Recently posted on the Homiletic & Pastoral Review site:
Christ’s institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist was, and is, the single, greatest gift he left to his Church. For, it is the fulfillment of his promise to truly be always among us: “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28:20). While there are, indeed, multiple and varied presences of Christ, such as: when two or three are gathered in his name; when the People of God gather to celebrate the Liturgy; when Sacred Scripture—the Word—is proclaimed; or when the priest acts in Persona Christi while administering and officiating at any of the Sacraments, etc. The abiding Eucharistic presence of Christ, with the fullness of his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is truly singular in its reality, intensity, substance and fullness.
While the accidents of bread and wine remain, the substance is completely transformed into the Second Person of the Trinity. Holy Mother Church refers to this supernatural process—whereby our gifts of bread and wine are wholly transformed into the true presence of Christ—as Transubstantiation. Thus, while the appearance of bread and wine remain, the substance has been wholly and completely transformed into the very substance of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. This occurs during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, specifically during the priest’s prayer of consecration, and immediately following the Epiclesis. Regarding the wholly unique presence of Christ, contained within the pre-eminent sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say: “The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life, and the end to which all sacraments tend.’ In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained.’ This presence is called ‘real’—by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence, as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present” (CCC §1374).
Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” refers to the Eucharist as the source from which all the Church’s activity originates, and the summit toward which all the Church’s activity is directed. Based on this essential teaching of the Council, which reiterated 2000 years of Church teaching on the Eucharist, we can come to understand that the Eucharist truly is the “central Sacrament” in the sense that the Eucharist is “the end to which all sacraments tend.” This truth fleshes out the reality that each of the other Sacraments, while possessing a specific purpose in their own right, ultimately serve the greater purpose of leading souls to full participation in the Eucharistic banquet. This is nothing short of a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, where we will participate in God’s own divine life.
Read the entire essay, written by Jayson M. Brunelle, M.Ed., C.A.G.S.