The basics of the Catholic Faith in the Eucharist are presented in Vatican II’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” (SC 47; cf. CCC 1323)
At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church.
— a Memorial of his death and resurrection:
— a Sacrament of love, a sign of unity and bond of charity,
— a Paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and
— a Pledge of future glory is given to us.
The specific points of this descriptive definition of the Eucharist can be summarized as follows:
First, the Eucharist was instituted by Christ. He prepared for it in the many fellowship meals which he shared during his public life. He established the Eucharist at the Last Supper, the night before he died on the Cross. And he confirmed it as the Risen Christ in his Easter meal appearances to his disciples.
Secondly, the Eucharist is celebrated with Christ by the Christian community, the Church. It is an essentially ecclesial act, carried out “by the Mystical Body of Christ, that is, by the Head and his members” (SC 7).
Thirdly, the Eucharist is at once both sacrifice and sacred meal. It is the memorial instituted by Christ so that the saving benefits of his Death and Resurrection can be shared by the People of God through every age.
Fourthly, Christ himself is really present in the Eucharistic celebration in multiple ways, but especially under the sacramental signs of bread and wine.
Finally, the Eucharist is the eschatological pledge and foretaste of our future glory.
Some of the effects of receiving Holy Communion worthily are that it unites us with Christ, separates us from sin, reconciles us with one another, and builds up the Christian community, the Church. In the Eucharistic celebration, Christ is truly present in the assembly, the person of the priest celebrant, in the Holy Scriptures, and substantially and unceasingly under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine. However, Christ’s presence is not in bodily form, or visibly and audibly perceivable, but only in faith, prompting us to pray “Come Lord Jesus!” The Risen Christ is present not like a material thing, but in a personal presence, under the signs of food and drink (bread and wine), in a dynamic, lasting presence, in his risen, glorified body.
In the Eucharist, Christ left us a pledge of our own resurrection and new life, food for the journey, and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet (cf. GS 38). Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, therefore, draws us into more intimate friendship with Christ, deepens our sharing in his Paschal Mystery, and forms the center where all other forms of Catholic piety finally merge. In addition, it cultivates in us a “social love” of all others who share Christ’s own saving love.
THE MEANING OF THE ACRONYM E.U.C.H.A.R.I.S.T.
Suppose someone asks you to give a mini-teaching on the meaning of the Eucharist to their action group or to a chapter assembly, or to a meeting of the Legion of Mary, or to a class of students. This presentation of the meaning of this Sacrament in the form of an acronym will help give you instant recall so you will be able to respond “yes, I’ll be glad to” without panicking.
The “E” introduces this sacrament as a unique “Event” in salvation history reminiscent of the Passover meal in Egypt before the Israelites fled across the Red Sea into the Sinai desert on their way to the Promised Land. God’s people were saved literally by the blood of the lamb in the Old Testament event.
Today Christ has entered into our human history as the Lamb of God; salvation comes to us through Jesus, the Lamb of God. In the Eucharist, we are able to “Enter” into this salvific “Experience” wherein we are “Empowered” in and through “Emmanuel” (God with us).
Actually, the word “Eucharist” is derived from the Latin word “eucharistein” which means “thanksgiving”. And, truly, participating in the celebration of the Eucharist is the best way of giving up to God our sacrifice of thanksgiving for His Son’s consenting to become our way of salvation.
“Union. Unity.” In the community of the faithful, we experience oneness in Spirit. In communion we become one with Jesus in the Eucharist; Christ is in us as we are in Him. We unite as God’s people in sharing our faith, our love, and our blessings. The Church celebrates the Eucharist throughout the world as a “Universal” Sacrament.
Because of the Eucharist, we become a “Community”, part of the Mystical Body of Christ. We renew our “Covenant” with God even as He renews His “Covenant” with us, in this “Christ-centered Celebration”.
The Eucharist is no ordinary sacrament; it is “Holy”, a holy event, a holy banquet. It is not ordinary because the Son of God is the sacrifice; Jesus Himself is the “once for all” sacrifice for our sins and for our salvation.
“A” stands for the Greek word “anamnesis” which means “memorial” or “remembrance”. Deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, especially in the Passover event, “anamnesis” reminds us that to remember something in the past, for the Jew, means that that something is present now. What was done in the past is actualized and realized in the present. Therefore when Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me,” He was understood by the disciples as saying, “I will be present now even as I was then.”
Jesus becomes present for us today in the Eucharist even as He was present during the Last Supper. We can also say that Jesus (God) is omnipresent. He is present in the Word, in the priest, in the various signs during the mass, and in the community of the faithful. And in the Eucharist, Jesus becomes present in us, too.
“R” reminds us of the “Real Presence” of Christ as the signs of the bread and wine undergo the miracle of transubstantiation into His Body and His Blood. To experience a true deepening of His Real Presence in this Sacrament, we must “Repent”, be “Reconciled” with each other and with the Father, and be “Renewed” in the partaking of the Eucharist.
The “incorporation” of Christ into every believer becomes a reality as we ‘take and eat’ Christ into our very own body during the liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus had incorporated Himself into our humanity in baptism; in the Eucharist He comes to us as the Bread of Life. In the liturgy of the Word, we are again given the opportunity to “internalize” His Words and so pattern our lives on His Way, His Truth and His Life.
The Eucharist is both a “Sacrament” and a “Sacrifice”. As a Sacrament, it offers “Salvation”: and confers upon us the grace necessary to realize this “Salvation”. As a Sacrifice, it is a “Sharing” sacrifice in which Christ shares His Body as the Bread of Life.
The last letter of our word “Eucharist” fittingly sums up the entire message of the Eucharist – THANKSGIVING. The Eucharistic celebration is a powerful proclamation of thanksgiving, our outpouring of thanksgiving to God for this miracle of Jesus’ “True Presence”, always available to us in this sacrament.
The 1997 Catechism for Filipino Catholics by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (ECCCE, Word & Life Publications. C1997 CBCP) has an excellent, very readable, and easy to understand section, Chapter 26 (#1665 – 1759), Christ, the Living Bread of Life: The Eucharist, that discusses various aspects of this Sacrament and its Real Presence in every Christian’s life. This should be required reading of all Catholics.
The section on the acronym E.U.C.H.A.R.I.S.T was reprinted from the KAPATIRAN Magazine, July-August 1997 issue and later posted on the BCBP website August 28, 2010. Adapted from various sources by Nancy R. Catan.