Saturday, July 1, 2017
The Catechism of the [Roman] Catholic Church states it rather simply and plainly, “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist” (CCC 1377). It is one of those special moments when Rome does not go beyond the Word nor does Rome seek to define something in terms foreign to Scripture. Christ is present as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. It is at one and the same time an eloquent and yet terse statement -- albeit one that Lutherans get nervous about.
There is a rather amusing story of Saint Philip Neri who grew weary with a man who received the Holy Communion and then left before the Mass was ended. The man's apparent disregard for the Sacrament led Philip Neri to teach him something. The priest sent two altar boys with lighted candles to follow the man outside of the church. After a while walking through the streets of Rome, the man turned around to see the altar boys still following him. Confused, the man returned to the church and asked Philip Neri why he sent the altar boys. Saint Philip Neri responded by saying, “We have to pay proper respect to Our Lord, Whom you are carrying away with you. Since you neglect to adore Him, I sent two acolytes to take your place.”
While no one makes doctrine or informs practice on the basis of an anecdote, it is worth nothing that the Mass comes to a rather sudden and quick end after the Distribution -- a Post-Communion canticle and collect, benediction and dismissal, and perhaps a closing hymn. In other words, about the 15 minutes or so when the after reception, and according to simple biology, the Eucharistic species ceased to subsist on their own within the body of the communicant.
As I have often said, the abuses associated with reservation should not in and of themselves preclude the practice. Reservation does not imply or require adoration apart from the reception which makes Lutherans nervous. But that is another discussion. My point here is to address the artificial way we attempt to limit Christ's presence in the Eucharist to just a moment and, in fact, draw confidence away from His presence at all. Our Lord is present in the bread and wine until the full usus of the Sacrament is complete -- no matter when that eating and drinking take place. Anything apart from this reflects more human reason and/or our predisposition to insist that even the obvious cannot be true. No one is served by arguments which attempt to explain why Christ is no longer present where He has promised to be. Any Lutheran ought to recognize the truth in this.