Eucharist (Holy Communion)

“Our Lord used to preach even to his enemies.  But even among the rough and tumble of the crowd who listened to him, what a lot of half-hearted disciples there must have been!  Would he not have done better to gather round him a little nucleus of really faithful souls?  But no, he had something for everybody.  So it is in the Holy Eucharist; you would think it would have been jealously reserved for a handful of the very elect, a gift so holy.  But no; it is for the rough and tumble of us as well.”  (Msgr. Ronald Knox)

The Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion and by several other names, is the source and summit of the Christian life and a participation here and now in the life of Heaven.  Not a mere symbol, it is Jesus Christ Himself, truly present in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, under the appearance of ordinary bread and wine.

For many today, as in Jesus’ own time, this is indeed a “hard saying” (Jn 6:60), but Jesus was explicit in emphasizing this reality, as the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John makes particularly clear.  From the very beginning, Christians have followed Christ’s command to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood” (Jn 6:53-56) that we might have His life.  As God humbled Himself and took on human flesh in order to walk among us and save us, so He humbles Himself through His Presence in the Eucharist from the moment it is consecrated by the priest.  We literally receive Christ Himself into our very bodies.

Reception of the Eucharist completes Christian initiation and unites us with Jesus Christ in the most intimate and physical way possible in this life.  The Eucharist is our spiritual food, without which we cannot live.  It is a staggering mystery, and the greatest of gifts!