One wonderful thing about being a Catholic is that we have the Eucharist. Whether you’re a cradle Catholic who received communion at a young age or a convert who received communion for the first time during Easter Vigil, the Eucharist is a blessing and a grace that we Catholics are privileged enough to receive every Mass.
It seems a bit crazy at first because other denominations have something similar, but a small piece of bread or a cracker and some grape juice doesn’t do this sacrament justice. St. Maximillian Kolbe said
I once heard a story of a Chinese girl getting killed over struggling with a communist soldier to receive the Eucharist. There are saints who literally lived on Holy Communion alone. So given how much devotion many people have for this sacrament, is the Eucharist really just a symbol? To quote Dorothy Day, “If the Eucharist is a symbol, then I say to Hell with it!”
The Eucharist is definitely a sign, but it is more than just a mere symbol. Like the other Sacraments, the Eucharist is a sign of God’s grace. But to treat the consecrated host and wine as if they were just ordinary objects denies how much emphasis Jesus put when he said “This is my body; This is my blood.” The ritual of the Last Supper would later be echoed by St. Paul, continuing the tradition of Holy Communion.
The Eucharist reminds us of the Passover Meal all the way back in the days of Moses, but it also reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross thousands of years later. The Last Supper wasn’t just Jesus’ last meal with his friends, but the beginning of a new covenant between God and us. Instead of sacrificing animals, Jesus, who is both God and man, offers himself up as the perfect sacrifice.
The Eucharist is also a feast that brings Heaven and Earth, saints and sinners, together for the supper of the Lamb. We give thanks for the gifts of the bread and wine, but through the power of transubstantiation (1), the ordinary becomes extraordinary, changing its very substance into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
Not only do we have the blessing of receiving Jesus’s body, blood, soul, and divinity, but with Adoration, we get to be in His presence. Like the sacrament of the Eucharist, Adoration seems absurd: just sitting in the silence of a chapel staring at what looks like a piece of bread contained in a monstrance (2), but like every relationship, Adoration helps us grow in our love for God the more often we go there.
Sure we still have an end to our earthly lives, whether we receive the Eucharist or not, but the difference is that when we receive the Eucharist, even on our deathbeds, the Eucharist nurtures eternal life within us.
So the Eucharist is not just a piece of bread and wine that represents Jesus’s body and blood and it’s not something we receive out of mere obligation. It’s Jesus Christ giving Himself to us and we receive Him with the utmost reverence and adoration. I hope that through this study, we will all grow in our love for this amazing gift.