THE HOLY EUCHARIST

Jesus Christ in order to continue his saving mission on Earth, instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at the time of His Last Supper. Through this, He gave us his body and blood as the eternal bread that promises everlasting life.  The very word “Eucharist” expresses fundamental insights into the nature of the action done in the sacrament. Derived from the Greek word, ‘Eucharistia’, it means thanksgiving. The Church celebrates the Eucharist by virtue of the authority and the commission expressly given to her by Jesus himself.

The Eucharist embraces two-fold aspects of Sacrament and Sacrifice. Under the visible form of a sacred meal is contained the true sacrificial presence of our Saviour. Thus, the Holy Eucharist is unique in several ways and cannot be put on the same level as the other sacraments. First, while all sacraments contain the sanctifying grace, the Eucharist promises the very author of this grace i.e., Christ Himself. Second, all the other sacraments can be seen as preparing for and leading up towards the Eucharist. Third, this Sacrament is always bound up with the sacrifice of the Church, around which her whole life revolves. Pope Leo XIII even identified it with the soul of the Church.

If salvation is actualized by participating in the Paschal mysteries of Christ, then the Eucharist is the ultimate actualization of this mystery in the world today. Therefore, whoever participates in the Holy Eucharist, enters into the perfect fulfilment of the salvific activity of the Eucharist and thus, of the Church. If Christ is the sacrament of God and Church is the sacrament of Christ, then it would be proper to call Eucharist as the sacrament of the Church and the sacrament of unity and love.

In the doctrine of the Eucharist, it is inevitably mentioned that Jesus Christ himself instituted this sacrament, and by the words, “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), He commissioned the Church with the duty of continuing this to the end of the world. Each Holy Mass invites us to follow the ideals of the communion which the Acts of the Apostles exhibits as a model for the Church in every age. Love is mutual and transformative. The love manifested by Jesus in the Holy Eucharist by being really present in it till the end of the world, is to be acknowledged and returned. The person filled with this love is called to love his neighbour in the model Jesus showed us. This makes him go beyond his boundaries and become other oriented.

Also, the Holy Eucharist is the perfect sacrifice offered to the Father. The consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is the sacramental representation of the sacrifice on the Cross. It presents the offering Christ made once for all on behalf of humankind on Calvary. Jesus characterizes his whole person in its somatic framework, as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh seen in the book of Isaiah. The priest by his sacerdotal power, offers the Holy Mass as a minister and representative of the Church. Thus, the Church offers this oblation and in turn is offered. The Church, being the mystical body of Christ, makes a perfect communion in the sacrificial act. By the action of the Holy Spirit, the celebrating community transcends into a sacrificial community.

The Holy Eucharist promises us a spiritual and moral union with Christ. This is clear from the words of Jesus, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (Jn 6:56). It sustains and increases the spiritual life of the soul. This sacrifice remits us of our sins. It also pledges the future glory and everlasting joy that we are looking forward. The Passover meal was a memorial of past deliverance, sign of present favour and pledge of future redemption. So also, is Eucharist a promise of the heavenly banquet that we are going to share in eternal life. Hence, it is a sacrament of Hope.

Therefore, certain things are to be kept in mind. It is necessary that the recipients be in a state of grace and free from mortal sins. The disposition of the person is an essential element in subjective reception of the grace. Though the sacrament in itself by the work of Christ, bestows grace upon the community and remits their sins, one’s personal openness makes the experience meaningful. If Eucharist was the final gift of Jesus’ love for us, celebrating and participating in the Eucharist should be the finest moments of our expression of love towards Jesus.

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