My alma mater, The University of St. Thomas in Houston, was named for St. Thomas Aquinas. I studied the Summa Theologiae and the Summa Contra Gentiles as part of my theology and philosophy classes, but most of what I learned about St. Thomas came from outside of the classroom.
Thomas Aquinas was a philosopher and theologian who had a deep devotion for the Eucharist. In fact, Pope Urban IV asked Thomas Aquinas to write out the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi. Later on, when he was writing about the Eucharist, he spent time in front of the Blessed Sacrament with his writings. As he was praying, he heard Christ speaking to him: “Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward will you have?” Thomas replied, “Lord, nothing but yourself.”
Thomas Aquinas was a great advocate for the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In his Summa Theologiae, he said:
"And therefore expressly our Lord did not say:
"This bread is My body," but in general: "This is My body."
This is part of an entire section of the Summa dedicated to the Eucharist, which includes arguments about the real presence, the form of the Body and Blood of Christ, and the effects of the Eucharist.
It’s a lot to take in and kind of hard to believe, I know, but a lot of Jesus’s disciples had issues with what He said as well. Jesus had the opportunity to say he was speaking metaphorically, but he didn’t. Instead he says “Amen, amen, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you...For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:53,55) According to Fr. Robert Barron, Jesus uses the Greek “trogein” when he refers to eating His flesh. “Trogein” is the Greek word for gnawing. A lot of the disciples up and left Jesus because the thought of eating another person’s flesh and drinking His blood, well, it’s cannibalism!
But Holy Communion isn’t cannibalism. Catholic apologist Tim Staples says
“Though Christ is substantially present—body, blood, soul and divinity—in the Eucharist, the accidents of bread and wine remain. The word, transubstantiation, literally means ‘transformation of the substance.
"Substance’ refers to that which makes a thing essentially what it is.”
The characteristics or “accidents” of the bread and wine are still there. They don’t change into skin or muscle. They just take on the characteristics of Jesus’s resurrected body and blood. (Read more here.)
As Thomas Aquinas said in the Summa Theologiae
“There is no deception in this sacrament; for the accidents which are discerned by the senses are truly present. But the intellect...is preserved by faith from deception...Faith is not contrary to the senses, but concerns things to which sense does not reach.”
Thankfully, Jesus wasn’t completely abandoned. His true friends stayed behind because, to quote Peter
“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
A good number of apostles and many future saints would go on to do the same.
Today, we can stay in the presence of Jesus in Adoration and receive His body, blood, soul, and divinity in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. I hope you get to do one of these things today, dear sisters in Christ. God bless!
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!