UNDERSTANDING YOUR FAITH: THE EUCHARIST
By Vic Scaravilli
The heart of the mass and the center of Christian worship is the Eucharist. Since Eucharist means thanksgiving, Christians from the beginning of the second century used this name to designate their coming together to commemorate and reenact the Lord’s Supper in giving thanks and praise.
Catholics, unlike most other denominations, believe that the Eucharist is actually the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. The Catholic Church does what the Lord did. On the night before He suffered, he took bread in his hands and while giving thanks and pronouncing the blessing, He broke it saying “Take this all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.” He also blessed the cup of wine and said “Take this, all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”
Three of the gospels give an account of when Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. (Mat. 26:26-29, Mk. 14:22-25, Lk. 22:19-20) However, in John’s gospel, Jesus gives a very detailed explanation to his disciples of what his flesh and blood meant. In John 6:53-57, Jesus tells us “I tell you most solemnly, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
In the form of bread or wine, this sacrament actually is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. The Eucharistic Presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and remains as long as the bread and wine is present. Transubstantiation is the name given to the change of the bread and wine to the actual Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. One can receive both the body and blood of Christ by either taking a Host or drinking the Wine. At the end of the mass celebration when there are Hosts remaining, they are placed in a tabernacle because they are actually the body and blood of Christ. That is the reason why we genuflect in front of the tabernacle – to show reverence to Christ who is physically Present in our church.
The history of celebrating the Eucharist goes back to the apostles. In Acts 2:42, the early Christian community is shown that they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread or the Eucharist, and to the prayers. Also, in the writings of the Church Fathers, the Eucharist was often mentioned as the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ and was universally practiced throughout the world. Catholics have always understood the Eucharist to mean that the reality of Jesus’ Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity is truly made present in the sacrament under the appearance of bread and wine.
There are several ways in which Christ becomes present among us. He dwells among us when two or more are gathered in his name and when the Bible is proclaimed. But an additional and very special way in which he makes himself physically present to us is when we partake of the Eucharist. Here he actually feeds us with his own Body and Blood that gives us the sanctifying grace that allows us to be called his children.
If you are ever asked if you have a personal relationship with Christ, you can confidently answer that whenever one partakes of the Eucharist, Christ dwells with in you and is personally your Lord and Savior.