|The heart tissue of the Eucharistic miracle in Lanciano|
Solemnity of Corpus Christi
Unless the local bishops have moved it to the following Sunday, today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the feast of the Most Holy Eucharist.
On this day, the Church adores the Real Presence of her Savior in the Eucharistic Species. Christ our Lord is really, truly, substantially and sacramentally present in the Eucharist. This Presence is confirmed in a most astonishing way in those Eucharistic miracles where the Host and/or Precious Blood physically and visibly change shape so as to become (in sensible form) flesh and blood.
A question arises, however: Since, in some of these Eucharistic miracles, the Host changes into heart tissue, are we right to say that the Sacred Host is the flesh of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
The Miracle: Lanciano
In the city of Lanciano, Italy (which is in the south-eastern portion of the country, near the “heel of the boot”) around the year 700, a Basilian monk who was celebrating Mass had doubts about the truth of the Eucharist.
During the Mass, after the consecration, the Eucharistic Species (that is, the consecrated bread and wine) visibly and sensibly changed form. The Eucharistic Host changed into visible flesh while the consecrated wine sensibly changed to blood, which coagulated into five globules of varying shape and size.
This miracle was the cause of great alarm and also of much interest. To this day, the Eucharistic miracle is still able to be seen in the Church of St. Francis in Lanciano. I have seen it myself, and worshiped our Lord’s Presence in this miraculous Species.
|The five globules of blood from Lanciano|
The Facts: The Miracle of Lanciano – It is a human heart
There have been a number of scientific investigations of the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano.
February 17, 1574 by Bishop Antonio Gaspar Rodríguez
1636 by Father Serafino from Scanno
October 23, 1777 by Bishop Gervasone
October 26, 1886 by Bishop Petrarca
1971, by Odoardo Linoli
1973, by a World Health Organization commission
These studies have concluded that the five globules always weigh the same size, in any combination. In other words, each weighs the same as the others, but any four together weigh no more than any one individually and any one alone weighs the same as the other four together.
Further, the flesh and blood are real, and human. They are of the same blood type, AB – which is that of the “universal recipient”, since our Savior receives all people into his Mystical Body.
Finally, the flesh is heart tissue. In the flesh, one can see all the essential parts of a human heart – the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve, and also the left ventricle. This flesh is a thin slice of a human heart.
By a wondrous miracle, this tissue and blood has remained wholly preserved and intact for 1300 years!
The Dogma: The whole of Christ’s body is substantially present
Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation. (CCC 1376; Council of Trent, Session XIII)
Further, by real concomitance, the Blood of Christ is present in the Host and the Body of Christ is present in the Chalice. Likewise, the Divinity of Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.
In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” (CCC 1374; Council of Trent, Session XIII)
Under both Species (that is, under that which looks like bread and that which looks like wine), the whole Christ is present – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Further, a smaller-sized Host does not contain “less” of Christ, nor does a larger Host contain “more” of Christ.
|Images of the Miracle of Lanciano|
The Answer: The heart tissue cannot be the physical tissue of Christ’s Sacred Heart
From this, it should be clear that the heart tissue of the Miracle of Lanciano cannot be the physical tissue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
If the Eucharist of the Miracle of Lanciano is truly the Eucharist, then it must still be a sacrament and the whole Christ must be truly present therein. It would be a limitation on the Miracle to say that it is only a “piece” of Jesus, or only a “slice” of his Heart. Indeed, this would come close to blasphemy!
No, in the Miracle of Lanciano, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained. We worship the Eucharist of Lanciano as Christ and not merely as a “part” of Christ.
However, the heart tissue is a miraculous sign of this truth. Though it is not (and cannot be) a piece of the physical Heart of Jesus – for this Sacred Heart is now whole and complete in Heaven, in our Savior’s glorified body – the tissue reminds us in the most vivid terms that the Eucharist is really and truly Jesus, and that he gives us his Heart (that is, the fullness of his Love) in the Eucharist.
Still, we are right to say that the physical flesh and blood of the Miracle are “Christ’s” – not as though they are the proper flesh and blood of his glorified body, but that they are wholly possessed by his Person, since he is the one really present in the Sacrament of Lanciano. In other words, that is “Christ’s heart tissue”, but it is not as though there is a slice missing from our Savior’s Sacred Heart in heaven.
As the Eucharist isn’t just a “piece” of Jesus, neither is it only a “slice” of his Love. Rather, in this Most Blessed Sacrament, our Savior gives us his whole Self and all of his Love. The Miracle of Lanciano is a reminder of this great mystery.