The Holy Eucharist: The Perfect Sacrament
Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper in the
Upper Room, just before his Passion. He had the apostles gathered
around the table for one last meal before the agony of his Passion
and Crucifixion would occur.
Perhaps the Eucharist should be the first sacrament since it is
the major sacrament of our faith. It is the foundation of our faith
because it is the manifestation of Jesus and the root of the rest
of the six sacraments.
We introduced Baptism first because it is a door to the Church,
but there would be no Church if not for the Holy Eucharist. It was
here that Jesus commissioned Peter to be the rock of His
The Eucharist is the model for all the sacraments. It is the
perfect sacrament because it says all that we are, all that the
Church is, and relates to all that Jesus says of God his Father.
The Eucharist is central to our faith.
As Christian Catholics, we can never fully understand the
Eucharist. We come close when we experience three events: Holy
Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Holy Thursday was added to
the image of Good Friday to help Catholics better understand the
Holy Thursday emphasizes the Lord's Supper and Good Friday
emphasizes the Lord's supreme sacrifice. Easter Sunday recognizes
the Body of Christ through the Resurrection. All three should be
observed to develop a fuller understanding of the Eucharist.
Some commonly asked questions about the Eucharist are:
Is the Holy Eucharist called by other
The Holy Eucharist is also called Holy Communion, The Sacrament
of the Altar, The Lord's Supper and The Blessed Supper, among other
names. For Catholics, the names Eucharist or Holy Communion are
The Eucharist is defined as a Christian sacrament or ordinance
that is re-enacted in accordance with Jesus' instruction at the
Last Supper. This is recorded in several books of the New
Testament. Followers of Jesus do this in remembrance of when He
gave the apostles bread saying, "This is my body" and He gave them
wine saying, "This is my blood."
Another way of defining the Eucharist is that it is both a
sacrifice pertaining to the essence of the Mass and a sacrament in
the Lord's body, blood, soul and divinity, which is received by the
faithful in what appears as bread and wine.
The Holy Eucharist is the heart of Catholic worship. It is the
focus of Catholic life. Because of Christ's real presence in the
Blessed Sacrament, it is sometimes called a sacrifice sacrament, a
communion sacrament and a presence sacrament.
Why did Jesus Christ institute the
Christ did this out of pure love for us. He wanted us to renew
His sacrifice and apply the gifts of His resurrection and
redemption. He also instituted the Eucharist to make us strong in
our faith, which stipulates Jesus will be with us throughout the
ages. His eternal love is faithful from age to age.
Even though Jesus was crucified and returned to His Father in
heaven, the institution of the Eucharist provided the means by
which He could remain with us on earth. He is present in every
Catholic Church in the world. He remains to be an intimate friend
and companion to the people of His flock.
What do we pray for during the Eucharist
At every Eucharist, we ask God to send the Holy Spirit to do two
things. The first of these is to transform the bread and wine so
that, secondly, we who eat the bread and drink the cup may become
Two things happen: the transformation of the two elements and
the transformation of those who partake in the Eucharist
celebration. Every time we approach the Eucharist, we renew our
baptismal promise. Every time we are communicants, we demonstrate
to the community at large that we have a commitment to the
Eucharist and all that it stands for.
We are committed to participate in the Eucharist because we are
committed to the memory of Jesus Christ, to live as He lived. We no
longer live for ourselves, but for one another. This is the
ultimate meaning of the Eucharist: to love each other.
Why is this sacrament called the Eucharist?
The root word is a Greek one that means thanksgiving. It is
because of the thanks Jesus offered to His Father at the Last
Supper before He consecrated the bread and the wine. By
participating in the Mass, we also offer our thanks to God.
Why is the Eucharist called the perfect
It is the sacrament that completes Christian initiation. It is
the both the source and the summit of Christian life. This is
demonstrated when adults joining the Catholic faith are baptized,
confirmed and then communicated at the Easter Vigil.
In some dioceses, young people receive the sacrament of the
Eucharist (Communion) long before they receive the sacrament of
Confirmation. Some theologians believe that the Eucharist should
complete the rites of initiation, and Confirmation should not be
out of sequential order. The perfect sacrament culminates the
passage of initiation.
What is meant by the term
The Council of Trent considered transubstantiation as an
adequate and proper explanation of how the elements of bread and
wine are transformed into the substance of the Body and Blood of
Christ. The Council of Trent's definition is a requirement for the
Catholic teaching and understanding of Christ's real presence.
The teaching of transubstantiation can be understood ultimately
only by pure faith alone. Transubstantiation does more than explain
why faith is necessary for total comprehension. It also speaks not
only of a change in the gifts that we place upon the altar, but
also the transformation in our lives so that we can be more like
the Jesus we receive.
Is the presence of Christ vital to the Holy
Yes, Jesus promised that His presence and the guidance of the
Holy Spirit would be with us in the Church He founded until the end
of time. The Church proclaims, professes and teaches that Jesus
Christ is really present in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus also
instituted the Eucharist. The words he said, "This is my Body; this
is my blood," can be taken literally.
Is the Eucharist the same sacrifice as Jesus' sacrifice
on the cross?
Yes, the sacrifice of the Mass is conducted in obedience to
Jesus' words: "Do this in memory of me." This is actually a renewal
of Christ's sacrifice at Calvary. He does not suffer because the
Eucharist is the risen Christ and His body no longer has to suffer.
Jesus in the Eucharist offers Himself to His Father in the same
spirit that He offered at the Last Supper.
The sacraments are such a special kind of prayer that many
Catholics do not think of them as prayer. They think of sacraments
as something we receive and not a way in which we pray. How many
Catholics view the Eucharist as a way of prayer? Not many one would
The bread and wine are the signs of the Eucharist. Sign and
symbol say more than words can ever say. The Eucharist is central
to our faith and it is universal. The Eucharist is the same, even
though the language used may differ. The Eucharist is the same,
whether it is celebrated in a magnificent Cathedral or on the hood
of a jeep in a war-torn jungle.
Thomas J. Rillo, oblate