Why Eucharist? Two Catholic Perspectives

Reading Time: 19 minutes

The following is a part of a seven-article series on the sacraments, written by two University of Notre Dame students. We encourage you to read both perspectives and check our website regularly for the rest of the series!

Why Eucharist? By Pat Gouker

The Eucharist brings to fulfillment the good work which God has begun from the beginning of creation.[1] In the beginning God made the world and all the creatures contained therein. God created humans in a unique fashion, however. He created them “in [His] image, according to [His] likeness.”[2] St. Augustine urges we who participate in the liturgy to “be who you are; become what you receive.”[3] That is, Augustine exhorts us to accept our humanity and to share in Christ’s divinity by becoming what we receive in the Eucharist, the very Body of Christ. God calls us His “beloved [children].”[4] Augustine, then, urges us to be truly and to accept fully our role as God’s beloved sons and daughters, by become He Whom we received, God’s beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased.[5] To love and to experience love is the definition of humanity. Indeed, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger suggests that having the ability to relate in love defines humanity. This relation forms a union among humans and “union is redemption, for it is the realization of our likeness to God, the Three-in-One.”[6]

Allowing ourselves to love and to experience love, in a word, to be united in a union of love permits us to be accept our nature as created human beings. But how do we obey Augustine’s command to be what we receive? For this we must consider that in the Eucharist Christ gives Himself Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to us. If we become, then, what we receive as Augustine commands us, the Eucharist transfigures us into the Body of Christ and sharers of His divinity. Thus, we can recall God became man that man might become God.[7] St. John of the Cross beautifully summarizes this thought in his poetry. In his Romances, John of the Cross states that “[i]n perfect love / this law holds: / that the lover become / like the one he loves.”[8] Indeed, in God’s perfect love of humanity, He became like that which He so loved, namely He took on humanity. Likewise, the Eucharist “unite[s] the Lover with his beloved, / transforming the beloved in her Lover.”[9] Thus the Eucharist transforms we humans who receive It into Itself, that is, into God, Who is our Lover.

Beyond humanity, God orders the whole of creation to the worship and praise of Himself.[10] The first creation account in Genesis displays a symmetry in creation. The first three days see the creation of light, water and sky, and then the dry land and plants. The next three days see the creation of those things which give off light (the sun and moon), followed by the inhabitants of the water, sky, and the dryland (fish, birds, and animals and humans, respectively). The seventh day, however, introduces asymmetry to the creation account. This asymmetry suggests that the day of rest possesses an elevated status from the other days and that all things are ordered to the worship of God. It is for this reason that “we worship the God of creation and redemption by using creation itself.”[11] Thus, in the Eucharist, creation fulfills its telos to offer worship to God by undergoing the work of human hands to be fitting to be used in the liturgy.

The Roman Canon emphasizes the journey of humanity towards its telos of worshiping God. The Supra quae most explicitly does this by recalling “the gifts of…Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham…and the offering of…Melchizedek.”[12] In commemorating these sacrifices to God, the Canon emphasizes that the present Sacrifice of the Mass witnesses time folding in on itself. From the beginnings of creation to the covenants of old, the Mass incorporates them all into the present sacrifice, renewing them in this “new and eternal covenant.”[13] Not unlike the Passover, the Mass ratifies a covenant in the blood of sacrifice. The past sacrifice of a lamb prefigures the current Eucharistic sacrifice of the Lamb of God, “Christ, the true lamb…whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.”[14] Yet, as the Passover sacrifice did not reach its fulfillment until the families did “roast the meat and share in the life-giving meal”[15] so too does the consuming of the Eucharist species become the fulfillment of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.[16] In the Eucharist the creation proclaimed “good”[17] so long ago reaches its fulfillment in the worship of God and receives “a pledge of future glory”[18] that it will ceaselessly give “all glory and honor”[19] to God with the angels and saints for ever and ever. The Eucharist thus brings to fulfillment the good work God began in creation by drawing all of creation into worship of Him.[20]

This is the Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I chose this image because the oratory is used as a place of perpetual adoration and thus has a great deal of Eucharistic theology. Here, the Eucharist, while adored and praised, is not divorced from the Sacrifice of the Mass since the monstrance rests on an altar. The altar itself has the apostles and other saints carved into it reminding us of the communio sanctorum into which we are drawn when we receive the Eucharist. The image of Christ being crucified on the tree of our sin with the worlds, “Behold, I make all things new” beneath it, reminds us that the Eucharist is meant to bring to fulfillment that good work which God has begun in us since our creation. In the Eucharist, God draws us to Himself, sacrificed for our sins, and renewing us, His adoring beautiful beloved.

O Sacrum Convivium, Tomas Luis de Victoria

Lyrics attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas

O sacrum convivium,
In quo Christus sumitur,
Recolitur memoria passionis eius;
Mens impletur gratia,
Et futurae gloriae, nobis pignus datur.
O sacred banquet, 
in which Christ is received, 
the memory of His Passion is renewed, 
the mind is filled with grace, 
and a pledge of future glory is given us. 

With lyrics attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, I chose Tomas Luis de Victoria’s setting of O Sacrum Convivium. This beautiful motet recalls the reality of the Mass being both Sacrifice and Meal. It also recalls the idea of memoria in the liturgy and speaks to the folding-in of time at the liturgy. That is, in the Eucharist, the past, historical event of Christ’s Passion is brought into and is made re-present in the present and becomes “a pledge of future glory.”

[1] “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to fulfillment by the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6.

[2] Gen 1:26.

[3] St. Augustine, Sermon 272.

[4] Mt 3:17.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Cardinal Ratzinger explains Judeo-Christian anthropology. He concludes that the nature of being human is to be related in love as is the Holy Trinity. If we are indeed made in the image and likeness of God, then it is necessary that we be related in love as the Persons of the Trinity are united in love. Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Principles of Catholic Theology. Translated by Sr. Mary Frances McCarthy, S.N.D. (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 1993.), 49.

[7] “The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers in the divine nature’: ‘For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.’ ‘For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’ ‘The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.’” Often referred to as the Athanasian kerygma, this idea of theosis or divinization explains the telos, or end, of humanity. We are meant to become sharers in the divinity of God, sharers in the Divine Life of the Holy Trinity which is a Communion of Love. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §460.

[8] This quotation is taken from John’s poem Romances. The section of the poem from which this quotation comes is on the Incarnation. John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 2017.) 66.

[9] From the poem The Dark Night. John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, 51.

[10] God did not order creation towards the worship and praise of Himself because of some egotistical reason. Rather the worship and praise of God, rightly done, is rooted in a love of Him. He orders creation then toward loving, which is to say, toward the end of participating in His divine life which is love itself.

[11] It should be noted that though we worship God with His own creation, this creation need not be the natural creation. That is to say, what we use in worship has its roots in creation but may have undergone change or manufacturing by human hands and ingenuity. This only increases the importance of these gifts, for Irwin, as it suggests that humanity is offering a sacrificial service to God and not just returning a gift which God originally gave to us. In fact, Irwin suggests that the work of humans to improve upon the natural creation means that “the worship and honor paid to God begin long before the liturgy in the Church begin” (52). Irwin, Kevin W. Models of the Eucharist. (Mahwah, New Jersey.: Paulist Press, 2005.) 40.

[12] The Roman Canon, Supra quae.

[13] The Roman Canon, Consecration of the Chalice.

[14] Exsultet.

[15] Irwin, 160.

[16] This statement is not to say that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross would be rendered not salvific if we did not participate in the Mass. Rather, it simply means that the sacrifice of Christ, like the Passover sacrifice has a twofold purpose. The Passover sacrifice saves the life of the families by virtue of the sacrifice’s blood shed and subsequently sprinkled on the doorposts of the people. So too, by virtue of Christ’s Blood shed on the Cross is a path to salvation opened for His people. However, while the blood of the Passover sacrifice saves the life of a family, that life is sustained only through eating the sacrifice. Likewise, while Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross opens a path for salvation, our food for that journey is the Eucharist and thus we must receive the Eucharist to bring the good work of the Paschal Mystery to its fulfillment. It is also notable that the Eucharist, like the lamb of the Passover, is both the Sacrifice and the Meal. Often, the Mass is reduced to either a sacrifice or a meal. Yet, in keeping with the frequent occurrence of “both…and” in the Catholic faith, the Mass can only be fully understood when recognized as both a sacrifice and meal.

[17] Gen 1:13.

[18] St. Thomas Aquinas, O Sacrum Convivium.

[19] These words are taken from the doxology ending each of the Eucharistic Prayers.

[20] It should be noted that each of the different parts of creation worship God in different ways respective to their station. Bread and wine, for example, are drawn into the worship of God by becoming the gifts offered to God and by becoming those things which God will transubstantiate into a return gift. Humans, however, worship God by offering both their labor and themselves to God while also allowing themselves to be both connected into a communion of faith as well as to become the receivers of a gift He returns, namely, the Eucharist.

Why Eucharist? By Mary Biese

The Eucharist transforms, underlies, unites, saves, and strengthens the Church. During the Mass, the Priest narrates Christ’s actions during the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper: “He took bread and, giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples” (emphasis mine).[i] These four verbs, in addition to three that Christ uses as He consecrates the wine (drink, poured out, do this),[ii] show God’s action at work in the Eucharist.[iii]

The priest, in persona Christi capitis[iv], takes the bread in his hands and transforms both the species and the assembly.[v] The Eucharist transforms humankind as an act of love[vi] which makes us fully human.[vii] This sacrament underlies our entire lives before, during, and after the liturgy.[viii] The celebration and reception of the Eucharist challenges us believers to internalize and learn from it, so that we may live Eucharistically, testifying to the Paschal Mystery[ix] and serving those around us.[x] Through its use of created, physical species, the Eucharist deepens our embodied experience of the world[xi] and unites humanity with the rest of creation and with our Creator.[xii] This sacrament bestows on our flawed, divided, vulgar world (flawed, divided, and vulgar due to the effects of the Fall) the prospect of transfiguration.[xiii]

As Christ gives thanks to His Father, so too does the sacramental assembly. This Eucharistic gathering[xiv] speaks for and encompasses all creation, fulfilling creation’s fundamental call to worship.[xv] When the priest breaks the bread at table, he enacts Christ’s breaking the power of sin and death (and thus of damnation),[xvi] His breaking barriers between human beings and between the human and divine,[xvii] and ultimately His “breaking” those in the assembly, whom God calls to fully imitate Christ (Himself broken in the bread) by receiving Him sacramentally.[xviii] At the Last Supper, which the Eucharistic celebration commemorates, Christ gives Himself over and shares His divine life with those whom He calls friends[xix]—in other words, those who enact their commitment to God and His Church[xx] through participation in the Eucharist and the Eucharistic life.[xxi] Christ’s initiation and graces precede and sustain this commitment,[xxii] as evidenced in the structure of the Eucharistic Prayers.[xxiii] Christ, present in the Eucharistic species,[xxiv] unites the members of His Body, the Church, calling her to community;[xxv] this fits within Chauvet’s assertion that symbols include a submission to the communal other.[xxvi] The Eucharist, by gathering and sending out Christ’s disciples, capacitates us for union through and as the Church[xxvii] that herself transcends time and space.[xxviii]

The words of consecration (e.g. drink)emphasize our need for salvation, personal and communal, via Christ’s blood. In a renewed blood-covenant, Christ facilitates reconciliation through His mercy and continual self-gift, overcoming our disobedience and loss of friendship through His Eucharistic Presence.[xxix] In his words “poured out… for the forgiveness of sins” Christ gives of Himself and calls us to do the same; this gift provides hope and strength for our earthly journey and points to His Resurrection,[xxx] eternal life, and His Second Coming (wherein sacraments shall cease).[xxxi] Abraham[xxxii] enters humankind’s first covenant with God by his total obedience and his handing-over of his own will and self-interest to God.[xxxiii] Christ calls us to do the same as we receive the Eucharist, so “that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose again for us.”[xxxiv]

Once we recognize God’s gratuitous gifts to us, we receive those gifts, particularly the Eucharist, in a symbolic[xxxv] and relational sense. In response to Christ’s gifts and His command, “do this in memory of me,” we offer Him our return-gift[xxxvi] by commemorating His Paschal mystery during the celebration of the Eucharist and “living-in-grace with one’s sisters and brothers.”[xxxvii] The God-given Eucharistic gift, immeasurably greater in the realm of value than anything we could give in return, functions within the realm of grace, wherein God, Human Beings, and Sacrament all give to each other in mutual, relational, transforming, inclusive exchange. Done properly, those in this constantly moving exchange do not count the cost, but give of themselves continually and to overflowing.[xxxviii] The Eucharist perpetuates[xxxix] in an ongoing way Christ’s sacrifice[xl] as the Lamb of God who forgives our sins[xli] and sustains us on our journey towards eternal life.[xlii] In the Eucharist we make memory,[xliii] drawing from the past (history),[xliv] enacting in the present (liturgy), and yearning for the future (eschaton).[xlv]

Why Eucharist: “Mariana” by Sir John Everett Millais

This painting combines the Sacramental imaginations of Shakespeare and the Pre-Raphaelites. Mariana’s fiancé has broken his marriage covenant with her; she herself is broken and exhausted. Yet she still has the Eucharist, her Food for the Journey. Though the altar is in a dark side of the room, the altar candle (indicating Christ’s Active Presence) and the hidden window beside it provide slivers of light, pointing to some sort of Covenantal Renewal. Christ is also present in the stained-glass artwork of the Annunciation/ Incarnation (see earlier chapter: Why Confirmation?). The fallen leaves imply a seasonal, cyclical change that will one day yield to a hopeful Springtime. Millais combines heavenly imagery, the woman, the mouse, and the leaves to include all of creation in this cosmic picture of yearning, of some unspecific, unrealized, and hoped-for eschatological reality.

Why Eucharist: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

1.  Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

2.  King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heav’nly food.

3.  Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the pow’rs of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

4.  At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
“Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Lord Most High!”

Though this hymn says, “Ponder nothing earthly-minded,” only through Christ’s descent “to earth” can we contextualize “In the body and the blood.” This exhibits sacramentality. This hymn reaches into the past, sits in the present, and points to the future (see Irwin on Memorial). Including both earth and heaven point to the Eucharist as Cosmic. The Eucharist as “heav’nly food” brings to mind the manna in the desert that sustained the Israelites in their journey towards the earthly Promised Land. The last two lines of verse 3 point to the Eucharist as commemorating Christ’s Paschal Victory and as fundamentally eschatological, i.e. oriented towards the heavenly Promised Land. The hymn begins with a reflection on our own flesh and action and, by means of Christ’s flesh, ends with praise of God, in which the assembly reenters the hymn as it joins the choirs of heaven (reminiscent of the Sanctus within the Mass). The ecclesial faithful are present in each stanza, especially if we take “hosts of heaven” to include the saints, the Church Triumphant.

[i] Eucharistic Prayer II; the other Eucharistic Prayers use the same verbs. See also 1 Cor 11:23-26: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

[ii] “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.” Eucharistic Prayer II. See 1 Cor 11:23-24 and Mt 26:28.

[iii] “The sacrament of the Eucharist expresses and specifies for believers that here and now God is operative in all of their lives.” Irwin, Kevin W. Models of the Eucharist (New York: Paulist Press, 2005), Model One: Cosmic Mass, 64.

[iv] “It is in and through the celebration of the Eucharist that Christ is active among us.” The Four Presences of Christ include the Priest, the Word, the Assembly, and the Eucharistic species. Irwin, Models, 240, 252, 257-258.

[v] While Irwin associates take with offering and bless with transforming, the word take can be said to lead to the word bless, especially in the particular Eucharistic Prayer at hand, which does not include bless in its formula. In addition, the bread and wine being taken into Christ’s hands, by theological reasoning, must needs be transformed. Irwin, Models, 133.

[vi] The Church “introduces us into the dynamic circle of trinitarian love that not only unites subject and object but even brings individual subjects together without depriving them of their individuality.” Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987). Chapter 1: “On the Relationship of Structure and Content in Christian Faith,” section 1, “The We-Structure of Faith as Key to Its Content,” 26.

[vii] “The root of man’s wretchedness is loneliness is the absence of love… God has identified himself with man—that is the content of the communion that is offered us in the Eucharist.” Ratzinger, “We-Structure,” 52, 53.

[viii] “The Eucharist derives from the context of human life and daily living. The Eucharist also returns participants back to that life lived on earth with their vision of the Christian life sharpened and the challenge of living that vision the more clear.” Irwin, Models, 41.

[ix] As did the disciples at the end of the narrative of the Road to Emmaus. See Lk 24.

[x] The post-Eucharist “challenge is twofold. First, it is to allow what we enact in the Eucharist to be the measure of our lives. In effect we are to view life through the lens of the paschal mystery, a mystery that helps us evaluate what is really important in life… Similarly, a requisite consequence of eucharistic enactment is to share the goods of this earth with the poor and the needy.” The Eucharist underlies and brings together the entire Christian life. It “challenges us to be ever more self-transcending and self-giving.” Irwin, Models, 54, 294.

[xi] Each human person is embodied and ensouled simultaneously; we are not bodies with souls or souls with bodies in the Cartesian sense, but soul-body and body-soul composites. The use of bread and wine, which we can apprehend with our bodily senses, reminds us of our own bodily-ness and of our connection to the rest of God’s physical creation. Our ensoulment connects us to the angels, the only non-embodied created beings.

[xii] Sacramentality is “naming and using things from this world and discovered in human life that reveal and disclose the presence and action of God among us… Things in this world reveal God with us.” Irwin, Models, 48. This cosmic unity comes forth also in Eucharistic Prayer IV, in which the assembly’s participation gives voice to every creature in accord with the angels, to the point that our voice encompasses the entire creative order as it proclaims, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus!” See also Is 6:3 and Rev 4:6, on which the Sanctus is based. Both passages point to the eschatological and sacrificial nature of the Eucharist.

[xiii] Bodily transformation is rooted in Christ’s Incarnation and His taking on of our flesh and even our very words, such as in Psalm 22. His entering into human experience, as shown in this Psalm, reaches an even greater level in the Eucharist. Mitchell, Nathan. Meeting Mystery: Liturgy, Worship, Sacraments (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2006), Chapter 5: The Book of the Body, 176-178.

[xiv] The Eucharist strengthens this gathering: “Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.” EP II.

[xv] “Creation is designed in such a way that it is oriented to worship. It fulfills its purpose and assumes its significance when it is lived, ever new, with a view to worship. Creation exists for the sake of worship… The true center, the power that moves and shapes from within in the rhythm of the stars and of our lives, is worship. Our life’s rhythm moves in proper measure when it is caught up in this.” Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Second Homily, “The Meaning of the Biblical Creation Accounts,” 27-28.

[xvi] “Fulfilling [the Father’s] will and gaining for you a holy people, he stretched out his hands as he endured his Passion, so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrection.” Eucharistic Prayer II, #99, p 497.

[xvii] Christ, by breaking these barriers, brings about unity and relational communion. The Church, through whom we receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, “is communion; she is God’s communing with men in Christ and hence the communing of men with one another.” Ratzinger, “We-Structure” 53.

[xviii] Christ calls who receive the Eucharist to give of themselves, to be broken in terms of sacrificial love.

[xix] See Jn 15:15.

[xx] See Lk 8:21, 11:28.

[xxi] “The act of taking communion… is a supreme sign of a number of things: belief in Christ’s presence and action as well as profession of belief in the creeds, codes, and practices of the Catholic Church… The act of taking communion is an act of commitment to the succession of the apostles’ teaching and lineage.” Irwin, Models, 88-89. See also the Johannine language of friendship in Eucharistic Prayer IV.

[xxii] Like Baptism, the Eucharist “has two components: the activity of God, on the one hand, and on the other, the cooperation of man, who finds his true freedom under the quiet guidance of God.” The first component is “the initiative of God.” Ratzinger, “We-Structure,” 41.

[xxiii] Each Eucharistic Prayer is structured around thanking God for His gifts and blessings, without which nothing could exist or continue to exist. See Irwin, Model Four: Memorial of the Paschal Mystery. “The eucharistic prayer is a lyrical, poetic prayer expressing praise, thanks, blessing, and honor to the Triune God for our relationships with God, creation, and each other.” Irwin, Models, 132.

[xxiv] The species is of the four Presences of Christ at Mass. “What was accomplished once and for all in the furst century can be experienced really, fully, and as completely as possible in any succeeding century through the liturgy.” What can be experienced—what is experienced—is “the original and perduring dying and rising of Christ.” Irwin, Models, 244. Pages 240-262 give a historical overview of the doctrine of Christ’s Presence in the Eucharistic Species.

[xxv] God drives Augustine out of his newfound solitude back into the Eucharistic community (Augustine, Confessions, Bk 10). Christ asks Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?”, again pointing to the Church as Christ’s unified Body (Acts 9:4).

[xxvi] “The subjects are under the agency of the Other—this Other, which we have previously designated as what binds subjects among themselves, what subjects them to a common ‘symbolic order’ and allows them to form a community.” Chauvet, Louis-Marie. The Sacraments: the Word of God at the Mercy of the Body (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2001), 74. See also 70.

[xxvii] “Ecclesiology is the necessary substratum of all liturgy.” The ancient practice of fermentum emphasized both ecclesial unity and the continuity of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Irwin, Models, 71, 76.

[xxviii] This is what Ratzinger refers to as the “We-Structure of Faith” in the aforementioned book chapter.

[xxix] “And when through disobedience [mankind] had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death. For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you. Time and again you offered them covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation.” And also: “To accomplish your plan, [Christ] gave himself up to death, and, rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.” Eucharistic Prayer IV. See also Irwin, Models, 146.

[xxx] “Every time we celebrate the Eucharist and receive the Eucharist we are professing faith in Christ present as well as in the risen Lord in whom we hope to meet face-to-face in the kingdom of heaven.” Irwin, Models, 319.

[xxxi] As “pilgrims yearning for the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams in Christ,” the Eucharist “offers us the promissory reality of what is to come… [and] grace for strength to lead the Christian life” and attain heaven by that grace. Irwin, Models, 213. See also Eucharistic Prayer IV and the hymn, “Lord Who at Thy First Eucharist Did Pray,” which echoes many Eucharistic themes, including the eschatological one. In the Eucharistic celebration, “we ‘make memory of’… the obedient life, betrayal, humiliation, suffering, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Christ—and of our participating (taking part) in those paschal events.” Irwin, Models, 134.

[xxxii] Abraham’s obedience features in Eucharistic Prayer I: “Be pleased to look upon these offerings with a serene and kindly countenance, and to accept them, as once you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham our father in faith, and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim” EP I, #93.

[xxxiii] “Perhaps it is the ideal of radical obedience, obedience that rises above all calculations of self-interest… that the Aqedah has actually come to teach.” This self-giving sacrifice, like the Eucharist, ripples outwards: “The Abrahamic covenant has now become a consequence of the Aqedah. Abraham’s great act of obedience stands to the benefit of the nation that derives from him for all time.” Levenson, Jon Douglas. Inheriting Abraham: the Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 78, 84. See also Genesis 22.

[xxxiv] Quote from Eucharistic Prayer IV. “The Eucharist challenges us to change our minds, hearts, and—yes—our ways and wills to conform to what God has already revealed and has in store for us.” Irwin, Models, 92.

[xxxv] The word “symbol” should not be taken as belonging to the realm of value or utility, but rather that of gift; not of the purely fake or imaginary, but of the real. See Chauvet, Sacraments, 85.

[xxxvi] “There is no reception of a gift without a return-gift… It is the moment Ethics, that of responsibility, in which Christians are called ‘to become what they have received’ according to the beautiful formula of a prayer after communion. The reception in sacrament of Christ dead and risen demands this ethics of agape, that is, of love lived in justice, mercy, sharing. Chauvet, Sacraments, 143-152.

[xxxvii] “Without this return-gift… eucharistic communion, though ‘valid,’ would be fruitless… it would be a misapprehension of God’s gift.” Chauvet, Sacraments, 145. See also Rom 5:5, Eph 4:13, and 1 Cor 11:29.

[xxxviii] Ibid., pages 84-89. For example, in John 4, the woman at the well speaks in terms of value, while Christ speaks in terms of relationship and life-giving grace.

[xxxix] “Liturgical memorial does not involve repeating or redoing anything from the past. Rather, what happened in the past has saving consequences among us in the present. Words such as ‘enact,’ ‘participate in,’ and ‘perpetuate’ (the preferred term in the Roman Missal) are all helpful ways of describing liturgical memorial.” Irwin, Models, 126.

[xl] “In the whole of the eucharistic action the paschal mystery is actualized and becomes effective for us and for our salvation… the dying and rising of Christ and our dying and rising through, with, and in him are made real and engage us here and now.” Irwin, Models, 123.

[xli] See Jn 1:29. Christ, the sacrificial Lamb, takes away the sins of the whole (cosmic) world. In the sacrament of Confession, Christ (through the ordained priest) cleanses us and thereby prepares us for the Eucharistic table.

[xlii] Irwin enriches his understanding of the Eucharist with the Church’s rite of Viaticum (often performed alongside the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick), reminding us that “in a real sense every act of communion is viaticum, that is, food for the journey to everlasting life.” Models, 205.

[xliii] By making memory we imitate Christ who, according to Augustine, “is memory per se, that is, all-embracing being, in whom, however, being is embraced as time. Christian faith, by its very nature, includes the act of remembering; in this way, it brings about the unity of history and the unity of man before God, or rather: it can bring about the unity of history because God has given it memory.” Ratzinger, “We-Structure,” 23.

[xliv] Memorial itself finds its root in the Holy Spirit, “who brings remembrance.” Ratzinger, “We-Structure,” 23.

[xlv] Through the sacrificial meal, “the paschal mystery is actualized and becomes effective for us and for our salvation.” Irwin, Models, 123. “Participants share in the saving events that occurred in history but cannot be confined to history (in the sense of chronology).” Irwin, Models, 123, 125. See also 123-128.

One Response

  1. The sacraments associated with receiving the Spirit of Christ are Baptism and Confirmation.
    The Eucharist presupposes this prior encounter with Christ; otherwise, we would not be in the state of grace prior to participating in the Eucharist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow Us!