayer before Christ for the world. St. Peter Julian Eymard once said “In

the presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, all greatness disappears, all holiness

humbles itself and comes to nothing. Jesus Christ is there!" Because of the work of the Bishops

and countless religious, this understanding can continuously be brought and promoted to


Eucharistic Congresses began to form to reach even more people regarding the

importance of Eucharistic adoration and promotion of the real presence. The first international

Eucharistic congress was held in Lille in 1881. This congress was not the inspiration of a Pope or

a renown Catholic figure, but rather a French laywoman. Marie-Marthe Tamisier was so devoted

to the Eucharist, she would lead pilgrimages to Eucharstic miracles thus sparking international

congresses. There have been 52 to date with the 53rd scheduled for next year in Ecuador. These

congresses have been the catalysis for conversions, vocations, and a testimony to the power of

the Church united under Her head present in the Eucharist.

With the decline in vocations and Mass Attendance plaguing the United States, the

Bishops of the country have heard the call to the “new evangelization” and launched the National

Eucharistic Revival. “The National Eucharistic Revival is a movement to restore understanding

and devotion to this great mystery here in the United States by helping us renew our worship of

Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.” (NER Website). This movement began in the parishes and local

celebration in the Diocese and culminated in a national event in 2024 in Indianapolis. Pew

Research Center shows 69% of self claiming Catholics do not believe in the real presence of the

Eucharist. If we as a Church have gotten away from believing and understanding the core

teaching to our faith, how are we going to grow our faith? This is why Canons 941-944 are

essential to the people of God. They give us an opportunity to encounter Jesus in a real and

present tangible way and to bring others face to face with the Lord. Through proper

implementation and use of these canons, the Church can begin to evangelize in all corners of the

world. It can pour out an unfathomable amount of grace upon a dark and sinful world. “Take, eat;

this is My body.” (Matthew 26:26)

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