For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 1:11

Be also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:5

Regarding the Eucharist … Let no one eat and drink of your Eucharist but those baptized in the name of the Lord; to this, too, the saying of the Lord is applicable: Do not give to dogs what is sacred. On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure. However, no one quarreling with his brother may join your meeting until they are reconciled; your sacrifice must not be defiled. For here we have the saying of the Lord: In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a mighty King, says the Lord; and my name spreads terror among the nations.

The Didache (Attributed to the 12 Apostles) circa 90 A.D.

When my fiancée and I were received into the Catholic Church this past June, nothing excited us more than being allowed to fully celebrate the Eucharist. I remember a lot of things about the context of that moment when we took our Communion. The look of joy on the face of our Presider and Father in Christ, the stillness of the moment when he handed me the Body of our Lord, the spiritual weight of the covenantal Cup, the scent of Holy Oil still drying on my forehead, and the look of beauty and peace on the face of my betrothed. The moment of my First Communion is something I will never trade, and I relive it every Sunday.

Initially, I had intended to put all of what I wanted to say about the Eucharist in one post. But upon reflection that would make a monster of a post, so I have decided to write it in parts. In these posts I will mainly use as support: the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Sacred Scripture it cites (CCC). I could always summarize and relay through the many dictums of past and present as well as strictly defend through a formula of apologetics to explain the Catholic Eucharist, but most people have heard all of that. What I want to do here is teach directly out of the CCC in sections, and unpack them as thoroughly and as dynamically as possible. So let’s boogie.

All of what I cite here comes out of part two of the CCC: “THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY,” section two: “THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH,” chapter one: “THE SACRAMENTS OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION,” article three. In this post, I will cover the first section under article three entitled “THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST”. It acts as a kind of introduction to what the Church teaches about the Sacrament. Also, on each of these posts I will provide a bit of scripture and a quote of an early church father at the top. This will support the notion that the Catholic Eucharist is the Eucharist that Christ and the Apostles intended.

THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST

1322 The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.

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 is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”

–CCC, Part II, Sect. II, Chap. 1, Art. III

Right off the bat, there are three main things that the catechism, or teaching, of the Catholic Church presents here, with each flowing into and out of one another. First, the Eucharist is the Sacrament that completes Christian initiation. This will be unpacked more specifically in later posts but I would like to touch on it here. The Eucharist is the doorway to full communion with the Church and with God, hence its ancient name: Holy Communion. In Christ’s life, death and resurrection, God has moved to reconcile all things to Himself. By His nature, God is one and unified. So, it would only make sense that He would choose to reconcile all things in an equally unifying way; hence “reconcile”. This, again, He has done in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–in whom we have supreme victory over sin and death. The Eucharist therefore is a unified re-presentation (not a re-enactment) of this supreme victory and therefore a “perpetually” opened door for us to be reconciled to each other and to our God; that we may “participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist” in an ongoing way. Again, it is not that Christ is crucified over and over again; it is that through the Eucharist the one sacrifice of Christ is redistributed, continuing to heal us with the same atonement God prescribed on the cross.

The next main part, flowing from the previous one, has to do with “At the Last Supper [on the Jewish feast of Passover], on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood”. We all remember the scriptural accounts of this very First Communion. Perhaps, the most common one comes from St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke and said: Take and eat: This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-27) This verse amongst others in 1 Corinthians will be further examined later. Now lets look at the last part of this teaching… The Eucharist is, “a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a 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”. Using bullet points, lets look at each of these realities:

The Eucharist is…

• A sacrament of love

–      The Eucharist is a sacrament (an outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification) of love because it unites us with the great act of love, that is, Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

–      To read more about the sacraments themselves click here

• A sign of unity

–      In which we are not only communed to one another, but also with Christ Himself, Who becomes fully present in the bread and wine.

–      It makes us one body (1 Corinthians 10:17). This is why only a Catholic can take the Catholic Eucharist. The one bread confers you into the one body. You cannot be outside of the body and eat of the one bread because the two are predicated on unity. If one were to do so, this would promote disunity. And the Body of Christ cannot be divided because Christ Himself cannot be divided (see 1 Corinthians 1:10-13). This is called closed communion. Many non-catholic Christians have a problem with closed communion. If you believe what the Catholic Church teaches about the Eucharist, become a Catholic and you will receive the body and blood of Christ in union with the mystical body of Christ. If you don’t believe what the Catholic Church teaches about the Eucharist, don’t gripe about not receiving it. Sorry to be so blunt.

• A bond of charity

–      Again, we are united with Christ and with each other. This promotes the Holy Spirit to work through us in loving deeds. Mother Teresa once wrote, “We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks.  People ask, ‘Where do the sisters get the joy and energy to do what they are doing?’  The Eucharist involves more than just receiving; it also involves satisfying the hunger of Christ. He says, ‘Come to Me.’ He is hungry for souls”, and also, “Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there.  If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration”.

• 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 word “Paschal” is a Koine Greek transliteration for “Passover”. In the New Testament, Christ is often referred to as our Paschal Lamb (In Hebrew; Korban Pesach). This occurs most explicitly in 1 Corinthians 5:7, but also implicitly in verses like John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:19, and Acts 8:32. For Christ to be called the Paschal Lamb or the Lamb of God, there would have to be two things that He would have to fulfill in the Passover sacrifice. First, once sacrificed, to cover the doorposts on the houses of the Israelites in blood so that they would not suffer God’s wrath (Exodus 12:7). Second, to be eaten with haste (Exodus 12:8, 11). The two conditions would need to be met for the Passover sacrifice to be complete. Since Christ is our Passover Lamb, it only makes sense that He would fulfill both conditions completely. This is why the Eucharist is called our Paschal banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.

Well, that is all for the first post. Stay tuned for the next….we have only scratched the surface.

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