THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
Holy Eucharist is the sacrament in which Jesus Christ gives his Body and Blood – himself – for us, so that we too might give ourselves to him in love and be united with him in Holy Communion. In this way we are joined with the one Body of Christ, the Church.
The celebration of the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’.
The Eucharist is a sacrifice, a presence and a food. As a sacrifice it makes present Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary for our salvation. As a presence, it is Jesus Christ himself under the appearance of bread and wine. As a food, it is the nourishment of our souls by which we share in God’s own life.
Uniquely among the sacraments, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ himself. Sacrifices offer something up to God to honour him, to thank him, to gain communion with him and to make expiation for sin. The Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ achieves all of these perfectly.
Jesus promised to give food from heaven that would be his flesh and blood. He fulfilled this at the Last Supper, when he took the bread and said explicitly “this is my body” and when he took the wine and said “this is the cup of my blood”. This gift is also made present to us today. When the priest speaks the words of consecration in the Mass, the bread and the wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Church calls this change ‘transubstantiation’ because the substance of bread and wine are really changed, becoming the substance of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus also said before his Ascension to the Father: “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28:20). This promise is fulfilled in the real presence of the Eucharist in the tabernacle of every Catholic church.
Following Jesus’ command, the Eucharist has always been celebrated as a sacred meal. The benefits for us are that we deepen our union with Him; we gain nourishment and strength for our journey as a baptised person; we receive the promise and the power of his Resurrection within us.