Real Christmas presence: No shopping required Print
Living and Learning
Thursday, Dec. 04, 2008 -- 1:00 AM

Living and Learning column by Msgr. Daniel T. GanshertWhen it comes to Christmas presence this year, no shopping is required. Body and blood, soul and divinity, the presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist remains the real gift of Christmas.

We celebrate the gift of the incarnation of the Word of God all year long in the Catholic Church. However, our turbulent economy and times, this year, are signaling a Christmas where presents will be fewer and peoples' needs will be greater.

Even so, just like all the times before, there will be abundant Christmas presence for everyone.

Christ's presence in us

It has been said that with Baptism we take on the identity of Christ, with Confirmation we take on the mission of Christ, and with Holy Eucharist we take on the destiny of Christ. Imagine, it is Christ's identity, mission, and destiny that is initiated in our lives through these sacraments.

What is more, this reality is renewed in you and in me every time we receive Jesus truly and fully present in the Eucharist; every time we hear the words, "the Body of Christ, the Blood of Christ" and respond with the word "Amen" or "I believe" as translated from the Hebrew.

"Amen" says I believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. No one else can say this word for us. It is our personal response to the gift of Jesus Christ present in Holy Communion.

It is meant to be the response of one who believes; one to whom faith has been given by God; one whose human faith like that of Saint Paul is saying, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief."

Remembering Masses

Do certain Masses come to mind when you responded "Amen" at Communion?

Have there been times when you were worried, fearful, confused, upset, grief stricken, ill, peace-filled, free, joyful, or fulfilled at that moment? Did that "Amen" have special significance?

Was your statement of belief especially meaningful and memorable at that time? Will it be this Christmas when you and I say "Amen"?

This is what we might call the personal experience of Communion as an individual member of Christ's Body.

Communal experience

But there is a communal experience, as well, and it is every bit as significant.

Think of the times when we hear and see the people gathered for Holy Eucharist walking forward to say their own "Amen." One by one, as each individual comes to receive, a human statement, an act of faith is unfolding before our eyes.

It is an act of faith in Christ’s real presence among us in the Eucharist. His presence allows us to taste and see the goodness of the Lord here and now. It is a foretaste of our destiny, the heavenly banquet to which we are called in eternity. It is a gift of peace, of joy, and of love. It is the gift of the Lord himself.

So, let us prepare during Advent through the Sacrament of Penance, good works, prayer, and by waiting in joyful hope for our Christmas presence, Jesus Christ, forever ours in the Holy Eucharist.

Msgr. Daniel Ganshert is the vicar general for the Diocese of Madison.