The Sacrament of the Eucharist


Why does Jesus spend so much time at meals with all sorts of people in Luke’s Gospel?

Luke, who was not an eyewitness to the Jesus events, writes his Gospel around the year AD 85. It was roughly 55 years after the resurrection of Jesus. Most of the eyewitnesses have died, and a new generation of Jesus’ followers want to know how to recognize and experience Jesus in their lives. Luke’s Jesus, consistently pictured as one who loves table fellowship, uses the context of meals to teach and have others experience his image of a loving, all-inclusive God.

Luke includes ten major meal scenes throughout his Gospel. In each meal scene Jesus models some aspect of God’s love, compassion and concern for all, especially the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed. The climax of all these meal scenes is the Last Supper, in which Jesus offers himself completely as food and nourishment for the world. But if one has been paying attention to the way the Gospel unfolds, this should not be
a surprise.

The Gospel, which ends with Jesus sharing a meal with his disciples before his Ascension, also begins with a meal scene. The beginning meal is symbolic and takes some reflection to notice. Jesus, born in a stable, is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. What is usually placed in a manger? Food for the animals. Symbolically, Luke is telling the reader up front that Jesus is food sent by God for all, most especially the poor and outcast, represented in that society by the shepherds. Luke is a master storyteller at work, conveying deep theological meaning in rich, powerful images.

©2007 Liturgical Publications Inc, New Berlin, WI 53151 Used with permission

How is Christ present during our liturgical celebrations?

Matthew’s Gospel ends with Christ’s assurance that he would always be with his community, even to the end of time. From the time of Jesus’ physical departure from our midst, the Christian community has pondered the varied ways that Christ continues to
be present.

In section 7 of the Vatican II document on the liturgy, known as Sacrosanctum Concilium, the council addressed this issue. Starting with the statement that “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in liturgical celebrations,” the document specifies four ways in which Christ is present. Christ is present in the “person of the minister” presiding at the celebration. By extension, Christ is present in all those who minister in a multitude of ministries during the celebration. Christ is present “most of all in the Eucharistic species,” namely the bread and wine.

Christ is present also “in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the scriptures are read.” Lastly, Christ is present in the community who “gathers to pray and sing.”

Our challenge is to attune ourselves to the multiple aspects of Christ’s presence. When we focus solely on Christ’s presence in bread and wine, we miss the richness of his presence in the Word, in the ministers, and in those gathered.

How attuned are you to the various ways that Christ is present when we gather? Reflect on how differently we would react if we took each of these presences as seriously as we have traditionally taken Christ’s presence in the eucharistic species.

©2007 Liturgical Publications Inc, New Berlin, WI 53151 Used with permission

Why is Corpus Christi Sunday now called the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood
of Christ?

Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) as the feast honoring the Eucharistic presence of Christ in the elements of bread and wine became a universal church celebration in 1264, under Pope Urban IV. At the time, so few people felt worthy to receive the Eucharist that in 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council stipulated that people had to receive communion at least once a year.
This came to be known as the Easter duty, since one was obliged to receive communion yearly sometime between the First Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost, a period of over ninety days. At that time, and up to the time of Vatican II (1962-1965), Catholics only shared the host at communion time. The cup was reserved exclusively for the priest to partake.
Vatican II liturgical reforms stressed recapturing the richness and fullness of sacramental symbols, moving away from the diminishment of symbols that had sometimes been prevalent. The cup was reinstated for all, enriching the fullness of the sacramental presence of Christ in the elements of both consecrated bread and wine. So a feast known simply as the Body of Christ is now enriched by renaming it the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. When receiving communion, we are now strongly encouraged to share both in the host and the cup.
Reflect on how sharing communion under both kinds makes our Eucharistic celebration more rich and meaningful.
©2008 Liturgical Publications Inc, New Berlin, WI 53151 Used with permission

Why is St. Pope Pius X, whose feast we celebrate on August 21, referred to as the “Pope of the Eucharist”?

Pope Pius X, pope from 1903-1914, had a great love and devotion to the Eucharist and desired to promote it. Over the years many influences had entered the Catholic world, particularly the attitude that one was not worthy to receive communion. This led many Catholics to refrain from receiving, even on Sundays. Pius X saw this as a distortion of the way Catholics should approach the Eucharist and worked towards changing that attitude.

In 1903, Pius X issued several decrees strongly encouraging all faithful to receive frequently, even daily. In 1910, he lowered the age for receiving first communion from the teenage years to the age of reason, understood to be seven years of age. Now accepted as a common practice, early reception of the Eucharist was a rather radical position to promote during his day.

Pius X also worked diligently to promote and encourage daily Bible reading among Catholics. He established the Pontifical Biblical Commission, still in existence, to promote Bible study and to oversee all matters biblical. Restoring Gregorian chant, codifying church law, and encouraging a pastoral sensitivity to people were other trademarks of his pontificate.

Pius X shunned Vatican pomp and circumstance, wishing to serve the Lord in simplicity. He once observed that “I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor.”

Reflect on the role that Eucharist plays in your life.
©2008 Liturgical Publications Inc, New Berlin, WI 53151 Used with permission

Must I receive both the body and the blood of Christ to receive him fully?

In recent years there has been a renewed interest and practice of receiving the Eucharist under both forms or species, bread and wine. But this is not necessary to receive the eucharistic presence of Christ. The Council of Trent taught that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist begins with the words of consecration and endures as long as the species of bread and wine subsist. Furthermore, Christ is present whole and entire in both species and in all parts of the species. So if the bread is broken the presence of Christ is not divided (CCC 1377). If one receives a larger portion of bread, they do not receive more Christ!
In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, paragraph 281 states, “Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is distributed under both kinds.” Paragraph 282 goes on to remind us that we are not deprived of any grace necessary for salvation when we receive Communion under one form. People who are allergic to wheat may receive just the cup and they gain the same grace and presence as one who receives just the bread. Christ is present fully and completely, whatever the sacramental form we choose.

©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc Used with permission

How do you explain “Real Presence” to children?

The first Communion class is filled with excitement to the point of bursting! They are just awestruck by every new thing they learn about Jesus. Their enthusiasm is contagious as they rattle off the names of the things in church, the vessels and vestments used at Mass and the names of their pastors and priests. Of course, they know Christ can do anything because he’s God. He comes to us in holy Communion because he loves us so much that he wants to be with us. And he comes to us in the form of bread and wine. We really receive him in the Eucharist.
Sometimes it is easier to explain to children than to adults. Their faith and trust in Jesus is not limited by the questions and doubts that often come with the question of how he does it. Rather they focus on the question why, and the answer is something they can easily grasp: love. Christ wants to be with us because he loves us. Nothing is purer in truth or in faith. Not even the theological explanation of transubstantiation, or philosophical reasoning or symbolic references come close. Christ takes on the form of bread and wine to be simple and approachable, so that no one is afraid or turned away. His love for us is complete and total. We try to love him the same way in return. For a child it is simple; for us adults, we keep trying. “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).
©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc   Used with permission

Why can’t everyone who wants to receive Communion, receive Communion at Mass?

Social organizations have all sorts of requirements for membership: dues, academic achievements, professional standings, even a specific national origin. We rarely question them and accept them as a fact of life. The requirements help the group focus on its common interests, purposes and goals. Everyone can’t belong to everything.
The church has a basic requirement for membership and receiving sacraments; it is a relationship with God. We happen to call it faith. Faith allows the church to be one, focused on spreading the good news of Jesus and carrying on his mission of teaching, preaching, healing and forgiving. It is the practice of faith, participating in the work of the church, that makes one worthy to receive Communion. The word itself comes from the Latin word that means sharing.
For non-Catholics, because they do not share in the union of faith, they are excluded from receiving Communion. For Catholics, if guilty of serious sin, they, too, are excluded from the sacrament until they are reconciled, or restored to the mission of the church. Why? Because sin separates us from the work of the church. Communion is the culmination of our union with God and his people, not the beginning point. We receive what we in fact are: the body of Christ-one, holy, Catholic and apostolic.

©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc

Why do we fast before Communion? I know it is an hour, but why was it longer before?

The purpose of the fast is to prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist by focusing our thoughts and attention on our need for God, our desire for communion with him and the importance and sacredness of what we do. People who are sick, advanced in years, or who have medical problems that make fasting difficult, have no obligation to observe it. In other circumstances, people can be given a dispensation from fasting. The fast can be looked at several ways. It makes me think about what I need to do in order to receive Communion, so my preparation begins even before I come to church. It reminds me of my need for the bread of life and cup of salvation to satisfy a spiritual hunger and thirst. It requires of me a small degree of self-discipline, directing my actions and my body to a higher good.
In the past, the fast was longer, for spiritual, cultural and practical reasons. The length of time was shortened to make it easier for more people to receive Communion, and to accommodate a later Mass schedule, made necessary by a growing number of Catholics. Fasting is a spiritual discipline, not a matter of doctrine or dogma. Its purpose is to help us receive the Lord with greater awareness, reverence and love.

©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc

One of my coworkers said that we Catholics believe we kill Christ again when we celebrate the Mass since it is his sacrifice. I know that is not right, but how do we explain it?

We do indeed believe that the Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and we believe that the sacrifice is made present again on the altar. But when it is made present again, it is not to repeat it, but to join ourselves to it. The ritual of the Mass makes the sacrifice of the cross present again. We are joined to the saving work of Christ, not just simply remembering it.

The closest thing we might have in our culture is when a couple saves some wedding cake in the freezer, and on their first anniversary they may watch their wedding video and eat the cake, all to recapture the moment. The Jews celebrate a Seder meal, not to remember the Passover, but to participate in it through the ritual foods, questions, and readings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Mass as the “Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ?” (#1330). To think that we must sacrifice Christ over and over again would negate what he did on Calvary. To celebrate and renew it each day allows us to participate in it. That is the “source and summit” of Christian life.

© 2010 Liturgical Publications Inc Used with permission

When you receive Communion under both kinds, is dipping the host into the cup the correct way to receive the precious blood and if not, why not?

No, this is not the correct way to receive holy Communion. There are specific guidelines that the church gives us for the reception of Communion. The most recent is Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America, which took effect on April 7, 2002. Paragraphs 49–50 address the issues you raise.

Paragraph 49 describes how either the priest or the extraordinary minister of Communion distributes the Eucharist by intinction. Paragraph 50 says, “Communion under either form, bread or wine, must always be given by an ordinary or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.”

When receiving Communion by intinction, the minister distributing Communion dips the host in the precious blood and says, “The Body and Blood of Christ.” The person receiving Communion responds, “Amen,” and receives on the tongue. Because this method limits the option of receiving Communion in the hand, many parishes no longer distribute Communion by means of intinction. Instead they use a full complement of extraordinary ministers of Communion so that Communion can always be distributed under both kinds, with sufficient distributors for both host and cup.

© 2010 Liturgical Publications Inc Used with permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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