Only say the word and I shall be healed.

Only say the word and I shall be healed.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Corinthians 11:26-29)

Eucharist, Holy Communion, the L-rd’s Supper, the Divine Liturgy, the Sacrifice of the Mass – several of the names liturgically given to our salvific food and drink. For any Catholic, this Most Holy Sacrament is the most difficult facet of our Faith to describe to non-Catholics. Even amongst the laity, Eucharistic theology tends to be disregarded because it is hard to accept. In part, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches,

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, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ [the Paschal Lamb] is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'”133

And regarding its dividing nature,

1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”158 The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”:159 the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life”160 and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.

What seems to divide Christians over the Eucharist today is the same thing that caused division for some of the first disciples of Christ – the real presence. Though there is plenty of scriptural evidence available in support of the real presence, I feel that a well-rounded knowledge of the scripture located at the top of this post is sufficient enough.

Most non-Catholic Christians believe that the L-rd’s Supper is strictly a memorial devoid of His corporal presence. Partially, it is a memorial. However, it was not instituted to just remind us, it was instituted to renew us as well. In the second sentence of the above passage it says, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” This seems like a hefty punishment for a ritual that is strictly a memorial. How can we be guilty of His body and His blood if it’s not His body and His blood that we are consuming? In the scriptures, the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice has two polar distinctions. For those of faith, Christ’s sacrifice is atoning. For those that reject Him, Christ’s sacrifice is murder. If in our manner we unworthily drink from the cup or eat the bread, we become murderers of our Messiah – making his sacrifice as meaningless as the memorial of an execution. “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” Indeed, these words are hard to swallow; “for he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body”.

What if the circumstances were reversed though? What if we did eat this bread and drink from this cup in a worthy manner, a faithful manner? We would then be polarized from being murderers of the Messiah to being faithful partakers in His perpetuated and atoning sacrifice.

The true presence of the Eucharist gives more meaning to the scripture, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Because Christ was both G-d and man, and because He instituted His sacrifice in the Eucharist, His atoning death on the cross has been perpetuated in the fullness of time so that we who are bound by time can find renewal in it daily. It is not that Christ has to offer Himself to suffer every Sunday, for, “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27). The Eucharistic sacrifice is the very same one sacrifice that occurred nearly 2,000 years ago. Once for all, or apax as it is termed in the Koine Greek of the New Testament, means perpetual validity. If we understood this perpetual validity in its scriptural fullness (which I do not have the time to get into at the moment) we would understand that the grace that comes from Christ’s sacrifice is distributively once for all rather than collectively once for all. No collective atonement can ever be freely accepted or believed in because the very nature of it allots the sinner atonement through association – thus causing free will to vanish completely from our nature. Whereas, distributive atonement allows sinners to cognitively and freely submit themselves through the freedom of choice. This is the fullness of what it means for the crucifixion of Christ to be “once for all” – once sacrificed, to be distributed perpetually in the Eucharist, for all who sin and fall short of it.