You see it every Sunday. Depending on your circumstances, you may see it even more often throughout the week. You watch the priest lift the wafer and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sin of the world.”
You may have seen this act and heard the words your entire life. However, have you ever stopped to consider what they mean?
When Christians ask, “What is Holy Eucharist?” they’re asking a fundamental question of Catholic life and worship. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” We’ll explore why that’s the case in the guide below.
What is Holy Eucharist? The Body of Our Lord
Holy Eucharist is so central to Catholic life is because it is Christ’s own Body and Blood. In the Eucharist, Catholics receive Christ in a more intimate way than any other means could provide.
Does this mean that Catholics literally consume the Body and Blood of Christ in Mass? That’s precisely what it means.
In John 6, Jesus gives the lengthiest Eucharistic discourse in the Gospels. What he said was difficult for hearers then and now.
“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” (John 6: 53-54)
Holy Eucharist Church History
From the Church’s earliest days, the Eucharist remained the central act of worship for Christians. In his First Apology, Justin Martyr articulates what the Church teaches about this sacrificial meal in the second century.
According to Justin, “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but . . . we have been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word . .. is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
This belief remained universal throughout the Church, persisting in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches when they split from Rome. In the Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas (known as the Angelic Doctor) formed an explanation of how this change comes to pass.
This explanation utilized the best of Aristotle’s philosophy and the wisdom of the Church Fathers. This theory became the dogma of transubstantiation, which the Church retains to this day.
Holy Eucharist in Individual Life
Several Catholic groups encourage individuals to take initiative of their individual spirituality. All such groups, like the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, encourage individuals to receive communion frequently. If you live near your parish, consider attending daily Mass.
Take Spiritual Initiative
The best way to understand “What is Holy Eucharist” is to experience it. However, prepare yourself properly to encounter Christ. Start by going to confession and increasing your prayer life, then attending Mass..
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