“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. – Luke 22:19-22
A consecrated Host turns blood-red during adoration in RAFAELA, Argentina – An Argentine diocese is investigating a possible Holy Week eucharistic miracle. The diocese of Rafaela, in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina reports that on April 11, a group of young people from a drug rehabilitation home in San Miguel was praying in adoration when one of them noticed the glass of the monstrance containing the Host steaming up. What followed was the flow of “a bright red substance, while the faithful sang and prayed,” as described by Juan Ternengo, coordinator for San Miguel.
By the consecration the “transubstantiation” of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651). – Catechism of the Catholic Church 1413
Transubstantiation is defined as the conversion of one substance into another. In many Christian churches, the doctrine holding that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, although their appearances remain the same.
Do we truly understand the Holy Eucharist? And in receiving it do we inwardly and outwardly display that understanding or lack there of through a visible reverence or irreverence? Those parishioners who attend a Christmas Mass or Easter Vigil behave and dress as though they are in the presence of Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, in the Holy Eucharist. Yet, at any celebration of Mass other than those two major feast days we often find an attire and attitude change reflecting the more casual. But, is not the same consecration taking place? Is not the same transubstantiation and presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist evident? If the answer to these two questions is yes, we then must understand that, no matter what the occasion, Christ is fully present in the Eucharist and impels a stable and sincere reverence from each of us. No one should approach Him without a contrite awareness of the state of one’s soul. And in that awareness regularly partake of the sacrament of penance through confession. If when before Him we find our hearts at unrest-in that they are not yet fully with Him-then we can be confident that we have understanding and reverence. As such we will be beneficiaries of His divine mercy.
Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us; “Material food first changes into the one who eats it, and then, as a consequence, restores to him lost strength and increases his vitality. Spiritual food, on the other hand, changes the person who eats it into itself. Thus the effect proper to this Sacrament is the conversion of a man into Christ, so that he may no longer live, but Christ lives in him; consequently, it has the double effect of restoring the spiritual strength he had lost by his sins and defects, and of increasing the strength of his virtues.”
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. – John 6:56
This possible Holy Week miracle, now being investigated, is Christ’s way of instilling in all, who understand or do not, that the Eucharist is the reality of what He intended. He makes himself available to all. But those encumbered by wealth and position hear less clearly His voice. He was born among the poor not the rich and he died between two thieves not those who thought themselves righteous. That is why there is a Fatima, a Medjugorge and now a San Miguel. To those who did not believe in Him, He said, “Then believe the works I do, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” The blind see, the lame walk, the possessed are set free and the dead rise. Should He who stilled the winds and calmed the seas not have such dominion over the lesser elements of His Father’s creation, such as the species of bread and wine? And with that dominion not transform those elements into anything He wishes; namely His Sacred Body and Blood.
To too many of us Jesus may say: You receive my body and blood, yet you live as though you do not.
How culpable are we? Is it that we truly do not believe that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist, or that we simply have lost our innocence?
In my autobiography “The Little Red Chair,” I describe an event that took place early in my life. In 1960 a local Greek Orthodox Church had been granted permission, for a period of time, to show an icon that miraculously was crying. The icon of the Blessed Mother of Jesus, known as “Our Lady of Sorrows,” was owned by a couple who lived in Long Island, New York, where the first evidence of crying was reported. The dates of exhibition for residents were posted in our local newspaper. I attended with my mom, dad and a few other relatives. The small church was filled to capacity with a line of the curious awaiting their turn outside. After a brief service all were allowed an opportunity to venerate the picture. I, a polio victim since age four, now ten years old, could not climb the step to where the icon was displayed. So the attendant tilted the picture toward me. I inspected the icon, then kissed it as an act of veneration. As we left to return home I overheard those with me mention that they had not noticed anything unusual about the picture. Some visitors in the nights that followed reported seeing wetness on the icon and for some the icon began crying as they were in attendance. I had not mentioned my experience for years after. No one asked and nothing impelled me to offer. But many years later, for some reason, my mom had recalled the event. She then asked me if I had seen anything that evening. I told her that I remembered seeing red glistening drops of blood as though painted on the cheek of the Blessed Mother’s picture. An innocent child, that I was then, would likely have seen normal tears. For those are the only tears that a child would understand. Why then did I see tears of blood?
Some fifty-three years later that event would arise from the past once more. I was then writing my second book. A book of poems and reflections titled “A View From The Quiet Corner.” In writing a poem about the Blessed Mother I was filled with a desire to once again see the icon. Wondering if what I witnessed then I would witness again? A friend agreed to accompany me on a short pilgrimage to a Church in Long Island where the icon had been housed since the time I viewed it as a boy. But, before the trip I visited the small church where I had first encountered the icon. I was fortunate to still find the priest who was there that night. I queried regarding the icon, revisiting the original event so many years ago and asked about its present condition and circumstance. Then I asked two questions. Questions that haunt only the doubter. I asked: if in all the time since this miracle first took place did the artist include in the icon tears of blood for effect, and had anyone who witnessed something unusual about the picture seen tears of blood? His reply to both questions was no. I then revealed to him my experience in 1960.
As my friend and I entered the Long Island church we were overwhelmed by the byzantine tapestry art and architecture that surrounded us. We then found an office worker who directed us to where the icon was enshrined. I was in a wheelchair and could not get very close to the icon which was encased in glass upon a pedestal anchored to the floor behind the altar. So a kind person from maintenance cast a light on the icon to disperse the shadow. As best I could see from my vantage point were some staining on the icon as though from water. And this was confirmed by my friend who stood directly before it and examined it closely. I asked him if there was any indication of spots along the cheek, red or not? His reply was, “Sorry Al, no.” As we drove home, thoughts of the picture from many years ago were still clear, as were the blood-red tears that glistened on the Blessed Mother’s cheek. And it was then that I knew that I had truly been blessed. Not solely for my witness, but also because I have had a rich and successful life in so many ways; including the wonderful parents I was given to by God and the family and friends that he had surrounded me with throughout my life. As irony or fate would have it, in front of the church I now attend, in a town I now live in, that I had never heard of before, is a statue of our Blessed Mother kneeling. At the base of that statue is lettered: “Our Lady of Sorrows”; identically named as the icon that I saw so many years ago.
I looked upon Her face as an innocent child and witnessed the essence of God in whom all things are possible. I then looked upon Her face as a knowledgeable man, blemished by life’s inconsistencies, and saw none but the commonplace forged by an indifferent world.
I believe, as so many may, that as we grow old in this world we can’t help but be affected by it in deep and profound ways. In gaining knowledge that turns not into wisdom but folly, we then lose our innocence. I saw red tears as a child because I expected to see something. I trusted in authority because of trust-worthy parents. So why then should I not trust in the authority, of the God of my parents, that could make such a thing happen? And if so, then why would anyone who calls themselves Christian not trust “the word of God”: “This is my body. This is my blood.”