The Body of Christ remains as long as the sacramental species remain intact, that is, until they corrupt. When corruption takes place, either with age or with consumption, so that the species are no longer those of bread and wine, the Body of Christ ceases to be present because the signs are gone. Accordingly, we can say with certainty that the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist begins with the Consecration and ends only with the corruption of the species.

Since God is the Supreme being and the Absolute Lord of the universe, since he is our Creator and the Source of all we are and have, to him is due worship in the highest degree. The technical name for the worship due to God and to him alone is "adoration". Jesus Christ is the Word of God (Cf. John 1:1ff.), the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, "God from God, Light from Light". St. Paul puts it well in Philippians 2:9-11: "God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

The same Lord Jesus humbles himself and makes himself present for us in the Eucharist. Therefore, since he is Lord and since he is really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, the worship of adoration must be given to him in the Eucharist. When we adore Christ in the Eucharist, we are not engaging in "bread worship" or "idolatry", because we are worshipping our divine Lord who is truly present.

The belief of the ancient Christian Church in the duration of the Real Presence is attested by the custom of bringing the Eucharist to the sick and to prisoners who were absent from the celebration of Mass. The faithful were also allowed to bring the Eucharist to their houses.

By the year 1536 Martin Luther began to teach that the Body of Christ is present in the Eucharist only while it is being used, that is, during the course of the Communion service from the Consecration to Communion. Hence, he totally rejected the perpetual belief of the Church in the permanence of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Accordingly, he repudiated the practice of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, of the adoration of Christ in Benediction and of Eucharistic processions, such as were common in Europe at the time on the feast of Corpus Christi.

In order to make this point perfectly clear and in order to reject the errors of Luther and his followers, the Council of Trent solemnly declared: "If anyone says that Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, is not to be adored in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, including the external worship and that the Sacrament, therefore, is not to be honored with extraordinary festive celebrations nor solemnly carried from place to place in processions according to the praiseworthy universal rite and custom of the holy Church; or that the Sacrament is not to be publicly exposed for the people's adoration, and that those who adore it are idolaters: let him be anathema" (Denzinger 1656).

Thus, Our Lord, truly present in the Eucharist, is to be adored. The Eucharist itself should be handled with the utmost reverence and care. In our churches one of the ways in which we show adoration for the Lord is by genuflecting when we enter and leave the church, or when we cross in front of the tabernacle. In recent years a certain carelessness in this regard has crept in. We should preserve the practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament as a concrete way of expressing our adoration of the lord.

Source: Fr. Kenneth Baker SJ.