The Church which Christ created has been an integral part of our human history for two thousand years and, during that period of time, it has experienced many changes. Throughout its existence, however, the basic elements of the Church have remained intact and virtually unchanged since its institution. The major element which has continued to remain central to, and at the heart of, the life of the Church is the Eucharist.
Many theologians agree that any discussion with regard to the precise nature of the Eucharist can give rise to several questions. But, at all times we must remember that there are three related core facts concerning the Eucharist i.e. The Eucharist is Christ becoming present, Christ sacrificing and being sacrificed, and Christ nourishing.
Church tradition tells us that it is an undoubted fact that in the Eucharist the risen Christ becomes present for us in his totality. By the power of God, through the ministry of the priest who acts in the person of Christ, the substance (What makes bread to be bread and wine to be wine) or inner basic reality of bread and wine is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. The Council of Trent explained "In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained."
As well as being present in his totality within the Eucharist, Christ is also present for us as a sacrifice. St. Thomas Aquinas taught us "The making of this sacrament (the Eucharist) is a sacrifice," and since Christ is present in the substance of the sacrament then he is present as a sacrifice, as well as its priest. In the Eucharist the Last Supper, Calvary, and the Mass are one sacrifice in the sense that the priest, the gift and love are one and the same in all three. The love is demonstrated in the nourishment Christ gives us through this sacrament since it is through this sacrament that Christ keeps the great promise that he made to all of us. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. He ... Remains in me and I in Him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." (Jn. 6:54,56,57)
One of the most unique facts about the Eucharist is that, whereas the other sacraments were instituted by Christ, the Eucharist is in reality Christ and the sacrament of His unconditional love for us. He associates that unconditional love for us with the love-gift he gave of Himself to His heavenly Father in the Passion, Death and Eucharist. When this type of love is demonstrated to us we are encouraged to love, and our best response to the love shown by Christ in the Eucharist is to develop within ourselves a practical, Eucharist-linked love of God and others. Only by demonstrating such love can we fully partake in the spiritually nourishing food that Christ has prepared for us in this sacrament. However, not everyone can partake for it is available only to those who believe in the teachings of the Church, has been validly baptised, and lives a life in keeping with the ideals taught by Jesus.
The second Eucharistic element is, of course, the wine of the grape and excludes juices extracted and prepared from any other fruits, as well as artificial wines even if their chemical constitution id identical with the genuine juice of the grape. Once again this criterium is based upon the example and command given by Christ at the Last Supper. As a faithful Jew there is no doubt that Jesus obeyed the Passover requirement that the head of the family passed around the "Cup of Benediction" containing the wine of grapes. At the same time he certainly converted the natural wine into His blood, and He declared that He would not drink of the "fruit of the vine" from that moment. Our Catholic Church is aware of no other tradition and in this we have always been in agreement with the Eastern Church. There is, however, one minor prescription with regard to the wine and that is, a little water should be added to the wine before the Consecration. This is a very old law of the Church that may represent the ancient Roman and Jewish custom of mixing water with their wines. Some Church fathers, including Irenaeus and Cyprian, say it represents the flowing of blood and water from the side of the Crucified Christ, and the intimate union of the faithful with Christ.
Christ did not consecrate the bread and wine simply by His presence but by pronouncing the words of Institution: "This is my Body ... this is my Blood," and by the addition of "Do this for a commemoration of me," Christ commanded the apostles to follow the example He set. The Church believes, therefore, that words of Institution constitute the only and wholly adequate form of the Eucharist. John Chrysostom, a Father of the Church, taught us that the "Divine words of the Redeemer contain the full and entire force of transubstantiation."
The doctrine of the Church regarding the effects, or the fruits, of Holy Communion centres around two themes i.e. (a) the union with Christ by love and (b) the spiritual repast of the soul. When considering the first of these themes we should remember that it was Christ who personally designated the idea that communion is a union of love by telling us, "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them" (Jn 6:56). The effect of the sacrament worthily received is, therefore, a foretaste of Heaven, the anticipation and pledge of our future union with God by love. Through worthy participation in the Eucharist we become members of the "Communion of Saints" which is not merely a union by faith and grace, but a real union that is mysteriously constituted, maintained and guaranteed by participating in this sacrifice that Christ made.
In the case of infants Holy Communion is not necessary to salvation since they have not yet attained the use of reason. However, it is prescribed for adults by the law of the Church and also by Divine Command i.e "This is the bread that comes down from Heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die." (Jn. 6:50) The Eucharist is a relatively and morally necessary means to salvation in the sense that no adult can long sustain his spiritual life who neglects on principle to approach Holy Communion. It is a view that is supported by the solemn and earnest words of Christ when he promised the Eucharist as the spiritual food and medicine of our souls. , and by the very nature of the sacrament.
The dogmatic interest which attaches to the Minister of Administration or Distribution is not so great because, Eucharist being a permanent sacrament, any communicant who is correctly prepared to receive the Eucharist validly can do so from the hand of a priest, or layman, or woman. It is clear from this that in this matter of administration the Church alone has the right to decide and the regulations regarding the communion rite may vary according to circumstances prevailing at any time. The priest possessing the Divine and Ecclesiastical right to the dispensation of the sacrament, no one else can do so without the permission of the bishop or priest.
The Sacraments <br />of <br />Initiation<br />Presented By: Jim Woods<br />1<br />
Institution of Eucharist<br />"O Holy banquet, in which Christ is received, the memorial of his Passion is celebrated, mind and heart are filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is to us." (Antiphon on the Eucharist, St. Thomas Aquinas.)<br />3<br />
Eucharist Facts<br />There are three related core facts i.e. The Eucharist is <br />Christ becoming present, <br />Christ sacrificing and being sacrificed, and <br />Christ nourishing.<br />4<br />
5<br />"In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained."<br />
6<br />"The making of this sacrament is a sacrifice,"<br />
The Necessity of Eucharist<br />"This is the bread that comes down from Heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die." <br />(Jn. 6:50)<br />14<br />
15<br />"So live that you may receive every day."<br />
Ministry and Reception<br />"no one but the priest, regularly ordained according to the keys of the Church, has the power of consecrating this sacrament.“<br />(4th Council of Lateran, 1215)<br />16<br />