Father Matthew Buettner: The Consecration: 'This Is My Body'
The Eucharistic Prayer has three parts: the Preface, the Sanctus and the Consecration. As soon as the Sanctus comes to completion, the faithful assume the posture of kneeling in humble adoration, awaiting the King of Kings, before whom "every knee must bend." Then, with the simplicity of one lone voice breaking the silence of the Upper Room at the Last Supper, Jesus Christ, the High Priest, utters the sacred words through His priest, the words that He donated to His Church on Holy Thursday. Through this divine mystery, bread and wine actually change into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, leaving behind only the appearances of bread and wine.
We could admittedly spend months studying and contemplating this divine mystery that lies at the heart of the Mass. But for the sake of brevity and clarity, let us focus our attention only on what pertains to this mystery of faith: the words and actions that accomplish this sacrament. To investigate how this is accomplished, we must now turn to the next two parts of the Eucharistic Prayer: the epiclesis and the institution narrative and consecration.
The word "epiclesis" is a Greek composite of two words: kaleo, meaning "to call, summon or invite," and when preceded by the preposition "epi," the word means, "to call down." During this third part of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest "calls down" the Holy Spirit and signifies this activity by placing his hands over the gifts that are to be sacrificed. Sanctuary bells may be rung at this time.
Why? Monsignor Ronald Knox mentions that, "...it says in the books that the bell is rung at Mass to excite the attention and devotion of the faithful." Then he adds whimsically that, "...I should think it's all part of this business about the holy Angels, and the priest feeling that he's just arrived at the door of Heaven and can look through the key-hole. Having arrived at the door, we ring the bell."
The epiclesis gesture has at least two main spiritual meanings: 1) In the Old Testament Temple sacrifices, the priest would place his hands on the lamb of sacrifice, dedicating it for sacrifice; 2) also, the epiclesis recalls the mystery of the Incarnation, in which the Holy Spirit descended upon and overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary so that the Word became flesh. Indeed, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass unites these two mysteries together as Jesus Christ becomes both Priest and Victim of the sacrifice and again comes to us sacramentally in the flesh, which now brings us to the fourth part of the Eucharistic Prayer.
During the institution narrative and the consecration, the familiar voice of Jesus Christ is heard as the High Priest of every sacrifice of the Mass:
"Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
For this is My Body
Which will be given up for you."
Each priest lends himself to the service of Christ, so that Our Lord can once again re-present His sacrifice. It is not simply the priest who speaks, "This is my Body," since it is not his body, per se, but rather it is Christ who speaks, "This is my Body...this is my Blood." That is why Dom Prosper Gueranger explains that, "...it is not man who speaks at this solemn moment of the Consecration, it is rather Christ Himself Who makes use of man for the purpose."
These words actually effect the change from bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Just as Christ took bread and wine at the Last Supper, blessed it, and gave it to His apostles after He consecrated it into His Body and Blood, He continues to offer them for our salvation. This change from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is known as transubstantiation, meaning a "change in substance." The whole substance of bread and wine is changed into the substance of Christ's Body and Blood. The accidents, or the appearances, of bread and wine remain the same.
Therefore, when we receive the Holy Eucharist, we do not receive bread and wine with the Body and Blood of Christ ("consubstantiation"); we do not receive bread and wine that merely signifies the Body and Blood of Christ ("transignification" or "transfinalization"); on the contrary, we do receive the Body and Blood of Christ, the same crucified, risen, and glorified body of Christ, under the appearances of bread and wine.
Christ said, "This is my body." We have no reason to doubt Him, who is incapable of deceiving us. The consecration actually occurs in two distinct consecrations: first the Body, then the Blood – signifying the death of Christ, whose precious blood was separated from His body on the cross.
After each consecration is a moment of adoration signified by the sanctuary bells, a sacred moment in which the Body and Blood of Christ may be incensed (the fourth and final incensation), a sacred moment which prepares us for that moment of divine intimacy whereby God desires to enter divine communion with us.
With the improved English renderings of the Latin text, it is important to note the newly translated formula for the consecration of the wine into the Precious Blood:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
For this is the chalice of my blood,
The blood of the new and eternal covenant,
Which will be poured out for you and for many
For the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of Me."
We can quickly recognize not only a more accurate rendition of the Latin, but the more faithful traditional formula, "...for you and for many...," in place of the former, "...for you and for all...." The use of the more ancient formula should not be confused with any change in theology or teaching, but rather a more authentic adherence to Sacred Scripture, which states that, Christ came to "serve and to give His life as a ransom for many," as well the more traditional liturgical language that employed these terms of Sacred Scripture.
Father Matthew Buettner is the pastor of St. Dorothy Church in Lincolnton. This is excerpted from "Understanding the Mystery of the Mass – Revisited." Previous columns are online at www.catholicnewsherald.com.
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy