Many people, including many professed Catholics, find the Eucharist to be something hard to believe in. How can it be, they say, that simple bread and wine can change into the Body and Blood of Christ? How do the actions of a priest change the elements? How could you even prove that this is true? What is even the value of this “spiritual Presence”? The bread and wine do not change in a material, physical way. What is the value of this imaginary doctrine?
But the Eucharist is our life! The Eucharist is the thing that gives us eternal life. It is the Bread of Life. It is the thing that makes us members, parts of, the Body of Christ. Without the Eucharist, there is no Christianity, no Church (a provocative thing to say to Protestant faithful, I know). But, it is true. To illustrate this truth, I am giving you an opportunity to read one of the greatest minds of the Church, St. Ambrose. St. Ambrose convinces us that, if we believe in Jesus as God and Man, we have to believe in the Eucharist! I couldn’t say it any better than him (why would I think otherwise!). Please read this writing of Ambrose, it is worth the few minutes it will take you. It is memorable.
St. Ambrose – From the Treatise on the Mysteries
We see that grace can accomplish more than nature, yet so far we have been considering instances of what grace can do through a prophet’s blessing. If the blessing of a human being had power even to change nature, what do we say of God’s action in the consecration itself, in which the very words of the Lord and Savior are effective? If the words of Elijah had power even to bring down fire from heaven, will not the words of Christ have power to change the natures of the elements? You have read that in the creation of the whole world he spoke and they came to be; he commanded and they were created. If Christ could by speaking create out of nothing what did not yet exist, can we say that his words are unable to change existing things into something they previously were not? It is no lesser feat to create new natures for things than to change their existing natures.
What need is there for argumentation? Let us take what happened in the case of Christ himself and construct the truth of this mystery from the mystery of the incarnation. Did the birth of the Lord Jesus from Mary come about in the course of nature? If we look at nature we regularly find that conception results from the union of man and woman. It is clear then that the conception by the Virgin was above and beyond the course of nature. And this body that we make present is the body born of the Virgin. Why do you expect to find in this case that nature takes its ordinary course in regard to the body of Christ when the Lord himself was born of the Virgin in a manner above and beyond the order of nature? This is indeed the true flesh of Christ, which was crucified and buried. This is then in truth the sacrament of his flesh.
The Lord Jesus himself declares: This is my body. Before the blessing contained in these words a different thing is named; after the consecration a body is indicated. He himself speaks of his blood. Before the consecration something else is spoken of; after the consecration blood is designated. And you say: “Amen,” that is: “It is true.” What the mouth utters, let the mind within acknowledge; what the word says, let the heart ratify.