The Eucharist and the Rule of Christ | Fr. James T O'Connor | From "The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist" | Ignatius Insight
The Eucharist and the Rule of Christ | Fr. James T O'Connor | From The Hidden Manna: A Theology of
the Eucharist (2nd edition) | Ignatius Insight
God the Father has put everything under Christ's dominion, and he shall rule
until all powers opposed to him have been subdued, the last of them being death
itself (cf. 1 Cor. 15:25-26). This present stage of Christ's rule is something
we often profess in the liturgy (especially in the Feast of Christ the King)
and in private devotion.
The meaning of the Lord's
subjection of all reality in its present stage is, however, something upon
which most of us do not often reflect. It means that, in some mysterious but
real way, the risen Jesus influences, shapes, and directs all things so that
out of all persons and things he is shaping the future visage of creation as
that creation moves toward his glorious return. Even the sinner—whose
very sin is at least implicitly an attempt to thwart the sovereignty and
dominion of Christ—operates now within the overall plan of the Lord for
the establishment of his Kingdom.
The ways in which Jesus
exercises this dominion vary. Over creatures to whom he has given intelligence
and free will, his action is such that it respects his natural gifts.
Nonetheless, his power to move us by attraction, the arranging of
circumstances, the example of others, the holy inspiration that comes from the
reading of Scripture, interior grace that conveys the delectatio spoken of by Augustine— these and many other
ways are some of the means by which he reigns efficaciously over intelligent
creatures. As Vatican Council II said:
Constituted Lord by his Resurrection. Christ, to whom all power in heaven and
on earth has been given, already works in the hearts of men by virtue of his
Holy Spirit, not only stirring up a desire for the age to come but by that very
fact also animating, purifying, and strengthening the noble intentions by which
the human family strives to make its life more human and to subject all the
earth to that goal. 
Over the lesser beings of creation his power sometimes is not necessarily more
powerful (for his attractiveness and inspirations are powerful indeed) but more
direct and immediate. And such is the case with the elements of bread and wine,
simultaneously products of his creation and of ours, "fruit of the earth
and work of human hands". At the Consecration of the liturgy, the heavenly
King touches these elements directly by and through the power of his Spirit. He
touches them so mightily that—if we may put it this way—he extracts
from them their very reality, dominating it and attracting it (forcefully
pulling it even) toward himself, so subjecting it to himself that its own true
being is lost to it as it becomes the very Lord who has mastered it.
The mystery of transubstantiation is a totally marvelous change but not one
wherein the Lord descends from heavenly glory to "enter" under the
appearances of bread and wine. Rather it is one in which he, not coming down,
lifts the creaturely realities to himself, drawing them up to where he is now with
the Father. He draws them to himself in such a fashion that he subjugates them
and so transforms their own being that it becomes identical with his. The very
being of bread and wine is lifted out of itself in a mighty spiral of ascent,
is subsumed by and converted into the reality of Jesus seated in glory. By
drawing the reality of all the elements scattered throughout the world unto and
into himself, Jesus maintains his own bodily unity. The elements are changed
into him, not he into them. If he did to the appearances, the species, what he
does to the very reality of the bread and wine, then, once the Consecration of
the Mass was finished, the priest would be left with nothing before him on the
paten or in the cup, and Christ would appear in glory. For then not only the
being but the very appearances that manifest that being to the world would have
been subsumed into the exalted Lord, and human history on earth would have
reached its conclusion. 
Myles Connolly has caught this truth well in his little book Mr. Blue. There the book's hero, Blue, gives an imaginative
scenario of the kingdom of the Antichrist. The last priest on earth, hunted by
a universal dictatorial government, has determined to offer the Mass one last
time. He goes to the roof of a building, vests, and begins the liturgy. His
"treason " discovered, a plane is sent to bomb the building on top of
which he is celebrating. The target sighted, the bomb is prepared for
deployment just as the priest reaches the consecratory words of the Roman
Canon: Hoc est enim corpus meum.
There was a moment of awful silence. Then, a burst of light beside which day
itself is dark.... The earth burst asunder. And through this unspeakably
luminous new day, through the vault of the sky ribbed with lightning, came
Christ as he had come after the Resurrection. It was the end of the world! 
It is fantasy, of course, but it is also real in that it is founded on a truth.
Were Christ to let happen to the sacramental Species or appearances what should
follow from the change of reality in which they formally had their being, it
would be the Parousia, the Second Coming in bodily appearance of [he Lord. If,
developing the imagery of St. John Chrysostom,  we may use yet another
fantasy, one created by Lewis Carroll, to help with an analogy to illustrate
what is being said, then let us imagine what it would be like not to have the
Sacred Host or the Precious Blood pass into our mouths but rather to have us be
enabled to pass directly into them.
To have us pass, that is, through what remains of the bread and wine, viz., their
appearances. Were we able to do this, we should find that, having passed
through the appearances, we would be standrng with Christ in heaven itself, at
the Father's right hand. And not only would we be standing there, but everyone
who, anywhere in the world, was capable of doing the same thing, would be
standing there with us united in Christ. This would be so because the
Eucharistic appearances are themselves the boundary between the visible and
invisible orders of creation, the horizon at which earthly time and the
everlasting aeon of the blessed touch. The appearances are the window whose far
side holds "what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor
The analogy may appear to contain more of Lewis Carroll than of reality. In
fact, however, the reality of the Eucharistic Presence is in itself and in its
consequences (for time, geography, spatiotemporal relationships, and
interpersonal relationships) more fantastic than fantasy. It is more true, more
real than the narrow, almost one-dimensional view of reality from which we
often suffer because of contracted intellectual vision. It was a wideness of
vision vis-ˆ-vis reality that nourished the imaginations of a Leonardo da
Vinci, a Jules Verne, and so much of yesterday's "science fiction".
The first glimpse may at times have distorted the reality, but so much of
yesterday's fantasy is, in essence, the quickly superseded "fact" of
today. The potentialities latent in God's universe have only begun to be
realized by mankind . Indeed, one of the "side benefits" of his
revelation of some aspects of his Mysteries is that it compels us to stretch
our minds and imaginations to make room for the not-yet-experienced, the
wonderful, the awesome.
By the Christian Mysteries philosophy is enriched and
experiential science is challenged. And certainly this is preeminently true of
the Mystery of the Eucharist. By its very nature, this Mystery touches upon the
natural and philosophic "mysteries" of time, place, the nature of
matter and of human bodies, their physical and metaphysical structures, the
visible and invisible realms of the universe, their relatedness and
compenetrability, etc. Just as he stretches the heart, so the Eucharistic
Christ stretches the mind. The analogy given above limps, not because it is
"fantastic" but simply because it is not daring enough.
By his power, then, as Universal Lord to attract all things to himself, Christ
"lifts" the creaturely realities of bread and wine, draws them to
himself, changes them into himself, leaving the appearance of the earthly
realities as vehicles for the heavenly exchange by which he physically comes to
us as our food while drawing us to himself through and in the Eucharistic
In this way we can be helped to understand the affirmations of Aquinas
and Paul VI. The Lord himself is not moved locally, nor is he locally "in
place"; what "happens" to the Sacrament happens to the
appearances. It is they that are doubly consecrated, moved, broken, multiplied
in many ciboria and churches throughout the world, etc. Having been, however,
"destructured" of any real being of their own and preserved
miraculously, the appearances of what were bread and wine mediate to all who
touch them, receive them, worship before them the Person whose Flesh and Blood
they contain and whose reality their own former reality has become.
happens to the appearances directly happens to the Lord's Body and Blood per
accidens, since it is only through the sacramental species that he is physically accessible at all on this side of
the divide that separates the visible and invisible dimensions of creation,
both of which already contain spiritual and material-physical elements.
 Vatican Council II, Guadium et Spes, 38.
 St. Thomas (Summa Contra Gentes, IV, 63, 12) appears to contradict this opinion. His remarks, however,
are predicated on the presumption that Christ would not will the end of the
world at such a moment.
 Myles Connolly, Mr. Blue (Garden City, N.Y. ; Doubleday, Image, 1961), pp.
 Cf. above. Section I, pp. 46-48.
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Fr. James O'Connor was a professor of theology for twenty-three years at St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie. He is now the pastor of St. Joseph's Parish, Millbrook, New York.
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