Holy Eucharist

More than a memento

Divine Self As Legacy


Adapted by Eric Valles


Love tends toward forever and scorns limitations. A lover, in turn, yearns to leave a lasting token of his love. Shah Jehan, the fifth mughal emperor, wanted to build the most impressive mausoleum as a testament to his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Twenty-two years of hard toil and the effort of over twenty thousand workmen and master craftsmen brought the monument to completion. The result is both a wonder of the world and a wonder of love.


From experience, Jesus Christ, in a way like us though he is divine, is aware of the human need to cling to something tangible. He deigned to invest an institution, the Church headed by St. Peter, not with jewels but the power to keep His words and to channel grace. Jesus, however, was not content with that legacy. He opted to stay behind in the Holy Eucharist until His second coming. Hence, God is very immediate to us: By some mystery, He is not only a slave for us, so to speak, in the tabernacle. He turns Himself into food. Indeed, God is very much with and in His church. He nourishes and fills our flesh, runs through our veins and makes us healthy.


Christ unites us to the church through the Eucharist. Christians who have been baptized and confirmed as Christs soldiers are bound in love with the community of believers in the Lord's own sacrifice through the Eucharist, a thanksgiving banquet.


Christ instituted this sacrament. This was a historical fact recorded by Our Lord's apostles in the Bible and handed on in tradition. "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until He returns, 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, diffusing grace and pledging future glory.'"[Catechism of the Catholic Church] The Holy Eucharist has a firm biblical foundation.


Supreme Paradox


The mystery of the holy eucharist, God present in the forms of bread and wine, is perhaps one of the biggest stumbling blocks for non-Catholics. It goes against conventional logic to conceive an omnipotent God who debases Himself by assuming the appearance of food and, more incredible, allowing Himself to be imprisoned in a finite box that is the tabernacle. He who died on the cross and rose again is a prisoner of love.  In fact, they are not the only ones who find this doctrine difficult to believe. Jesus disciples deserted Him after He said, Amen, Amen, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink My blood, you shall have no life in you. Those disciples wouldnt have left Him if they understood what he had said figuratively.


"This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" "Will you also go away?": the Lord poses these questions to us, his latter-day disciples, as an invitation to love forever, to discover that only he has "the words of eternal life"[160] and that to receive the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.


Christians of all ages have tried to come to terms with the mystery of this sacrament. People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe, says John Henry Newman. I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it, as soon as I believed that the Roman Catholic Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared the doctrine to be part of the original revelation. It is difficult, impossible to imagine, I grant;--but how is it difficult to believe? Why should it not be? Whats to hinder it? If God the Father revealed Himself as a bush or a pillar of cloud, why cant God the Son appear as wheat and wine more practical than Old Testament figuresin a cosmic sacrifice? God communicates through nature (the book of creation).


Flannery OConnor, a Southern fiction writer in the liberal 1950s and early 1960s, is more emphatic, If [the Holy Eucharist] is just a symbol, then to hell with it. Historically, those denominations that disbelieve the real presence of God in the eucharist waver in their faith. A church without mysteries, love is a philosophy and civic club. Allegiance to it then becomes tenuous.


The Eucharistic celebration centers on the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread...." "He took the cup filled with wine...." The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine,[152] fruit of the "work of human hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine" - gifts of the Creator.


Supreme Prayer


An addendum to the Beatitudes could be Blessed are they who partake of the Holy Eucharist worthily, for they shall be with God and God shall be in them. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament and prayer par excellence, because it is a communion with God in the truest sense. It is the realization of heaven on earth. He enters us, and we enter into divine life in an ex-static experience. We also partake of Jesus merits that He gained in His passion and death. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, A single drop of blood [of Christ] for sinners spilt/ Is enough to save the world from all its guilt. An awesome power emanates from it. It is the fountain of life and, in the popes words, a cosmic experience.   


The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. It is called: Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving. The Greek words eucharistein[139] and eulogein[140] recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim - during a meal - God's works of creation, redemption, and sanctification.


Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom: Why is this meal different from other meals? Through it, we are saved from the death of sin.


**From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord's command of performing the sacrament:


As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:


On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.

(1) The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.

(2) When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

(3) Then we all rise together and offer prayers* for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.

(4) When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.

(5) Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.

He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy

Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

(6) When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.'

(7) When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted" bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.[169]


We attend mass not merely as spectators as of a play or concert. We are called to participate in the divine sacrifice. As a result, we need to be properly disposed (neither giving in to nor causing distractions by talking or looking around). We should dress up well enough to deserve presentation to a king. Most important, we need to put on spiritual garb, that is, to be in the state of grace.

The mass has many benefits which can be designated with the acronym UNCLE: union with Jesus and other Catholics, nourishment for our divine life, cure for sin, life as a true Christian and eternal life.


Some other ways to show respect for the Holy Eucharist will be to observe the eucharistic fast an hour before communion and to spend time after reception to give thanks; kneeling down, unless otherwise prescribed in the liturgy,  from the consecration to the priests drinking of water with the bread particles and the return of the eucharist to the tabernacle.


In order to extend this privilege to all the faithful, the Church has decreed that we should receive communion at least once a year during Easter. We may receive it twice a day if the second is for a wedding, funeral, first communion, prospect of death, Saturday evening mass or Christmas midnight mass.


All the saints have had a devotion to the Holy Eucharist. Many Christians take their time and have leisure enough in their social life no hurry here. They are leisurely, too, in their professional activities, at table and recreation no hurry there, either. But isnt it strange how the same Christians find themselves in such a rush and want to hurry the priest [at mass]. The mass is long, you say, and I reply, Because your love is short. Msgr. Escriva, The Way


What are the Sacraments, which early Christians described as the foot-prints of the Incarnate Word, if not the clearest manifestation of this way which God has chosen in order to sanctify us and to lead us to heaven? Don't you see that each Sacrament is the Love of God, with all its creative and redemptive power, giving itself to us by way of material means? What is this Eucharist which we are about to celebrate, if not the adorable Body and Blood of our Redeemer, which is offered to us through the lowly matter of this world (wine and bread), through the 'elements of nature, cultivated by man,' as the recent Ecumenical Council has reminded us (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 38). Bl. Josemaria, Conversations with God


As we partake of the holy eucharist, let us ponder just whom we are receiving and what a difference that ought to make in our lives.

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