The Physical Presence?

Is Jesus physically present in the Holy Eucharist?

This not the teaching of the Church. I would challenge anyone to find such a concept in the Church’s magisterium.

Let us consider some of the implications:

  • If Christ were physically present in the Holy Eucharist, then the priest, who consumes a larger host (approx. 3″ in diameter), would receive more of Jesus than the faithful, who only receive a 1.25″ host. But the Church does not teach this.
  • If Christ were physically present in the Holy Eucharist, then Protestant protestations of Catholic cannibalism would be hard to refute.
  • If Christ were physically present in the Holy Eucharist, then somehow the quantity and volume of consecrated hosts throughout the world should not add up to more than the mass of his physical body — which is manifestly not the case.
  • If Christ were physically present in the Holy Eucharist, then fracturing the host would be dividing Jesus into parts.
  • If Christ were physically present in the Holy Eucharist, then any loss of the Eucharist (for example, through desecration or even through simple mistakes/human weakness) would cause him to be imperfect and incomplete.

Consider, in contrast, the Church’s teaching on the doctrine of concomitance: Christ is present whole and entire in each and every part of the consecrated species. Those who receive under one sacramental form (host or chalice) do not receive more of him than those who receive both. No, we may not speak of his presence as “physical”.

We can speak of the physicality of the sacrament: we engage in the physical act of eating and/or drinking; the sacrament itself has a certain physicality, quite obviously.

But we may not speak of his presence in that way.

No, the Church defines that presence, rather, as Real, True, and Substantial. This is the Church’s perennial teaching. Very precise terms are needed for so great a mystery.

In the Holy Eucharist we really receive Jesus Christ in his body, blood, soul, and divinity. We truly receive him. We receive his substance. But we do not physically receive him — which would reduce his presence to something finite and possibly imperfect.

His presence is mediated to us through a sacrament, and may not be described in purely physical terms.

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