What is the Holy Eucharist?
The Holy Eucharist is a sacrament and a sacrifice. In the Holy Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received.
(a) The whole Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. We use the words “really, truly, and substantially” to describe Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist in order to distinguish Our Lord’s teaching from that of mere men who falsely teach that the Holy Eucharist is only a sign or figure of Christ, or that He is present only by His power.
(b) All Christians, with but few minor exceptions, held the true doctrine of the Real Presence from the time of Christ until the Protestant Revolution in the sixteenth century.
(c) The word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving.”
When did Christ institute the Holy Eucharist?
Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the night before He died.
(a) About a year before the Last Supper Our Lord promised to give us the Holy Eucharist. This promise is related in the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. The fulfillment of this promise took place at the Last Supper.
I: The Promise
“‘I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert, and have died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that if anyone eat of it he will not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’
“The Jews on that account argued with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
“Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me. This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever”‘ (John 6:48-59).
II: The Institution
“And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke. and gave it to his disciples, and said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ And taking a cup, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ’All of you drink of this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins”‘ (Matthew 26:26-28).
“And while they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessing it, he broke and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And taking a cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it; and he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many”‘ (Mark 14:22-24).
“And having taken bread, he gave thanks and broke, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In like manner he took also the cup after the supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which shall be shed for you”‘ (Luke 22:19-20).
“For I myself have received from the Lord (what I also delivered to you), that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks broke, and said, ‘This is my body which shall be given up for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In like manner also the cup, after he had supped, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.’ Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the cup; for he who eats and drinks unworthily, without distinguishing the body, eats and drinks judgmentto himself” (I Corinthians 11:23-29).
Who were present when Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist?
When Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist the apostles were present.
“Now when evening arrived, he reclined at table with the twelve disciples” (Matthew 26:20).
“Now when evening arrived, he came with the Twelve” (Mark 14:17).
“And when the hour had come, he reclined at table, and the twelve apostles with him” (Luke 22:14).
How did Christ institute the Holy Eucharist?
Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist in this way: He took bread, blessed and broke it, and giving it to His apostles, said: “Take and eat; this is My body;” then He took a cup of wine, blessed it, and giving it to them, said: “All of you drink of this; for this is My blood of the new covenant which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins;” finally, He gave His apostles the commission: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
What happened when Our Lord said: “This is My body . . . this is My blood”?
When Our Lord said, “This is My body,” the entire substance of the bread was changed into His body; and when He said, “This is My blood,” the entire substance of the wine was changed into His blood.
(a) Christ could not have used clearer, more explicit words than “This is My body.” He did not say, “This is a sign of My body,” or “This represents My body,” but, “This is My body.” Catholics take Christ at His word because He is the omnipotent God. On His word they know that the Holy Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.
See Scripture, question 344, Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20; I Corinthians 11:23-29.
Did anything of the bread and wine remain after their substance had been changed into Our Lord’s body and blood?
After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into Our Lord’s body and blood, there remained only the appearances of bread and wine.
(a) Because the appearances of bread and wine remain in the Holy Eucharist, we cannot see Christ with our bodily eyes in this sacrament.
We do see Him, however, with the eyes of faith. Our bodily eyes, moreover, do not deceive us when they see the appearances of bread and wine for these appearances really remain after the Consecration of the Mass.
What do we mean by the appearances of bread and wine?
By the appearances of bread and wine we mean their color, taste, weight, shape, and whatever else appears to the senses.
What is the change of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ called?
The change of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is called Transubstantiation.
Is Jesus Christ whole and entire both under the appearances of bread and under the appearances of wine?
Jesus Christ is whole and entire both under the appearances of bread and under the appearances of wine.
(a) We know that Christ is whole and entire under both appearances because, “Christ having risen from the dead, dies now no more” (Romans
6:9). Because Christ cannot die, His blood must remain united always to His body, and His soul to both. The divinity of Christ, moreover,
always remains united to His body and blood and soul because He is God made man.
(b) The whole Christ is present under each part of the sacred appearances and remains present as long as the sacred appearances remain.
See Scripture, question 344, Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24. Luke 22:19-20: I Corinthians 11:23-29.
How was Our Lord able to change bread and wine into His body and blood?
Our Lord was able to change bread and wine into His body and blood by His almighty power.
(a) God, who created all things from nothing, who fed the five thousand with five loaves, who changed water into wine instantaneously, who raised the dead to life, can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Although the Holy Eucharist is a great mystery, and consequently beyond human understanding, the principles of sound reason can show that this great gift is not impossible by the power of God.
“And looking upon them, Jesus said to them, ‘With men this is impossible but with God all things are possible”‘ (Matthew 19:26).
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
Does this change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continue to be made in the Church?
This change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ continues to be made in the Church by Jesus Christ, through the ministry of His priests.
(a) Only ordained priests have the power of changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. When they consecrate, they act in
the person of Christ, through the power received in the sacrament of Holy Orders.
SCRIPTURE: See Scripture, question 344, Luke 22:19-20; I Corinthians 11:23-29.
When did Christ give His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood?
Christ gave His priests the power to change bread and wine into His body and blood when He made the apostles priests at the Last Supper by
saying to them: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
How do priests exercise their power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ?
Priests exercise their power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ by repeating at the Consecration of the Mass the words
of Christ: “This is My body . . . this is My blood.”
Why does Christ give us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist?
Christ gives us His own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist: first, to be offered as a sacrifice commemorating and renewing for all time the
sacrifice of the cross; second, to be received by the faithful in Holy Communion; third, to remain ever on our altars as the proof of His love
for us, and to be worshipped by us.
IMPORTANT TRUTHS ABOUT THE HOLY EUCHARIST
When we love someone very much, we desire to be constantly in his company Our Divine Lord had an immeasurable love for every member of
the human race, and gave proof of this by shedding His blood for the salvation of all mankind. However, after His task on earth was completed, He was destined to ascend into heaven to take His place at the right hand of His Father; and so it would seem that He could no longer associate intimately with men. But His love and power devised a means whereby He could still remain on earth, not merely in one place but in every church, and thus be the intimate companion of every one of His faithful followers. This means is the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, wherein Our Lord remains truly present under the appearances of bread and wine.
The Catholic doctrine of the Holy Eucharist contains many mysteries. It is beyond our comprehension how the same living Christ who is in heaven should also be on earth, in every place where the Holy Eucharist is consecrated. We cannot understand how the body of our Savior with its full stature can be present beneath the small host. We cannot attempt to explain how our Divine Redeemer can be present, whole and entire, in the smallest portions of the consecrated species of bread and wine, although we have some resemblance to this miracle in the presence of our entire soul in every portion of our body. But we have the statement of Our Lord Himself for the truth of these mysteries and hence it is our duty to believe them without hesitation. When Our Savior first announced the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist to His followers, some of them would not believe. They said: “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it ?” (John, 6, 62), and some of them even left Him forever.
Today there are many persons in the world who say that the doctrine of the Real Presence is too hard to believe, and claim that the Eucharist is only bread and wine representing Christ. But Catholics accept the words of Our Lord Himself who said: “This is my body . . . this is my blood,” and adore Him as truly present in the Holy Eucharist.
The Holy Eucharist is the very center of Catholic worship, the heart of Catholic life. Because the Church believes that the Son of God is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, she erects beautiful cathedrals and adorns them with exquisite sculpture and priceless paintings. The most magnificent liturgical ceremonies of the Catholic Church are directed toward honoring the King of kings, who for the love of mankind dwells beneath the appearances of bread and wine. Music and lights and incense and flowers the Church uses lavishly in her desire to show fitting honor to the Son of God, dwelling in our midst. Twice a year the Church celebrates in a special manner the great privilege of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. On Holy Thursday the Church recalls to our minds the institution of the Blessed Sacrament by Our Divine Lord on the night before His death. But since our predominant sentiment in Holy Week is sorrow, the Church has assigned another day, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, to be the Feast of Corpus Christi, when with sentiments of unrestrained joy we thank Our Savior for the wonderful gift of the Holy Eucharist. Moreover, it is customary to have annually in every parish church the Forty Hours’ Devotion, when Our Lord is enthroned in the monstrance for a period of almost three days.
The purpose of Eucharistic Congresses, bringing together Catholics from all parts of the earth, is to give glory and praise to Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Every loyal Catholic should be in harmony with the Church in expressing his devotion toward the Holy Eucharist in a fitting manner. The first sentiment of our hearts toward Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament should be profound adoration, for even in His human nature Jesus Christ is a divine person, worthy of the highest form of worship. Our next sentiment should be ardent love. It was out of love for us that He established this wondrous sacrament; in return He asks our love. We can testify our love for the Holy Eucharist in many ways- Mass, Holy Communion, visits to Our Lord in the tabernacle. Whenever we enter a church in which the Blessed Sacrament is kept our first thought should be: “Our loving Lord is present here just as truly as He was present in the little house of Nazareth when He dwelt on earth nineteen centuries ago.”
RESOLUTION: Resolve to learn and to use some short prayers in honor of the Holy Eucharist, such as: “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, and praise and all thanksgiving be every moment shine” and “May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world even to the end of time. Amen.”
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