There is so much to be said about the Eucharist. It is Christ’s supreme gift of Himself to mankind. We can never truly thank God enough for this new Passover meal, which replaces an ordinary sacrificed lamb with The Lamb of God, Jesus Himself. It is the true food that replaces the forbidden fruit.
What Is It?
So, what is the Eucharist? Is it merely a symbol of Christ? NO. It is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. After the consecration, there is no longer bread and wine on the altar; instead, it has been changed into the risen Christ, in every way. Think about what this means for a second. After we consume the Eucharist, we have the blood of Christ flowing through our veins! In the Old Testament, you had to be descended from kings (that’s what all of those genealogies are about!) to be related to a king. But now, we are the royal sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, through the simple act of receiving His Precious Body and Blood in Holy Communion! The question then becomes, of course, after Holy Communion, do we act like princes and princesses in the Kingdom of God, or do we just go about our business as if nothing has changed?
Jesus promised us in Matthew 28:20 that He would be with us until the end of the world, and the Eucharist is the sacramental way in which He does that. Jesus is also present to us in the written Word of God, and again where two or more are present in His Name. But the Eucharist is the physical way that He abides in us, and we in Him (John 6:56). Most of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters proudly proclaim that their communion service is just a symbol of “remembering” the Last Supper, but in the Catholic world, that is a very pale reflection of what actually happened at the original Last Supper. The word “remembrance” in Greek that the New Testament used is anamnesis, which does not just mean recalling a past event; rather, it means a memorial sacrifice. This term is used in the Old Testament several times (Numbers 10:10, Leviticus 24:7) to denote a memorial sacrifice, and so this is how Jesus meant it be–He would be the memorial sacrifice in the new Passover meal, and we are do this continually to perpetuate the sacrifice through the generations.
But, they say, you can’t see any difference after the consecration, and you can’t taste any difference in the consecrated host, so therefore, nothing happened on the altar! But to this Catholics say, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). No one can see their soul either, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t have one. We take it on faith that our body does have a soul, even though we can’t see what it actually looks like. To everyone, we appear to be what our bodies look like. The Eucharist is like that: it appears to be just a piece of bread, when it is much more.
Overcoming The Forbidden Fruit
The Eucharist is God’s way of overcoming how mankind fell in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which allowed death to enter the world. God kicked them out of the Garden before they could eat the fruit from the Tree of Life and live forever. Jesus tells us in John 6:51-54 that he who eats His flesh and drinks His blood shall live forever. The wooden cross, then, becomes the New Testament Tree of Life, and the fruit from that tree is the flesh and blood of Christ. The disobedience problem caused by the original Adam is now fixed through the obedience from the new Adam, Christ, in exactly the same way: by eating.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan told two lies, which are now overcome by the Eucharist:
Satan: “If you eat the fruit from this tree, you shall not die” (lie)
Jesus: “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall live forever” (truth)
Satan: “If you eat the fruit from this tree, you shall be like God” (lie)
Jesus: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in Him” (truth)
Some accuse Catholics of “re-sacrificing” Christ on the altar at every Mass, and say, therefore, the Mass is a heresy, because Christ died once for our sins, not many times. But this accusation is false. Through time and space, the one and only sacrifice of Christ is made present daily at each Mass for each generation of worshipers. It’s analagous to watching a movie multiple times that was made before we were born–the actors are not getting together to do the acting all over again. Instead, their original acting is re-presented to us over and over again through DVDs or on TV. The Eucharist is also like the sunrise each morning. It’s not a new sun that appears to us each morning. It’s the same old sun that’s been there all along, but we couldn’t see it. Each sunrise re-presents the healing rays of sunlight to the earth every day, just like the Eucharist re-presents daily the healing bounty of Christ’s Precious Body and Blood to us.
St. Paul Explains
St. Paul tells us even more about the Eucharist, in 1 Corinthians 10:16-20, where he says that we are participating in the actual body and blood of Christ when we partake of Communion. He even compares the Eucharist to pagan and Jewish sacrifices here, to inform us that Holy Communion is indeed a sacrifice, and not just a remembrance of a past event. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, Paul tells us that the new covenant is the cup of blood that we drink, not a “symbol” of his blood. He also tells us that some who received Communion unworthily got sick and died, which means that the Eucharist is the “food indeed” (not a symbol of food) from John 6:55. After all, you can’t commune with a mere symbol of anything, much less the Lord. Try communing with nature by sitting next to a plastic plant at a doctor’s office. Try communing with your spouse by kissing a picture of him/her. Try communing with a real banana by eating a plastic one instead, and see if that is “food indeed”! No, if you want to commune with something (“to commune with” means to be in a state of heightened, intimate receptivity), you have to commune with the real item, not a symbol of it.
Becoming Like Mary
It’s important to remember that after we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, we are like the Blessed Virgin Mary, who also had Jesus inside of her. And while she was created Immaculate, we, like her, also need to be in a state of grace when we receive Jesus, so that we won’t get sick and die like they did in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30. But more important than that, we should never offend our Lord by being in a state of mortal sin, especially when we commune with Him physically and spiritually in the Eucharist.
Angels and Saints
One of the things that visionaries have told us is that the angels and the Communion of Saints are present at the altar during Communion, adoring Jesus. We should place our minds and spirits in their presence, especially during our reception of Communion. The really spectacular thing to remember is that the saints and angels continue to adore Christ in the Eucharist after Communion, but not just on the altar. After we receive Jesus, the saints and angels continue to adore Him in us, the new living tabernacles of Christ, until the host is digested. This means that we should never run out of Mass early, as we are personally surrounded by saints and angels for at least fifteen minutes after receiving Holy Communion!
Some people say that John 6 is not to be taken literally, that it’s just a parable. But there are no parables in John! And besides, even if John 6 were a parable, we know from Mark 4:34 that Jesus explained all parables to His disciples in private, but in John 6:66, He lets them walk away with no explanation. Still others compare John 6 to when Jesus symbolically said “I am the vine,” and “I am the door.” But in those two instances, none of His followers ever said, “How can this man make Himself into a door or a vine?” like they did in John 6:52. Why? Because He was speaking literally in John 6, not figuratively. We have the eyewitness account to prove it in John 6: 60! If the Jewish people there at the time that heard Him understood Him to be speaking literally, who are we to say otherwise 2,000 years later?
Some people mistakenly think that Jesus is speaking symbolically in John 6 because of John 6:63:
“It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Here Jesus speaks of “the flesh,” whereas in John 6:51-56 He referred four times to the necessity of eating “my flesh,” so obviously in John 6:63 he is referring to the flesh of mankind, not His flesh. Otherwise, He would be saying that His flesh is useless, which would negate everything He just said about the necessity of eating His flesh. The fact that He says that His words about the Eucharist are “spirit and life” means that the Eucharist is sacramental–spiritual food in physical form which gives life to our soul. The Eucharist is foretold as a pure offering in Malachi 1:11, which says: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.”
“A Hard Saying”
In the Bible, it was forbidden to drink blood, because the Jews knew that the life of an animal or person was in the blood. This is why His followers took so much offense at John 6. But if the life is in the blood, what better way to have eternal life than to drink the blood of Christ? And in the Bible, to eat someone’s flesh merited a huge punishment, as in Leviticus. This is another reason that His disciple found John 6 to be a “hard saying,” something they would not say if it were all just “symbolic.”
The Eucharist is disguised as an ordinary piece of bread just like God was disguised as an ordinary man in the form of Christ. The Jews and Romans would never have murdered Jesus if they had seen Him at the Transfiguration, in all of His glory. We humans, who only see the Eucharist with our eyes, would fall down on our knees in total adoration of the Eucharist if we could see Him as He truly is: God in the flesh! It is our daily (“epiousios” in Greek, or “super-substantial”) bread that we pray for in the “Our Father” and partake of in daily Mass–Daily supernatural food for our journey (like the manna was for the Jews) in this arid desert of secularism!
May we all find Jesus in the Eucharist, like his disciples did while partaking of the Eucharist at Emmaus!