Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish is celebrating the Year of Catechesis from July 2022 – June 2023. The theme of the Year is: Journeying Together in Renewing our Faith. Each month, a new topic is addressed.
October 2022 Topic: The SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
What is the Sacrament of the Eucharist?
The Eucharist is a sacrament and a sacrifice. In the Eucharist, under the appearance of bread and wine, Christ is contained, offered, and received. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ given to the faithful as spiritual food. It is the re-enactment of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The Holy Eucharist is a sacrament that completes Christian initiation and is the centre of Christian life.
Names of the Sacrament
The Catechism of the Catholic refers to this sacrament with different names. The various names reveal the richness of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Each name evokes certain aspects of the sacrament.
This sacrament is called:
- The Eucharist, from the Greek word eucharistein which means ‘thanksgiving’. At every Eucharistic celebration, the faithful thank God for the works of creation, redemption through Christ, sanctification and the benefits they have received from the Lord.
- The Lord’s Supper, because Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper and we anticipate the wedding banquet in heaven.
- The Breaking of Bread, because Christ broke the bread and distributed it to the people. For example, at the feeding of the 5 thousand and the Last Supper, Christ took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to the disciples. There was always the breaking of the bread.
- Eucharistic Assembly, because the celebration of the Eucharist is communal. It is celebrated by an assembly of Christians, not just a single individual.
- The memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection
- The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering.
- The Holy and Divine Liturgy since it is the “source and summit of the Christian life”. For this reason, the Eucharist is also called the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is the greatest of all the sacraments.
- Holy Communion, because this sacrament unites the faithful to Christ and strengthens the unity and communion among the faithful when we receive it.
- Holy Mass (Misa)
The Eucharist is known as Holy Mass because at the end of the celebration of the Eucharist the faithful are sent forth (mission) to do what Christ has taught them at the Mass (to love and serve the neighbour).
Institution of the Eucharist
Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper in the presence of his apostles, a day before he died. Christ instituted the Eucharist when he took bread, blessed it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is My Body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “All of you drink of this; for this is My Blood of the new covenant which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26: 26-28; 1 Cor 11: 23-25). By blessing the bread and wine, Jesus changed those species into his body and blood.
Our Lord Jesus Christ also commissioned the apostles to repeat this action. He said to them, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” By these words, Christ made the apostles priests and gave them powers to perform the miracle of changing bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord.
Since Christ commanded the apostles to repeat what he had done at the Last Supper, the Church has been faithful to that command.
At Mass, when the priest says, “This is My Body”, the bread is changed into the Body of the Lord. When the priest says, “This is My Blood”, the wine is changed into the Blood of the Lord. The change of the entire substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is called transubstantiation.
Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
In the Eucharist, the whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist.
We know that Jesus is present in the Eucharist because he himself said it. He tells us in John 6:51-55, “I am the bread of life…; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:51-55). These words are simple, clear and do not require any other interpretation. Jesus is not using figurative language here. He means what he has said.
The words of the institution of the Eucharist also clearly say the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus said, “This is my body”. He did not say, “This is a sign of my body” or “This represents my body.” He said, “This is my blood” not “This represents my blood or is a sign of my blood.” Christ could not have used clearer, more explicit that these words. Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is real, not symbolic as some people try to suggest. Our Lord was able to change the bread and wine into his Body and Blood because he is God. With God, nothing is impossible at least for the person who has faith.
The Eucharist as a Sacrifice
A sacrifice is the highest form of adoration. It involves offering a victim or a gift to God. The victim or gift is destroyed, or at least partially removed from human use, as an act of submission to the divine majesty. A sacrifice expresses the desire of the believers to be in communion with God and demonstrates our deep commitment to God. That is why in a sacrifice we offer to God what is precious to us because the offering represents a sacrifice of our own lives.
In the Old Testament, Jews offered two types of sacrifices: living creatures such as birds, lambs, and bulls; and crops such as wheat and barley. The Jews offered the sacrifice for various reasons such as to give praise and thanksgiving to God for his benefits, ask for God’s forgiveness for the sins of the people, and ask God for his blessings and protection.
In the sacrifice of the Mass, all these Old Testament purposes for a sacrifice are contained. First, when we gather for Mass, we adore the blessed Trinity and there is no sacrifice greater than the sacrifice of the Mass because Christ offers himself and we know that he is God. The Mass is also an act of thanksgiving, as we saw earlier, because we give thanks to God for the many benefits we receive from him. Only Christ our Lord can offer to God a worthy hymn of thanksgiving greater than anyone because he is divine. The faithful further ask God for forgiveness of sins. The same Christ who died on the cross for our sins is present and offered in the Mass “so that sins may be forgiven.” Finally, at Mass we ask for our needs and Jesus intercedes for us to his Father or we offer our prayers direct to him because he is God.
The sacrifice of the Mass is the consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and the oblation of this body and blood to God, by the ministry of the priest, for a perpetual memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The sacrifice of the Mass is identical with that of the cross, both having the same victim and High Priest, Jesus Christ. The only difference between the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and his sacrifice at Mass is that on the cross Christ offered himself in a bloody manner while in the Mass he is offered up in an unbloody manner.
During the Last Super, our Lord anticipated the bloody sacrifice which he would accomplish the following day on the cross once and for all for the redemption of the world. Jesus said, ‘This is my body, which will be given up for you.” He also said, ‘This is my blood which will be shed for you and for the forgiveness of many.” These words of Christ at the Last Supper and the Mass bear clearly a sacrificial character. The expressions “to give up the body” and “to shed blood” are biblical sacrificial terms; they express the rendering of a true and proper sacrifice.
This ceremony in the Upper Room anticipated Jesus’ own immolation and oblation which were to be accomplished at Calvary the following day. And indeed Christ died that Good Friday and rose the following Sunday. Christ shed his blood to redeem us from our sins. The Eucharist is the memorial service of Christ’s death and resurrection. The sacrifice of Christ is made present every time we have a Eucharistic celebration. Similarly, the work of redemption of humanity, which Christ accomplished on the cross, is also made present when we celebrate the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not a new sacrifice, but the same sacrifice which Christ offered on the cross. In the Eucharist, the Church continues offering the same sacrifice but in an unbloody manner. At Calvary, Christ offered himself in a bloody manner. The Eucharist can never be a new sacrifice because the sacrifice of Christ at the cross was the best and completed all the other sacrifices that humanity offered. We hear about this in Hebrews which says: “Christ…neither by blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.” The passage continues, “Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the High Priest enters into the Holies every year.” Thus Christ offered himself once and for all for our redemption and he cannot offer himself again. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross surpasses all other sacrifices to the extent that no other sacrifice is now necessary. The Mass, therefore, only makes present the same sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
At Calvary, the priest offering the sacrifice was Jesus himself and this priest is perfect. Again, the victim at the sacrifice of Calvary was Christ. In the same way, every time the faithful celebrate the Eucharist, Christ is both the priest offering the sacrifice and the victim of the sacrifice. What happened at Calvary is re-enacted at Mass through the priest celebrating the Mass.
Mass in the Life of each Christian
The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life
- The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” because it is Christ himself It is food for our souls. The Eucharist is the centre of the Church’s life since it is the same sacrifice that Christ offered himself on the cross for our salvation. It has all the strength and sanctifying power as the sacrifice at Calvary. Since it is the centre or the life of the Church, all the sacraments, prayers, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual communions, devotions, and mortifications offered to God have the Mass as their central point of reference.
- The Eucharist is both a sign and a cause of communion in the Church (CCC 1325)
- The Eucharist shows the unity of the people of God and strengthens that unity to grow.
- The Eucharist is an anticipation of eternal life (CCC 1326).
Active participation at Mass
The Mass is the most pleasing offering we can make to God. Every member of the Mystical Body of Christ receives at baptism the right and duty of taking part in the sacrifice of the Head of that Body. Our Mother the Church wants us to attend Mass, not as strangers or as passive spectators, but as exerting effort to understand it better each time. We must participate in the Mass in a conscious, pious, and active manner, with the right dispositions and cooperating with divine grace. Our participation must be both internal and external. Here are some of the things to follow:
- Attend the Mass with a spirit of prayer, praying as the Church teaches us to pray, avoiding distractions.
- Listen, answer, acclaim, sing, or keep opportune silence in order to facilitate union with God and to deepen our reflection on the word of God. All the faithful present, whether clergy or laity, participate together, each in his own way.
- Stand, sit, and kneel with the congregation.
- Be punctual. This is a considerate detail for Christ our Lord himself and for the others who are attending the Mass. Arrive before the priest goes to the altar. Leave only after the priest has left.
- Dress properly. We should go to Mass dressed and groomed as for an important meeting and not, for instance, as if we are going to play sports.
The Eucharist as our Spiritual Food
The Eucharist is food for our souls in the same way ordinary food is for our bodies. As the body is energized by ordinary food and kept functioning the Eucharist gives energy to our spiritual life. Just as food gave prophet Elijah energy to continue his journey to Mt Horeb the Eucharist gives the Church the energy to continue the journey as a pilgrim Church.
The story of Elijah says that he had to run away from the Queen of Israel, Jezebel, because he criticized her for worshipping Baal and for encouraging the Jews to abandon the living God and worship Baal. He ran into the wilderness towards Mount Horeb. After a day’s journey, he sat under a bush. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said, “take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). Then he fell exhausted and went to sleep.
Then an angel of the Lord came and touched Elijah in his sleep, saying, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked round, and there at his head was a bread baked in hot stones, and a jar of water. Strengthened by the food he walked for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
The food that sustained Elijah is a figure of the Eucharist, “strengthened by whose vigor,” says the Council of Trent, “Christians are enabled to travel this pilgrimage of misery, and come at last to their heavenly fatherland.” God gives us food and drink more precious than bread and water: his body and blood. As in the Last Supper and on Calvary, these are prepared in the sacrifice of the altar, and given to us.
The Holy Eucharist acts in the soul in the same way that ordinary food nourishes the body. Our life begins at our conception and when we are born and it is sustained by the ordinary food we eat every day. Similarly, our spiritual life began at baptism. The life of grace which we began at baptism grew at confirmation and is sustained and energized by the sacrament of the Eucharist.
The Minister of the Eucharist
- The Code of Canon Law stipulates that only a validly ordained priest can celebrate the Mass in the person of Christ and a priest can celebrate the Mass for any one, living or dead, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.
- The ordinary minister of holy communion is a bishop, priest, or deacon. The extraordinary minister of holy communion is an acolyte or another member of the Christian faithful who has been designated by the local ordinary to do so (eg sisters, professed brothers or catechists). (Canon 911).
Who can receive the Eucharist?
- Only a baptized person who has reached the age of reason (7 years) and has been catechized and received confession can receive Holy Communion.
- Individuals who are excommunicated or interdicted are not permitted to receive holy communion (Canon 915).
- For faithful to receive holy communion worthily, they need to be free of mortal sin. If you have a mortal sin, you should confess before you receive holy communion. But the faithful are also required to abstain for at least one hour before Holy Communion from all food and drink, with the sole exception of water and medicine. The elderly and those who are suffering from some illness, as well as those who care for them, are exempted from the Eucharistic fast.
- Further, as long as they are worthy, the faithful can receive the Eucharist more than once in a day- literally at any Mass they attend.
- After receiving Holy Communion, the faithful should spend some time adoring Jesus in the Eucharist, thanking Him, renewing their promises of love and obedience to Him, and asking Him for blessings.
- Take note that the faithful are obliged to receive the Eucharist during Easter time each year.
- Moreover, the Church recommends that the faithful receive Communion regularly.
- The Church also recommends that those who are sick should receive the Eucharist as Viaticum. Even if they have already received Holy Communion that same day, it is nevertheless strongly suggested that in danger of death they should receive the Eucharist again.
Fruits of Holy Communion
When the faithful receive the Eucharist, the following are the effects:
- First, Holy Communion augments union with Christ: The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (Jn 6:56).
- Second, Holy Communion separates us from sin: The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is “given up for us,” and the blood we drink “shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” For this reason, the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins: For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord’s death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always Eucharist forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy. (St. Ambrose, De Sacr. 4,6,28: PL 16, 446; cf. 1 Cor 11:26.)
- At the Eucharistic celebration venial sins are forgiven. The Eucharist lessens of our inclinations to sin and helps us to practice good works.
- Third, the Eucharist preserves, increases and renews the life of grace received at baptism.
- Fourth, Holy Communion commits us to social justice: The Eucharist commits us to the poor. As we have shared the Eucharist meal let us share with the poor what we have like the first Christians.
- Fifth, Holy Communion is a sacrament of unity: Through the receiving the Eucharist, Christ unites the faithful to himself and to one another. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens the incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism, we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:” ( 1 Cor 10:16- 17)
The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life because Christ himself is substantially and really present. The Eucharist is the memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ. In the Eucharistic celebration, Christ the Lord, through the ministry of the priest offers himself to God the Father and gives himself to the faithful as spiritual food. Those to receive the Eucharist must be in a state of grace, free from original sin. The Eucharist is the sign and cause of communion in the Church. The faithful are more united to Christ and among themselves once they receive the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the work of our redemption, which Christ accomplished with his sacrifice at Calvary, is made present.
The Eucharist is a sign of love and service to us and the faithful are called upon to emulate Christ’s sacrifice at the cross. Jesus tells us, “As I have loved you, you too must love one another.” Therefore, let us live the Mass. It is not enough just to attend the Eucharist celebration. Christ wants us to become like him in personality. Our prayers must be combined with action- our love of neighbor.
- A Catholic Catechism (Kenya Episcopal Conference, Paulines Publications Africa, 2008).
- Charles Belmonte, Understanding the Mass (Scepter, 1997)
- James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers: A Plain Exposition and Vindication of the Church Founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ (Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, 1980)
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd edn, Our Sunday Visitor, 2000).
- https://www.usccb.org/resources/The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.pdf