‘My Body … given up for you’

By David Cooley.

The celebration of the Eucharist goes back to the Last Supper that Jesus had with his Apostles. However, the memorial of the Eucharist is more than just a remembrance of that Last Supper event. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of our redemption becomes present. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium” (1963), states: “At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again” (n. 47). In his encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” Pope John Paul II wrote that the Mass makes the sacrifice of the Cross present, “which makes Christ’s one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time” (EE, n. 12).

In his “Summa Theologiae,” Thomas Aquinas makes the point that the Eucharist is at once a “sacrament” and a “sacrifice.” He wrote, “In this sacrament is included the whole mystery of our salvation” (“Summa Theologiae,” III, q. 83, a. 4, c). While St. Thomas notes the close connection between sacrament and sacrifice in the mystery of the Eucharist, he nevertheless sees them as irreducibly distinct from one another, being different concepts and having different effects.

The Eucharist satisfies the concept of a sacrament, Aquinas observed, insofar as it is received and consumed, while it satisfies the concept of sacrifice insofar as it is offered (cf. III, q. 79, a. 5, c). The sacramental effects, graces, are therefore limited to those who are actually present to taste it, while its sacrificial effects may extend to all those for whom it is offered.

St. Thomas Aquinas’ predecessor, Peter Lombard — theologian and bishop of Paris (d. 1160) —recognized that it was important to note that Christ’s saving sacrifice on Calvary is a “once for all” action, unique and unrepeatable; but at the same time the Church’s daily Eucharist action is a genuine sacrifice, in which Christ is truly offered. The offering takes place in one way on Calvary and in another way on the altar. St. John Paul II, referring back to the Council of Trent, said that “the Mass makes present the sacrifice on the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it” (EE, n. 12). He concludes, “The sacrificial nature of the Eucharist cannot therefore be understood as something separate, independent of the Cross or only indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary.”

In the 21st century, perhaps it strikes us as strange to speak of a “sacrifice” in the first place. The word harkens back to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament — complete with blood sprinkled on the altar — and, in the context of the Mass, refers to the death of God’s only Son for the reparation of sins. In other words, death to the innocent to save the guilty. Why would a God (a Father) of mercy demand such a thing? This is often a point of contention that popular atheists use when pointing out what they deem a major flaw in the Gospel narrative. “What kind of a blood-thirsty god would demand the death of his son to pay for the world’s crimes?” And yet it is St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians connects the crucifixion to the paschal sacrifice, calling Christ “our paschal lamb” who “has been sacrificed” (5:7).

In his book, “My Body Given for You,” recently published in English, Helmut Hoping, German professor of dogmatics and liturgy, writes that the Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross must be understood in terms of the life laid down for us “not in terms of the Crucified as the victim of violence” (“My Body Given for You,” Ignatius Press, 2019). Eucharistic Prayer II reminds us that Christ “entered willingly into his Passion” first and foremost as a gift, out of the greatest possible love for the Father and for us. Christ is the true sacrificial lamb and, at the same time, the true high priest who makes the offering on the people’s behalf. The Cross, then, is the true altar.

The Church is called to participate in the sacrifice of Christ. The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen Gentium,” teaches that the faithful, “taking part in the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of the whole of Christian life, offer the divine [sacrifice] to God, and offer themselves along with it.” (LG, n. 11) In this way, Christ’s sacrifice makes it possible for us to, in the right disposition, willingly offer ourselves back to God and unite our sufferings to the Cross.

In his first encyclical, “Redemptor Hominis,” Pope John Paul II wrote that the Father accepted the sacrifice of Christ, “giving, in return for this total self-giving by his Son, who ‘became obedient unto death’ (Phil 2:8), his own paternal gift, that is to say the grant of new immortal life in the resurrection.” (RH, n. 20). The Eucharistic sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of Christ’s passion and death, but also the mystery which crowned that sacrifice — the Resurrection. Christ risen has become for us the “Bread of life” and partaking in the Eucharist applies the event of the Resurrection to our lives.

Later, in his reflection “On the Eucharist and the Mass,” John Paul II wrote, “the Lord unites us with Himself through the Eucharist — Sacrament and Sacrifice — and He unites us with Himself and with one another by a bond stronger than any natural union. Thus united, He sends us into the whole world to bear witness, through faith and works, to God’s love.”

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

The Eucharist — The font of the Holy Spirit

By Father Ryan Maher.

“I will be with until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Our Blessed Lord spoke these words to his disciples before he ascended to his Father in heaven. Our Lord fulfills this promise through his Real Presence in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist. In the holy sacrifice of the Mass the Lord Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as nourishment for our pilgrim journey and as a pledge of eternal life. Through the words of consecration spoken by the priest at Mass the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. But before these words are spoken, the priest says the prayer of epiclesis (from the ancient Greek meaning, “calling down from on high” or “invocation”). The epiclesis is essential to the Eucharistic sacrifice because it is the calling down of Holy Spirit upon the simple gifts of bread and wine so that they can be changed and transformed.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion.” (n. 1375) A work of the Holy Spirit is always the process of conversion.

At Mass the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine during the epiclesis and calls down the Holy Spirit upon them using the words provided for each one of the Eucharistic prayers. For example, the epiclesis for Eucharistic Prayer III reads, “Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you by the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration”. The priest then makes the sign of the cross over the bread and wine saying, “that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In the epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing) on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit.” (n. 1553)

The priest implores the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine, to transform these simple elements into the Body and Blood of Christ. As revealed in sacred Scripture, the work of the Holy Spirit is to give new life by way of transformation, true change and conversion.

In the Nicene Creed the Church gives voice to belief in the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, with the words, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” The Holy Spirit is in fact the giver of life! It was by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived the Christ child in her womb (cf. Luke 1:35).

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is received at baptism giving each person a share in the divine Life. In confirmation a person is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and given the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In baptism and confirmation a person is truly changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit and by the sacramental grace that is bestowed upon the person receiving the sacrament.

The Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles at Pentecost. After receiving the Holy Spirit they were changed and transformed. No longer were they afraid! Filled with the Holy Spirit in the upper room, they became different men who had the courage to preach the Gospel to all nations, to carry out the works of Jesus Christ in the world and to reconcile sinners.

The prayer of epiclesis and the prayer of consecration is an immersion into the life and love of the Blessed Trinity. The Son freely and willingly offered himself to the Father on the cross for our salvation. The Father and the Son sent the Spirit so that we would never be left abandoned.

We participate in Mass to give glory to God, to worship and praise the Blessed Trinity, and to be sanctified. Never should it happen that we participate in Mass and remain unchanged. In some way the graces of the Mass we receive should change us. Receiving the proclaimed Word of God into our hearts and receiving holy Communion into our very body — how can we not be changed in some way through our participation at Mass? This is a work of the Holy Spirit — to change us; to transform us; to give us life.

Let us lift up our minds and hearts to the Lord at Mass and call down the Holy Spirit in the many ordinary moments of our daily lives so that we can be changed and transformed and, with the help of God’s grace, become saints.

Father Ryan Maher is a vicar general for the Diocese of Covington and rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption.

Lifted out of time into eternity

By Msgr. William Cleves.

In his excellent book, “The Gates of the Forest,” Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, having told a story, remarked that God made us because God loves stories. The image has remained with me since I read that book decades ago. It must have been with me when I first paged through the translation of the Roman Missal that was promulgated in 2011. As I leafed through its pages, I was struck by the number of times that God was addressed or described as “author.” This word is derived from the Latin verb augeo, augere, auxi, auctus. It has a number of meanings in English: to increase, to promote, to honor, to exalt and to spread. The Latin word auctor, derived from the last principal part of the verb, refers to one who increases, promotes, exalts. It is from auctor that we have the English noun author. What follows is not an exhaustive list of the ways in which God is described as author. In the new missal God is described or addressed as:

  • author of our salvation
  • author of divine generation
  • author of all that is good
  • author of all life
  • author of our freedom and salvation
  • author of love and peace

Every story we write is a share in the aboriginal authorship that properly belongs to God. So let us consider the stories that we write, and begin with the language in which I am writing, namely English. With the exception of the infinitive, every English verb carries some marker of tense (e.g., I see, I saw, I will see). We tend to think in terms of past, present, future. But this view of time and history is not the only way of conceiving these matters. It is possible to regard stories as timeless objects, standing outside any particular temporal period. In such a view, to tell a story is to step outside our time, to let the timeless wisdom of the story lift us up. The ancient Hebrews believed that, if one told the sacred story and engaged in sacred ritual, one entered the story, making it flesh for the group of people gathered for the occasion.

Consider our celebration of the Eucharist. We gather in a sacred space to tell sacred stories. We reflect on our part in these stories, realizing that they are our story, becoming flesh among us. This is the Liturgy of the Word. We engage also in sacred ritual, presenting and then offering bread and wine to be transformed, so that we who eat and drink are ourselves transformed. We are then sent forth to announce the Gospel of the Lord or to glorify God in our lives. In the Eucharist, whose author is God, we are lifted up (is this not the meaning of the verb augeo?). God lifts us from this moment of time, to taste the gifts that are to come. We do, after all, refer to the Eucharistic celebration as the foretaste and promise of the paschal feast of heaven.

One of the stories in the final chapter of the Gospel according to Luke is what happened on the road to Emmaus. It is not merely a story of what happened then, but of what happens now. Two disciples walk on a road, sharing recent events. True to his promise (“where two or three are gathered in my name … “), Jesus appears and walks with them. He opens them to the understanding of the Scriptures. He then eats and drinks with them, and their eyes are opened in the breaking of bread.

Realizing whom they have seen, the disciples rush forth to tell everyone. This is our story. We bring to the Eucharistic celebration the events of our lives. Jesus joins us, true to his promise, and opens our eyes to the meaning of God’s Word. We eat and drink with him, and we are transformed; our eyes are opened, and we recognize him in the breaking of bread. We are then sent forth to tell everyone.

In writing the story of creation, God has exalted us, honored us, promoted us, and increased our faith. God made us because God loves stories.

 Msgr. William Cleves is pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, Newport.

The Cross and the Eucharist

By Msgr. Gerald Twaddell.

Day in and day out, from morning to evening, hundreds of people — some true pilgrims, others merely tourists — make their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. They climb the steep stairway not far to the right inside the main door to reach Calvary. The line slowly moves past the altar commemorating the place where Jesus was stripped of his garments, then where he was nailed to the cross. At the altar in the Chapel of the Crucifixion they kneel, one by one, to reach under the altar to put a hand down into the shaft where the Cross once stood. Some are so moved that they remain there as time passes, delaying the opportunity for the next person who will follow their example; others, conscious of the crowd waiting behind them, move on more quickly. What is the attraction of this ritual?

Surely whatever else might have brought these people to the Holy City, at least one reason for them to be there is to connect with something very ancient, very sacred. How many other sites in the world offer such a tactile, intimate encounter as the one that can be experienced in this holiest of places? There are so many sites in the Holy Land where one is allowed to touch, with little or no barrier, a place where Jesus stood, or sat or knelt. How many more recent historical sites offer a visitor that? But here, the gentle, awed caress of the devout pilgrims is unlikely to wear down these millennial stones too rapidly. The monks who guard the sites watch mainly to ensure that decorum is preserved.

So the history of the place, its accessibility, its profound significance for the story of the human race, its salvation, all draw people. And yet, what they find is but a memory of a past event. All that remains are the relics of a distant past. The reality is not there, however sacred the artifacts may be. The Cross of Christ is gone, splintered among myriad relics spread across the world. What remains is what it once touched. And that, in the end, is all we can touch here at Calvary. So, however moving that experience, there could be something more.

What if we could have been there on the day of the Crucifixion? Perhaps we might have been part of the crowd on the road into Jerusalem just a few days earlier chanting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” But that crowd didn’t follow him to Calvary. Do we think we would have been any different? Jesus knew how people, even his closest followers, would flee, leaving him to stand trial for sedition against the Roman Empire without a single witness on his side. On the very eve of all that, he warned them that all would be scandalized: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ” (Mt 26:31) Maybe we would not have wanted to be there either, but if we had had the courage of John, of his Mother Mary, of his aunt and the other Mary we might have stood there with them at the foot of the Cross, risking not only the ridicule of the officials, but the danger of being accused of a crime ourselves.

What is more, had we known then what we know now about the Resurrection to come, we would not have been scandalized at all. We would have understood the ghastly scene as the price Jesus was willing to pay to redeem the whole human race. We would have known the truth of what St. Paul would write later: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). Such thoughts, though, are sad “what ifs” aren’t they? None of that was possible, not least of all because we have come into the world twenty centuries too late.

If the sword of Mary’s sorrow beside her dying Son could prick our hard hearts though, would we not really want to be there? Not just at the place where it happened once so long ago in history, but right there, right then as it all unfolds, hearing Jesus pronounce his triumphant judgment on the sins of the world: “It is finished.” Yes, there could never be a better place, a better time to be than at that central moment in salvation history.

And the awe-inspiring truth is that we actually can do just that: be at the Cross, as Jesus redeems the world. How you ask? Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical “Mediator Dei” (§3) explains: “the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy. She does this in the first place at the altar, where constantly the sacrifice of the Cross is represented and, with a single difference in the manner of its offering, renewed.”

Our celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy draws us into the depths of the Mystery of Christ, the mystery of salvation. When we enter the liturgy we step out of time and into the reality of eternity. Time fades away, leaving us standing about the Altar of the Lamb where we share in the Heavenly Liturgy. As the Second Council of the Vatican taught: “In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium,” §8)

Our liturgy and the liturgy of heaven are made one: we are made present at the eternal offering of the sacrifice of Calvary to the heavenly Father and joined with all the saints at the banquet of heaven. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: “By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.” (CCC 1326) This is as close to heaven as we can get and still be in this world. Just think: we are really present in the heavenly liturgy. As the Catechism teaches, reaching back to the words of the Council of Trent (Cf. DS 1743): “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: the victim is one and the same: the same now offered through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different. In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.” (CCC 1367)

The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is what the Eucharist simply is. Jesus is really present in all his reality, dying to redeem us, rising to bring us eternal life. To participate in the celebration of Mass transports us really and truly to the altar of the Cross. To understand this truth should thrill us to our depths. Heaven joined with earth, and we can be there! How could we ever imagine a substitute for that? Could an hour in nature compare? Could sitting at home reading the newspaper, sipping coffee, have anything near the value of this encounter with Christ Crucified? Shouldn’t we all burst into a joyful song of Christ’s victory (and ours): “Lift high the Cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore His sacred name” ? (“Lift High the Cross” © 1978, Hope Publishing Co.)

Msgr. Gerald E. Twaddell, KHS, is prior of the Covington section of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; chaplain of the Monastery of the Sacred Passion, Erlanger; professor of philosophy and rector of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel at Thomas More University.

Virus cases rise in diocesan schools due to small gatherings

Messenger staff report

Halloween weekend brought more tricks than treats to the Diocese of Covington, as cases of COVID-19 greatly increased, sending hundreds of students into quarantine. Additionally, cases are being reported in parishes and parish schools of religion.

Since the last report, two priests have tested positive for COVID-19 and two priests are self-quarantined —one is waiting on results of a COVID-19 test and the other is a close contact of a priest who has tested positive. At one of the parishes affected — Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington — weekday Mass and all parish activities have been suspended until December 1. Due to an increased number of cases among faculty and staff, Immaculate Heart of Mary School has transitioned to remote learning and the Parish School of Religion has suspended classes until Nov. 30, affecting a combined 548 students. Divine Mercy Parish, Bellevue and St. Bernard Parish, Dayton were able to continue with Mass as scheduled due to the availability of a resident religious priest.

At St. Pius X School, Edgewood, cases among the eighth-grade class exposed an even greater number of students to the virus, resulting in all three eighth-grade classes quarantining until Nov. 19, affecting 86 students. This exposure and resulting cases appeared to come primarily from a single Halloween gathering.

“If we are going to be able to continue with in-person instruction we will need the cooperation of everyone —teachers, students and parents — to make the necessary sacrifices of staying home and not gathering,” said Laura Keener, COVID coordinator.

While the numbers of cases and quarantines are rising in the school, it is still evident that students are not contracting the illness at school and bringing it home; but rather students are being exposed to the virus at home and bringing it to their classmates.

“Based on the details, many of these cases could have been avoided,” said Mrs. Keener. “Small gatherings, including participation in sports outside of school, weddings, funerals and prayer groups, appear to be the source of most of these cases. Even small visits with grandparents are likely to expose students to the virus. When considering leaving the home, parents are encouraged to ask themselves, ‘Is this trip or event worth my child missing 14 or 24 days or more of instruction at school and possibly sending the entire class into quarantine?’”

While a small number of schools are being hit hard by the virus, many others are seeing no or small number of cases and exposures. These experiences suggest that the protocols put in place can work if everyone commits to following the protocols and making the necessary sacrifices both in school and at home.

“We simply have to work together and choose the education of children as a number one priority,” Mrs. Keener said.

Safety measures urged as more diocesan counties enter Ky. ‘red zone’

Messenger Staff Report

With 10 weeks of in-person instruction completed in the Diocese of Covington, one of its schools has had to transition to at-home instruction due to COVID-19 cases.

Holy Trinity School, Bellevue, reported a positive case of COVID-19 the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 27. That class began at-home instruction on Wednesday and by Friday, two more positive cases were reported in that class.

On Friday, Katie Jacobs, principal, asked all of her elementary teachers be tested for COVID-19 and three more positive cases were reported over the Halloween weekend. By Sunday night, Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Schools, and Mrs. Jacobs made the decision to transition the entire school to at-home instruction until Monday, Nov. 16. Mrs. Jacobs said that Wednesday would be a calamity day for students while she and teachers gather Chromebooks and other materials to be distributed to parents. Calamity days are off days already built-in the school calendar for unexpected school closings, typically for snow and other weather-related events.

“Since the beginning of this school year protocols were put in place with the anticipation that schools may have to transition to at-home instruction,” said Mrs. McGuire. “Our schools have planned accordingly and this is one of those cases. I am grateful to our principals and teachers for their hard work and commitment to their students and pray for a quick and healthy return of our students, teachers and staff at Holy Trinity School.”

At this time, three counties — Boone, Kenton and Campbell — where the majority of the Diocese of Covington schools are located are in the ‘red zone.’ The red zone is the “critical” level of a colored code system developed by Governor Andy Beshear to indicate the spread of the coronavirus in Kentucky.

The color system is based on the number of unique cases over a 7-day period. According to the Team KY website, the 7-day incidence is calculated by taking the total number of unique cases in each county over the past 7 days, divided by 7 to get a daily average, divided by the U.S. census bureau county population, and multiplied by 100,000 to get the incidence per 100,000 people. The green zone is the lowest level, indicating that counties are “On Track” with less than 1 case per 100k. The yellow zone indicates “Community Spread” (1 – 10 per 100K); orange zone indicates “Accelerated” spread (10 – 25 per 100K) and the red zone is “Critical” (25+ per 100K).

“Our counties are now in a critical stage and we need to make the necessary sacrifices — stay home to the greatest extent possible and wear a mask when in public, especially at Mass — so as to mitigate the spread of the virus and continue our top two priorities — the celebration of the Mass and in-person instruction for our students,” said Laura Keener, COVID coordinator.