The Journey towards Corpus Christi: The Eucharist
At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Saviour 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 filled with grace, and pledge of future glory is given to us.Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #47
The Eucharist is, at its roots, a Sacrament of transformation. While many people may never have seen the Eucharist this way, the Rite itself is speaking the language of renewal and transformation. The most basic and obvious transformation that takes place in the Eucharist is the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. Which, at the turn of the last century, the faithful were only permitted to receive on very special occasions. It was only the priest celebrating the Mass who was considered to be worthy of receiving daily. It was Pope St. Pius X who encouraged the faithful to receive the Eucharist on a more regular basis, even daily, if in the state of grace.
What are some of the names we use?
The Eucharist is a mystery of love, rich in its many-faceted aspects. The various names reveal for us some of its wealth of meaning. The term ‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek for ‘thanksgiving’. In the Eucharist we express our gratitude to God for the many gifts and graces, most notably for creation; redemption through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; and sanctification.
We call this Sacrament the Lord’s Supper to recall Jesus’ Last Supper with his Apostles on Holy Thursday and to look towards the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem. In the earliest Church the term ‘the breaking of bread’ was used, bringing to mind the Passover meal and the recollection of those on the road to Emmaus. We refer to the Eucharist as Holy Communion because it unites us to Christ Jesus and forms us into his body, the Church. We also call the Eucharist Holy Mass. This term is derived from the sending forth of the faithful at the dismissal rite, which in Latin is: “Ite missa est.” The dismissal rite used at present is, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and one another.”, or similar words. Anyway, we become the Eucharist for others, the Christ, we receive in the most Blessed Sacrament, we bring to those we meet.
Fr James Ralston