the center of the Catholic Mass is the Eucharist. It is what distinguishes Catholicism
from any other religion. The Eucharist is the center of the Catholic faith because
it is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ which we are made able to receive. It is a reminder of Christ’s death, the ultimate sacrifice, as we offer Him our sacrifices. Frank J. Sheed describes it this way: “Baptism exists for it, all the [other sacraments] are enriched by it” (Sheed).
word “Eucharist” means thanksgiving (“Questions”). When
the Eucharist is celebrated, it is an act of showing thanks to God as we celebrate His ultimate sacrifice. This sacrament is also known as Communion. This term emphasizes
another aspect of this sacrament, community. When one participates in the Eucharistic
meal, he enters into communion with Christ, the angels and saints, and all the faithful of the Church, both alive and deceased.
sacrament of the Eucharist becomes a part of one’s life when one makes his First Holy Communion. In order for one to receive his First Holy Communion, he must participate in Catechism classes. In these classes, the child learns about the Mass and Eucharistic meal.
One also learns the common prayers. “The hymns and prayers they
learn speak of a friend coming to visit them” (O’Neill 161-162). This
class, usually taking place while the child is in the second grade, focuses on teaching the child the meaning of the Eucharistic
meal, “making vivid for them the fact that the person of Christ is contained in the sacrament” (O’Neill
says to said to the crowd, “I am the bread of life” (NAB, John 6:48).
This created controversy among this group of Jews and they asked, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”
(NAB, John 6:52). But Jesus did not retract what he had said. Instead, he reiterated it, saying, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and
I will raise him on the last day” (NAB, John 6:54).
the Last Supper, the night before Jesus was crucified, He “instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood”
(Paul VI). The Last Supper is the first Mass, said by Christ himself, the Priest. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and
giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then
he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins” (NAB, Matthew 26:26).
Mass is essentially celebrated in the same way. The beginning of the Mass prepares
one for the Eucharistic meal. During the second part of Mass, one is sent forth,
filled with the Holy Spirit, to live out his faith. The entire Mass revolves
around Jesus Christ and His Eucharist meal.
Mass consists of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The
“Liturgy of the Word… merged with the remembrance of Christ’s death and Resurrection to become the ‘Eucharist’”
(Ratzinger 78-79). Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger says that this is faithfulness to
the fulfillment of the command “Do this” (Ratzinger 79).
we enter into the church, we make sign of the cross with holy water, reminding us of our baptism. We then genuflect, showing reverence to Jesus, truly present in the tabernacle. The priest greets the parish. In the penitential rite we recall
our need for God’s mercy, and in the Kyrie we ask the Lord to have mercy on us.
We then proclaim God’s glory in the Gloria. The priest then says
an opening prayer, to which we respond “Amen”.
Liturgy of the Word during a Sunday Mass consists of an Old Testament reading (or a reading from the Acts of the Apostles
during the Easter season), the Psalm and a New Testament reading (Barnum Feb 06). After
these are read, the Gospel reading is read and the homily is said. The homily
gives application to the readings. We then profess our faith by saying the Nicene
Creed. We offer petitions in which the whole world is prayed for.
Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the “presentation of the offerings” (CCC #1350). At this time, “the bread and wine are brought to the altar”, along with the collection for
those in need, and the altar is prepared (CCC #1350). These gifts are then prayed
over. We pray that our sacrifice may be acceptable to the Lord. We offer our sacrifice of worship and suffering (Barnum Jan 30).
the Eucharistic prayer we remember Christ’s life, especially the last supper, his passion, death, and resurrection. The Sanctus, or the Holy, holy, holy, is then either said or sung, in awe of Christ,
his life and sacrifice.
the epiclesis occurs. The epiclesis is the point in the Mass where “the
Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing) on the bread and wine, so that by his power
they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one
spirit” (CCC #1353).
next part of the Mass is the institution narrative. At this time, Christ’s
words are said by the priest, who becomes in persona Christi or “in the person
of Christ” (CCC #1348). The same words that Christ said at the Last Supper,
when he instituted the Eucharist, are repeated at this time in the Mass. The
moment these words are spoken, “This is my body”, “This is my blood”, transubstantiation occurs.
transubstantiation, the priest, through the power of the Holy Spirit, changes the substantial forms, those particular pieces,
of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ (Barnum Feb 06). “The
essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine” (CCC #1412). The accidents of bread and wine, such as the taste, texture, and appearance, however, remain the same (Barnum
Feb 06). To our physical eyes, this appears as bread and wine, but through the
eyes of faith we know and believe that this is the body and blood of our Lord.
sacrifice is remembered in this sacrament. “When the Church celebrates
the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all
on the cross remains ever present” (CCC #1364).
the transubstantiation occurs, the Church remembers and proclaims that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will
come again” in the memorial acclamation, or anamnesis. It is then “indicate[d]
that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the whole Church in heaven and on earth, the living and the dead…”
Lord’s Prayer is then said, and we offer a sign of peace to one another. The
Host is broken, and the Agnus Dei is said. In the Agnus Dei we proclaim that
“This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are
those who are called to his supper”. We then admit that we are not worthy
to receive him, but at his command we “shall be healed”.
who are not in the state of mortal sin are then able to receive communion. Before
Communion is given, the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist says “The body of Christ” or “The blood
of Christ” to which we respond in agreement “Amen”. After those
who are going to receive have received the Eucharist, the remaining Host is placed in the tabernacle. There is then a moment of silence in order to reflect. The
Doxology is said: “Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours,
almighty Father, for ever and ever”.
the end of the Mass, we are sent forth; “God in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another” or something
similar is said. Then the closing hymn is sung, and we go forth.
Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. As
they were walking and talking, “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him” (NAB, Luke 24:16). Later, Jesus was invited into their home, “And it happened that, while he was
with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were open and they recognized him” (NAB, Luke 24:30).
first Passover meal foreshadows and is mirrored by the Eucharistic meal, instituted at the Last Supper. In the first Passover, the Israelites were instructed to slaughter an unblemished male lamb. In the new Passover, Jesus, the sinless son of God, becomes the unblemished lamb, who is crucified.
blood of the slaughtered lamb was the sign that caused the angel of death to spare the firstborn in the first Passover. The blood was to be applied to the doorposts of the house so that when the angel of
death saw it, he would pass over. In the new Passover, the blood of Jesus is
the saving sign that causes those who believe to be spared from eternal death.
the first Passover, the Lord’s instructions were to eat the flesh of the lamb (NAB, Luke 12:8). This mirrors the Lord’s instructions to “eat [his] flesh and drink [his] blood” (NAB,
John 6:54). Jesus not only instructs us to do this, but also shows us at the
Last Supper. On the Road to Emmaus, it was “in the breaking of the bread”
that the two disciples recognized Jesus (NAB, Luke 24:35).
receiving Communion, as with any Sacrament, we receive special graces through it. Communion
“preserves, increases and renews the life of grace received as Baptism” (CCC #1392). It “cleans[es] us from past [venial] sins and preserve[es] us from future [mortal] sins” (CCC
the Eucharistic meal, we enter into a more “intimate union with Christ Jesus” (CCC #1391). Through this strengthening of “the bonds of charity”, “the unity of the Church”
is reinforced (CCC #1416). “Because there is one bread, we who are many
are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (NAB, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
Holy Eucharist is central to the Catholic faith. It was instituted by Christ. It is through the Eucharistic that we are most reminded of our Lord’s life,
death, resurrection, and promise to come again. It is through the Eucharist that
we are united with Christ and the Church. It is through the Eucharist that we
receive the special graces to live out our faith and God’s will in our life.