CM-RE Notes 3 – THE EUCHARIST, GIFT OF DIVINE LIFE
Introduction. The Holy Father asks that the Jubilee Year be “intensely Eucharistic” (TMA 55). It will be highlighted with the celebration of the International Eucharistic Congress in Rome on June 18-25, 2000 (and our Diocesan Eucharistic Congress in Marbel on January 5-7, 2001).
According to the Holy Father there is continuity between the Eucharist and the Incarnation. The Eucharist prolongs Incarnation. The Eucharist is a continuation of Incarnation.
The Eucharist, according to Vatican II is “the source and summit of Christian life” (LG 11). It is the “Sacrament of sacraments”: all the other sacraments are oriented towards it as their end (CCC 1374)
Various names in History
1. “Breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35; Lk 2:42-45).
2. “Lord’s Supper” – in reference to the Last Supper.
3. “Eucharistic assembly (synaxis) – refers to the assembly of the faithful
4. “Memorial” – signifies that which was instituted in memory of Christ
5. “Sacred Liturgy” – refers to the Eucharist as a liturgical celebration
6. “Most Blessed Sacrament” – refers to Christ’s presence in the celebration
7. “Holy Sacrifice” – expresses the sacrificial offering of Jesus on the cross.
8. “Holy Communion” – is widely used to mean participation in the eucharistic meal.
9. “Bread from Heaven,” “Bread of Angels,” “Viaticum” (bread for the journey)
10. “Mass” or “Holy Mass” – Most common term (From Latin “Ite, missa est”)
11. “Eucharist” – Thanksgiving (from Greek “eucharistein” to give thanks)
1. Foundation of the Doctrine:
· In the Old Testament: The Passover meal, the Jewish blessing.
· In the New Testament: St. Paul (1 Cor 11:23-25), Mk 14:22-25; Mt 26:26-29, Lk 22:19-20.
“In the precious sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist, after consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true human being, is contained truly, really, and substantially, under the appearance of those sensible things.” (Council of Trent, DS 1636)
2.Various Aspects of the Mystery
The Eucharist can be viewed in its various aspects as Sacrament, Real Presence, Communion, Sacrifice, Thanksgiving, Worship, and Meal. However in this presentation we shall take up only three: Eucharist as Worship; Eucharist as Meal; and Eucharist as Sacrifice
A.THE EUCHARIST AS WORSHIP
The Eucharist is the highest form of worship that can be rendered to God. Reasons: 1) the Eucharist is a thanksgiving (eucharistein) and praise to the Father; 2) the Eucharist is the memorial (anamnesis) of the Son’s sacrifice; and 3) the Eucharist is an invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis).
1.Eucharist as Thanksgiving and Praise to the Father
The word “Eucharist” itself means “Thanksgiving” – derived from the Hebrew idea for “blessing” meaning “giving praise and thanks.” Thanksgiving and praise (blessing) were part of Christ’s action at the multiplication of the loaves (Mk 6:41; Lk 9:16) and before the consecration of the bread and wine at the Last Supper (Mk 14:22-23; Mt 26:26-27). Thus, it is now an integral part of the Mass addressed to the Father for his work of creation, redemption and sanctification through Christ in the Spirit (CCC 1359-1360; CFC 1682-1683).
2.Eucharist as Memorial of the Son’s Sacrifice
The greatest gift of the Father to us is His Son (Jn 3:16). But it is the Son who becomes our greatest and only fitting gift to the Father. Jesus’ self-giving to the point of dying for us on the Cross is made present at Mass. Thus, it is a memorial which Jesus himself willed when he said: ”Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19, 20). The Eucharist is a sacrament celebrated “in memory” of Jesus’ sacrifice. This memory is not simply a mere mental recollection of a past event (such as the Jewish Passover, or Christ’s Passion and Death), but a transposition into the present (making present) God’ saving acts in history and Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.
3.Eucharist as an Invocation of the Holy Spirit
In the Eucharist it is the Holy Spirit who actualizes the full reality signified by the memorial. In the Eucharistic Prayer II, the celebrant says: “ Lord, … let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This invocation to the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) not only underlines his power to transform bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood, but also points to that power’s effect on the community of disciples themselves as Body of Christ. “Grant that we who are nourished by his Body and Blood may be filled with his Holy Spirit and become one Body, one Spirit in Christ.” This invocation, further acknowledges that the Spirit is the power of God, the Breath of Life who brings about God’s presence and enables us to share in the divine life through Christ Jesus. Through the Spirit, God enters into, penetrates and suffuses the human environment and human history itself with His presence.
B.THE EUCHARIST AS MEAL
In the Eucharist people come together to offer food (bread and wine) which are placed on a table (altar) and which later they partake of (communion). This meal character of the celebration also discloses some Trinitarian aspects of the Eucharist: 1) It is the Father who gives the True Bread, 2) It is Jesus who is this Bread of Life, and 3) This Bread is given by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
1.“It is my Father who Gives the True Bread From Heaven”
To the crowd who claimed that Moses gave them “manna” as food on their journey in the desert, Jesus replied: “I solemnly assure you, it was not Moses who gave you bread from the heavens; it is my Father who gives you the real heavenly bread” (Jn 6:32). From the above statement John makes clear some important truths: 1) the “manna” that fed Israel in the desert was only a figure of the real heavenly bread (which is fulfilled in the Eucharist), 2) No one, not even Moses or any priest can claim to be the Eucharist’s provider (giver, source), 3) The real origin and giver of the Eucharist is “my Father” in heaven. He is the Father-Provider who feeds his children. By virtue of our baptism, we partake of this Bread in the Eucharist. We are no longer invited guests. We are family members entitled to sit at our Father’s table.
2.“I Myself am the Bread of Life”
The crowd did not care much where this bread came from. All they care about is that they be given this “bread always” (Jn 6:34). Hungry people hardly make distinctions. Bread can be faked, spoiled or poisoned. For some it doesn’t matter. Their bread is found in money, power, prestige, pleasure – the lure and stuff of worldly living. Jesus put things in the right perspective. “I myself am the Bread of Life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry; no one who believes in me shall ever thirst” (Jn 6:35). “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 35:51). : He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink” (Jn 6:54-55). Here we are dealing with the “flesh” and “blood” of the Son of Man in the Eucharist.
3.By the Power of the Spirit of Truth
Jesus predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit when he says: “When he comes, however, being the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:15). This directly links the Spirit to the Bread of Life whose first meaning points to Jesus as the revelation of the Father (Jn 14:9-10). This revelation climaxes in Christ’s giving of his “flesh” and “blood” in the Eucharist in which the Spirit of truth makes actual for us Jesus’ self-giving. The Holy Spirit actualizes the truth that God becomes “flesh” and “blood” in Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the sacramental moment of this realization.
The Spirit has an important role in the Incarnation of the Son. It is by the Holy Spirit that the child has been conceived (Mt 2:20). It is the Holy Spirit who came upon Mary and overshadowed her; hence, her holy offspring will be called Son of God (Lk 1:35). St. John in his prologue pointed out that “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). This Logos (Word) is the Son, who reveals the “glory of the Father” and who is “filled with enduring love” that is the Spirit (DeV 10). And so, the Church prays and invokes the Spirit over the bread and wine during consecration: “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may becomes for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
C.THE EUCHARIST AS SACRIFICE
We usually call the Eucharistic celebration as “the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” What do we mean when we say “sacrifice?” (As someone said, going to Mass is really a “sacrifice” because you have to wake up early, put on your best attire and once in Church, you have to struggle to stay awake until the Mass is finished). The Mass is a sacrifice because of its deeper Trinitarian meaning: 1) God who loves the world, 2) His gift of His Son who gives himself through his cross and resurrection, and 3) who upon returning to the Father, gives up his Spirit.
1.“God so Loved the World…”
Sacrifice is determined by ones love. In the same manner, the sacrifice that is the Eucharist cannot be rightly seen and contextualized except in love, namely, that of the Father for the world. This is the kind of God Jesus reveals to us: a Father who loves even while He faces the possibility of rejection from those He loves. Sacrifice takes its first step here, that is, in the risk of love that makes no conditions. Such is the Father’s love. Jesus reveals the Father’s love especially on the cross. It is a revelation of Love so sublime it could come down to the depths, so impregnable it could afford to be defeated, so divine it could afford to be human, so complete it could afford to suffer, so alive it could afford to die.
2.“He Gave His Only Son Who Gave Himself to Us”
The birth of Jesus (Incarnation) was the first breakthrough of his revelation of God’s love. But it is on the cross that love especially shines forth. But it is the Son who is on the cross who manifests the Father’s love. It is the Son who submits himself to suffering, crucifixion and death. The Eucharist is precisely the “perpetuation” of his “bloody sacrifice of the Cross” through “all ages” (SC 47; CCC 1356-1372; CFC 1689). As Pope Paul VI said: through “the Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Cross which was once offered on Calvary, is remarkably reenacted and constantly recalled, and its saving power exerted for the forgiveness of sins” (Mysterium Fidei 27). Here the Hebrew concept of memorial comes in: God’s saving act in the Crucified Christ is made present to our time, our situation in, by and through the Eucharist.
Christ’s death is the consummation of the love of Christ (Jn 13:1). It is a testament to his words: “There is no greater love than this: to lay one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). It is his death that achieves our reconciliation with God (2 Cor 5:18) and earns for us victory over sin, death and the law (Rom 7:1-6; 8:3). The resurrection “should be seen as the perfect fulfillment of his (Christ’s) whole life of redeeming love. As such it is the first moment of his new, glorified life in the Spirit and his entry into eternal life as the Risen Lord, who sends his Spirit upon us” (CFC 1695).
3.“He Gave up His Spirit”
In showing the depths of love on the cross, Jesus also sends forth the “Person-Love”, the “Uncreated Gift” (DeV 15) St. John describing Jesus last moments on the cross said: “Then he bowed over and delivered his spirit” (Jn 19:30). This expression does not mean only Jesus giving up his spirit willingly but is connected with what he said regarding his death and the coming of the Paraclete: “It is better for you that I go. If I fail to go the Paraclete will never come to you” (Jn 16:7). The death of Jesus, therefore, is the key that unlocked the coming of the Spirit that culminated at Pentecost (Acts 2:4f). The Spirit, fully dwelling in Jesus since his birth to the cross, through that death on the cross is precisely sent forth that the Church may be born to the life of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
By virtue of what it is as worship, meal and sacrifice, the Eucharist reflects the Trinity.
According to Karl Rahner “God has revealed to man His trinitarian self-disclosure and self-communication in the grace of the crucified and risen Lord, a revelation already actual, though still only in faith” (Theological Investigations, Vol. IV, 334).
The eternal mystery is that this Jesus who reveals the Trinity is present in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is Jesus; in Jesus, the Trinity.
Indeed, the more we celebrate this sacrament with the eyes of faith it results in our living out its core of love which is the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To do so means we must walk the way who is Jesus Christ by also dying to selfishness and sin and rising to the ever-new life he has won for us.
Then we shall truly be other eucharists in whom people will readily see the invisible rays of the Triune God shining through (END)
Other points for reflection
· The Real Presence
· Holy Communion
· Worship Outside Eucharistic Celebration
· The Eucharist in the Life of Christians
· The Eucharist and Mary
· The Eucharist Upbuilding the Body of Christ, the Church
– a gift from the Savior in which Christ’s coming into the world is continually renewed
– Jesus himself willed it as a perpetual memory
– Our effort to penetrate more deeply into its mystery, to grasp more fully its meaning and value, in order to live it in greater faith and love.
– In the Eucharist Christ comes to us, the community founded by him expands
– There is continuity between the Eucharist and Incarnation. Eucharist prolongs Incarnation. Eucharist is continuation of Incarnation.
I.VALUE AND IMPORTANCE OF THE EUCHARIST
1. Eucharist is a divine invention. It manifests God’s wisdom and love.
2. Eucharist as sacrament is unique. It gives not only grace, but the very author of grace.
3. Eucharist nourishes the Christian community and those called to bear witness to Christ and his good news to the world.
The Eucharist, Deed of Salvation
Eucharist and Incarnation
1. Eucharist enables us to understand better the meaning and value of the Incarnation.
2. He who came down from heaven to become a human being is reproduced in the Eucharist.
3. As offering for the life of the world, the Incarnation finds its completion in the Eucharist.
4. Like the Incarnation, the Eucharist reproduces Jesus’ redemptive offering, “for the life of the world” (Mt 50:2).
The Eucharist and the Transformation of Humanity
Eucharist and Gift of Grace
The Eucharist manifests the mystery of grace, a gift of divine life to humanity. This grace was paid for at the highest price by our Savior. He is the source of divine grace for humanity.
This new life emerges from Christ. Without the Eucharist, eternal life, which is the life of grace, is not given. (Jn 6:53). The Eucharist meal, then, is the route par excellence of the distribution of grace: it is the condition for the development of the Christian life.
The Eucharist is a special means to reach the very depths of human life and transform it into divine life. This penetration is so powerful that it inscribes in the person the guarantee of final resurrection. Through Communion, Christians receive the absolute guarantee of this resurrection: their bodies of flesh are destined to bear within them Christ’s eternal life.
Eucharist and Church
The Eucharist plays a role in the development of the Church. The Church is the assembly, the gathering, the community that lives by his divine life. Even in the very beginning, the life of the Christian community was expressed through “the breaking of the bread,” (Act 2:42). This was regarded as a distinctive element in the Christian life of kinship.
The meal at which Christ is offered as food not only joins to Christ each of those who share it; It also joins the participants with one another, since they are nourished by one food, and which crowns them with an identical life (Cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17).
The Eucharist not only constitutes a sign of unity, but also contributes to forming the unity of the Church. The Eucharist celebrates the intimate union between Christ and his Church. It is Christ who gives life to the Church, and who has originated and instituted the Eucharist.
The Church produces the Eucharist. It has received the mission to repeat, in memory of Christ, what was done at the Last Supper. In celebrating the Eucharist, the Church develops its community life: it is reinforced and increased as Church. It develops an activity of worship and prayer that sanctifies it and causes it to radiate into the world. It assumes more openly its mission of witness and of proclamation of the good news.
But the Eucharist produces the Church. Every Eucharistic celebration contributes to the formation of the Church, to the development of its holiness, and to the reinforcement of its unity. In the celebration of the mystery reproduced in his name, Christ perpetually joins human beings together into a Church and animates this Church with new strength for penetrating the universe.
In a very special manner, the Church fosters the spiritual growth of the Church. We are sometimes tempted to identify the Church only with its outer earthly aspects or in its hierarchical structure. But the Eucharist also develops in the Church the interior life that inspires human hearts. It seeks to form, in all believers, a communion of soul that receives from Jesus Christ all of its strength and fervor. It seeks to foster the quality of the spiritual life, which is translated into a conduct that reflects that of Christ.
Among the demands of the quality of life, the Eucharist seeks to secure the development of prayer. It shows the importance of openness and dialogue, the need of a sincere quest for oneness with the Savior. The mission of the Church cannot be carried out unless the Church is animated and sustained by a persevering prayer. The witness to which the members of the Church awe called can be authentic only if it implies a fundamental adherence to the manner of activity and person of Christ.
This adherence of the whole person requires the continual coming of Christ in the Eucharist. This coming is necessary for the development of all of the missions of the Church. The Eucharist tends to render apostolic activity possible and efficacious, animating it with a spirit of essential communion with Christ. Its thrust is toward an interior construction that will be the guarantee of an authentic exterior edification or construction.
The Eucharist in our Personal Life
Eucharist and Faith
The Eucharistic celebration is an appeal to faith and a miracle of faith. Christian faith is being challenged by a mystery that enraptures it and transcends it. Only faith can accept the sacrificial offering effect by the words “This is my body” and the presence deriving from them.
Faith in the Eucharist is not of a secondary order. It involves the very essence of Christian revelation, since it presupposes faith in a redemptive Incarnation and faith in the Church. In the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus revealed his intent to give his flesh as food and his blood as drink. Many of his disciples found the promise of the Eucharist unacceptable and abandoned the Master. This rejection of the promise of the Eucharist was surely a deep disappointment. But seeing his Apostles still there, he did not hesitate to demand from him the adherence of faith. He asked them, “Do you also wish to go away? (Jn 6:67). He was prepared to let them leave unless they had believed in the Eucharist that he had just proclaimed. It seems, evident, then, that it is not possible to follow Christ without believing on the Eucharist. For Jesus, then, Christian faith can only be a Eucharistic faith. Acceptance of the Eucharist is an essential condition for acceptance of Christ. This cannot be ignored.
Eucharist and Charity
The Eucharist, mystery of faith, has also been regarded and lived in the Church as a mystery of charity.
Faith itself is animated by charity. When Jesus called for a commitment of faith he was requiring a movement of love that would unite persons to himself. Those whose food is the body of Christ must not consider it only as food: they are invited to adore it, and love it with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might. The love that inspires the coming of Christ must be answered by the love of the one who receives him.
At the Last Supper, he communicates the whole import of the charity that he has come to inaugurate on earth. He is instituting a “new commandment”: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34). Jesus did not limit himself to reproving his disciples: he ordered them to imitate the greatness of his own love. In giving himself as Eucharistic bread, he grants them the strength to take that imitation. He hen proclaims the new lay of charity, instilling in his disciples the capacity to follow it, in the power of the Eucharist.
To love as Christ has loved is a very high aim, attainable only by one who receives the divine strength of the love possessed by Christ himself. This divine force enables the Christian not only to overcome all tendencies to the selfishness and ambition that give rise to disputes, but to reach the very extremity of love’s generosity, following the example given by the Savior in his sacrifice. By nourishing with the body and blood of Christ those who receive it, the Eucharist infuses them with the person of the incarnate Son, with all the power of his love. It enables them to face all of the difficulties that arise along the path of charity and to overcome all obstacles. This same love, in every Christian life, must attain a summit of its own, in the offering of all that is painful and sorrowful.
The Eucharist responds to every kind of fear that could arise. It supplies Christians the thrust of love necessary to accept trials and make an offering of them. By communicating to every disciple the generous life of Christ, it renders them capable of giving themselves without reserve and with total availability. It opens the soul to all of the exigencies of love, and gives new vigor to that soul’s fervor in the face of the sufferings of life. The Eucharist cause charity to blossom through sacrifice, strengthening the secret gladness of this love
Eucharist and Hope
The Eucharist shows itself extremely rich in the most authentic hope – in hope for the destiny of humanity and of each individual as such. It is Jesus himself who reveals this hope, as he proclaims: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” (Jn 6:54).
The Eucharist also contributes an essential element for Christ’s glorious return. It possesses an essential eschatological value. It proclaims the characteristics of the last days and is one of the guarantees that they will come It brings Christian hope and bestows on this hope the strength to realize its object.
By introducing Christ into the Christina community, the Eucharist cooperates in his coming, throughout the universe, and in the work of the spread of the Church. It secures for those charged with evangelization the spiritual strength they need. It directs all of the future toward its crowning moment, the general resurrection.
The Eucharist sends communities and individuals down the road to their final destiny It is an inexhaustible spring of hope, a hope that does not disappoint (Rom 5:5), because it is fastened to the sovereign power of Christ and to the immensity of his love, which is poured out for us to overflowing through the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharist in Christian life affords us a recognition of the marvelous wealth of the divine ingenuity and inventiveness. More particularly, it conveys to us a better understanding of the basis of the term “Eucharist,” which means “Thanksgiving.” In Christ, the Eucharist was animated by his thanksgiving to the Father. It brings us to this basic disposition of thanksgiving and to an appreciation of the divine gifts. In these gifts are manifested the sovereign wisdom of the whole divine design of salvation and the goodness that pours forth the benefits of the sacramental presence of Christ, his sacrifice, and his meal, for the growth of the Church and of each and every Christian. The Eucharist develops faith, love, hope, thus conferring plenitude upon the returning of thanks, which brings to its extreme point the thrust of gratitude rising to the Father for his infinite love.
II.ORIGIN OF THE EUCHARIST
Witness of St. Paul
The Eucharist goes back to Christ himself. In 1 Cor 11:23-25 (AD 56-57) St. Paul indicates that Jesus himself is the origin of the tradition reported by him.
This tradition received is not only a transmission of recollections guaranteed by witnesses, but the transmission of the will of Christ that continues to guide the Church by associating it to his death and resurrection in the Eucharistic mystery.
The Gospel Testimonials
Besides the witness of Paul, the institution of the Eucharist is also reported in the three Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
Mk 14:22-25, Mt 26:26-29 have similar accounts. Invitation to a meal: “Take”, “Take and eat”
Lk 22:19-20 is similar to that of Paul. Jn had no account of the institution but he shed light on the essential meaning of the Eucharistic meal.
III.THE EUCHARIST: NAME AND NATURE
Plurality of Names
Novelty of the Thanksgiving
In using the term “thanksgiving” to describe Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, we wish to underscore the novelty of a marvelous efficacy. No Jewish “blessing” had has so wondrous an efficacy. The bread and wine that have become the body and blood of Christ testify to the transformative power of his prayer and his words. This attitude of thanksgiving is not equivalent to mere blessing as to sense of gratitude.
The Jew’s prayer of blessing implied an attitude of praise which celebrates the marvels of God. Thanksgiving tends to acknowledge the greatness of the divine miracle but the emphasis is on what human neediness receives from these marvels. Thanksgiving seeks to express admiration for the communication of the divine riches to creatures. It desires to render homage to God for such generosity by returning thanks. Thanksgiving emphasizes astonishment at the condescension of that transcendence toward the world, in order to pour forth its benefits there.
Thanksgiving in Jesus’ Life
Preparation for the Eucharist Jesus’ intimate attitude of gratitude is a special disposition of Jesus’ filial attitude. It had been developed and manifested throughout his public life:
In the Hymn of Jubilee: “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Lk 10:21).
In the Raising of Lazarus: “Father, I thank you for having heard me” (Jn 11:41).
At the Moment of the Institution: “After giving thanks…”
Note: Mass is not only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, nor a simple commemoration of the sacrifice of the Cross. It also has propitiatory value. It is a propitiatory gift that obtains reconciliation between God and a sinful humanity.
Thanksgiving in Christian Life
All Christian life should be oriented in the direction of thanksgiving. Jesus’ intention was to develop in his Church a climate of thanksgiving. The Eucharistic celebration should foster dispositions of gratitude in those who assist at it. And an effort to stimulate those thought, sentiments, and attitudes characteristics of thanksgiving is required.
The “Eucharist” should not be a mere name, the name of the sacrament. It should be a reality realized in all aspects of existence and behavior. It is a reality that took form in Jesus and that ought to be the model for thinking and living for those who believe in him.
Through the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus wished to share with all human beings the homage with which he acknowledged all that he had received and wished to attract their attention to the immense, sovereign goodness that guided the destiny of the universe. His example encourages all of those who are overwhelmed with trial to life their gaze on high to discover in the Father the one who deserves to be thanked for so many benefits. Thus, a “eucharistic” view develops.
This view entails at the same time a deliverance. It delivers the human Spirit from the obsession that can register every sort of evil. It does not allow the heart to become imprisoned or paralyzed by the forces of evil manifested in social relations. The view of all that occurs in the world could lead to pessimism and destroy an outlook of the victorious power of the work of redemption.
Only a regard of gratitude enables us to discover the immensity of the divine love that conquers all the forces of evil. Here is the wellspring of sound optimism, which avoids judgments too inclined to condemnation and, by showing the higher goodness of heaven, enables us better to discern the encouraging aspects of human behaviors. It is the source of true hope, a hope that has its foundation in the essential salvific intent of the Father and in the implementation of all means to realize that intention.
IV.JESUS REALLY PRESENT, ACCORDING TO HIS WORDS
What distinguishes the Eucharist from other sacraments is that in the Eucharist, Christ himself is present with his body and blood. The effect of the words of consecration is not simply to communicate a particular grace, but to render present the one in whom all grace has its origin.
Reality of the Body and Blood
Through the reality of the body and blood offered as food and drink, the Eucharist presents itself as a mystery transcending all sensory evidence. The presence of Christ’s body and blood, where only the bread and wine can be seen, can be accepted only through an allegiance of faith. The Eucharist imposes the necessity of believing what is not seen. The starting point of this real presence is the words pronounced by Jesus himself.
Affirmation of the Reality
Jesus said in Aramaic, “This, my flesh.” In the Aramaic language, the verb “to be” was omitted. However, the truth of the real presence does not depend on the use of the verb “to be.”
In the Greek translation, the verb “to be” is expressed” “This is my body.” This expression is now included in the liturgical usage of Greek speaking Christians. The Greek translation of the Aramaic leaves no doubt as to the real presence of the body of Christ.
Did Jesus use the term “body?” or “flesh?” Jesus must have used the Semitic term “flesh,” but the flesh of the Son of Man is none other than the flesh of Jesus.
Wealth of the Meaning of the Term “Flesh”
The flesh offered at the Last Supper, and immolated on the Cross was the same flesh as Jesus had received from his mother. It is a flesh virginally conceived, and therefore of an exceptional value, that is given in the Eucharist. This is a flesh with a unique, absolutely pure origin, a flesh that came down from heaven to restore the flesh of all human being. It is a flesh formed in an exceptional manner in order to inaugurate a new world of flesh.
The term “flesh” does not have a meaning limited only to the body properly so called. It us used to signify the whole person. To the flesh are attributed the most profound aspirations of the person. To eat the flesh of Christ is to eat himself, precisely because the gift of his body involves the gift of his person. Christ’ person become food, and this implies on his part the gift of his entire self.
This gift of food coincides with the gift of the person, because it is the bread given by the Father, and this bread is the Son himself, the essential gift given by the Father to humanity. Jesus is the bread came down from heaven: he is the one, who through the Eucharist, gives life to the world.
Eucharist and Trinity
Role and Presence of the Father
The Son is present in the Eucharist because the Father has sent him. The ultimate initiative of the gift of the Eucharist is that of the Father. As Father, he has the task of feeding his children. It is the Father who gives food to humanity by giving his Son himself. Only he could give his Son, and in making this gift, he has given the most noble food that could have been given in answer to the spiritual needs of human life. In placing his flesh at the disposition of all in the Eucharistic meal, Jesus did not lose sight of the generous action of the Father.
Can we conclude that in the Eucharist, beside the presence of Christ, we have an analogous presence of the Father? Yes, for between the Son and the Father the most complete union exists: “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30). They are one single being. They are inseparable. The Father must always be seen as the ultimate origin of the Eucharist.
Still, the personal presence expressed in the Eucharist is a personal presence of the person of the Son. “This is my flesh” Jesus is asserting that he is personally present in the body given as nourishment. The words “my flesh” do not refer to the Father, since the Father did not become incarnate and does not posses fleshly being. Only the Son became incarnate. Even though the Incarnation was the work of the three divine persons, the person of the Son is the only one that have been made flesh, the only one who took on flesh as his property, his concrete attribute. This person, then, is the only one to have given his actual carnal presence.
In the Eucharist, as in the Incarnation, we must acknowledge the intervention of the three divine persons. But the proper action of the Son has the peculiarity of giving itself in his flesh. The personal presence communicated in the Eucharistic meal, then, is the presence of the incarnate Son. The Eucharistic presence, therefore is a property of the person of the Son.
To be sure, in the Eucharistic mystery the Trinity loses nothing of its oneness. It does not annul the Son’s perfect union with the Father. The Trinity is at work in all of the aspects of the mystery, but in such a way as to reinforce the presence of the person of Christ in his flesh, a presence with a special character.
Role and Presence of the Holy Spirit
“It is the Spirit that gives life” (Jn 6:63). Thus, Jesus stresses that the whole life-giving capacity of the Eucharist is due to the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharistic meal, he gives his flesh, but it is a flesh that has attained to the state of glory, where it is crowned by the Spirit. Without this contribution on the part of the Holy Spirit, the flesh would have no power to communicate the spiritual life, eternal life.
But is the Holy Spirit also present in the Eucharist? Yes, but there is a difference. The Eucharistic presence remains basically the presence of Christ and, more precisely, of the Son in his human flesh. The Holy Spirit does not inaugurate a bond with flesh similar to that of the Incarnation. He effects the conception of the Son, but he does not become flesh – unlike the Word, who does become flesh. Hence, his presence is not of the same manner as that of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit intervenes in the realization of the word: “This is my flesh.” By way of the Holy Spirit, Jesus renders his body and blood present. It is the Spirit who fills Jesus’ flesh with divine life and divine power and who thus contributes to the efficacy of the Eucharist. The Holy Spirit guarantees the reality and value of a divine presence that, nevertheless, is that of the incarnate Son.
The two presences are not in competition. The Eucharistic presence is that of Christi, but it is enriched by the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary if flesh is to enjoy a full spiritual efficacy.
V.JESUS REALLY PRESENT ACCORDING TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, has been received in the tradition of the Church as a truth of faith. It has been abundantly asserted and commented on in the teachings of the Fathers (as a result of certain controversies).
The Council of Trent
The Council of Trent defines the real presence as a truth of faith. “The Sacred Council openly and simply asserts that in the precious sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist, after consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true human being, is contained truly, really, and substantially, under the appearance of those sensible things” (DS 1636).
Objection: But Christ is present in heaven. Answer. There is no contradiction. Seated at the right hand of the Father, the Savior has the power to become present in the sacrament.
This form of presence has a mysterious character. It is a form of existence that our words have difficulty expressing, but that our intelligence, enlightened by faith, can know. Christ’s presence in the sacrament will always remain a mystery. We assert it by virtue of the light of faith, but we are dealing with a truth that surpasses us. It is enough to assert that it does not contain any contradiction. It is above reason, but does not contradict it.
Integral Presence of Christ
The council asserts not only the presence of Christ’s body and blood. It declares that Jesus Christ, “true God and true man,” is present. The entire person of Christ, integrally, is present. The soul and divinity are present, therefore, and cannot be separated from the body and blood. This total presence of Christ is found under each species of bread and wine. The whole Christ is contained under each species.
The indivisible oneness off Christ means that where the body of Christ is found, there also will his blood be present, along with his soul and divinity, The body and blood are rendered present owing to the words pronounced over the bread and wine But, it is important to observe that the body is present under the species of wine on the basis of the connection obtaining between the body and blood. The same is true with the blood, present under the species of bread under the virtue of the permanent bond prevailing between the blood and the body.
The Truth Defined
The Council of Trent teaches the “transubstantiation” as a truth indissolubly united to that of the real presence. What is taught here is a truth of faith and not a mere philosophical opinion. Indeed, the Church has always believed that, through the consecration of the bread and wine, a transformation of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is realized.
The truth defined by the council is a matter of a conversion from one substance into another, with the species of bread and wine remaining intact.
The term “conversion means simply “change.” It does not imply the nature of change, or the manner in which it is effected.
The change is from one substance to another. The term “substance” is not linked to any particular philosophy, only to common sense.
The change leaves the “species” of bread and wine unaltered, but only the species. (Term “accident” not used)
The Term “Transubstantiation”
The Church uses this term to express the change of the consecration in all precision. It is not a concept belonging to a philosophical system. The term “substance” contained no specific link with a particular theory.
The Synod of Pistoria tried to avoid this term but its omission was condemned by Pope Pius VI in 1794. The word “transubstantiation” was accepted as best adapted to express the faith of the Church relative to what occurs at the moment of consecration of the bread and wine. Even today we see no better term adapted to explain Church’s doctrine.
Foundation and Development
The doctrine of transubstantiation has its foundation in the words of Jesus, “This [is] my body,” and “This [is] my blood.” We must conclude that what were first bread and wine in virtue of his words have become body and blood, but preserving the sensible appearance of bread and wine. In the words of consecration, the transubstantiation is explicitly pronounced: the change of the reality of the bread and wine into the reality of the body and blood.
The Fathers of the Church assert the change of the bread into the body of Christ: the bread and wine are changed or transformed into the body and blood of Christ. The bread and wine cease to be bread and wine, \and instead of them we have the body and blood. In order to describe this change, the Fathers invoke the analogy of the transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana.
The expression “substantial conversion” appears at the Council of Rome (1079), which put an end to the controversy with Berengarius.
The term “transubstantiation” is found for the first time in Rolando Bandinelli (Pope Alexander III). The spread of the term was rapid. The Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) used the verb “transubstantiate.”
VI.THE EUCHARISTIC SACRIFICE
“In the Mass, a pure and authentic sacrifice is offered to God” (Council of Trent DS 1751). “The sacrifice of the Mass is not only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, nor a simple commemoration of the sacrifice accomplished on the Cross, but a propitiatory sacrifice” (Trent DS 1753).
True and Unique Sacrifice
In the OT there was no perfect sacrifice. In the disposition of God, it was necessary that another priest come forward, our Lord Jesus Christ to “perfect for all time those who are sacrificed” (Heb 10:14). Jesus dying on the altar of the Cross realized for them an everlasting redemption.
On the Last Supper he wished to leave the Church a visible sacrifice It would have to be represented the sacrifice of blood that was about to be accomplished one more time forever on the Cross, whose recall would be perpetuated to the end of the ages. (1 Cor 11:23-24) and whose salutary virtue would have to be applied to redemption from the sins we commit everyday. The Eucharistic sacrifice was given by Christ to the Church. It is by the Church, not only by Christ himself, that the sacrifice is reproduced to the end of the ages.
Gospel Witness. Jesus made no doctrinal declaration on the sacrifice offered in the Eucharist, but the words of institution sufficiently demonstrate that it is a matter of true, propitiatory sacrifice.
The word “This [is] my body, [which is] given for you” (Lk 22:19) attest that the body is not only given as food to those present, but that it is given “for” them, that is, in sacrifice. So also for the consecration of the wine: “This [is] my blood of the covenant, [which is] poured out for many” (Mk 14:24, Mt 26:28).
“Give” is the verb used by Jesus to designate his sacrifice. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (”k 10:45, Mt 20:28). “Th“ bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (”n 6:51)
Witness of St Paul. Reporting the words of consecration of the bread, Paul implies its sacrificial intent with the expression “my body that is for you” (1 Cor 11:24). “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’ death until he come” (1 Cor 11:26). This complements Jesus words, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24-25).
What we have is a proclamation intended to repeat what Christ did at the Last Supper, that is, make an offering of the redemptive sacrifice, but an offering no longer bloody, having a character now purely ritual or sacramental.
Witness of the Letter to the Hebrews. “We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat” (Heb 13:10). “Eat seems to refer to the Eucharistic meal, which is taken at an altar. N altar is linked to sacrifice.
Foundation of Tradition
In postbiblical Christian writings, the Eucharist was seen not only as a meal but as a sacrifice The Didache states literally that the Eucharistic celebration is a sacrifice St. Justin frequently makes the same statement. Subsequent tradition with St. Irenaeus, Origin, and St. Cyprian, preserve the doctrine. Origen asserts the propitiatory nature of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Paul VI encyclical Mysterium Fidei states: “ In the Eucharistic mystery is represented in a wondrous way: the sacrifice of the Cross, once for all consummated on Calvary.”
How do you define the Eucharistic sacrifice vis-à-vis the sacrifice of the Cross? Is it identical with the sacrifice of Calvary?
Identity and Difference
The Council of Trent treats the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice. The victim offered and the priest who offers is the same. Only the manner of offering differs (Trent DS 1743).
The victim or object of the sacrifice, is the offering of Christ. Christ himself is offered. It is he, and he alone who is the price paid for our salvation. In the Eucharistic celebration, the body and blood, with the person of the Savior are presented as an offering to the Father for the salvation of humanity and for all the graces bound to this salvation. They are given as food and drink.
ikewise, the one who makes the offering is also the same. It is Christ who offers himself. At the Last Supper, he himself made this offering. In subsequent celebrations, Christ would not be able to perform the visible act of offering. But he works by way of the ministry of priests whereby he repeats in an invisible way the act of offering. They are to repeat what he does: “Do this in commemoration off me”
he sole difference between the two sacrifices consist in the “manner of offering.” The sacrifice of the Cross was a bloody immolation, while the Eucharistic sacrifice is of a ritual order and excludes any shedding o the blood. The Eucharistic sacrifice is a sacramental sacrifice. The sacrifice on Calvary was is a historical event which is no longer repeated as such It will forever preserve a unique character.
The sacramental sacrifice, by contrast, celebrated in reference to this unique and exceptional sacrifice in history is destined to be repeated to foster the growth of the Church. It is different from the sacrifice of the Cross, and yet it is in strict relationship with it, and depends entirely on it. The sacramental sacrifice ritually reproduces the redemptive sacrifice in the world.
Representation of the Redemptive Sacrifice
Mysterium Fidei speaks: “In the Eucharistic mystery is represented in a wondrous way: the sacrifice of the Cross.” The verb “represent’ however, should be understood as “to render present once again” the sacrifice of the Cross. It is not limited to remembering or celebrating the memory of an event in the past. The representation consists in a sacramental reproduction of the sacrifice of the Cross: it renders that sacrifice present in such a way as to apply its fruits to the Church.
With his act of offering, Jesus renews his sacrifice in an unbloody manner, without executioners or natural death, since the existence of the redemptive sacrifice is of an interior, spiritual nature: a will of oblation in the immolation of the Cross.
This act is accomplished by Christ in his heavenly condition as Glorious Savior, whose sacrifice has already been consummated: it cannot acquire new value, but can only be applied more broadly. The new offering in the Eucharist draws all of its value from the sacrifice of the Cross and applies its merits.
Christ renews the offering of the sacrifice sacramentally through the ministry of the priest. In itself, the sacrifice of the Cross was perfect and sufficed for obtaining all graces for salvation and the spiritual life of humanity. In its sacramental representation, it pours forth its fruits more widely.
The Sacrifice Signified and Realized by the Consecration
The essence of the sacrifice is found in the consecration of the Mass. The Eucharistic offering of the sacrifice is accomplished through the consecration. We cannot identified it with rite: considered in itself, the offering of the bread and wine do not realize the sacrifice, but they prepare for ii and initiate it.
Thus, the words: “This is my body” and “This is my blood” are the efficacious or effective sign of the sacrifice. It is an efficacious sign that it realizes what it signifies, a sacrament. In the case of the efficacious sign of the words of consecration, the sign is not properly one of grace, but the personal offering of the one who is the source of grace. The sacramental sacrifice is the sacrament par excellence, the sign of Christ’s offering and presence.
The separation of the bread from the wine, with the double consecration, appears as a sign of the separation of the body from the blood and hence as sign of death, a sign of sacrifice. But the rite of the consecration in all its parts and aspects, with the words assert the presence of the body and blood. There are the expression of an offering: with his words pronounced by the priest in the name of Christ, the offering is realized that renews the sacrifice of the Cross or that reproduces it for the interest and welfare of the Church.
Transubstantiation enters into the sign of sacrifice, but not by reason of a change in the victim. The victim is implicit in the offering made by Christ of himself by giving his body and blood. And it is this offering, signified by the word of the consecration, that realizes the sacrifice.
Offering of the Glorious Christ
The sacramental sacrifice renders present the offering of Christ, more especially the offering of the glorious Christ and not only Christ caught up in the drama of the Cross. Subsequent to that drama, the sacrifice has indeed received a complement that has manifested its efficacy
The Christian message may never separate from one another the death and resurrection of Jesus. The two events are indissolubly united, and only the Resurrection can shed light on the sense of Jesus’ death. In the Eucharist, the sacrifice could not have repeated the offering of Jesus’ death without its indispensable counterpart, his glorification.
Only the glorious Christ possesses the power to renew the offering of his body and blood in sacrifice. The Eucharist is not held only in memory of the Passion of Christ, but also in memory of his resurrection and his ascension.
The Christ who comes upon the altar is the risen Savior. And it is as risen Savior that he offers himself as food and drink in the Eucharistic meal. Our communion with him is in the more exalted life of his heavenly state, a life that flows to us from the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The double consecration of the bread and wine is not only a consecration of the Eucharistic species in separation, but it is also a sign of union, because it is a sign of the union off body and blood, a union that recalls Christ’s victory over death and his resurrection.
In the words of the consecration we can find the sign of a sacrifice consummated through our own entry into the state of a more exalted life, a sharing in the glorious state of Christ.
Because the offering is made by the glorious Christ, it implies the transformation of suffering into joy. The Eucharist is celebrated as a festival, in a climate of joy. Our gladness confirms the fundamental truth of the divine triumph over all the forces that place humanity’s destiny in danger.
Drawing its energy from Christ’s resurrection, the Eucharist gains for humanity a renewal of its noblest life. It shows that the effect of the sacrament of redemption is not limited to the remission of sins, but consist mainly in the development of Christ’s divine life, a life aroused and maintained by the Holy Spirit. The strength of the Resurrection heals all of the frailties and weakness of human life. The power of the Ascension is capable of restoring all that has been torn down or paralyzed and of elevating human beings to the highest level.
The Eucharist not only reproduces sacramentally the sublime, heroic offering of Calvary that changed the face of the world, obtaining the divine forgiveness in abundance. It is also nourished by the mystery of the Resurrection, which even today continues the work of creation of a new humanity.
Sacrifice of Christ, Sacrifice of the Church
Involvement of the Church in the Sacrifice
The Eucharistic sacrifice is the sacrifice of Christ. But the Eucharistic sacrifice is also at the same time a sacrifice of the Church. And this is its whole raison d’être: the sacramental sacrifice exists only for the good of the Church and its members.
For what purpose would the renewal of the offering of the sacrifice of the Cross if not in order that it become the sacrifice of the Church? The sacrifice accomplished on Calvary has no need of being repeated. It is unique and was offered once for all, acquiring for humanity the graces necessary for salvation. To reproduce that sacrifice over the course of time would have no meaning unless the Church is involved in that sacrifice. This supposes that the Church is in position to make Christ’s sacrifice its own and to enter into the association that that sacrifice involves.
Thus, the Eucharistic sacrifice is not a simple repetition of Christ’s offering on Calvary, but an appropriation, on the part of the Church, of that offering, with a view to a wider fecundity. In this objective appropriation, sacramentally, the Savior’s offering becomes that of the Church, through the execution of the rite instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. The words of consecration realize the sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice of the Church.
In its subjective appreciation, the priest and the people who assist at the Eucharist are invited to associate themselves, with their personal dispositions, to the offering of the redemptive sacrifice. The Eucharistic celebration tends to lead them to share the Savior’s sentiments and will of oblation.
Cooperation of the Church in the Eucharistic Sacrifice
Every liturgical action is an action of Christ the Priest and of his body the Church (SC, 7).
Cooperation through the Ministry of the Priest
The cooperation of the Church in the sacrifice is expressed above all through the ministry of the priest. It is the priest who offers the sacrifice ministerially. He is only a minister at the service of Christ: he pronounces the words of consecration only in the name of Christ, in which he renders present the body and blood of Christ. He can pronounce these words only by virtue of the power he has received in priestly ordination. This power has been conferred upon him by the authority of the Church: in exercising it in the name of the Church, he also exercises it in the name of Christ. This power of offering the Eucharistic sacrifice in the name of Christ is exclusively that of the priest. (Distinction between ministerial priesthood and universal priesthood)
Certain problem. In many areas, the decline in vocations has deprived some parish communities of the priestly ministry. Sunday assemblies in the absence of a priest have become more frequent. These assemblies pray together, read Scripture, and distribute communion. But they are not able to participate in the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery – in the most important act of Christian worship. The consecration of the bread and wine and their transformation into the body and blood of Christ are not possible when a priest is not present.
However, this situation can also awaken Christians’ sense of responsibility in the sowing and maturation of the seed of vocation These communities should develop a deep Christian life in families and individuals, in order that youth may hear the responding call to the priestly life. This scarcity of the clergy can occasion appreciation of the importance of the presence and mission of priests, which are indispensable for a development o all the spiritual riches borne by Christ to the world and for the multiplication of a Eucharistic celebration
Participation of All the Faithful
We have acknowledged the value of the priestly ministry. Now we tackle the value of the participation of all the faithful at the Eucharistic celebrations.
This participation has for its foundation the universal priesthood (royal priesthood) granted to all of the baptized, a priesthood that consist in the consecration (at the baptismal font) that renders them capable of the whole development of the sacramental life and a true involvement in the offering of the Eucharistic life (LG, 10).
The Eucharistic rite has for its object to lend Christians a share in the one sacrifice on the Cross, in such a way as to be fully a sacrifice of the Church besides the sacrifice of Christ
The ritual offering requires a living participation of the part of the faithful as their personal offering Christians should not assist at Mass as an act of worship that is without their interior participation. If the rite remain external, it does not attain its object, which is to awaken an interior disposition corresponding to the exterior action. The Eucharistic sacrifice is celebrated in order to involve Christians in the fundamental movement of the offering of Christ. Without this personal involvement in the offering, the sacrifice fails to attain its objective, because the offering of Christ is sacramentally renewed only because we can unite ourselves to him.
What do we offer? The Eucharist includes the invitation to offer all that in our lives that is sorrowful and painful: our anguish, our vexing concerns, our moral situations, our tensions of every kind in our relationship with others. All that we experience in our daily round deserves to be carried as an offering to the Eucharist, in order to receive there a higher dignity through an assimilation to the redemptive suffering of Christ. The Eucharistic sacrifice tends to foster s spirit of offering that accepts the obstacles more willingly and is able to see in them the possibility of a deeper love
This participation takes on a mystical aspect, thanks to a more intimate union with the person of Jesus It tends to foster the most extreme manifestation of this union, through a sharing in the offering and the desire to contribute to the spread of salvific grace in the world. Therefore the Eucharistic sacrifice is destined to transform Christians’ most ordinary life by communicating to them the breath of Christ’s redemptive offering
Fruit of the Eucharistic Sacrifice
The sacrificial offering of Christ yields a particular fruit. This is the fruit that theologians cal ex opere operato.
All of the fruit of the Eucharistic celebration comes from the sacrifice of the Cross, the source of all graces. The sole value of the Mass is that which derives from the oblation of Calvary.
The fourfold efficacy of the Mass comes from the fourfold finality of sacrifice: adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and the obtaining of graces. Thus the sacrifice is called latreutic, eucharistic, propitiatory, and impetratory. The propitiatory and impetratory efficacies can be applied for the living and for the departed.
The conviction that the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice can benefit the departed and obtain their everlasting happiness is founded on the most ancient tradition of the Church. The custom of celebrating Mass for the departed dates from at lest as early as the second century. Indeed, Christians manifest their trust in the efficacy of the Eucharistic sacrifice, an efficacy which they regard as superior to that of any entreaty or prayer.
The offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice also produces an affect of the grace for the living. Solidly rooted in tradition is the usage of requesting that priests offer special intentions for obtaining graces of all kinds. But let us remember, that the Eucharistic sacrifice produces fruits that surpass particular and expressly recalled intentions.
Actually, the fruit of every Eucharistic celebration is an even greater development of the life of the Church. Christ is rendered present under the species of the bread and wine for the sake of a broader presence in the world. It is linked to the new coming of Christ, for the ceaseless renewal of this coming which fosters a continuos growth of the work that Christ realizes in the world through the Spirit. It continues to transform the whole of humanity.
It is an essential fruit, due to the supreme action of Christ, who offers the sacrifice through the act and words of the priest. This fruit is always produced, independently of the personal disposition of the celebrant. Thus, the priest who celebrates the Eucharist should commit himself with his whole soul in the offering of the sacrifice and conform his own attitude to that of the Savior. In doing so, he can contribute to the fecundity of the Eucharistic sacrifice for the Church and for humanity. Every Mass contributes to a deeper holiness in the Church and a livelier influence of the love of the Savior upon the destiny of all human beings.
Thus, we recognize in the Eucharist a dynamism animated by the Holy Spirit, who never ceases to nourish the dynamism of the Church.
Thus, we also assert that the Church produces the Eucharist, but the Eucharist also produces the Church. The celebration constructs the Church, builds it up spiritually.
VII.THE COMMUNION MEAL
Value of the Meal
Intention to Institute a Banquet
At the Last Supper, Jesus’ fundamental intent was to give his disciples a meal that would continue forever to nourish them in the Church With this meal, the Savior wished to communicate the fruits of his sacrifice in the ritual realization of the sacrificial offering. He desired that to give his body and blood that would be sacrificed on Calvary, but he wished to leave them as food and drink, in a meal o unique value His aim was the institution o this meal.
In choosing bread and wine as sensible signs of the presence of his body and blood, he manifested his intention to inaugurate a meal He wills that, through the meal, the fruit of his sacrifice might penetrate human life in order to transform it.
The meal is an act of social life par excellence, in which is expressed human solidarity and closeness in the life of every day. As Jesus wished to found a community animated by faith and love, he gave a meal an important role in the formation and development of such a community. In the gospels, meals were moments at which Jesus not only maintained amicable relations with his disciples, but also sought to instruct them They were moments at which he would formulate his doctrine or bring to light certain truths of his message. He ate and drank in order to share the life of those around him: meals were part of his numerous manifestations of love for humanity, manifestations that had become essential by reason of the mystery o the Incarnation.
The Sacred Meal
In Jewish religion there were sacred meals. In the striking of the covenant with God, Exodus reports, on one hand, a sacrifice as an essential rite of the covenant, and on the other hand, the expression off the covenant in the meal. To eat and drink in someone’s presence means to strike a relationship of familiarity with that person.
The sacred meal, then, acquires its value inasmuch as it opens access to the divine intimacy. For this reason, in the OT the meal must be consumed in the divine abode, at the place expressly selected by God.
In Deut 12:5-7 we have a description which shows us the link between sacrifices and meal. The sacrifices were to be offered in a sanctuary chosen by God, and n that same place, consecrated to God, the meals were held as well.
The meal has the characteristics of establishing community bonds, and those consummated in God’s dwelling inaugurate a more profound community life with God. On the other hand, it is God who seeks the meal, in order to strike relations of intimacy or covenant: it is God who takes the initiative. God calls his people together in a sanctuary for the organization of the meal. God is present throughout the meal. To eat is to eat in the presence of God and s therefore to develop relations of friendship with God.
The invitation to joy is characteristic of the prescriptions of the meal (Cf. Deut 12:12). The invitation to joy is not only for the family, but for all those who belong to the household group, such as male and female slaves. All participate in the gladness of the meal, a gladness seen as a divine blessing.
In Deut 14:26, such meals are celebrated as banquets: religious festivals are marked by banquets, n which God is shown to be the most generous being because God secures the greatest joy.
The Eschatological Banquet
In the later part of Isa 25:6-9, the felicity God reserves for humanity is depicted as a sumptuous banquet. The table s set on the hill in Son, but s prepared for “all the people” who will benefit from the glorious lot assigned to the Hebrew people. The magnificence of the feast is amply emphasized, and a comment accompanies its description in order to make more evident the elimination of suffering and the gift of gladness. Thus does God respond to the people’s divine hope. (Cf. Also Isa 55:1-3)
The Spiritual Meal
The Book o Prov 9:1-6 describes the banquet to all by Wisdom. The invitation to eat the bread and drink the wine f Wisdom represents an invitation to receive this wisdom in one’s own mind and into one’s own life. It is a matter of abandoning foolishness to find true life and of conducting oneself in the most just manner. The invitation is particularly addressed to the simplest, to those who could not think that they already had wisdom. The gift of the divine Wisdom is offered to those who are a target of scorn, the poor and the little.
In Sir 1:16b-17, the divine Wisdom is presented as the source of benefits that promote abundant, inebriating meals. In Sir 24:18-20, Wisdom offers herself as food and drink.
In the NT the figures off the old covenant is verified in the Eucharist, where Jesus, like Wisdom of old, offers himself as food and drink
The Eucharistic Meal
Incarnation and Repast
The announcement of the banquet of Wisdom was actually orientated toward the Eucharist. Jesus realizes in the most concrete way what Wisdom had desired n the banquet to be set: to be eaten, to be drunk. Wisdom’s assertion however has only a metaphorical value, a symbolic meaning. For how can anyone eat or drink Wisdom?
In Jesus’ case, the acts of eating and drinking preserve their meaning and value. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (Jn 6:54). Of course, what is given to eat and drink is not ordinary food or drink. One eats the flesh of Christ in his glorious state, a flesh henceforth filled with the Holy Spirit: one drinks his blood in the same state. But eating and drinking are essential: “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:55). The meal consists in eating and drinking.
In virtue of the Incarnation, Jesus defines himself as Eucharistic bread: “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35). The divine person is the bread of life only through the body and blood that belong to him. Still, it is true that it is the Son of God as a person who offers himself as food and drink.
“The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:33). The divine gift of bread coincides with the gift o the Incarnation. In the Eucharistic consecration, the Son comes down from heaven and, in the Eucharistic meal, gives life to the world. In this fashion, the Eucharist never ceases to renew the process o the Incarnation.
The entire life of grace in the communication of this eternal life of the Son. But the communication occurs par excellence in the Eucharist. The act of eating and drinking represents a deeper penetration of Christ’s life into the interior of the individual, a more complete assimilation of one’s personal life to the higher life of the incarnate Son
Banquet Animated by the Life-giving Spirit
In the OT Wisdom offered a spiritual banquet with food and drink. In the NT Jesus fulfills this proclamation by offering himself as real food and drink with his body and blood.
But the spiritual banquet involves an essential contribution on the part of the Holy Spirit. Jesus vigorously reacted to the incomprehension of the audience, who had thought that the Eucharistic food was that of his flesh in its present, earthly state. In his reply Jesus underscores that the flesh given as food will; be that of the Son of Man returned to heaven, that is, flesh animated by the Holy Spirit. “It is the Spirit that gives life” (Jn 6:63). This flesh and this blood are realities in which the life of the Spirit is found, the life that confers on them their full meaning.
When we assert that in the Eucharistic meal Jesus communicates his own divine life we must therefore specify that this life is given through the Holy Spirit. Even as Eucharistic food and drink, Christ works, and transform humanity, through the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, at the moment o bringing the Church to birth, it is he, who pours forth the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). This first emergence of the Christian community contained the principle and source of its entire future development, in which the Holy Spirit would discharge as essential role
In conformity with this principle, the Eucharist implies a special animation due to the Spirit. The Eucharistic meal propagates the lie of the Spirit. This does not mean that the Eucharist is to be considered a sacrament o the Holy Spirit. T is the task of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ (Jn 15:14), and when the power o the Holy Spirit produces witnesses, they are witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8). It s always Christ who offers himself as food and drink, but they receive their spiritual efficacy from the Holy Spirit, who fills them to overflowing.
Through the Eucharistic banquet, then, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are poured forth among Christians. The diversity of the spiritual gifts described by St. Paul in 1 Cor 12:1-11 has no reference to the Eucharist. Nevertheless, when Paul enjoins Christians to aspire to the higher gifts, faith hope and charity (1 Cor 12:31, 13:13), in the acquisition o these gifts, the Eucharist can have an important role.
Indeed, Jesus has shown the link between the Eucharist and charity when, at the Last Supper, he formulated the new commandment: “Love one another as II have loved you” (Jn 15:12). He relied on the Eucharistic banquet to make his disciples capable of observing the great precept of mutual love. The divine gift contained in this meal, the gift of victory of love over all contrary passions, was a gift o the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharist is not the only channel of charity, but it is an important one, especially or the diffusion of charity. In giving himself as spiritual food, Jesus kindles in all human hearts the fire of love through the Holy Spirit.
Eucharist and Epiclesis
The Holy Spirit has a special role in the offering of the sacrifice and in the fruit of the Eucharistic meal. That role is expressed in the liturgy through the epiclesis.
The epiclesis is the invocation whose purpose is to obtain the gift of the Holy Spirit. At consecration, the Holy Spirit is invoked for the purpose of the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. There is also an epiclesis whose objective is communion in which the spiritual effect of the Eucharistic banquet is besought of the Holy Spirit.
The descent of the Holy Spirit is besought in the Eucharistic celebration because that descent corresponds to the accomplishment of the Eucharistic mystery: it is through the Holy spirit that Christ’s offering rises to the Father, and it is through the Holy Spirit that the bread and wine, in this offering, are transformed into the body and blood of Christ.
VIII.WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARISTIC PRESENCE
Development of the Worship of the Real Presence
The devotion to the Eucharistic presence is a relatively late development in the Church. In the early centuries, the Eucharist was publicly adored, but during the time of the Mass and Communion. The reservation of the consecrated hosts was originally for the purpose of bringing Communion to the sick and the absent. Only during the Middle Ages, in the West, did there arise a more explicit worship of the real presence, with the emphasis on adoration.
In the 12th century, a new rite was introduced into the celebration of the Mass: the elevation of the consecrated host immediately after the consecration. This elevation constitutes an invitation to acknowledge more expressly the presence of Christ and to adore him.
In 1247, the Feast of the Most Holy Sacrament was introduced in Liege, Belgium. In 1264, Pope Urban IV extended the feast to the universal Church: the Feast of Corpus Christi, instituted in order to “adore, venerate, glorify, love, and embrace” this so exalted sacrament
In the 14th century, the usage of the exposition of the host in the monstrance was introduced. Subsequently, in some regions, the Most Holy Sacrament was exposed during the recital of the canonical hours. At the end of the 15th century, the Forty Hours Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed came into use, in commemoration of the forty hours spent by our Lord in the tomb.
During the Renaissance, a tabernacle was erected on the main altar. Private visits to the Blessed Sacrament spread in the 18th century under the influence of St. Alphonsus of Ligouri.
These developments or evolution are founded on faith in the Eucharistic presence of Christ. They are in harmony with theological reflections. The Council of Trent, after having proclaimed the real presence and the transubstantiation, enunciates the fundamental principle of the worship of adoration due to the Eucharist (DS 1643).
Worship of the Real Presence in the Eucharistic Celebration
At the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus stated directly and immediately that his body and blood were present: “This [is] my body,” “This [is] my blood”
He asked his disciples to believe in this reality. He had required an act of faith on the part of his disciples, in contrast to the general movement of defection that had occurred at the moment of the proclamation of the Eucharist. Jesus had required that act of faith as the condition to be accepted in order to continue to follow him: “Do you also wish to go away?” he asked the Twelve.
In order to remain with the Master, the disciples must believe in the mysterious meal in which the Son of Man would give his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. They must acknowledge in him the bread that come down from heaven, the bread that gives life to the world. They act of faith required of the disciples is before all else an act of faith in the divine person of Christ.
In the Eucharist, there is an essential assertion of the divine presence. Thus, there is an invitation to adoration. The one who in his body and blood, offers himself as food and drink asks to be received in function of the divine value of his gift.
Jesus’ declaration regarding his personal presence in the Eucharist must be accepted in all of their implications. These implications go beyond the declaration that his body is given as food and his blood as drink. He alludes to a personal presence that is not exhausted in a function of nourishment.
The Eucharistic presence is essentially the presence of the one who, through his body and blood, says: “I am.” This presence deserves to be appreciated in function of the dignity of a person become present with love and, more precisely, with the supreme dignity of a divine person.
Therefore, in the sharing of the Eucharistic celebration, an attitude of adoration before Jesus who has become present precedes the Communion meal. Only this adoration can afford the Christian the dispositions for receiving the body and blood of Jesus with respect and veneration. Only this adoration can give Communion its true meaning, that of an intimate contact, person to person, with the Son of God made man.
Worship of the Real Presence outside the Eucharistic Celebration
Jesus did not expressly ask that worship of his Eucharistic Presence be paid outside the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice and Communion. But by the words of consecration, he has given us the presence of his body and blood, with an assertion that placed no limits on this presence. He has not closed up this presence in the space and time needed for the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Nor did he express a will that the gift of his body and blood should cease once the meal had come to an end.
The words of consecration are limited to an assertion of the reality of the body and blood without an indication of any limit in time for their presence. Hence, as long as the “species” last without corrupting, the presence of the body and blood remains unchanged.
His words: “This [is] my body” and “This [is] my blood” could be translated, “Behold my body, … behold my blood.” This is a gift without limits, the gift he has left in the hands of his disciples which is his sacramental presence. He has not sought to place restriction on the duration of this presence, leaving to his Church the concern of receiving it in all the breadth of the divine gift that this presence involves. Thus, we can say, that in the intention of Christ, the Eucharistic presence is a completely open gift, without any restrictions.
Bu the Eucharistic presence can never be considered or venerated apart from the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice and the Communion meal. It is at the same time an introduction to the celebration, and a fruit of the same.
Christ’s promise to his disciples: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20), is of a unique value. Knowing that he is about to withdraw from his disciples, and knowing that he is about to cause them the sorrow of his absence, he guarantees a continuous presence. This presence will be “always” and “to the end of the age.” His presence will accompany them in the great mission of evangelization of all nations, which will come to an end only with the conclusion of the history of humanity. This presence is realized through the Eucharist.
Central Role of the Real Presence
In the course of the centuries, the development of worship of the real presence has represented a progress in consciousness of the wealth of the mystery of the Eucharist.
This worship fully harmonizes with the celebration of the sacrifice and of the Eucharistic meal. It contributes to a better grasp of the sense of participation in the sacramental offering of Christ. It tends to concentrate greater attention on the person of the Savior in Communion.
Today there is intense veneration with which people seek to attest their gratitude for the divine gift of the Eucharist. Christ himself had desired this response and had wishes to awaken a movement of adoration which would acknowledge the value of his presence.
This presence is an appeal to faith and love. It occupies a central position in the Christian religion, as a presence bound to the new temple built by the Resurrection. It is a wellspring of hope, given that the Eucharist associates us to the Passion of Christ “until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).
Eucharistic Worship in the Eastern Churches
Apart from the Mass, this worship is not prominent in Eastern Churches because of historical separation with the Latin Church.
By tradition, these Churches are more inclined to pay external worship especially to the sacred icons, regarded as a “sacramental” of personal presence.
The Eucharist can be regarded as the icon par excellence, as it is the sacrament of the one who is the “image (eikona) of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).
The division prevailing among Christians is a source of great suffering, because it is an obstacle to a common participation in the Eucharist, that “center and summit” of the life of the Church and sacrament of unity.
Indeed, the Eucharist at once expresses unity and communicates grace. As an expression of unity, communicatio in sacris is impossible. As a means of grace, it can be permitted in precise circumstances.
As for the Eastern Orthodox Churches, communio in sacris is not only permitted in certain circumstances, but positively recommended, in conformity with the directives of ecclesiastical authority.
However, the Churches and communities of the Protestant tradition have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery. A communion of participation in the Eucharist, then, is impossible. Significant steps toward unit have already been taken, but more intense efforts and prayers are needed
The Eucharistic Congress
IX.THE EUCHARIST IN THE LIFE OF CHRISTIANS
Intimate Union with Christ
The first effect of the Eucharistic meal is a more intimate union with Jesus. He enters as food into the persons of the faithful, to establish the deepest bonds with them, and transform their whole inner lives. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them” (Jn 6:56). Thus, the purpose of the Eucharistic meal consists not in temporary union, but in lasting one. The one who receives the body of Christ in Communion receives it to create an intimacy destined to be prolonged.
“Abide in me, as I in you” (Jn 15:4 The Eucharist can respond to this aspiration. The Eucharistic meal is a meal of Communion with Christ – that is, a meal that establishes a union with him, one that involves the whole being and enables the believer to remain in him as he abides in us.
The Presence of Mary in the Community that Celebrates the Eucharist
Experience of the Church as Eucharistic and Marian
The Eucharist is the soul of the Church. It is the living heart of great cathedrals as it is of small, poor mission chapels. But alongside the Eucharist the piety of the faithful always places the image of the Blessed Virgin. The reason is that Mary is seen as associated to Christ her Son in the community that celebrates the Eucharist She makes essential, continuous reference to the Eucharistic Christ The Blessed Virgin seems to have a charismatic ministry as guide of the faithful to the Eucharist, the source and crown of all Marian piety and spirituality.
Do we have such foundations? At first sight, it would seem that there are only indirect indications of this theme. In the passages about the participation of the first Christian community in the Lord Supper (1 Cor 11:16-20) or at the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42-47), very probably Mary was present as she was part of the community life
But was Mary present at the Last Supper? The answer is that her presence cannot be excluded for two reasons: She was in Jerusalem that time (Jn 19:27), and according to Jewish customs at the Passover supper, it fell to the mother of the family to light the lamps. So, Mary must have performed this duty at the Last Supper
In Luke, there is decidedly Eucharistic symbolic value in the name “Bethlehem” which means “house of bread” (as Mary is the “house” of the bread of life that is Christ), and of the manger in which the infant was placed (Lk 2:7, 12, 16)
Mary has a central role at Jesus’ side. In the episode of the wedding at Cana, the initiation of the sign of the wine is decidedly that of Mary, with the order given to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Cana is the beginning of the signs, including the sign of bread, and represents the beginning of a new sacramental “economy: in which the center is the Eucharist.
In the new economy, Mary is called not “mother,” but “woman.” This passage indicates that the Blessed Virgin becomes “family founder” (woman in Gen 2:23) of a new generation, that of the Church community, which is nourished by the Eucharistic blood and body of Christ.
In Jn 19:25-27, Jesus entrusts the disciple to Mary and Mary to the disciple. This is not only an act of filial piety but also an episode of definitive revelation. Mary becomes the vessel of a mysterious motherhood. Here is called again “woman,” in order to underscore the beginning in her of a new generation, that of the Church, which springs from the pierced side of Christ, from which flowed blood and water, symbol of the sacraments of the Church.
In the new sacramental economy, Mary remains mother. At first she was only the mother of the Son, now she is also the mother of the Church. At first her motherhood was physical, now it is spiritual, as well. On Calvary, the mother of Jesus becomes the mother of the disciples.
Mary’s physical motherhood seems destroyed with the physical death of her Son. A spiritual motherhood succeeds it: Mary becomes the mother of the disciple. At first it had been Jesus who was born of the Virgin, now it is the Virgin who receives a new birth from her crucified Son. Jesus no longer calls her “mother” but “woman,” because she is taken from man (Gen 2:23). It is difficult to imagine a more radical change of relationship between Mary and her divine Son.
In the “daughter of Sion,” mother of the scattered people whom God reunites with her walls and in her Temple, comes Mary, mother of the scattered children reunited by Jesus in the temple of the new covenant, which is his body and his blood poured out for all for a remission of sins. In the economy of the new covenant, Mary becomes the personification of the New Jerusalem, the Church animated sacramentally by the Eucharistic Christ
Mary, then, has a presence and decisive role both in the Incarnation and in the sacramental economy of the Church. In both cases she has said her “fiat,” in faith, in hope, in charity. In both, she is the founder of a new generation according to the will of God: the generation of the Son of God, and the generation of the Church community that springs from the side of Christ, nourished by his body and blood.
The Church, sacrament of salvation, besides being essentially Eucharistic, also has an existential Marian character.
Mary Leads to the Eucharist
Therefore the Church never celebrates the Eucharist without repeatedly invoking the intercession of the Mother of the Lord. At each Mass, Mary offers as most exalted member of the Church not only her past consent to the Incarnation and the Cross, but also her merits and her present glorious motherly intercession (Marialis Cultus, 20)
In Redemptoris Mater, JP II declares that Mary’s spiritual motherhood “is particularly sensed and lived by the Christian people in the Sacred Repast – the liturgical celebration of the mystery of redemption – in which Christ, his true body born of the Virgin Mary, is made present” (RM, 44).
Far from divorcing the faithful from Jesus, the charismatic office of Mary guides them maternally to sacramental Communion with him, as an offering of grace for a Christian life of harmonious, strong witness
Condition for Development of Life
The Communion meal has been instituted by Jesus as the ordinary means of development of his life in his disciples. It is not a luxury. It is a condition for the development of the life of grace
Before the multiplication for the loaves Jesus had already expressed his essential concern for the crowd (Mk 8:2-3) The bread that Jesus will give to his audience is necessary to keep them from fainting. The miracle responds to an evident need.
After the miracle, Jesus clearly formulates the necessity of the Eucharistic meal for the spiritual life: “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). It is a solemn declaration of a solemn character, a declaration in which Jesus commits all of his doctrinal authority. He shows to what extent the Eucharist is indispensable for the Christian life: it is a condition for the possession of true life.
This necessity has been translated into practice by the authority of the Church. Since 1215, all Christians, having come to the age of reason, must receive, at least at Easter, the sacrament of the Eucharist, after having confessed all of their sins (Lateran Council, DS 812). This age of reason is around seven years of age (Trent, DS3530)
It was Pope Pius X, however, who encouraged frequent, even daily, Communion. He was reacting against a mentality that tended to diminish the frequency of Communion in the name of a respect that kept the faithful at a distance from the Eucharistic Jesus by a sentiment of unworthiness. The consciousness of being sinners should surely lead to the sacrament of Penance, but after having received forgiveness the faithful have no reason to limit their recourse to Communion
Indeed, daily Communion was practiced in the primitive Church itself. According to Acts 2:46, every day in homes the breaking of the bread was practiced. The first Christians had interpreted Jesus’ encouragement on the necessity of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood, as referring to daily Communion.
This daily recourse to Communion remains an ideal that should never be lost from view, even if, concretely, for the greater majority of Christians, the circumstances and conditions of life prevent its realization.
Sunday Communion, however, is more accessible. The precept obligating the faithful to attend at Sunday Mass implies an invitation to approach the Eucharistic table Participation in the Eucharistic celebration cannot be complete if it does not conclude with Communion. The letter of the precept is discharged merely by assisting at Mass, but the Eucharist is full shared only at the Eucharistic table.
Communion, Source of a Higher Energy
Meals secure for persons the strength of which they have need in order to live and act In instituting the Eucharistic meal, Jesus has wished to place at the disposition of believers the necessary strength for the development of the entire Christian life.
Many have experienced their own weakness, in morality, in keeping resolutions, etc The only remedy for this frailty is divine assistance. Persons have need of a higher energy, which will enable them to overcome their weaknesses Jesus wished to communicate this energy to us in a habitual manner through the Eucharist. And he communicates it with a transformation of the whole person.
Indeed, with the Eucharist, Jesus becomes nourishment in such a way that his own energy passes to the person who feels weak. Unlike corporeal foods, which we assimilate and which become for us a supplier of life, the Eucharistic food assimilates us and transforms us, to introduce us to a higher life. In the Eucharistic meal, Christ penetrates us with his assimilating power. It is he who transforms those who are nourished by his body. He communicates to them his divine energy.
Thus, the Eucharist responds to every situation of weakness. To those who complain of helplessness, the Eucharistic meal offers the guarantee of a strength that was that of Jesus himself. To those who have received a mission and fear the obstacles arising from its fulfillment, the Eucharist secures the certitude of an unshakable perseverance in the realization of the task that they have received.
According to Pius X, Eucharistic Communion must be seen not as a reward for the pure and perfect, but as strength for the small and weak. The more believers discover their weakness, the more they are called to seek their spiritual strength in the Eucharist. The strength of the meal is actually intended in a special way for those who recognize their frailty.
The Eucharistic Meal, Source of Charity
The sign that the Eucharist is a fount of charity is given at the formulation of the new precept of love at the Last Supper. Jesus pronounced the commandment of mutual love on the occasion of the institution of a meal that also afforded the possibility of observing it. With the Eucharist, he rendered his disciples capable of loving one another as he had loved it.
Among the inner dispositions required for charity is the forgiveness of offenses. In Mt 5:23-24, an offering is deprived of value in God’s eyes if it is presented by one who does not live in harmony with all, even with those who have done one some injury. The offering of those who have this will to harmony in their hearts will be pleasing to God. If they share in the Eucharist, they can ask Christ, in Communion, the necessary strength of love, in order to live the desired reconciliation sincerely. Uniting their offerings to that of the Savior, they can expect from the Eucharist the grace of a total will to forgiveness and unity.
Jesus himself at the Last Supper when settling the dispute that had arisen among the Apostles for first place at table, had given them an example of humble service with the washing of the feet. Thus, he relied on the Eucharist to give the disciples, in the future, better dispositions for living in peace and harmony.
As a sacrificial meal, the Eucharist tends to communicate to the participants the love that had inspired the sacrifice, a love that spared nothing in order to secure the happiness of others and reached the pinnacle of heroism. The body and blood of Jesus, which are given as food and drink, contain all of the ardor of sacrifice.
Therefore the charity fostered and stimulated by the Eucharistic meal does not ignore the renunciations that the very teaching of Christ prescribes. It has not hesitated to ask sacrifices: “Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also …” (Mt 5:39-42). This reaction can mean suffering. In this case, Christ wishes to contribute to the creation of an attitude of charity open to any eventuality and relies on the spiritual strength that will come from the Eucharist.
With the Eucharist Jesus willed to give his disciples the strength to love one another as he had loved them. He gave them, with the gift of his body and blood, a power of love that knows no limits and that is efficacious in every human condition. Everything in his person is a revelation of love, and this person in giving itself in the Eucharist, nourished the human heart with love.
The Eucharistic Food, Wellspring of Joy
In the Eucharistic celebration in the primitive Church, joy and simplicity of heart are distinctive marks of the meal (Acts 2:46).
Subsequently, in tradition, this joy that accompanies the Eucharist will frequently be recorded and stressed. A meal tends to produce euphoria. In selecting a meal as the sacramental sign of the gift of his own flesh and his own life, Jesus sought to emphasize in a special manner the spiritual euphoria that was to constitute the climate on Christian life.
Not by chance did Jesus choose wine to produce a spiritual inebriation. The Eucharistic cup is an intoxicating one. The miracle at Cana, with the transformation of water into wine, offers a first announcement of the Eucharist. It gives us to understand in advance the abundance of joy that Jesus brings to humanity. We find the image of the banquet once more in the parable of a feast that a king prepares for his son’s wedding (Mt 22:2). At the Last upper, Jesus promises his disciples, “You may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Lk 22:30).
The Eucharistic banquet is the image of the heavenly banquet. The heavenly banquet has as its center Christ as the bridegroom, as is also shown in the parable of the five wise virgins (Mt 25:1-13). An anticipation of this banquet is offered us in the Eucharist. The Eucharistic repast is a meal that celebrates the covenant, a wedding banquet. It is connected with a sacrifice, whose characteristic is changing sorrow into joy (Jn 16:20). In the Eucharist the heavenly Christ pours forth his joy, in giving himself as food and drink.
Each Eucharistic celebration constitutes a new cause for joy for the Church and humanity. Through joy, it fosters the authentic development of the work of evangelization, which proclaims the good news in a universe in which there abound such trials and sufferings of every sort. It is a joy that opens oneself to all, so that these, too, may share a gladness superior to all others.
This joy also reveals the eschatological value of the Eucharistic meal. This joy presages the joy of heaven. It testifies to the ultimate intent of the Father, who has organized his entire design of salvation in order to secure the highest joy for humanity.
The Eucharist is a meal in which God is tasted and which stimulates the desire to possess God. It contributes to the realization that no joy is comparable to the one that comes from on high. The Eucharist can offer only a token taste, but it does so by already giving Christ himself, in an invisible presence available to faith.
Eucharistic Meal, Upbuilding of the Body of Christ
St. Paul, who presents the Church as the body of Christ, had well understood the importance of the Eucharist in the formation of the life of that body: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17).
Of itself, the Eucharistic meal is a simple consuming of the same bread and that the oneness of that bread is the foundation of the oneness of those who take part in the meal. But this oneness is actually that of the body of Christ given as food. “The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). Communion is not realized first and foremost among those who drink of it, but rather, essentially, the Eucharist is Communion with the blood of Christ.
The blood of Christ, then is a source of communion, as is the body of Christi. The unworthy participation in the Eucharistic meal is of a grave nature, since it contradicts the essential finality of communion with the body and blood of Christ. It prevents the formation of one body among the participants. Communion tends precisely to form this unity: it tends to inaugurate a solid unity in the Christian community.
The aim for which the Eucharist has been instituted is precisely the formation and development of the one body called the Mystical Body of Christ. Those who share in the meal are engaged in the upbuilding of this Mystical Body: they are more profoundly inserted into it.
The first effect of the Eucharistic meal is a deeper union with Christ himself. It is an effect of communion in his body, his blood, his person. Then, inseparably, another effect is produced: that of a more profound connection with the entire community that lives the life of Christ, that is, his Mystical Body, with the entire Church and each of its members.
This effect must be grasped in relation to the property of the Eucharistic repast as being a source of charity. The Eucharist stimulates the growth of the “whole body” in “building itself up in love” (Eph 4:16). The Eucharist consolidates the connections of love that exist among all of the members of the body, through fidelity to the new commandments: Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). The Eucharist has the power to develop all of the aspects and all of the attitudes of reciprocal love, in such a way that from the head, who is Christ, the entire body receives the strength to grow and build itself up in charity” (Eph 4:16).
The Jubilee ought to have a hymn of praise to the Trinity for the gift of love revealed in the incarnation of God. (END).
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