For miracles, we need look no further than the Eucharist. OSV photo/Bob Roller

Amen to the Eucharist’s simple miracle

  • July 27, 2023

Walking down a city street, I overheard a real estate agent talking with a prospective buyer about a house on the street.  “And when that stone church on the other side gets made into a condominium, the home value will go up,” she reasoned to her customer. 

“That stone church” has housed a parish for over a century, and the diocese has no plans for it to house anything else. The realtor, however, saw it only as a handsome building waiting to be made into something lucrative — its current occupants invisible or irrelevant. Perhaps she had never seen the quiet red sanctuary light held within those beautiful walls, nor understood the Presence it witnesses.

Some, increasingly many, among us do not see what the Church holds, in holding the Eucharist, although it has been feeding people for centuries.  Among those who do see, many don’t understand. 

It’s a bittersweet situation. The antidote to human existential hunger is here among us, but mostly unseen and unrecognized.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons there’s such a passion for “eucharistic miracles,” as though we needed proof that God took flesh, or that religion is smarter than science after all. Or as though the daily “miracle” at Mass has not been present among us since the Last Supper.

It may be that the Eucharist is too simple and too abundant for us to believe. Like Naaman, who rejected the prophet Elisha’s too-simple prescription for healing his leprosy, we look for glamour and razzle-dazzle, for elite knowledge and intellectual secrets. For a while, the highly educated St. Jerome had trouble submitting to the Gospels, though he knew they led to Christ, because they were written by uneducated nobodies in unsophisticated language.

Nonetheless, if it’s the miraculous we seek, then we need look no further than the Eucharist. The greatest eucharistic miracle is the Eucharist, celebrated every day in the humblest of ways. It’s the rarest miracle too: God-made-bread among us, eaten by the people, who allow themselves to be fortified and purified so as to become in their turn bread to be eaten, for the sake of all. 

In troubled times, it’s understandable that people look for the bold, the indisputable, the demanding. Eucharistic miracles have the appeal of being all these at once, reassuring in an environment of eucharistic ignorance and disinterest.  In just such times lived St. Augustine of Hippo (d.430), who never ceased marveling at the beauty of the Eucharist and encouraging his flock to receive it, letting it raise them up and, with them, the suffering violent world they lived in. He knew it was both ordinary and glorious.

Augustine took seriously St. Paul’s admonition to “discern the body” (1 Corinthians 11:29).  He urged his people to see what was on the altar, and recognize themselves there.  Receiving the Eucharist, we become more and more what we receive.  We are what we receive, Augustine told his congregation, and we become what we eat and drink. This is the miracle of the Eucharist.

Becoming what we receive also means communion with those who receive Eucharist with us.  We learn to carry each other’s burdens and forgive each other, thus healing the sources of division and violence in human society. Carrying each other’s burdens becomes living out the Eucharist.

Because he knew his people well, Augustine was aware of their many sufferings and griefs. He reminded them that communion brings much-needed healing.  “Be what you see,” Augustine says, “receive what you are.”

Augustine knew, too, that sometimes the biggest thing that keeps people out of church is other people. To come forward to communion is to rub shoulders with all who want what Christ gives, along with the smells and germs that come with people.  Being in church means being one among many:  uniquely one, never in isolation but never dissolved into the crowd. 

Like God, who utters one Word and says all, communicants are invited to utter one word that says everything. Augustine teaches the importance of saying “Amen” when the priest offers the body of Christ.  Amen, yes, to receiving what God gives, His divine body which is also those who eat and drink His body and blood.

This might be a better vision of the Church, after all, than seeing it as a high-end condominium building.

Life is learning to say Amen to who you are as a member of the Church — the body of Christ.  Amen!

(Marrocco can be reached at