Rorate Caeli

A Special Article for the Feast of Corpus Christi:

[A booklet with the basic doctrine on the Blessed Sacrament.]

by Father Konrad zu Loewenstein FSSP

Adoro Te devote, latens Deitas,
Quae sub his figuris vere latitas:
Tibi se cor meum totum subicit,
Quia, Te contemplans, totum deficit...

Devoutly I adore Thee, O Hidden Deity,
Who beneath these figures truly liest hidden:
My heart subjects itself entirely to Thee,
because in contemplating Thee it fails entirely...

St. Thomas Aquinas


We have considered it important to re-state clearly and concisely the sublime doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church in regard to the Holy Eucharist, in an age when notable sectors of the Catholic laity, clergy, and even of the hierarchy, trapped in a bland and merely human way of thinking, and\or seduced by a resurgence of Protestant Eucharistic heresies, manifest the most lamentable ignorance or heterodoxy in its regard, together with a conduct entirely unbecoming to such solemn realities.  

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the diocesan
authorities for having verified the conformity of this text with
Catholic Doctrine, and to the translator of the original into English

The Holy Eucharist is one of the seven Sacraments of the Church. The term ‘Holy Eucharist’has two senses: The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, and the Holy Mass. In the first sense the Holy Eucharist is considered in Itself, in the second sense It is considered in so far as It is offered.


     As a Sacrament, the Most Blessed Sacrament:
     1) is a sign of Grace;
     2) confers Grace on us;
     3) was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ.

     In particular:
     1)  The  Most Blessed Sacrament is a sign of Grace in the sense that the consecrated species are a Real sign of the Body and Blood of Christ.
     2)  The Most Blessed Sacrament confers supernatural Grace upon us; but also the very Author of Grace Himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ;
     3)   This Sacrament was instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ with the words of consecration together with those of the Mandate: ‘Do this in memory of Me’- the latter words with which He also instituted the Sacrament of Holy Order, that is, the priesthood.

     This Sacrament is called Most Blessed because it is Jesus Christ Himself.

     Let us now consider the Most Blessed Sacrament more closely: first as The Real Presence, and then as Holy Communion.


     The Doctrine of the Real Presence teaches us that in the Most Blessed Sacrament Our Lord Jesus Christ is really present: more precisely, that the Most Blessed Sacrament is Jesus Christ Himself under the appearance of bread and wine.

     This is a Catholic dogma, which, like the other dogmas regarding the Holy Eucharist, was defined in extenso by the Sacred Council of Trent (1545-1563). Catholic dogmas are divinely revealed truths which the Church proposes infallibly to be believed as such.

     The dogma of the Real Presence is defined in the following words[1]: ‘If any-one were to deny that in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist is contained truly, really, and substantially the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Our Lord together with His Soul and Divinity, and hence the entire Christ, and were to say instead that He is in it only as in a sign, a figure, or a virtue, Let him be Anathema.’ (Trent S.XIII Canon 1)

     At the centre of the Holy Mass is the Consecration or ‘Transubstantiation’. The priest pronounces words over bread and wine which transforms them into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and thus Our Lord Jesus Christ is made really present upon the Altar.

     Before the Consecration bread and wine are present; after the Consecration Jesus Christ: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The bread and the wine exist no longer but only Jesus Christ, and only the appearance of bread and wine. The accidents (or qualities: size, extension, weight, form, colour, taste, smell) exist without a subject, without a substance, by a miracle of God. They exist neither in the bread nor in the wine, nor do they exist in Jesus Christ; but they exist without a subject, without a substance. The only substance which exists is Jesus Christ Himself under their appearance.

     Our Lord Jesus Christ does not exist in or under the bread: this is the heresy of  Martin Luther known as ‘Consubstantiation’[2].  The bread is not a symbol of Jesus Christ: this is the heresy of Zwingli. The bread is not a virtue of Jesus Christ either, which confers spiritual strength: the heresy of Calvin. Instead, the bread and the wine have become Jesus Christ in His Real Presence and they no longer exist.

     This dogma of the Church is based primarily on two passages of the New Testament.

     The first passage consists of the Lord’s discourse on the Holy Eucharist to be found in chapter 6 of the Gospel of St. John, from which we shall quote verses 51-58: ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. The Jews then strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say unto you: except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from Heaven, not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead. He that eateth this bread shall live forever.’
     The second passage, or rather series of passages, on the Real Presence, consist in the words of Consecration recounted in the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and in the first Letter of  St. Paul to the Corinthians.

     St. Augustine exclaims[3]: ‘God, being Omnipotent, was not able to do more; being Omniscient, did not know how to give more; being the most wealthy of all, was not able to give more.’  St. Francis of Assisi says: ‘Man should tremble, the world quake, and all of Heaven be moved when upon the Altar in the hands of the priest appears the Son of God’.


     A church is neither a museum nor a meeting-place: it is the House of God, the Gate of Heaven, because Our Lord Jesus Christ is Really Present in the church, just as He was at Nazareth and as He is in Heaven. It befits us therefore to behave with the utmost respect when we are before Him.

     When entering the church, one takes holy water with the finger and slowly and devotedly traces the sign of the cross upon oneself, and genuflects. One genuflects also when passing before the Tabernacle wherein reposes the Most Blessed Sacrament, and again when one comes to one’s seat. In church one does not talk: in case of urgent need, one communicates in a low voice or, better, in a whisper. The kind of genuflection to be made in church depends on the location the Most Blessed Sacrament: if in the Tabernacle, one makes a simple genuflection; if exposed, a double genuflection with a deep bow.
     At the Consecration, when (in the words of St. Francis) ‘the Son of God appears in the hands of the priest’, the faithful should be kneeling, as also when the priest holds up the Sacred Host and pronounces the words ‘Behold the Lamb of God’.


     Having briefly considered the Blessed Sacrament in regard to the Real Presence, let us now consider It in regard to Holy Communion.

     Holy Communion is a further miracle which effects the fusion of  Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity with us. The motive for this fusion is Christ’s love for us, for love aims at union. The Lord is already present to us in all the Tabernacles of the world, but the union effected by Holy Communion is a union even more intimate than this one. ‘The Eucharist’ exclaims St. Pierre-Julien Eymard, ‘is the supreme manifestation of Jesus’ love: after this there is only Heaven’.

     St. Cyril of Alexandia, Father of the Church, uses three images to illustrate the fusion of love of Our Lord Jesus Christ with us in the Holy Eucharist: ‘He who receives Holy Communion is sanctified, divinized in his body and soul in the same way as water when heated over a fire becomes hot; the Communion acts like the yeast which, when immersed in a measure of flour, ferments the whole of it; in the same way as the wax of two candles, as they melt together, mingle into one. So I believe that he who eats of the Body and the Blood of  Jesus is thus fused with Him through such a participation, and finds himself to be in Christ and Christ in him’.


     i) Holy Communion in the state of Grace
     Only the faithful in the state of Grace may receive Holy Communion. To receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin (consequent for example on the failure to attend Sunday Mass or on the sin of impurity, committed with another or alone) constitutes a second mortal sin, that is to say a sacrilege. It is like receiving Our Blessed Lord into a dark and fetid cave, which is the soul in the state of spiritual death.

     In his first Letter to the Corinthians (11, 27-30), St. Paul clearly states[4]: ‘Therefore, whosoever shall eat  this bread or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep’.

     The Catechism of St. Pius X (n. 630) teaches in this connection that: ‘He who is aware that he is in a state of mortal sin, must first make a good confession before receiving Holy Communion. For the person in a state of mortal sin, an act of perfect contrition without confession is insufficient for receiving Holy Communion as is befitting’.

     ii) Holy Communion on the Tongue

     As early as the sixth century, with a more profound knowledge of the Real Presence, the Church established that Holy Communion was to be received on the tongue. In the ninth century this was prescribed for the Universal Church.

     Holy Communion on the hand was introduced in the modern era by the Protestant Reformers with the explicit intention of destroying belief in the Real Presence, or, as Martin Bucer, the apostate Domenican priest, writes in his ‘Censura’ (ca.1550)[5]: ‘It becomes our duty to abolish in the church...any form of adoration-of-bread’. This practice - of Communion in the hand - became the classical symbol of the negation of the Real Presence.

     Shortly after the Second Vatican Council in Holland and elsewhere in central Europe, a part of the clergy began to promote this practice among the Catholic faithful. The consequences became so grave that Pope Paul VI re-affirmed the ancient practice in Memoriale Domini of 1967 and Pope John Paul II wrote in the letter Dominicae Cenae of 1980, that to touch the Most Blessed Sacrament is ‘a privilege of the ordained’.  With time however the practice of giving Holy Communion in the hand was conceded by the Vatican for the new rite, first as an exception and then in general. Pope Benedict XVI favours Holy Communion on the tongue.

     In virtue of this concession, the faithful who assist at Holy Mass according to the new rite (but not acording to the old rite) are free to choose which manner to receive Our Eucharistic Lord, but the practice of receiving Communion on the tongue is to be recommended:

      1)  to show greater respect towards the Most Blessed Sacrament;
      2)  to protect the faith in the Real Presence;
      3)  to prevent the Most Blessed Sacrament being taken from the church for sacrilegious motives, caprice, or out of pure ignorance;
4)      to prevent even the smallest fragment of the Sacred Host from falling on the ground, since the Church teaches that Our Blessed Lord is present entirely even in the smallest fragment: ‘Christ exists totally and entirely under the species of the bread and in every  part of the species; and in the same manner He exists totally under the species of the wine and in all of its parts’. (Trent S. XIII cap.3)[6].

     The practice of kneeling, if physically possibile, for receiving the Most Blessed Sacrament, or at the very least after a genuflection, is also to be recommended – equally for reasons of respect.

     iii) Thanksgiving

     St. John of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Aloysius Gonzaga said prayers of thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion for two hours on their knees. St. Louis - Marie Grignion de Monfort would stay in church for at least half an hour after the Holy Mass and no engagement or concern was ever such as to make him forego the practice, since he was wont to say: ‘I would not exchange this hour of thanksgiving even for an hour of Paradise’.

     St. Paul the Apostle, in his first Letter to the Corinthians (6.20) writes: ‘Glorify and bear God in your body’. There is no other occasion in which these words are realized so literally as immediately after Holy Communion. We recall the example of St. Philip Neri who sent two altar-boys with lighted candles to accompany a certain person leaving the church having just communicated.

     Since Our Lord remains in our body for fifteen to twenty minutes after Holy Communion, this is not the moment for chatting outside or (much less) inside the church. Rather, it is appropriate and also most salutary to devote at least a quarter of an hour to prayerful thanksgiving.

   Finally, let us do all in our means to adore and to offer thanks in an adequate and worthy manner to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time to demonstrate our faith in the Real Presence in an age in which He is so grievously ignored, neglected, scorned, and outraged.

     Having meditated upon the Most Blessed Sacrament in Itself whether in the Real Presence or in Holy Communion, we now wish to reflect upon the Most Blessed Sacrament inasmuch as It is offered, or, in other words, upon the Holy Mass itself.

     Any-one who acknowledges that in the Holy Mass Our Lord Jesus Christ is Truly Present and is consumed by His faithful, might suppose that the essence of the Holy Mass consists precisely in this: namely in the coming of our Lord upon the Altar and in Holy Communion. But that is not true. What then is the Holy Mass?



     The Council of Trent teaches that the Holy Mass is a real and proper sacrifice. This is de Fide, a dogma of Faith, defined by the Council in the following words[7]: ‘If any-one were to say that in the Mass a real and proper sacrifice is not offered to God, Let him be Anathema’ (Trent S. XXII Canon 1). This dogma is based upon various passages in Holy Scripture, of which we shall cite only two: the first from the Old Testament, and the second from the New.

     The first passage is found in Malachias 1,10: ‘I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not accept a gift of your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles: and in every place there is sacrifice and there is offered to my name a clean oblation...’

     Here God speaks of the abolition of the sacrificial rite of the Jews in favour of a new one. This is the Holy Mass, because it subsists in every place, and because it constitutes a clean (or pure) oblation inasmuch as it is Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself Who both offers, and is offered in, this oblation.

     The second passage may be found in the Gospel of St. Luke in the account of the Last Supper. This passage, or rather series of passages, expresses the sacrificial nature of the gift of Himself by Jesus Christ as is manifest particularly in the words: ‘My Body which is given for you’ and ‘My Blood which is given for you’ (Luke 22, 19-20).

     The Holy Mass is a sacrifice, then, but in what does this sacrifice consist? The Council of Trent teaches that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass is that of the Cross. This is an further
dogma of the Faith which is defined in the following words: ‘In fact it is one and
the same victim, and He Who now offers the sacrifice by the ministry of priests is the Very Same Who offered Himself then upon the Cross; only the manner of offering is different[8] (Trent S. XXII Cap.2). 

      Let us proceed briefly to expound this dogma. The Victim on the Cross was Jesus Christ; the Victim offered in the Holy Mass is likewise Jesus Christ - that is to say under the appearance of the bread and the wine. The priest who offered the Victim on the Cross was Jesus Christ; the priest who offers the Victim in the Holy Mass is likewise Jesus Christ - that is to say by means of the celebrant. In the Holy Mass there is, then, the same Victim as on Calvary, and the same Priest as on Calvary. The same Victim, the same Priest: the same Sacrifice. It follows that the Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary. Only the manner of offering is different: on the Cross the Sacrifice was bloody; in the Holy Mass it is unbloody.


     If this is not explicitly a dogma, it is nonetheless the common opinion of the theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas. But how are we to understand it? The death of Our Lord was caused by the separation of  His Most Holy Body and His Most Precious Blood. This death, this separation, is rendered present in the Holy Mass during the Canon of the Mass, by the separate Consecration of the bread and wine. In the Holy Mass the Body and the Blood of the Lord become separated: in this manner His Death, His Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Calvary is rendered present.

     St. Gregory of Nazianzen (Epistle 161) says that the priest separates the Body and Blood of the Lord with an unbloody severing, using his voice as a sword.
     Let us briefly compare this doctrine with that of Martin Luther.

1)   He upholds the doctrine of the Real Presence;
1)      but has a false understanding of it, according to his thesis of ‘consubstantiation’, as we have already seen;
2)      he affirms that the Real Presence subsists only during the Mass;
3)      with regard to the essence of the Holy Mass, he denies that is a Sacrifice. He claims that there is only one Sacrifice, that of the Cross, and for this reason he denies that the Holy Mass is a Sacrifice, because in that case it would be a sacrifice over and above that of the Cross. The Catholic Church also teaches that there is but one Sacrifice, that of the Cross; but she teaches at the same time that this Sacrifice, as we have seen above , is the very same as that of the Holy Mass. For this reason the Holy Mass is not a Sacrifice over and above that of the Cross;
4)      Martin Luther substitutes the Holy Mass with a liturgical service he calls ‘The Supper’;
5)      He names the celebrant, whom he considers to be lacking in any sacramental power, a mere ‘president’.


     The death of our Lord upon the Cross obtains supernatural Grace which is applied by the Holy Mass. It is applied for three ends:
i)                    the good of all, and particularly of the whole Church: for the Church militant, the Church triumphant and for the holy souls in Purgatory;
ii)                  for the good of those for whom the Holy Mass is specifically celebrated;
iii)                for the good of the celebrant and the assisting faithful.

     The fruit received depends upon the disposition of those who pray for it and receive it.

     With regard to these Graces in general, St. Theresa of Avila says: ‘Without the Holy Mass what would become of us? Everything would perish here below, becaused only the Mass can hold back the arm of God’.

     St. Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori says: ‘Without the Mass the world would have been annhilated long ago on account of the sins of man’.

     And Padre Pio of Pietrelcina says: ‘It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than without the Holy Mass.’

     With regard to the benefit to the souls of the deceased, St. Jerome declares: ‘For every Holy Mass devoutly celebrated, many souls are freed from Purgatory and fly to Heaven’.

     With regard to the Graces which accrue to the faithful who are present, St. Bernard teaches: ‘It is more meritorious to assist devoutly at one Holy Mass than to distribute all one’s goods to the poor and make pilgrimages around the whole world’.

     St. Augustine says, ‘Every step one takes on the way to Holy Mass is counted by an Angel and shall receive the highest reward from God both in this life and in eternity’.

     ‘Be assured, said Our Blessed Lord to St. Gertrude, that to him who devoutly assists at Holy Mass, I shall send, in the last instants of his life, as many of My saints to comfort and protect him as the number of Masses he attended with the proper dispositions’.


     i) Assiduity
     The first consequence is that we must assist at the Holy Mass not only every Sunday, as we are obliged to do on pain of mortal sin, but as often as possible. St. Leonard of Port Maurizio exhorts: ‘Oh hapless people, what are you doing? Why do you not run to church to hear as many Masses as you can? Why do you not imitate the Angels who, at the celebration of the Mass, descend from heaven by the thousands and attend our Altars in adoration in order to intercede for us?’

     ii) Appropriate Dispositions

     The second practical consequence is to participate with the appropriate dispositions. Greater the devotion of those who participate, greater is their merit, and greater the Grace that they shall receive. This devotion must be directed towards our Lord sacrificed upon the Cross, which is the very heart of the Holy Mass. In his book, ‘Jesus Our Eucharistic Love’, Father Manelli explains that true active participation at the Holy Mass is that which makes us immaculate victims like Jesus, its purpose being, in the words of Pope Pius XII, ‘to reproduce in us the dolorous features of Jesus’.

     The classical spiritual practice at the Offertory is this: to offer oneself to God the Father together with the offering of the bread and the wine, and at the Consacration to immolate oneself to Him together with the oblation of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

     The same Father Manelli affirms: ‘How, besides, can we remain indifferent before the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus? Surely we do not want to imitate the Apostles asleep in Gethsemane, or much less the soldiers who, at the foot of the Cross, thought only of playing at dice, utterly unconcerned at the atrocious spasms of the dying Jesus.’

     St. John Bosco complained of the ‘many Christians who in church are willfully distracted, immodest, inattentive, irrespectful, standing around, gazing here and there. These persons do not assist at the Divine Sacrifice like Mary and John, but rather like the Jews, crucifying Our Lord one more time’.

     Let us turn our eyes towards the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary Magdalen and the holy women at the foot of the Cross. These are our model for participation at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: for the glory of God and for the salvation of our souls.



[1] Si quis negaverit, in sanctissimae Eucharistiae sacramento contineri vere, realiter, et substantialiter Corpus et Sanguinem una cum anima et divinitate Domini nostri Jesu Christi, ac proinde totum Christum; sed dixerit, tantummodo esse in eo ut in signo, vel figura, aut virtute: Anathema Sit.  
 [2] Cat.Maior V 8
[3] Quotations from the saints come from the book, ‘Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love’ by Father  Stefano Manelli
 [4] a passage removed from the texts of the Novus Ordo Missae both for Maundy Thursday and for the Feast of Corpus Christi.
[5] cf. Michael Davies, Pope Paul’s New Mass, Angelus Press, 1980.
[6] Totus enim et integer Christus sub panis specie et sub quavis ipsius parte, totus item sub vini specie et sub eius partibus exsistit.
 [7] Si quis dixerit, in Missa non offerri Deo verum et proprium sacrificium... Anathema Sit
[8] Una enim eademque est hostia, idem nunc offerens sacerdotum ministerio, qui se ipsum tunc in cruce obtulit, sola offerendi ratione diversa.

Father Konrad zu Loewenstein teaches courses at the Seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in Wigratzbad, Germany. Our thanks to the reader who sent us this text.