Flannery O' Connor
“I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, A Charmed Life). She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn't opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.
Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater 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.”
I think this is an excellent way of presenting the Eucharist. If it's a symbol, what's the point? Why repeat an action that Jesus did without any meaning? As I understand it (from a number of my protestant friends) some non-Catholic churches don't even celebrate communion on a regular basis. It's once, maybe twice, a month. And I completely get it. If there is nothing more to communion than a reenactment, if it's just a play of sorts, why not limit the number of times you celebrate it? Leave more time in the service for the Bible, the sole source of our faith (I do not agree with the previous statement. See posts on Sola Scriptura).
But Jesus himself told us again and again to eat his flesh and drink his blood, which is why Catholics do it every week (and some every single day!) That's why we spend time kneeling in front of it. That is why we risk life and limb for it. It is our Lord, Jesus Christ. You may have been to a Catholic wedding, funeral, or other event, and weren't able to take communion. This is why. Because of what it is, if you take it without understanding that (and being free of sins, which I'll talk about more later) you're putting yourself in danger. 1 Cor 11:29-30 "For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep."
In response to the comment that Catholics re-sacrifice (or re-crucify) Christ, let's think for a moment about Christ's sacrifice. It is once and for all. It is always and forever. When Catholics celebrate the Eucharist, we don't re-sacrifice Him, we participate in the same once and forever sacrifice. That's part of the glory and the mystery of our Lord. Even though we weren't alive when Jesus walked the earth, we are still allowed to receive His Body from him as the apostles did.
And it is the Body of Christ, it is the Blood, it does not contain it. He is not in the bread, it is not like His Body. "This is My Body," he said, and we take him literally. There's a wonderful answer to consubstantiation that you can find here that explains why it just can't work. I'll only post two paragraphs here.
Superficially, consubstantiation might seem more "incarnational" than transubstantiation, but there’s a catch. For the Eucharist to be both Jesus Christ and bread and wine, as Jesus is both God and man, Jesus would have to unite the nature of bread to himself as he united human nature to himself. It would amount to a new incarnation, a new hypostatic union. We would confess a Lord who is truly God, truly man, and truly pastry. This would demean and trivialize the significance of our Lord’s assuming our human nature.
Furthermore, such a reprise of the Incarnation would not accomplish what the Eucharist is all about: It would not make present the human body and blood of Christ. If the Second Person of the Trinity were to acquire a new, confectionery nature, this new nature would have no direct relationship to Jesus’ human nature. He would be present in the Eucharist in his divinity and his breadness, but not his humanity. His human body, born of Mary, crucified on the cross, raised from the dead, and ascended into glory, would be uninvolved.
But there are occasions where the Body and Blood become just that: Body and Blood. So if you're a fan of miracles (and the Church has many) here are some great Eucharistic miracles for you.
Floating Host in France
Similar video of floating Host during Consecration
Page with a list of of Eucharistic miracles
It is the reason to be Catholic and to stay Catholic. It is the source and summit of our faith. And there's so much more that could be said. It's infinite (because It is God and God is infinite, get it? Well, at least I think I'm funny).
I'm going to leave you with a scene from the movie "Romero". The first time I saw the film, I didn't completely grasp the power of his action, but now, fully appreciating what the Eucharist is, it makes me proud to be a Catholic (and I can only hope that in a similar situation, I would do the same.)
Still have questions? Good. Me too. It's a never-solved mystery. But if you're curious, even a little, find a local Catholic church and figure out when they offer Adoration (some even offer it 24/7!). Spend an hour, a half hour, ten minutes, in prayer, in the presence of God, and let him speak to you. Warning: It may change your life.
Not sure what I'll post next, but I'll probably be back in a couple of days (granted, I don't have any readers, so I suppose the point is moot).