English | Select language

Essay

The Eucharist – Part One

Renewal of the Covenant through Christ

“God is love” (1 Jn 4:16): Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father longs to communicate this “plan of His loving kindness” and shares the glory of His blessed life with man, through His son, Jesus Christ, even before the foundation of the world (Catechism of the Catholic Church 257). This plan is “the grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago” (2 Tim 1:9).

God announced for the first time in Genesis the coming of “the Messiah and Redeemer” (CCC 410) and that He will send them a Savior to defend and deliver them (Is 19:20). The prophets also announced that God will make a new and eternal covenant “with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31). Since “the first covenant was not ratified without blood” (Heb 9:18), Jesus Christ came as the mediator to institute the New Covenant (CCC 762), so that through His Passion, death and Resurrection, those who are called may be redeemed from the transgression under the first covenant and receive the promised eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15). Just as the angels told Joseph that Jesus “will save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:21), when our Savior instituted the “Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood” (CCC 1323) at the Last Supper, the Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Sacrament of sacraments (CCC 1330) holds the same Truth (CCC 1846). “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). By this Eucharistic sacrifice, He “pours out the graces of salvation” (CCC 1470), that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

The Eucharist – The Sacrificial Memorial of Christ

In the Sacred Scripture, ‘memorial’ does not simply mean the recollection of past events but “the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men” (CCC 1363). Just as God commanded the Sons of Israel to observe Passover by slaughtering a Passover lamb (Ex 12:21) as memorial of their deliverance from the slavery of Egypt (Ex 13:3), with the arrival of our Savior in the New Testament, this memorial takes on new meaning (CCC 1364), “for Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7).

The very words of the Eucharistic institution by our Savior at the Last Supper manifested the sacrificial character of the Eucharist (CCC 1365): “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19) and “This is the cup which poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:20), which the Body and Blood He gave up for us on the Cross are “for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9:22). Therefore, the institution of the Eucharist signifies “the memorial of His sacrifice” and “the New Covenant” (CCC 611). Our Lord “did this once and for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb 7:27) so that through His sacrifice, the work of our redemption can be carried out (CCC 1364).

The Lord also commanded “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24) and to repeat His actions and words “until He comes” (CCC 1341). The Church carries out His command by the Eucharistic celebration at Mass (CCC 1357), so “its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit” (CCC 1366). Christ wanted to leave His Church, that is His beloved spouse (CCC 1366) and His Body (CCC 1362) this visible sacrifice, so she could re-present the Eucharistic sacrifice in the liturgy of the Church (CCC 1362), hence, we may have life in Him by eating “the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood” (Jn 6:53).

Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist

In the Eucharist, “the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (CCC 1374). As stated by Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical Mysterium Fidei, The Holy Eucharist is “a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” The consecrated hosts are not just a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ but the real presence of Christ in its fullest sense (CCC 1374). Just as Christ said at the Last Supper that the bread He broke is His body, “take, eat, this is my body” (Mt 26:26) and the cup He took is His blood, “drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood” (Mt 26:27). Therefore, at the sacrifice of the Mass, the sacraments of which He is the author (CCC 1373), the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ by “the words of Christ” and “the invocation of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1333), the Epiclesis. Just as St. John Chrysostom declared, “it is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He who was crucified for us, Christ Himself” (CCC 1375). Christ becomes present in the species of bread and wine at the transubstantiation (CCC 1376), which His presence “endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist” (CCC 1377). This is a sign of the memorial of His love for us (CCC 1380) “to the end” (Jn 13:1). “It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to His Church in this unique way” (CCC 1380) so that all those who believe in Him may return in complete unity as Christians in the Eucharist (CCC 1398).

Therefore, not only must we reserve and handle “the consecrated hosts with the utmost care” (CCC 1378), we must make worthy our reception of the Holy Sacrament when Christ becomes our guest (CCC 1387), i.e. observe the fast required and ensure that we are in a state of grace. Otherwise, we commit sacrilege, meaning “profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions” (CCC 2120) which is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).

St Thomas Aquinas said that the presence of the true Body and Blood of Christ is something that “cannot be apprehended by senses but only by Faith” (CCC 1381). When we express our Faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist during the liturgy of the Mass (CCC 1378), we also believe in Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament outside of the Mass, i.e. in the tabernacle, at the exposition of the Eucharist during Eucharistic adoration, benediction or procession. We ought to express our worship of the Holy Eucharist by “genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord” (CCC 1378). “Let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker” (Ps 95:6). Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is worthy of our worship, as to adore God is to acknowledge the greatness of the Lord who created us (CCC 2628) who is the “King of Glory” (Ps 24:10).

As our Faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist deepen, we would become more conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord presents under the Eucharistic species (CCC 1379).

“How lovely is Thy dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps 84:1 & 10). Just as Pope Paul VI had said in his Encyclical Mysterium Fidei, “to visit the Blessed Sacrament is a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord” (CCC 1418). Pope St John Paul II, who had great devotion towards the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, had also expressed in his Letter Dominicae Cenae that “the Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship” (CCC 1380). He believed that by offering our time to meet Christ at adoration, who is waiting for us in this sacrament of love, we can take part in making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world, hence, “let us not refuse the time to go to meet Him in adoration. Let our adoration never cease” (CCC 1380).

This article was written by Joni Cheng.

Joni Cheng was born in Hong Kong and incorporated as Regnum Christi member in 2016. She is a Sales & Marketing professional and an hotelier by profession. She has a bachelor’s degree in International Hotel Management from the University of Wales and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Catechetics and Evangelisation with the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Joni has great love for Our Lady of Guadalupe and has been on a mission to bring Our Lady to her children in China.