When the believers come together to celebrate the Eucharist , they do so in memory of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. However, memory means much more than a mere “remembering” of Jesus Christ and His actions. At the same time, it also has a future dimension in which it symbolically anticipates the salvation and perfection of mankind. And finally, Christians believe that Jesus is present in the sacrament of the Eucharist in a very special way in the here and now – under the guises of bread and wine.
This is made possible by the incarnation of God in his Son Jesus Christ. In the communal consumption of the gifts, the communion, the believers receive a share in the “body and blood” of Jesus and in his redeeming death on the cross. “Body and blood” are – as usually in the biblical context – for the whole person of Jesus, for his liveliness and his devotion to the people.
On the occasion of his death, we remember Cardinal Joachim Meisner. In the video he talks about the Eucharist, its meaning and the worthy celebration.
The fact that Jesus gives himself to the faithful just under the signs of bread and wine, is traced back to the Last Supper words of Christ. In the oldest Biblical testimony, the first letter of the apostle Paul to the church of Corinth (about 55 AD), it says: “Jesus, the Lord, took bread on the night he was delivered, said that Praise, broke the bread, and said, “This is my body for you.” Do this in remembrance of me. “He also took the cup after the meal and said,” This cup is the new covenant in my blood. “Do this as often as you drink from it. to my memory! ” (1 Cor 11,23-25)
Insertion words are today part of the high prayer
These words of institution of Jesus from the Letter to the Corinthians are today part of the high prayer in the Eucharistic celebration and are also called “change words”. Speaking through the priest, the mysterious transformation (or consecration) of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ takes place. For centuries, theologians and philosophers have been attempting to penetrate this realization of the devotion of God, which is first and foremost the truth of faith, with reason.
For the Roman Catholic Church, at least since the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Latin concept of “transubstantiation” has come to the fore, meaning “transformation of essence”. Thus the council fathers stated: “Through the consecration of the bread and wine a transformation of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ, our Lord, and the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood takes place meeting the Catholic Church, and in the true sense called transformation of essence. “
The article was written with the help of the book “Loaded to the table of the Lord: The celebration of the Eucharist” (publishing house Friedrich Pustet) of liturgical scholars Martin Stuflesser and Stephan Winter.
With this, the fathers of the Council recall the teachings of one of the most important theologians in church history, Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) . He distinguishes – in the style of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) – between the substance and the accidents of a thing or a person. While the substance describes the nature or the species affiliation, accidents are the more or less random properties. These include, for example, shape, size, smell, taste or appearance.
The principle can be clarified with a few examples: For example, a person in our culture will uniquely identify an object consisting of a plate, four legs and wood as a table. If his accidental properties change now, for example, if he lacks a leg or if he is made of plastic instead of wood, he still remains essentially – in substance – a table. Likewise, a piece of iron can rust or rot an apple. They change their shape, their appearance or their smell, but still remain iron or apple.
Thomas Aquinas: A supernatural change process
In the Eucharist, according to Thomas Aquinas, something happens that is completely different from all natural processes of change. Because it is not the external properties of bread and wine that change. The consistency, taste, appearance and smell remain the same even after the transformation. It is the substance, the being that changes and becomes the body and blood of Christ. “This transformation is therefore not similar to the natural transformations, but entirely supernatural, only effected by God’s power,” explains Thomas in his “Summa theologiae III”.
A contribution of the series “Catholic for Beginners”. The animated series explains in a simple and humorous way central concepts of church and Christianity. This episode is about the Eucharist and its meaning in the Christian faith.
Nevertheless, according to Thomas, this process can also be understood with the intellect. Aristotle has a very illustrative example for such a case: that of a doorstep. By sensory perception alone one can define it at most as a piece of wood of a certain form. Only the mind tells the viewer that this piece of wood fulfills a certain function at a certain position and thus becomes the threshold. If you change position, the threshold stops being one.
In the Eucharist, bread and wine are now also placed in a different “position” and placed in a new context of meaning by the words of the priest’s words of change. In doing so, he invokes the authority of the words of Jesus. As the faithful celebrate Corpus Christi – and every Sunday – the true presence of Jesus under the sign of bread and wine, the Sacrament of the Eucharist helps them understand the unconditional love of God in words and signs.