Deepening Our Understanding of the Eucharist 

News June 2, 2021

by Fr. Peter

Last Sunday on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity we were reminded how God draws us into a familial relationship with Him, through Jesus, and by the Spirit. Not only does God the Father create and provide for the living things that he has created, but he sends His Son to bring us into a communion of love, whereby, filled by the Holy Spirit, God renews us, calls us His children, and continues to teach and strengthen us.

To the Christian, Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for the salvation of all humankind is the central event of history, and as Catholics we see the Eucharist as bound up with this pivotal event. This Sunday, the Church shines a spotlight upon the Eucharist, with the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’” (1323)

This is a lot to comprehend. According to the Catechism the Eucharist is all of these things:

● Memorial

● Sacrifice

● Real Presence of Christ

● Meal

● Bond of Charity

● Sign of Unity

● Thanksgiving and Praise to God

The Church teaches that the Eucharist is “the Source and Summit of the Christian life.” (1324) Through this Sacrament, “we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.” (1326) 

In the rectory the other day, a priest mentioned that in the early years of his priesthood, there had been an emphasis on the communal meal aspect of the Eucharist. I noted that in my own time, there was more of an emphasis on the sacrificial aspects of the Eucharist. Certainly in the last twenty-five years, there has been a renewed focus on the language of sacrifice regarding the Eucharist, updating prayers and translations, renewed usage of Thomistic terminology, increasing Holy Hours (Eucharistic Adoration), etc. Obviously, I am not knocking any these things. But when we shine a spotlight upon any one aspect of the Eucharist, we invariably deemphasize another aspect.

We call the Eucharist Holy Communion, for example, because in it “we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.” (1331) We call the central celebration of our Catholic faith the “Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.” (1332) St. John Chrysostom wrote that to receive the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us in a worthy manner, we must also recognize Christ in the poor. (Quoted at n. 1397)

The Catechism’s detailed treatment of the Eucharist ends with these three points:

● The Church warmly recommends that the faithful receive Holy Communion each time they participate in the celebration of the Eucharist; she obliges them to do so at least once a year. (1417)

● Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration. “To visit the Blessed Sacrament is . . . a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord.” (Pope Paul VI, 1418)

Having passed from this world to the Father, Christ gives us in the Eucharist the pledge of glory with him. Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints. (1419)

By receiving Holy Communion, we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ to form one body, and then going forth to fulfill God’s will in our daily lives, and in the lives of others. May we seek to ever deepen our understanding of this sacred mystery that is so central to our life as Catholics.