In the famous vision of St. John Bosco (depicted in the painting that is the background for this blog), the Catholic Church is seen as a great boat on stormy seas. On all sides it is being attacked by enemies, fignting against the great ship with an array of weapons, ranging from actual armaments such as cannons, to things like books and pamphlets. Indeed, in the world today we see both actual physical violence, and intellectual and psychological weaponry employed in the assault on Catholics and the Church. However, the Pope steers the Barque of Peter toward two giant columns emerging from the stormy sea. The first and larger column has above it a great Eucharistic Host, and a sign saying "Salus Credentium". The second, smaller column has a statue of the Blessed Virgin surmounting it, with the inscription, "Auxilium Christianorum." It is when the Church is safely moored to these two columns that the sea becomes calm and She is victorious over her enemies.
By my recent series of articles on the Blessed Virgin Mary, I hope I helped strengthen that anchor to the smaller pillar, "The Help of Christians." Through my writings on the Blessed Sacrament, I hope to help us acheive a greater knowledge of, and love for, the Eucharist--truly, "The Salvation of the Faithful." And it is no exaggeration to refer to the Eucharist as our salvation, for truly, hidden under the appearances of Bread and Wine is our Saviour, truly present to us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is through our act of Holy Communion that we are able to participate in His once-for-all Death on Calvary and appropriate to ourselves the Grace of Redemption which He purchased for us. This is the sacrifice and sacrament of the New Covenant, by which we celebrate with thanksgiving our adoption as Sons and Daughters of God. It is our spiritual Food and Drink, sustaining our souls in sanctifying grace, and making us more like Jesus Himself until we come to inherit the promise of eternal life--as He Himself promised us: "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (John 6:51, NJB).
As such, the Holy Eucharist truly is the source and the summit of the Christian life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 1324-1327) expresses it thus:
The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."In other words, in the Eucharist, we have the foundation and reason for every other aspect of the Church's life, and the goal to which every action and thought should be oriented as Christians, because in the Eucharist, we have Jesus Christ Himself, and the opportunity for the most intimate union with Him possible this side of Heaven.
"The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."
Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.
In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."
The greatest tragedy in the Church, I believe, is that so many either do not realise this great gift, or else they out-and-out deny that it is true. When I was a Pentecostal, the thought that Jesus could be truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the "Lord's Supper", was preposterous, bordering on blasphemous. It seemed an obvious thing that He was being metaphorical at the Last Supper. Communion was only a commemoration of His sacrifice, and, lest its meaning be diminished through over-frequent celebration, Communion services were relegated to once a month, on the first Sunday of the month--unless, of course, something more important was going on that particular Sunday. This did not serve to preserve the meaning of this sacred act, but truly to further diminish whatever meaning remained after the Greatest of Sacraments was stripped of all but a symbolic significance.
As I related in my Eucharistic testimony, once I discovered the truth of the Bible's teaching on the Eucharist, and found that teaching faithfully preserved in the Catholic Church, I hungered intensely to be able to participate at that Table--so much so that despite the questions and the challenges that Catholicism posed to my faith, I pressed on to literally take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
And yet, Protestants aren't the only ones who have a diminished understanding of this Blessed Sacrament. While many of them out and out deny the truth, so many Catholics themselves have never properly learned it, or understood it. Many simply find it too hard to accept and so deny it themselves.
As such, in this series of posts on the Eucharist, I want to emphasise, clarify, and explain as best as I can the glorious truth that Jesus loves us so much that He comes to be with us in this Sacrament--that He longs to unite Himself to us and make us more and more like Him. In the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, we truly can enter into an intimate Communion with our Blessed Lord and Saviour.
Paragraph 1323 of the Catechism states,
"At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us'" (quoting Sacrosanctum Concilium 47).Using this as our jumping-off point, I'll be writing an article dealing with each of the points made: The Eucharist as Jesus' Real Presence; the Eucharist as Sacrifice; the Eucharist as Memorial; the Eucharist as a Sacrament of Love and Unity; the Eucharist as a Vehicle for Grace; and the Eucharist as a Pledge of Future Glory.
(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Sacraments--The Eucharist)