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I Know I Believe in the Real Presence

As I read and sweat my way through Church teachings, referencing and verifying as I considered what She taught and why, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was surprisingly simple to accept (such hubris, but I wasn’t quite sure that the Church was a truth-teaching institution.). The Bread of Life Discourse (John 6: 22-71) and the Last Supper (Luke 22:14-20, among others) are proof texts, and when read with other pertinent Scriptures, as one must do for true interpretation (manna – Exodus 16:15, the feeding of the five thousand – Matthew 14:13-21, the road to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-35, and Paul’s exhortations about dishonoring the Body and Blood – I Corinthians 11:27), the evidence is overwhelming.

Some disciples left Jesus after He reiterated the importance of eating His Body and drinking His Blood because it was “too hard” and He turned to ask the Twelve if they too would leave. Peter threw up his hands (my mental picture), saying, “Where else do we go? We believe You have the words of eternal life” (I don’t think he really grasped it.). When Christ held up the bread in the upper room and said, “This is My Body,” it all made sense. Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, is present in the blessed bread. That is why those saddened followers travelling to Emmaus, whose hearts “burned within them as He opened the Scriptures,” recognized Jesus only “in the breaking of the bread.” That is why Saint Paul chastised the Corinthians for their abuses and warned them that they would have to “answer for the Body and Blood of the Lord.”  The additional stories of manna and the feeding of the five thousand are types, or pre-pictures, of the Eucharist: perfect food from heaven, available every single day, enough for every single person with Jesus, miraculous once the Lord’s Hands blessed and broke the gifts.  His words, His blessing, His Body nourish our spirit and life ~ overwhelming, indeed!

When I received Jesus in the Eucharist at the 2004 Easter Vigil, after converting from fundamental, Pentecostal-style Protestantism, I was expecting some sort of emotional, physical response. But there was no burst of light and no angels heard singing; I did not tremble and my eyes remained dry. Soberly and steadily, I went through the proper postures. Then it was over. Holy Communion continued that way for many months: attentive listening, participating, receiving, praying, and singing without the waves of emotion with which I’d been accustomed. Intellectually, I understood that feelings are not what my faith is based on, that dignified liturgy as the expression of our ancient, ever-new Holy Faith is deeply satisfying. The Catholic Mass is always a “great service” because of the Eucharist, not because of the musical selections or sermon. On some level, however, I missed the fervor. I figured I needed to learn how to worship God in spirit and in truth, not in dancing and tears. I figured I needed to learn how to worship God the way the Israelites did: doing the right duties for hundred of years without necessarily experiencing exciting miracles or emotional highs. This was good for me. In those quiet Sunday mornings, I was quiet, too. Like the Israelites of old, I was part of something that, while not taking my breath away, gave me deep breath.

But the Holy Spirit did speak to Moses, as He did to Nehemiah, and to Mary. And He came to me. Leaving the service to nurse our wiggly infant one Sunday, my return proved too late for Holy Communion. The extraordinary ministers had turned their backs to the congregation and were lovingly folding, stacking, and returning the sacred vessels to their places at the side table. I had missed it. Missed bowing before Jesus, reaching for Him, assenting my Amen, receiving the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of my Lord and Love. Without warning, I burst into tears. This response surprised me, as there was no logical lead up in my thoughts, no emotional exertion in my heart. It was quick; it was powerful; it shook me.  I stood outside the sanctuary, overwrought, weeping for Jesus and waiting for the rest of my family to join me.

I have missed Holy Communion several times since that day, feeding hungry babies or removing naughty toddlers (sometimes both) and have never again had such an impassioned reaction, but I will always remember it as how I feel that I know that I believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Once again, the facts of the Faith touched deeply within me and settled in love.

Thanks be to God for such a personal message, a special gift, an unspeakable blessing.

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About Allison H.

Allison is a 40-something mother of seven, living in Alaska, accepted into the Church (together with her husband, thank God) in 2004. She spends her days homeschooling and packaging meat that her menfolk hunt and bring home. She cannot garden to save her life but picks wild blueberries like a champ. She has been published in an edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul and keeps a blog at www.northerncffamily.blogspot.com, writing about living out the Faith with children with cystic fibrosis.

  • James - Hi Allison,

    Two things:

    This is an awesome post. We will never know the measure of the value of the Eucharist truly this side of Heaven. Your words are a wonderful reminder of that. Thank you.

    Secondly, FYI: You’re “Once Again” link leads to nowhere. I figured you’d want to know that. 🙂

    Blessings and Peace,
    James T.February 8, 2013 – 9:14 amReplyCancel

  • Kerri - The link works now. Sorry it took so long to fix it.February 8, 2013 – 5:13 pmReplyCancel

  • Christy - Allison,
    Thank you for such a beautiful post! I too am a convert from the Episcopal church. I prayed on and read John 6 for months.I wanted God to convict my heart and mind that he was truly present in the Eucharist. I started teaching CCD this year. I sometimes take 5 minutes after class to pray in our chapel in Eucharistic Adoration. One day I had my 7 year old son with me. He wanted to go to chapel to pray. I was a little annoyed because that was “MY” prayer time, and felt it would be interrupted for sure. I reminded him to be very quiet, say a prayer, and then we would leave. When we knelt down I heard him take a very deep breath. A moment later I asked him if he was ready to go and he responded, “not yet”. ??? This was a boy who asked to leave mass every 5 minutes so that we could go to McDonalds! When we did leave his eyes were wide and sparkly. He looked at me and said, “mom, Jesus is in that room, I could feel Him! My heart felt like it was beating outside of my chest”! WOW…God convicted me right then and there through my son who I did not even want there in the first place! Praise God!February 11, 2013 – 7:34 pmReplyCancel

  • Allison - Oh, that is wonderful, such a good story! Thank you for telling.
    Warmly,
    AllisonFebruary 11, 2013 – 8:30 pmReplyCancel

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