“The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body which is the Church” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1407).
The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the third of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is called a sacrament of Initiation because like Baptism and Confirmation it brings us into the fullness of the life in Christ. The Eucharist, also known as Communion, truly is Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Sacrament was given to the Church by Jesus Christ himself at The Last Supper.
“Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.'” (Luke 22:19-20)
The Catholic Church commemorates this event at every Mass, making Jesus Christ present to us once again in the Blessed Sacrament. As a sacrament, its grace causes in us a transformation of heart and soul that draws us into the divine life and unites us with all the People of God. By receiving Him with love, reverence, and devotion, we grow to be more like Him individually and as the Church. Receiving the Eucharist changes us. It signifies and affects the unity of the community and serves to strengthen the Body of Christ.
The essential signs of the Eucharist are the unleavened wheat bread and grape wine. At Mass these are consecrated by the priest, who by the power of the Holy Spirit represents Christ himself, into the Body and Blood of Christ. Holy Eucharist is made manifest to the People of God during the Sacrifice of the Mass which represents for the faithful the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus.
RECEIVING THE EUCHARIST
As a practicing Catholic, we are required to receive Communion at least once per year. This is called our Easter Duty. However, the Church urges and encourages us to receive Communion frequently, even daily if possible. Frequent Communion increases our love for God and for our neighbor, which expresses itself in action, which makes us more like Christ.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.'”
To receive the Holy Eucharist, abstain from all food for one hour before you will receive. Approach the Lord with reverence, walking with hands folded. Bow before you receive the Eucharist, displaying your humility and respect. Respond to the Eucharistic Minister’s words with “Amen”.
If you choose to receive the Holy Eucharist in your hands, place one hand below the other, creating a proper throne for our Lord. If your hands are impeded, you may wish to receive the Eucharist on your tongue.
“The most intimate encounter we can ever experience with Jesus Christ is in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. So intimate in fact is the connection of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist to our life in Christ, that we must be free of any grave or mortal sin before receiving it. 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 (reconciliation).” (CCC 1415)
As St. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, “Whoever eats or drinks unworthily, brings judgment upon themselves.” If we are aware of having committed a mortal sin, we must participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation first. The Church sees the two sacraments as connected, and urges us, when we can, to join frequent Confession with frequent Communion.
Students make their First Eucharist in second grade.
Learn more about our Roman Catholic Mass.