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Last Word - July 2012

"Receive What You Are" - St. Augustine

As I said in my previous column, I really wanted to write a column about the Eucharist to serve as a link between Easter (April 8) and the Solemnity of the Body of Christ (June10). But I decided that I could not do that unless I first wrote something about the Church, because there is no way to make sense of the Eucharist as the Body of Christ until you understand that the Church is the Body of Christ. Reverence for the Eucharistic Body is inseparable from reverence for the Church which is the Body of Christ. And, when I say “the Church,” I do not mean some abstract entity. I mean the Body of Christ which is the men and women, infants, boys and girls, teens and young adults, who fill those pews each weekend.

In this regard, I would like to share with you a series of passages taken from the sermons of St. Augustine. Now, Augustine was not just a great theologian of the fifth century, he was a bishop who presided over a community not so unlike the one in which you and I gather on Sunday. These passages all come from sermons he preached during the Easter Season paying special attention to the new Christians who had been baptized at Easter.

  • If you want to understand the Body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul say to the faithful: “You are Christ’s Body and members.” If therefore you are Christ’s Body and its members, your mystery is placed on the table of the Lord; you receive your mystery. For what you are, you respond, “Amen,” and by responding you commit yourself to it. For we hear the words “the Body of Christ” and you answer “Amen.” Be a member of the body of Christ so that your Amen is true.
  • Be what you see, and receive what you are.
  • There upon the table you are present and you are there in the cup. Together with us you are this; for together we are this, we drink together, because we live together
  • He commended to us, in this sacrament, His body and blood. Into which He has even made us ourselves as well. And by His mercy, we are what we receive
  • He willed that we ourselves be His sacrifice (and this is clearly shown at the moment that this sacrifice is first put upon the altar, the sign or the reality that we are the sacrifice of God and of ourselves).
  • Whoever receives the mystery of unity and does not hold the bond of peace, does not receive the mystery of his benefit, but receives it as a testimony against himself.

The Eucharist is more than just Jesus alone present under the signs of Bread and Wine; it is one another in Him under those signs. In receiving the Eucharist we do more than receive Jesus in isolation; we receive one another: the whole Body of Christ.

Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Henchal