we looked at the significance of Jesus being the bread of life.
I think most of us get the nourishment part. There is so much spiritual hunger in the world. But the Eucharist is feeding a lot more than what we think. How many of us really recognize all the fruits of receiving Communion?
These are the Graces that are received with receiving the Eucharist.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Eucharist...
• Augments our union with Christ (CCC#1391)
• Nourishes us and is food for the journey (CCC#1392)
• Separates us from sin (CCC#1393), wipes away all venial sin (CCC#1394) and preserves us from all future mortal sins (CCC#1395)
• Unites us more closely to Christ and though it Christ unites us to all the faithful in one body, the Church (CCC#1396)
• Commits us to the poor (CCC#1397)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also mentions something that often gets forgotten: There is a connection between the Eucharist and the unity of Christians. Even though some Eastern Churches may not be in full communion with the Catholic Church, they still celebrate the Eucharist with great love and so they are joined to us in closest intimacy. This is why given certain circumstances and the approval of the appropriate Church authority sharing in that communion is not just possible, but encouraged (CCC#1399).
Furthermore, non-Catholic Christian communities that have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness (which is why Eucharistic inter-communion with these communities is not possible for the Catholic Church), still commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection in the Holy Supper. When they do, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming glory (CCC#1400). I see some semblance of unity and communion with Christ in that profession.
Perhaps this is also an effect of the Eucharist?
As you can see, the Eucharist is no small thing. This is why St. Paul writes that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 11:27-29) The Catechism clarifies that anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace (CCC#1415). Anyone that is aware of having mortally sinned must first receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving the Eucharist.
And we should. Christ is the sacrifice that was required, so that we can have eternal life. And every time we celebrate the Eucharist that sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, prefigured by his Last Supper, is made present again and again, for the salvation of the world.
And I guess that is a metaphysical occurrence*. But the real (and obvious) metaphysical occurrence that takes place in this Sacrament is that a little piece of bread and a chalice of wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. That host and that chalice of wine actually become Jesus.
At the same time, this Sacrament fulfills a our deepest longing to be nourished.
I encourage you to start seeing if you recognize some of these things when you go to Church. Next time you’re at Mass, see how many times you hear the word “mysteries” (the word in Greek for Sacrament is mysterion
) or how many times we hear in Mass that the sacrament is for our salvation or forgiveness of sins. Or listen for when the priest is calling on the power of the Holy Spirit for the sacrament (epiclesis). It happens every time at Mass. And think about what those words mean, “I am not worthy...”
Think about what is happening when you are receiving Communion.
One prayer that I like to make before, during and after receiving Communion is this: “May the body and blood of Christ forgive us our sins. May the body and blood of Christ bring us to eternal life. May the body and blood of Christ make us be in communion with Christ and with each other in Christ.” This is a great prayer that you can customise to your own situation, according to the readings of the day or your personal situation: “May the body and blood of Christ heal our wounds; comfort us, strengthen us, be food for our journey, bring all Christians together...” etc.
Once, in a homily I heard, the priest told us that when we received communion, instead of responding “amen” when the priest, deacon or Eucharistic Minster says, “the body of Christ”, we should say, “I am.”
I’m not saying that we should, but what if instead of saying “amen”, you say, “I am”?
Priest (Deacon or Eucharistic minister): “The body of Christ.”
Me: “I am.”
Deacon (or Eucharistic minister): “The blood of Christ.”
Me: “I am.”
It would remind us that one of the mysteries of the Sacrament of the Eucharist is that we become the body of Christ. The bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus – no one is denying that. But on top of that, another mystery (metaphysical occurrence) is that we are also transformed into the body of Christ; into the Church.
If that is not communion with Christ, I don’t know what is.
And like Christ, like the bread, we too have to broken so we can be shared.
So far I've deacon-structed Baptism, Reconciliation, Marriage and now The Eucharist. Perhaps we need to take a look at Sacraments in general before we continue with the other two. Come back next week as we begin to deacon-struct the Sacraments.
*All Sacraments have what I call a "metaphysical occurrence". That means that there is an actual change that happens that affects the existence or properties of the matter of the Sacrament. The husband and wife become one flesh; our sins are completely forgiven; the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, etc. I will explain this better starting next week as I deacon-struct the Sacraments.
This is the conclusion of a four-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
A woman receives Communion during a Mass for young adults Dec. 7, 2016 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org @deaconpedrogm