On the Eucharist: Reading "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" (Part 1)

The Eucharist is indelibly marked by the event of the Lord's passion and death, of which it is not only a reminder but the sacramental re-presentation. It is the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down the ages . . .

The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift—however precious—among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work. Nor does it remain confined to the past, since "all that Christ is—all that he did and suffered for all men—participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times. [See Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1085.]"

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord's death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and the work of our redemption is carried out. This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, par. 11)

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is no metaphor or symbol. It is the Christian's holy food that fills us with divine life. John Paul says that the Eucharist "increases within us the gift of his Spirit, already poured out in Baptism and bestowed as a 'seal' in Confirmation."

The Eucharist sustains us now and prepares us for the hereafter.

The Eucharist is a straining towards the goal, a foretaste of the fullness of joy . . . it is in some way the anticipation of heaven . . . In the Eucharist, everything speaks of confident waiting "in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ". Those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness . . .

"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6:54) . . .

With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the "secret" of the resurrection. For this reason Saint Ignatius of Antioch rightly defined the Eucharistic Bread as "a medicine of immortality, an antidote to death." (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, par. 18)

The celebration of the Mass is something that the Church will do until the Lord returns. And since through Eucharist we already "possess eternal life" in the here and now, our reception of it additionally implies that we will live a transformed existence.

St. Augustine once opined that we become what we eat: "At the Eucharist we receive what we are and we become what we receive." John Paul II echoes this.

Proclaiming the death of the Lord "until he comes" (1 Cor 11:26) entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely "Eucharistic". It is this fruit of a transfigured existence and a commitment to transforming the world in accordance with the Gospel which splendidly illustrates the eschatological tension inherent in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the Christian life as a whole: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20)." (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, par. 20)

We are called to grow into our name of Christian. We are called to this transformation . . . to become even more than we were before.

May we receive the Body of Christ that we become His Body—so much so, that when we stretch out our own arms to embrace, serve, and love others, they may, by extension, recognize Christ.

6/22/2011 4:00:00 AM