Eucharist – The Source and Summit of Christian Life

We believe that the Eucharist is the ‘Source and Summit of the Christian Life ‘in that the Eucharist is the culmination of God’s saving actions in Jesus Christ and of our worship and union with Him who leads us to the Father in the Power of the Holy Spirit. The word ‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek word ‘Eucharistein’ meaning Thanksgiving. Jesus gave thanks at the Last Supper, at which He instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood that perpetuates and continues His Sacrifice on the Cross, through the ages.

For me the Eucharistic Celebration was attending Sunday Mass to fulfil my Sunday obligation. On other days my main focus was Jesus’ words ‘When I was hungry you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty you gave me to drink. When I was naked you clothed me. You visited me in prison. As long as you did it to the least of my brethren you did it to me. These words were foremost in my mind, which I thought found fruition, when I as a member of the SSVP, I, derived solace in reaching out to bring solace to the least of my brethren.  I could do these charitable works only through the help of my SSVP brethren. Here I was wrong and my wife Daphne who attended daily, the Eucharistic celebration enlightened me to do likewise. I heeded her advice and started going for the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Lo and behold there was a remarkable change since I not only celebrated daily Maundy Thursday, receiving Jesus as nourishment for my body and soul but also Good Friday breaking myself for others after attending the Eucharistic Celebration. Jesus instituted the Eucharist so that He might continue to abide in me daily and that I might partake in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The memorial of the Eucharist is not merely a recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for us. The Eucharist is SACRIFICE, THANKSGIVING, MEMORIAL AND PRESENCE (CCC 1356-1372). We believe that in the Eucharist Jesus Christ is present ‘Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, truly and really and substantially.

Saints speak about The Eucharist. The Eucharist was at the center of the Life of the Young Italian Blessed Carlos Acutes who succumbed on October 12, 2006 at a young age of 15 years to leukemia. His words, ”The More Eucharist we receive the more we will become like Jesus, so that on Earth we will have a foretaste of Heaven, and the Eucharist is the High way to Heaven,” keep resounding in my heart. St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote, “Since Christ Himself has said, “This is My Body”, who shall dare to doubt that it is His Body.” I quote St. John Marie Vianney, “I throw myself at the foot of the Tabernacle like a dog at the foot of His Master.” Words of St. Angela of Foligno, “If we paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s Love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.” St. Theresa of Avila, “He realizes that we are weak and knows that the laborers must be nourished with such food “referring to the Eucharist.

Where do we hear about the Eucharist in the Bible: John 6:51-58, “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This Bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Very truly I tell you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood you have no life in you. My Flesh is real food and my Blood is real drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Whoever feeds on this Bread will live forever. Jesus performed two miracles of multiplying the Bread as narrated in the Gospels of MT. 14:13-21, MK 6: 30-44, LK. 9:10-17 and JN.6:1-13. These miracles of the multiplication of Bread give us a profound message that ‘Jesus is the living Bread’. We are fed with earthly bread to sustain our bodies but we need to feed ourselves with the daily Eucharist which is the Flesh and Blood of Jesus which will sustain us on our journey. The wedding at Cana Jn. 2:1-11 is replete with the sacramental themes of transformation and transfiguration. The jars of water turned into wine reminds us of the Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. The waters at the wedding in Cana blushed looking at the Master’s Love and turned red into wine which at Maundy Thursday the wine changes into the Master’s Blood shed for all mankind.

What do the Church Fathers say about the Eucharist?

St. Augustine said,” Believe what you see and see what you believe and become what you are the Body of Christ.” When you say ”Amen” you say, ”Yes I believe this is the Body and Blood of Christ and that I will be the body of Christ to others.”  St. Thomas Aquinas, ” The Eucharist is the sacrament of love: It signifies love, it produces love.” St. Ignatius of Antioch, “I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ who was the seed of David, and for the drink I desire the Blood, which is Love incorruptible.”

Eucharistic Ecclesiology (Theology): Nikolai Nikolayevich Afanasiev a Russian and an Eastern Orthodox theologian (1893 -1966) who was in the Russian army and later became a Priest has done remarkable work to develop Eucharistic Theology. According to him the celebration of the Eucharist has two components: cultic and caritative (charitable in nature). The cultic dimension is seen in the command of Jesus to do this in His memory which He gave on Maundy Thursday while washing the feet of His Apostles (Jn. 13:1-17) which is an important service whose climax was on Good Friday. Jesus’ supreme act of self-giving done on Good Friday alone can clarify the meaning of Maundy Thursday. Both these are complementary of each other. Without Maundy Thursday, Good Friday would not make sense. Eucharist instils in us the spirit of service under the grace of Christ and reunites in it the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Eucharistic theology developed by Afanasie’s re-invention of the Ignatian theology had a great impact on modern theology and especially the Second Vatican Council.

Eucharistic Miracles have occurred throughout the History of Catholicism. A Eucharistic Miracle involves the Body and Blood of the Eucharist taking on the biological qualities of Christ’s Blood. Lanciano, in Italy in the 8th century a priest expressed doubts about Jesus’ actual presence in the Eucharist. When he recited the words of Consecration at Mass, the wine and the bread turned into real human blood and flesh. The Miracle of Bolsena – Orvieto, Italy (1236) the Celebrant Priest who doubted the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist experienced, the host began bleeding into the alter cloth. This cloth is on display even till this day. Santarem, Portugal 13 century a woman who was distressed with her unfaithful husband went to a sorceress. She was asked to get the Consecrated Host. The host started bleeding as she was leaving the Church. Other Churches where Eucharistic Miracles have taken place are Betania, Venezuela (1991), Chirattakonam, India (2001), Textla Mexico (2006), Legnica, Poland in 2013.

Transubstantiation: according to the teaching of the Church is the change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and the wine into the Blood of Christ which is brought about by the Eucharistic Prayer. However, the outward characteristics of bread and wine remain unaltered.

To sum up in the words of St. John Chrysostom, “You see the LORD sacrificed, and laid upon the altar, and the priest standing and praying over the victim, and all the worshippers empurpled with the Precious Blood …. Oh! What a Marvel! What Love of God for man! He sits on high with the Father is at that hour held in the Hands of all, and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him.  The words of Fr. Padre Pio, “It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun than without the Holy Mass. At times during the Mass I am consumed by the fire of Divine Love.” While drawing inspiration from the Word of God, Theologians, Saints and Eucharistic Miracles the ultimate response to our proximity with the Lord in receiving His Body and Blood during Holy Mass will stem from our conviction and faith.

– Terence D’Souza