On the Eucharist
Jean Galot, S.J.
A marvellous invention for humanity
Numerous inventions have left a mark on the history of humanity, witnessing to the quality and ability of the human spirit. Their inventors have rendered important services to society, contributing to the progress of science and technology, to the improvement of living conditions and to the fight against the evils that oppress peoples.
There are also inventions in the field of religion. These inventions are conceived by divine intelligence with the intention of transforming relations between God and humans. One of them is brought into the limelight on Holy Thursday and appears to be truly marvellous to us: the Eucharist.
Who would ever have imagined that, after becoming man, the Son of God would give his own human Flesh to his disciples as food in order to communicate divine life to them, and his own Blood as a drink of eternal life?
By presenting himself as the divine Bridegroom, Jesus made people understand the love that inspired the whole of his mission, but he had yet to reveal that this love would impel him to go even to the point of giving himself as food and drink.
In view of this meal, it was necessary that the redeeming sacrifice, offered on the Cross once and for all for humanity's salvation, be frequently presented anew during the development of the Church, in the form of a sacrament and in commemoration of the Last Supper.
The continuous re-presentation of the sacrifice was not only to enable the believers who took part to be personally united with the one offering of Christ, but also to partake of his divine life in the Communion meal.
Thus, what had occurred only once in the course of history would never cease to take place again and again in our time. The full force of the sublime generosity of Christ, who gave himself in sacrifice, could reappear and penetrate the hearts of all the faithful through Communion.
The mystery is especially astonishing since, according to the desire the Saviour expressed, the words that the priest speaks at the moment of the consecration suffice to bring about the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This power to summon the Real Presence of Christ with words is part of the miracle of the Eucharist.
Communion: not luxury but need
It is a marvellous invention, destined to become part of our daily lives. By declaring that his Body is real food and his Blood real drink, Jesus makes us understand that Christians need this food and drink if they are to preserve and develop their spiritual life.
Although the Communion meal is often called a "banquet", it is not a luxury but a necessity, to the point that Jesus said: "Let me solemnly assure you; if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53).
The first disciples accepted this recommendation. Since the beginning of the Church, his disciples have celebrated the Eucharist every day.
The primitive community had two different kinds of prayer gathering: on the one hand, the first Christians would go every day to pray in the temple area, in accordance with the custom they had acquired from the Judaic tradition; on the other it was "in their homes [that] they broke bread, with exultant and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46).
Unlike the usual Judaic prayers, the breaking of bread or "Eucharist" was celebrated in peoples homes, associated with ordinary meals. This was the new religion founded by Christ. One of its features was a joyful atmosphere and a fundamental disposition of simplicity of heart.
Celebrating daily the breaking of the bread testified to the importance of the Eucharist in Christian life: it procured the necessary stamina for every day needs. The invention of the Last Supper has lost none of its marvellous character, but in essence it demands a steadfast faith.
The presence in the Eucharist of the Body and Blood of Christ requires faith if it is to transform the Christian's life. This is the faith that we are called to renew on Holy Thursday with wonder and thanksgiving.
Weekly Edition in English
28 June 2006, page 9
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