Lanciano is a small, medieval town , nestled in from the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Italy, halfway between San Giovanni Rotondo and Loreto. Everything about Lanciano smacks of the Eucharistic Miracle. Even the name of the town was changed from Anxanum (in ancient times), to Lanciano, meaning “THE LANCE”. Tradition has it that the centurion, named Longinus, who thrust the Lance into the side of Jesus, striking Him in the Tip of His Heart from which He shed blood and water, (in the Gospel account of the Crucifixion (Mk 15:29)) was from this town. After seeing the events which followed the piercing of Jesus’ heart, the darkening of the sun, and the earthquake, he believed that Christ was the Savior. A more physical sign, however, was that Longinus had had poor eyesight, and after having touched his eyes with the water and blood from the side of Jesus, his eyesight was restored. What a perfect parallel the actions of the Centurion were to the Eucharistic Miracle. He touched the Heart of Jesus, was healed, and converted. He gave up the Army, went to Cappadocia, and was martyred for the faith. He is known now as Saint Longinus. His feast day is celebrated on March 15.
The church of the Eucharistic Miracle is located in the center of the town. But what is the center of the town today was the outskirts of the town back in the Eighth Century, when the Eucharistic Miracle occurred. At the time, it was called the Church of St. Legontian and St. Domitian, and was under the custody of the Basilian Monks, of the Greek Orthodox Rite. This was prior to the Great Schism of 1054.
A Basilian monk, wise in the ways of the world, but not in the ways of faith, was having a trying time with his belief in the real presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. He prayed constantly for relief from his doubts, and the fear that he was losing his vocation. He suffered through the routine of his priesthood day after day, with these doubts gnawing at him.
The situation in the world did not help strengthen his faith. There were many heresies cropping up all the time, which kept chipping away at his faith. They were not all from outside the church either. Brother priests and bishops were victims of these heresies, and they were being spread throughout the church. This priest, being a very intelligent person, couldn’t help but be more and more convinced by the logic of these heresies, especially the one concerning his particular problem, the physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Human logic has always been a great enemy of the soul, when we try to understand the Divine.
One morning, while he was having a strong attack of doubt, he began the Consecration of the Mass for the people of the town. He used the same size host which is used in the Latin Rite masses today. What he beheld as he consecrated the bread and wine caused his hands to shake, indeed his whole body. He stood for a long time with his back to the people, and then slowly turned around to them.
He said: “O fortunate witnesses to whom the Blessed God, to confound my disbelief, has wished to reveal Himself in this Most Blessed Sacrament and to render Himself visible to our eyes. Come, brethren, and marvel at our God so close to us. Behold the Flesh and Blood of our most beloved Christ.”
The host had turned into Flesh. The wine had turned into Blood.
The people, having witnessed the miracle for themselves, began to wail, asking for forgiveness, crying for mercy. Others began beating their breasts, confessing their sins, declaring themselves unworthy to witness such a miracle. Still others went down on their knees in respect, and thanksgiving for the gift the Lord had bestowed on them. All spread the story throughout the town, and surrounding villages.
Jesus even allowed Himself to be crucified again. After the miracle, the Host was pinned down to a wooden board, so that when it dried, it would not curl up, as scabbed flesh does. So here He was again, with nails in His Body, nailed to a piece of wood.
The miracle that occurred in 700 was just the beginning. That was 1250 years ago. Had that miracle taken place, and then the flesh and blood disintegrated, as would have been normal, the miracle would have been none the less a miracle. The priest’s faith had been renewed. The entire town, the whole country for that matter, became aware of the miracle. Pilgrims flocked to Lanciano to venerate the Host turned flesh. Belief in the Eucharist had been reborn. The gift from the Lord was complete.
But that’s not all. The Miracle is ongoing. The Host-turned- Flesh, and the wine-turned-Blood, without the use of any form of preservative, is still present in the reliquary. In 1574, testing was done on the Flesh and Blood.