By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI
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Today’s gospel, John 6:24–35, offers us an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a disciple of the “true bread”; “the bread of life”. In the gospel Jesus tells us: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.”
For Catholics, Jesus, the bread of life, is literally present, body, blood, soul and divinity—in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine. This is what we refer to as the doctrine of the Real Presence. Our catechism tells us that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC, 1324).
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness (Gaudete et Exsultate – Rejoice and be Glad), Pope Francis reminds us that “When we receive him (Jesus) in Holy Communion, we renew our covenant with him and allow him to carry out ever more fully his work of transforming our lives…Holiness is not based on prayer alone but on also serving those in need and in self-control.”
We need the Eucharist to help us live lives of service/charity. The words of St Thomas Aquinas remind us that: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of love; it signifies love; it produces love. The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.”
The world is sorely ill, and unless we nourish ourselves with the Eucharist, unless we develop our spirituality by receiving the Eucharist regularly and praying for God’s grace to live as faithful witnesses to Him, we will not achieve our goals. Indeed, we can do nothing without God’s grace, without the “bread of life”. The Eucharist will help us to attain eternal life.
We cannot talk about the “bread of life” without referring to the dogma of Transubstantiation. Paragraph 1377 of our Catechism states: “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.”
The manner in which the change occurs, the Catholic Church teaches, is a mystery: “The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ” (CCC1333). Unlike some Christian denominations, Catholics believe that through transubstantiation, the risen Jesus becomes truly present in the Eucharist.
I am a former member of the English Anglican Roman Catholic Committee (ARC). The first meeting of English ARC took place on Monday, April 20, 1970 at Westminster Cathedral Library.
In April this year I was invited by the Co-Secretaries of English ARC, Canon Tony Churchill and Rev Canon Jeremy Worthen, Secretary for Ecumenical Relations and Theology, Council for Christian Unity, on behalf of the current Co-Chairs, Bishop Christopher Foster (Anglican) and Bishop Robert Byrne (Catholic), to celebrate the Committee’s 100th meeting.
The celebration took place on Monday, July 2 at Lambeth Palace, London with tea and presentations from former members and the co-Chairs. Participants then joined the Lambeth Palace community for Evening Prayer in the Chapel. Unfortunately, I was in T&T and was unable to attend the celebration.
Anglicans do not accept the definition of the nature of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, as defined by the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation. As I stated during my address to participants at a service in Belmont in November 2017, involving the faithful in the Anglican and Catholic communities there—organised by Fr Thomas Lawson OP and Rev Canon Ronald Branche, to remember the 500th anniversary of the Reformation: “Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to remove whatever obstacles stand in our way to unity.”
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to CCSJ’s former Administrative Assistant, Wilma Augustin-Coryat, who died on July 1. She was the founder of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St Ann’s Church.
The fact that the church was packed with people for her funeral service was a clear indication of the love that many of us had for her. Wilma was a shining example of “the feminine genius” that Pope Francis says our Church needs. Let us celebrate the life of this woman of faith who walked in the light of the Lord; a principled, dignified, humble woman who lived a purposeful life, and who touched the lives of many. May she rest in peace.