By Father Roch Kereszty
Special to The Texas Catholic
After the Sanctus, the thanksgiving prayer to the father through the son continues and leads us to the epiclesis, a solemn invocation of the Holy Spirit to consecrate the gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Up to this point the priest was praying in the name of the church but now the Holy Spirit enables him to represent the very person of Christ so that Christ himself prays and acts through him. That is the reason why after the invocation the priest recites the words of Jesus in the first person singular: Through him Jesus Christ himself changes the bread and wine into his sacrificed and risen body and blood by the power of the Holy Spirit. The words of Jesus are almighty, creative words. At the beginning of history God spoke and the world was made. The incarnate son of God speaks here and the bread and wine are turned into his body and blood. his words do not simply remind us of him but make him present.
However, the insistence of many Catholics that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist is at best misleading. He is truly and really present in his full divine and human reality, but not physically. We can reach physical realities with our senses, we see, touch and hear them. But what we see and touch in the Eucharist are only the wafer-thin hosts and the cup of wine. Jesus wants to be our spiritual food and drink, so that we may be assimilated to him and thus become, in turn, food and drink for others. What this means we can see more clearly from its opposite: it is easy to become poison for others. We all know people whose very presence and tone of voice create unrest, hostility and bitterness. And we have also experienced the positive effect certain people can make upon us: Their words and gestures calm us down, refresh us and we feel not just better but become better persons after the conversation.
In the Mass after the consecration Jesus puts himself into our hands and tells us: “take me and offer me to my Father.” The church cannot cherish enough her greatest treasure and multiplies the words in the First Eucharistic Prayer because she knows that no word can express the full worth of Jesus’ sacrifice:
We your servants and your holy people offer to your glorious majesty…this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy bread of eternal life and the chalice of everlasting salvation.
St. Augustine says that the Church is constantly learning how to make her own and offer the sacrifice of Jesus. Only one person, the Virgin Mother of Jesus could fully identify with his sacrifice at the foot of the Cross.
When we go to Mass, let us ask Mary to teach us how to offer Jesus and ourselves with Jesus to the father. Had we not become sinful creatures, offering our lives to God would have been the joy of our lives, the most natural movement of love. There are two opposing forces working within us. One pulls us down and closes us in ourselves, the other still draws us upward and finds fulfillment only in giving ourselves to God and to our fellows. It can at times be painful during the day to unite ourselves with the sacrifice of Jesus by seeking to be one with his will, but at the end of every day and of our last day a profound peace will envelope us.
Father Roch Kereszty, O.Cist., is a theologian and monk at the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas in Irving. His column will appear occasionally in The Texas Catholic.