The Baltimore Catechism
Lesson 22: ON THE HOLY EUCHARIST
A. The Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament which contains the body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.
When we say “contains,” we mean the Sacrament which is the body and blood, etc. The Holy Eucharist is the same living body of Our Lord which He had upon earth; but it is in a new form, under the appearances of bread and wine. Therefore Our Lord in the tabernacle can see and hear us.
A. Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the night before He died.
“Last Supper,” on Holy Thursday night. (See Explanation of the Passion, Lesson 8, Question 78.)
A. When Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist the twelve Apostles were present.
A. Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist by taking bread, blessing, breaking, and giving to His Apostles, saying: “Take ye and eat. This is My body”; and then by taking the cup of wine, blessing and giving it, saying to them: “Drink ye all of this. This is My blood which shall be shed for the remission of sins. Do this for a commemoration of Me.”
“Eucharist” means thanks. Hence this Sacrament is called Eucharist, because Our Lord gave thanks before changing the bread and wine into His body and blood, and because the offering of it to God is the most solemn act of thanksgiving. “Do this”–that is, the same thing I am doing, namely, changing bread and wine into My body and blood. “Commemoration”–that is, to remind you of Me, that you may continue to do the same till the end of time.
A. When Our Lord said, “This is My body,” the substance of the bread was changed into the substance of His body. When He said, “This is My blood,” the substance of the wine was changed into the substance of His blood.
“Substance” literally means that which stands underneath. Underneath what? Underneath the outward appearances or qualities-such as color, taste, figure, smell, etc.-that are perceptible to our senses. Therefore we never see the substance of anything. Of this seat, for instance, I see the color, size, and shape; I feel the hardness, etc.; but I do not see the substance, namely, the wood of which it is made. When the substance of anything is changed, the outward appearances change with it. But not so in the Holy Eucharist; for by a miracle the appearances of bread and wine remain the same after the substance has been changed as they were before. As the substance alone is changed in the Holy Eucharist, and as I cannot see the substance, I cannot see the change. I am absolutely certain, however, that the change takes place, because Our Lord said so; and I believe Him, because- He could not deceive me. He is God, and God could not tell a lie, because He is infinite truth. This change is a great miracle, and that is the reason we cannot understand it, though we believe it. Once at a marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2) Our Lord changed water into wine. The people were poor, and Our Lord, His Blessed Mother, and the Apostles were present at the wedding when the wine ran short; and our Blessed Lady, always so kind to everyone, wishing to spare these poor people from being shamed before their friends, asked Our Lord to perform the miracle, and at her request He did so, and changed many vessels of water into the best of wine. In that miracle Our Lord changed the substance of the water into the substance of the wine. Why, then, could He not change in the same way and by the same power the substance of bread and wine into the substance of His own body and blood? When He changed the water into wine, besides changing the substance, He changed everything else about it; so that it had no longer the appearance of water, but everyone could see that it was wine. But in changing the bread and wine into His body and blood He changes only the substance, and leaves everything else unchanged so that it still looks and tastes like bread and wine; even after the change has taken place and you could not tell by looking at it that it was changed. You know it only from your faith in the words of our divine Lord, when He tells you it is changed.
Again, it is much easier to change one thing into another than to make it entirely out of nothing. Anyone who can create out of nothing can surely change one thing into another. Now Our Lord, being God, created the world out of nothing; and He could therefore easily change the substance of bread into the substance of flesh. I have said Our Lord’s body in the Holy Eucharist is a living body, and every living body contains blood; and that is why we receive both the body and the blood of Our Lord under the appearance of the bread alone. The priest receives the body and blood of Our Lord under the appearance of both bread and wine, while the people receive it only under the appearance of bread. The early Christians used to receive it as the priest does under the appearance of bread and under the appearance of wine; but the Church had to make a change on account of circumstances. First, all the people had to drink from the same chalice or cup, and some would not like that, and show disrespect for the Blessed Sacrament by refusing it. Then there was great danger of spilling the precious blood, passing it from one to another; and finally, some said that Christ’s blood was not in His body under the appearance of bread. This was false; and to show that it was false, and for the other reasons, the Church after that gave Holy Communion to the people under the appearance of bread alone. The Church always believes and teaches the same truths. It always believed that the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of bread contained also Our Lord’s blood; but it taught it more clearly when it was denied.
A. Jesus Christ is whole and entire both under the form of bread and under the form of wine.
244. Q. Did anything remain of the bread and wine after their substance had been changed into the substance of the body and blood of Our Lord?
A. After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into the substance of the body and blood of Our Lord there remained only the appearances of bread and wine.
A. By the appearances of bread and wine I mean the figure, the color, the taste, and whatever appears to the senses.
“Senses”–that is, eyes, ears, etc. Thus we have the sense of seeing, the sense of hearing, the sense of tasting, the sense of smelling, the sense of feeling.
The Holy Eucharist is the body of Our Lord just as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain, and when they go away Our Lord’s body goes also. For example, if a church, tabernacle and all, was buried by a great earthquake, and after many years the people succeeded in getting at the tabernacle and opening it, and then found in the ciborium–that is, the vessel in which the Blessed Sacrament is kept in the tabernacle–only black dust, Our Lord would not be there, although He was there when the church was buried. He would not be there, because there was no longer the appearance of bread there: it had all been changed into ashes by time, and Our Lord left it when the change took place. But if the appearance of bread had remained unchanged, He would be there even after so many years.
When we receive Holy Communion, the appearance of bread remains for about fifteen or twenty minutes after we receive, and then it changes or disappears. Therefore during these fifteen or twenty minutes that the appearance remains Our Lord Himself is really with us; and for that reason we should remain about twenty minutes after Mass on the day we receive, making a thanksgiving, speaking to Our Lord, and listening to Him speaking to our conscience. What disrespect some people show Our Lord by rushing out of the church immediately after Mass and Holy Communion, sometimes beginning to talk or look around before making any thanksgiving! When you receive Holy Communion, after returning to your seat you need not immediately begin to read your prayerbook, but may bow your head and speak to Our Lord while He is present with you. After the appearances of bread vanish, Our Lord’s bodily presence goes also, but He remains with us by His grace as long as we do not fall into mortal sin.
A. This change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Our Lord is called Transubstantiation.
“Transubstantiation” that is, the changing of one substance into another substance; for example, the changing of the wood in a seat into stone.
247. Q. How was the substance of the bread and wine changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ?
A. The substance of the bread and wine was changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ by His almighty power.
248. Q. Does this change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continue to be made in the Church?
A. This change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continues to be made in the Church by Jesus Christ through the ministry of His priests.
249. Q. When did Christ give His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood?
A. Christ gave His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood when He said to His Apostles, “Do this in commemoration of Me.”
250. Q. How do the priests exercise this power of changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ?
A. The priests exercise this power of changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ through the words of consecration in the Mass, which are the words of Christ: “This is My body; this is My blood.”
“Consecration:’ At what part of the Mass are the words of consecration pronounced? Just before the Elevation; that is, just before the priest holds up the Host and the chalice. while the altar boy rings the bell.
When the priest is going to say Mass he prepares everything necessary in the sacristy-the place or room near the altar where the sacred vessels and vestments are kept, and where the priest vests. He takes the chalice-that is, the long silver or gold goblet-out of its case; then he covers it with a long, narrow, white linen cloth called a purificator. Over this he places a small silver or gold plate called the paten, on which he places a host-that is, a thin piece of white bread prepared for Mass, perfectly round, and about the size of the bottom of a small drinking glass. He then covers this host with a white card, called a pall, after which he covers the chalice and all with a square cloth or veil that matches the vestments. Then he puts on his own vestments as follows: Over his shoulders the amice, a square, white cloth. Next the alb, a long white garment reaching down to his feet. He draws it about his waist with the cincture, or white cord. He places on his left arm the maniple, a short, narrow vestment. Around his neck he places the stole, a long, narrow vestment with a cross on each end. Over all he places the chasuble, or large vestment with the cross on the back. Lastly, he puts on his cap or biretta. Before going further I must say something about the color and signification of the vestments. There are five colors used, namely, white, red, green, violet, and black. White signifies innocence, and is used on the feasts of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, and of some saints. Red signifies love, and is used on the feasts of the Holy Ghost and of the martyrs. Green signifies hope, and is used on Sundays from the Epiphany to Pentecost, unless some feast requiring another color falls on Sunday. Violet signifies penance, and is used in Advent and Lent. Black signifies sorrow, and is used on Good Friday and in Masses for the dead. As regards the vestments themselves: the amice signifies preparation to resist the attacks of the devil; the alb is the symbol of innocence; the cincture of charity; the maniple of penance; the stole of immortality; and the chasuble of love, by which we are enabled to bear the light burden Our Lord is pleased to lay upon us.
Vested as described, when the candles have been lighted on the altar, the priest takes the covered chalice in his hand and goes to the altar, where, after arranging everything, he begins Mass. After saying many prayers, he uncovers the chalice, and the acolyte or altar boy brings up wine and water, and the priest puts some into the chalice. Then he says a prayer, and offers to God the bread and wine to be consecrated. This is called the offertory of the Mass, and takes place after the boy presents the wine and water. Immediately after the Sanctus the priest begins what is called the Canon of the Mass, and soon after comes to the time of consecration, and has before him on the paten the white bread, or host, and in the chalice wine. Remember, it is only bread and wine as yet. After saying some prayers the priest bends down over the altar and pronounces the words of consecration, namely, “This is My body,” over the bread; and “This is My blood” over the wine. Then there is no longer the bread the priest brought out and the wine the boy gave, upon the altar, but instead of both the body and blood of Our Lord. After the words of consecration, the priest genuflects or kneels before the altar to adore Our Lord, who just came there at the words of consecration; he next holds up the body of Our Lord-the Host-for the people also to see and adore it; he then replaces it on the altar and again genuflects. He does just the same with the chalice. This is called the Elevation. The altar boy then rings the bell to call the people’s attention to it, for it is the most solemn part of the Mass. After more prayers the priest takes and consumes, that is, swallows, the sacred Host and drinks the precious blood from the chalice. Then the people come up to the altar to receive Holy Communion. But where does the priest get Holy Communion for them if he himself took all he consecrated? He opens the tabernacle, and there, in a large, beautiful vessel he has small Hosts. He consecrates a large number of these small hosts sometimes while he is consecrating the larger one for himself. When they are consecrated, he places them in the tabernacle, where they are kept with the sanctuary lamp burning before them, till at the different Masses they have all been given out to the people. Then he consecrates others at the next Mass, and does as before. The size of the Host does not make the slightest difference, as Our Lord is present whole and entire in the smallest particle of the Host. A little piece that you could scarcely see would be the body of Our Lord. However, the particle that is given to the people is about the size of a twenty-five cent piece, so that they can swallow it before it melts. In receiving Holy Communion you must never let it entirely dissolve in your mouth, for if you do not swallow it you will not receive Holy Communion at all.
Here I might tell you what Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is. The priest sometimes consecrates at the Mass two large hosts, one he consumes himself, as I have told you, and the other he places in the tabernacle in a little gold case. When it is time for Benediction, he places this little case–made of glass and gold, about the size of a watch–in the gold or silver monstrance which you see on the altar at Benediction. It is made to represent rays of light coming from the Blessed Sacrament. After the choir sings, the priest says the prayer and goes up and blesses the people with the Blessed Sacrament; that is, when he holds up the monstrance over the people Our Lord Himself blesses them. Should we not be very anxious, therefore, to go to Benediction? If the bishop came to the church, we would all be anxious to receive his blessing; and if our Holy Father the Pope came, everybody would rush to the church. But what are they compared to Our Lord Himself? And yet when He comes to give His blessing, many seem to care little about it. Because Our Lord in His goodness is pleased to give us His blessing often, we are indifferent about it. The holy teachers and fathers of the Church tell us that if we could see the sanctuary at Mass and Benediction as it really is, we would see it filled with angels all bowed down, adoring Our Lord. These good angels must be very much displeased at those who are so indifferent at Mass or Benediction as not to pay any attention; and above all, at those who stay away. The large silk cloak the priest wears at Benediction is called the cope, and the long scarf that is placed over his shoulders the humeral, or Benediction veil. At the words of consecration, you must know, the priest does not say “This is Christ’s body,” but “This is My body”; for at the altar the priest is there in the place of Our Lord Himself. It is Our Lord who offers up the sacrifice, and the priest is His instrument. That is why the priest wears vestments while saying Mass or performing his sacred duties, to remind him that he is, as it were, another person; that he is not acting in his own name or right, but in the name and place of our Blessed Lord.
I have given you in a general way a description of the Mass: let me now mention its particular parts by their proper names, and tell you what they are. At the foot of the altar the priest says the Confiteor, a psalm, and other prayers as a preparation. Then he ascends the altar steps-praying as he goes and says the Introit, which is some portion of the Holy Scripture suitable to the feast of the day. He next says the Kyrie Eleison, which means: Lord, have mercy on us. He then says the Gloria, or hymn of praise, though not in all Masses. After the Gloria he says the Collect, which is a collection of prayers in which the priest prays for the needs of the Church and of its children. This is followed by the Epistle, which is a part of the Holy Scripture. Then the Mass-book is removed to the other side of the altar, and the priest reads the Gospel–that is, some portion of the Gospel written by the evangelists. After the Gospel the priest, except in some Masses, says the Creed, which is a profession of his faith in the mysteries of our religion. After this the priest uncovers the chalice, and offers up the bread and wine which is to be consecrated. This is called the Offertory of the Mass. The offertory is followed by the Lavabo, or washing of the priest’s hands: first, that the priest’s hands may be purified to touch the Sacred Host; and, second, to signify the purity of soul he must have to offer the Holy Sacrifice. After saying some prayers in secret he says the Preface, which is a solemn hymn of praise and thanksgiving. The Preface ends with the Sanctus. The Sanctus is followed by the Canon of the Mass. Canon means a rule; so this part of the Mass is called the Canon, because it never changes. The Epistle, Gospel, prayers, etc., are different on the different feasts, but the Canon of the Mass is always the same. The Canon is the part of the Mass from the Sanctus down to the time the priest again covers the chalice. After the Canon the priest says the Post-Communion, or prayer after Communion; then he gives the blessing and goes to the other side of the altar, and ends Mass by saying the last Gospel.
During the Mass the priest frequently makes the Sign of the Cross, genuflects or bends the knee before the altar, strikes his breast, etc. What do all these ceremonies mean? By the cross the priest is reminded of the death of Our Lord; he genuflects as an act of humility, and he strikes his breast to show his own unworthiness. You will understand all the ceremonies of the altar if you remember that Our Lord-the King of kings-is present on it, and the priest acts in His presence as the servants in a king’s palace would act when approaching their king or in his presence, showing their respect by bowing, kneeling, etc. You will see this more clearly if you watch the movements of the priest at the altar while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.
A. Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist:
- To unite us to Himself and to nourish our souls with His divine life.
- To increase sanctifying grace and all the virtues in our souls.
- To lessen our evil inclinations.
- To be a pledge of everlasting life.
- To fit our bodies for a glorious resurrection.
- To continue the sacrifice of the Cross in His Church.
“To nourish.” The Holy Eucharist does to our souls what natural food does to our bodies. It strengthens them and makes up for the losses we have sustained by sin, etc. “A pledge,” because it does not seem probable that a person who all during life had been fed and nourished with the sacred body of Our Lord should after death be buried in Hell. “To fit our bodies,” because Our Lord has promised that if we eat His flesh and drink His blood, that is, receive the Holy Eucharist, He will raise us up on the last day, or Day of Judgment. (John 6:55).
A. We are united to Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist by means of Holy Communion.
A. Holy Communion is the receiving of the body and blood of Christ.
Holy Communion is therefore the receiving of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.
A. To make a good Communion it is necessary to be in a state of sanctifying grace, to be fasting for one hour, and to have a right intention.
“Fasting”–that is, not having taken any food or drink for one hour before the time of Communion. (Water and true medicine do not break the fast and may be taken at any time.) What, then, are you to do, if, without thinking, you break your fast? Do not go to Communion at that Mass; you can remain in church and receive Communion at the following Mass. Never, never, on any account, go to Holy Communion when you have broken your fast. Never let fear or shame or anything else make you do such a thing. It is no shame to break your fast by mistake; but it is a great sin to knowingly go to Communion after breaking your fast.
“A right intention”–holy and spiritual motive, such as, to obey Our Lord’s command, to receive strength to resist temptation, or to be united with Our Lord.
A. He who receives Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but does not receive His grace, and he commits a great sacrilege.
“The body and blood,” because the appearance of bread and wine is there after consecration, and he receives it. He who receives the Holy Eucharist in mortal sin receives Our Lord into a filthy soul. If a great and highly-esteemed friend was coming to visit your house, would you not take care to have everything clean and neat, and pleasing to him? And the greater the dignity of the person coming, the more careful you would be. But what are all the persons of dignity in the world-kings or popes-compared with Our Lord, who leaves the beauties of Heaven to come to visit our soul? and the purest we can make it is not pure enough for Him. But He is kind to us, and is satisfied with our poor preparation if He sees we are doing our very best. But oh, what a shame to receive Him into our soul without any preparation! and more horrible still, to fill it with vile sins, that we know are most disgusting to Him! No wonder, therefore, that receiving Holy Communion unworthily is so great a crime, and so deserving of God’s punishment. Why should not the heavenly Father punish us for treating His beloved Son with such shameful disrespect and contempt?
256. Q. Is it enough to be free from mortal sin, to receive plentifully the graces of Holy Communion?
A. To receive plentifully the graces of Holy Communion it is not enough to be free from mortal sin, but we should be free from all affection to venial sin, and should make acts of lively faith, of firm hope and ardent love.
A. The fast necessary for Holy Communion is the abstaining for one hour from everything which is taken as food or drink.
“Food or drink.” If you swallowed a button, for example, it would not break your fast, because it is not food or drink.
A. Anyone in danger of death is allowed to receive Communion when not fasting.
“Not fasting.” But then the Holy Communion is called by another name; it is called the Viaticum, and the priest uses a different prayer in giving it to the sick person. When a person dies, he goes, as it were, on a journey from this world to the next. Now, when persons are going on a journey they must have food to strengthen them. Our Lord wished, therefore, that all His children who had to go on this most important of all journeys–from this world to the next–should be first strengthened by this sacred food, His own body and blood. The Latin word for road or way is via, and Viaticum therefore means food for the way. Not only are persons in danger of death allowed to receive when not fasting, but they are obliged to receive; and the priest is obliged under pain of sin to bring Holy Communion to the dying at any hour of the day or night.
When I speak of a great journey from this world to the next, from earth to Heaven, you must not understand me to mean that it is a great many miles from earth to Heaven, or that it takes a long time to go to the next world. No.
We cannot measure the distance, nor does it take time to get there. The instant we die, no matter where that happens, our soul is in the next world, and judged by God.
259. Q. When are we bound to receive Holy Communion? A. We are bound to receive Holy Communion, under pain of mortal sin, during the Easter time and when in danger of death.
A. It is well to receive Holy Communion often, as nothing is a greater aid to a holy life than often to receive the Author of all graces and the Source of all good.
A. After Holy Communion we should spend some time in adoring Our Lord, in thanking Him for the graces we have received and in asking Him for the blessings we need.
A. The bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ at the consecration in the Mass.
A. The Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ.
The Holy Sacrifice is called Mass probably from the words the priest says at the end when he turns to the people and says, “Ite Missa est”; that is, when he tells them the Holy Sacrifice is over.
A. A sacrifice is the offering of an object by a priest to God alone, and the consuming of it to acknowledge that He is the Creator and Lord of all things.
“Sacrifice” From the very earliest history of man we find people–for example, Abel, Noah, etc.–offering up sacrifice to God; that is, taking something and offering it to God, and then destroying it to show that they believed God to be the Master of life and death, and the Supreme Lord of all things. These offerings were sometimes plants or fruits, but most frequently animals.
When men lost the knowledge of the true God and began to worship idols of wood and stone, they began or continued to offer sacrifice to these false gods. Very often, too, they sacrificed human beings to please, as they imagined, these gods. They believed there was a god for everything–a god for the ocean, a god for thunder, a god for wind, for war, etc.; and when anything happened that frightened or injured the people, they believed that some of these gods were offended, and offered up sacrifice to pacify them. They had a temple in Rome called the Pantheon, or temple of all the gods, and here they kept the idols of all the gods they could think of or know. At Athens, they were afraid of neglecting any god whom they might thus give offense, and so they had an altar for the unknown god. When St. Paul came to preach, he saw this altar to the unknown god, and told them that was the God he came to preach about. (Acts 17). He preached to them the existence of the true God, and showed them that there is only one God and not many gods.
They did not have these idols of wood and stone in their temples for the same reason that we have images in our churches, because they believed that the idols were really gods, and offered sacrifice to them, whereas we know that our images are the works of men. Near the city of Jerusalem there was a great idol named Molech, to which parents offered their infants in sacrifice. We know, too, from the history of this country that the Indians used to send a beautiful young girl in a white canoe over the falls of Niagara every year, as a sacrifice offered to the god of the falls. Even yet human sacrifices are offered up on savage islands. Sometimes certain animals were selected to be heathen gods. The people who worship idols, animals, or other things of that kind as gods are called pagans, idolaters, or heathens.
The Israelites, who worshipped the true God and offered Him sacrifices because He made known to them by revelation that they should do so, had four kinds of sacrifice. They offered one for sin, another in thanksgiving for benefits received, another as an act of worship, and another to beg God’s blessing. It is just for these four ends or objects we offer up the one Christian sacrifice of the holy Mass. In the beginning the head of the family offered sacrifice-as Noah did when he came out of the Ark–but after God gave His laws to Moses He appointed priests to offer up the sacrifices. Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first priest appointed, and after him his descendants were priests. When Our Lord came and instituted a new sacrifice He established the priesthood of the New Law, and appointed His own priests, namely, the Apostles, with St. Peter as their chief, and after them their lawfully appointed successors. the bishops of the world, with the Pope as their chief The sacrifices of the Old Law were figures of the sacrifice of the New Law, and were to cease at its institution; and when the ancient sacrifices ceased the ancient priesthood was at an end.
But how is the Mass a sacrifice? It is a sacrifice because at the Mass the body and blood of Our Lord are offered to His heavenly Father at the consecration, and afterwards consumed by the priest. In offering up the body and blood of Our Lord the bread and wine are consecrated separately, and kept separate on the altar at Mass to signify their separation at Our Lord’s death in the sacrifice of the Cross, when His sacred blood flowed from His body. The Holy Eucharist is also a Sacrament, because it has the three things necessary to constitute a Sacrament; namely,
- The outward sign–that is, the appearance of bread and wine.
- The inward grace; for it is Jesus Christ Himself, the Author and Dispenser of all graces.
- It was instituted by Our Lord.
The Holy Eucharist is therefore both a sacrifice and a Sacrament. It is a sacrifice when offered at Mass, and a Sacrament when we receive it and when it is reserved in the tabernacle.
A. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross because the offering and the priest are the same–Christ Our Blessed Lord: and the ends for which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered are the same as those of the sacrifice of the Cross.
On the Cross the offering was the body and blood of Our Lord; the one who offered it was Our Lord; the reason for which He offered it was that He might atone for sin; the one to whom He offered it was His heavenly Father. Now, at Mass it is the same. The object offered is Our Lord’s body and blood, the one suffering is Our Lord Himself, through the priest; it is offered for sin, and it is offered to the heavenly Father. All things are the same, except that the blood of Our Lord is not shed, and Our Lord does not die again.
A. The ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered were: first, to honor and glorify God; second, to thank Him for all the graces bestowed on the whole world; third, to satisfy God’s justice for the sins of men; fourth, to obtain all graces and blessings.
A. Yes; the manner in which the sacrifice is offered is different. On the Cross Christ really shed His blood and was really slain; in the Mass there is no real shedding of blood nor real death, because Christ can die no more; but the sacrifice of the Mass, through the separate consecration of the bread and the wine, represents His death on the Cross.
A. We should assist at Mass with great interior recollection and piety and with every outward mark of respect and devotion.
If you were admitted into the presence of a king or of the Holy Father you would be careful not to show any indifference or disrespect in his presence. You would not be guilty of looking around or of talking idly to those near you. Your eyes would be constantly fixed on the great person present. So should you be at Mass, for there you are admitted into the presence of the King of kings, our divine Lord. Your whole attention, therefore, should be reverently given to Him, and to no other. How displeasing it must be to Him to have some in His presence who care so little for Him and who insult Him without thought or regard! If we acted in the presence of any prince as we sometimes act in the presence of Our Lord on the altar, we should be turned out of his house, with orders not to come again. But Our Lord suffers all patiently and meekly, though He will not allow any of this disrespect to go unpunished in this world or in the next. Knowing this, some holy persons offer up their prayers and Holy Communions in reparation for these insults, and try to atone for all the insults offered to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. They have united in holy society for this purpose, called the Apostleship of Prayer, or League of the Sacred Heart, now established in many parishes. If you do not belong to such a society, you should make such an offering yourself privately.
In the Old Law the people brought to the temple whatever they wished the priests to offer up for them-sometimes a lamb, sometimes a dove, sometimes fruit, etc. The offering or sacrifice was theirs, and they offered it up by the hands of the priests. In the early ages of the Church the Christians brought to the priests the bread and wine to be consecrated and offered up at Mass. Now as the bread and wine used at the Mass must be of a particular kind, namely, wheaten bread and wine of the grape, there was some danger of the people not bringing the proper kind: so instead of the people bringing these things themselves, the priests began to buy them, and the people gave him money for his own support; and thus you have the origin of offering money to the priest for celebrating Mass for your intention. The money is not to pay for the Mass, because you could not buy any sacred thing without committing sin. The priest may use the money also for the candles burned, the vestments and sacred vessels, etc., used at the Mass. To buy a holy thing for money is the sin of simony-so called after Simon, a magician, who tried to bribe the Apostles to give him Confirmation when he was unworthy of it. To buy religious articles before they are blessed is not simony, nor even after they are blessed, if you pay only for the material of which they are made; but if you tried to buy the blessing, it would be simony. When the Holy Mass is offered, the fruits or benefits of it are divided into four classes. The first benefit comes to the priest who celebrates the Mass; the second, to the one for whom he offers the Mass; the third benefit to those who are present at it; and the fourth to all the faithful throughout the world.
A. The best manner of hearing Mass is to offer it to God with the priest for the same purpose for which it is said, to meditate on Christ’s sufferings and death, and to go to Holy Communion.
That is, to offer it up for whatever intention the priest is offering it–for the dead, for the conversion of sinners, for the good of others, etc.; but especially for the four ends
of which I have already spoken-to worship God, thank Him, etc. “Christ’s death,” of which it reminds us. “Holy Communion,” if we are in a state of grace, and have prepared to receive Communion.
You should go to Holy Communion as often as possible, and you should try every day to make yourself more worthy of that great Sacrament. Think of it! To receive your God and Saviour into your soul, and to be united with Him, as the word communion means! The early Christians used to go to Communion very frequently. The Church requires us to go to Holy Communion at least once a year, but we should not be satisfied with doing merely what is necessary to avoid mortal sin. Do we try to keep away from persons we love? Then if we really love Our Lord should we not desire to receive Him? All good Catholics should go to Holy Communion at least once a week, on Sunday. Persons wishing to lead truly holy lives should go to Communion more often, or even every day.
When we cannot go really to Communion we can merit God’s grace by making a spiritual Communion. What is a spiritual Communion? It is an earnest desire to receive Communion. You prepare yourself as if you were really going to Communion; you try to imagine yourself going up, receiving the Blessed Sacrament, and returning to your place. Then you thank God for all His blessings to you as you would have done had you received. This is an act of devotion, and one very pleasing to God, as many holy writers tell us.
I cannot leave this lesson on the Holy Eucharist without telling you something of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, now so universally practiced and so closely connected with the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The Church grants many indulgences, and Our Lord Himself promises many rewards to those who honor the Sacred Heart. But what do we mean by the Sacred Heart? We mean the real natural heart of Our Lord, to which His divinity is united as it is to His whole body. But why do we adore this real, natural heart of Our Lord? We adore it because love is said to be in the heart, and we wish to return Our Lord love, and gratitude for the great love He has shown to us in dying for us, and in instituting the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, by which He can remain with us in His sacred humanity. When Our Lord appeared to Saint Margaret Mary He said: “Behold this Heart, that has loved men so ardently, and is so little loved in return.” The first Friday of every month and the whole month of June are dedicated to the Sacred Heart.