The Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is both a sacrifice and a meal. Here is the real presence of Jesus, who died for our sins. As we receive Christ's Body and Blood, we also are nourished spiritually and brought closer to God.
Sharing the Eucharist is the heart of Sunday worship for all the baptized. Sunday is the day when Christians remember the salvation that was given to them in baptism and makes them new creations in Christ. Jesus gave us the gift of the Eucharist in memory of his life and death. This celebration makes us active members of his body.
The gathering of the whole community for Sunday Eucharist remains integral to our identity as Catholic Christians. It is in the breaking of the bread that Christians experience and recognize the risen Lord. Through this communal celebration of the Eucharist we are sustained by one another's faith by sharing in the Eucharistic meal of bread and wine. All gathered together to pray. We form an assembly that performs the liturgical actions together.
Christ is Present
Our tradition describes four ways that Christ is present in the Eucharist: in the assembly gathered by relating to God and each other.
- in the person of the priest presiding over our worship.
- in the word proclaimed.
- in the Eucharistic meal of bread and wine shared, nourishment for the journey.
It is the presence of the Lord that fashions us into one body, the assembly of faith. The role of the assembly in Sunday worship is as the minister of the liturgical action. The assembly is not an audience. We are to take an active part in the dialogue and participate fully. We gather not just with the people in our community but with the entire church throughout the world as well as with those who have gone before us in death.
Sacrifice of the Mass
The Eucharist is a true sacrifice, not just a commemorative meal, as " nonCatholics" insist. The first Christians knew that it was a sacrifice and proclaimed this in their writings. They recognized the sacrificial character of Jesus ' instruction, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22: 19, I Cor. 11 :24 - 25).
It was natural for early Christians to think of the Eucharist as a sacrifice. The fulfillment of prophecy demanded a solemn Christian offering, and the rite itself was wrapped in the sacrificial atmosphere with which our Lord invested the Last Supper. The words of institution, 'Do this ' must have been charged with sacrificial overtones for second-century ears.