Friday, March 15, 2013

Rome is Where the Heart is: The Eucharist (Food for the Journey)

The Eucharist (Food for the journey) The Eucharist is - as the Church teaches us - the "source and summit of the Christian life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1324). And why is this? It is because The Eucharist which we receive at Mass is Jesus Christ himself; it is Jesus Christ in body, blood, soul and divinity.  

The Sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus Christ himself. At the Last Supper, the final meal Christ shared with His most beloved, He left for them the means in which Christ would be physically present in the world until the end of time. 

"The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body..." – Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1362

"In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1363

"… When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. 'As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.'" - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1364 

The Eucharist makes present Christ's sacrifice on the cross because, as Christ said himself as he took bread and gave thanks, "This is my body, given for you..." (Luke 22:19). Christ speaks of the same body (flesh) in John 6 where he says: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). The sacrifice of Calvary and the sacrifice of the Mass are one and the same sacrifice; the manner in which they are offered is alone different. 

The Mass, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, is an essential part of Catholic life. Without the Mass there is no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist there is no Jesus Christ. The instruction that Jesus gave us at the Last Supper “…Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), “… does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1341). 

The expectations of Catholics regarding the importance of weekly Mass attendance and receiving the Eucharist are outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2041 to 2043) and are summarised this way: 

The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honouring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days. 

The second precept ("You shall confess your sins at least once a year") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness. 

The third precept ("You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and centre of the Christian liturgy. 

One must be in a state of grace in order to receive the Eucharist, that is we must not have any unconfessed Mortal Sin within us when we receive the Eucharist. This has long been the teaching and sacred tradition of the Church and founded in the sacred scriptures; the Eucharist is participation in Christ's body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16) and to receive the bread and the wine in an unworthy manner is to profane against the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). 

"For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh." - St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66 (110-165AD) 

To receive the Eucharist while not in a state of grace is a Mortal Sin, as it is also a Mortal Sin to deliberately not attend Mass. 

“Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1415 

"The Sunday* Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2181 

*Note: Attending the Saturday evening/vigil Mass fulfils one’s Sunday obligations. 

Why the seriousness of this matter in particular? Apart from being food for the journey through which grace is conferred to us, the Eucharist allows us to be physically united with Christ; we become walking tabernacles of our Lord and so therefore we must walk and grow in holiness to be the vessels that give witness to Christ to the world. The Eucharist additionally prepares us for Eternal Life. In the same way we must be in a state of grace to receive Christ through the Eucharist, we must be in a state of grace – without blemish or mar – in order to be united with Christ in Heavenly glory. 

“Having learn these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ; and that of this David sung of old, saying, And bread strengtheneth man's heart, to make his face to shine with oil, 'strengthen thou thine heart,' by partaking thereof as spiritual, and ‘make the face of thy soul to shine.’" - Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XXII:8 (c. A.D. 350)

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