Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
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It is true that our Lord merited eternal life for us by His death on the Cross. But the fruit and grace of that sacrifice are applied to our souls by the Sacraments. Now the central Sacrament of all is the Holy Eucharist. We receive the principle of supernatural life by Baptism, but the Eucharist is ordained for the preservation of that life. The most important function for a living being is to live. And it lives by nutrition. The growth and development of a tree is an act of continuous nutrition. Now the Eucharist is for the spiritual nourishment of the spiritual life. And it does all for the life of the soul that ordinary food does for the life of the body. It sustains the life of grace. It repairs loss of spiritual vitality. It promotes progress towards a perfect development in holiness. And it gives the joy of health in the spiritual order. And since the Eucharist is the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, our Lord rightly said, "He that eateth Me, the same shall live by Me." There is one essential difference, of course, between the activity of the Eucharist, and that of ordinary food. Ordinary food nourishes our bodies by becoming absorbed and transformed into our own living tissues and cells. But the opposite process occurs in the Eucharist. Holy Communion absorbs us into a unity with Christ. It is a greater and stronger food than any merely natural food. Instead of merely fostering our natural life, it intensifies our participation in a higher and supernatural life.
The Eucharist is opposed chiefly to the forces which lead to the death of the supernatural life of grace within the soul. But it also robs the natural death of the body of all permanent power, since it will lead to the restoration of bodily life in a glorious resurrection. Even though Christ died, He overcame the power of death by His resurrection. Death could not keep Him in the tomb. By receiving the Body of Christ in Holy Communion, you receive the right and title to your own glorious resurrection. In the Eucharist our Lord continues His work for you.
The explanation of those words lies in the fact that the Eucharist is not only an individual rite, but essentially social. Holy Communion unites you in Christ with all others who also receive that wonderful Sacrament. And all being united in Christ, all should be united by the bond of charity. The Eucharist is a communion with Christ and a Common Union of all who partake of it. Thus, as bread is made from a multitude of individual grains brought into unity, so the Church is built up by a multitude of individual members held together in the unity of Christ's mystical body by the Holy Eucharist. St. Paul, therefore, insists on the special bond of loyalty and love which should prevail amongst all who have the great privilege of kneeling at the altar rails in the Catholic Church.
The general law really dates from the Council of Constance in the year 1415. The circumstances leading up to this law were as follows. From the earliest times, Communion was given to the laity under both kinds, or under either kind. The general rule was to give Communion under both kinds, but at times, Communion was given under the form of bread only, or from the chalice only. All admitted that Christ was entirely present under either kind, and never was there any law commanding reception under both kinds by the laity. As years went on, variations in practice arose, and there was no uniformity. The Church permitted local customs to be observed. The custom of giving Communion under the form of bread only, however, became more and more widespread, chiefly for reasons of reverence and convenience. About the twelfth century, however, two erroneous doctrines began to manifest themselves. One declared that the custom of giving Communion under one kind only was a sacrilegious abuse; the other, that Christ was not completely present under either kind. It was the growth of these errors which led the Council of Constance in 1415 to define that the complete Christ is present under either the appearances of bread or the appearances of wine; that the custom of giving Communion under the form of bread only was most reasonably and wisely introduced; and that it is heretical to say that Communion must be given under both kinds. Three years later, in 1418, amongst the list of questions to be put to the Wycliffites and Hussites in order to test their orthodoxy, the following was included: "Do you believe that the custom observed by the universal Church, and approved by the Council of Constance, by which Communion is given to the laity under the form of bread only is to be so observed that no one may condemn it, nor, without the authority of the Church, depart from it?" From this it is clear that the law dates from the beginning of the fifteenth century.
In the early Christian Church it was the normal practice to give Communion under both kinds. But the discretionary power of the Church was in use even then. Sick people, prisoners, and martyrs received Communion under the form of bread only. Infants often received under the form of wine only, a drop or two being placed upon the tongue. All knew that the practice was perfectly valid in these cases, despite the normal custom being otherwise.
Quite so. And both kinds must be used in the commemorative Sacrifice of the Mass. But Communion deals with the Sacramental, not the Sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist. Therefore, St. Paul says, "He who eats or drinks unworthily is guilty of the body and of the blood of Christ." 1 Cor. XI., 27.
Because the Holy Eucharist was instituted not only as a Sacrament, but also as a Sacrifice. For the Sacramental reception of Christ, one kind only is sufficient. But as a Sacrifice representing the separation of Christ's body and blood on the Cross, the Eucharist requires the external significance of separate consecrations under the solid appearances of bread and the liquid appearances of wine. Though there can be no real separation of Christ's body and blood, now that He has risen to die no more, the separation which took place on Calvary is symbolized by the apparent separation of the two elements in the separate consecrations. Thus, our Lord said, "As often as you do this you shall show the death of the Lord until He come." 1 Cor. XI, 26. Both kinds are necessary, therefore, for the Sacrifice of the Mass; either kind will do for Sacramental Communion. If a priest offers Mass, he must receive under both kinds; but if he does not wish to say Mass, yet desires to receive Holy Communion, he receives under one kind only, just as the laity, and is quite content to do so.