Why is the Holy Eucharist necessary?
To receive Holy Communion is to receive the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ and participate in His sacrifice and His victory over death- His resurrection. As the Jews ate the lamb without blemish, we partake of the Lamb of God whole takes away the sins of the world. We receive Sanctifying Grace, are adopted as children of God and are strengthened by this heavenly food for the pilgrim journey through this earthly life toward perfect union with God in heaven. The disposition for receiving Holy Communion is that one must be a Baptised and Confirmed Roman Catholic and must be in a state of grace rather than a state of Mortal Sin. Receiving the Body of Jesus in a State of Mortal Sin is a grave sacrilege.
“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” – St. Padre Pio
What is the history of the Eucharist?
Throughout history, the people of God, originally in the Jewish temples, would sacrifice animals to demonstrate sorrow for sin and their desire for communion or relationship with God. God worked through many prophets and holy men to make covenants (solemn promises marked by sacrifice and conditions for relationship) with His people. Covenants with Moses, Noah, David and others were broken by mankind who sought their own way and forgetting God’s Fatherly goodness towards them, worshipped idols and turned away from Him.
We see this throughout the Old Testament but we also see prefigurement of God’s ultimate plan for the salvation of mankind. One such example is the Jewish Passover. God delivered His people from death on the conditions that they accepted His protection and love by enacting a sign of the covenant between them. Through Moses, he instructed each family to sacrifice a lamb without blemish and to eat the lamb between them. By spreading the blood of the lamb on the door post of their homes, they were untouched by the angel of death.
It was a commemoration of this sacrificial meal that the apostles were celebrating in the upper room the night before Jesus was to be crucified. Jesus had taught in John 6 that eternal life would come to mankind through the eating of the bread of life, the bread that would be His flesh. At the table he gave thanks to God for the bread and wine. He broke the bread and gave it to them saying, ‘take ye all of this FOR THIS IS MY BODY.’ He lifted the chalice saying ‘take and drink ye all of this, FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL TESTAMENT, THE MYSTERY OF FAITH; WHICH SHALL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR MANY UNTO THE REMISSION OF SINS. AS OFTEN AS YOU DO THESE THINGS, YE SHALL DO THEM IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.’
Jesus who in Himself was the meeting of God and Man was called by St John the Baptist the ‘Lamb of God’ the ultimate lamb without blemish who would take away the sins of the world and bring about reconciliation between God and man. The usual pattern of the Jewish meal was interrupted when Jesus took the disciples to the garden of Gethsemane where he would later be arrested. The sacrificial meal was completed when Jesus took the final drink on the cross and cried ‘It is finished!’ It is in the Mass that this once and for all sacrifice is re-presented afresh throughout all time.
What happens during the Holy Eucharist?
The priest, who is a successor of the apostles, stands in ‘persona Christi’ in the place of Christ and uses the exact same words and gestures that Jesus used to renew that sacrifice within time. The bread becomes the real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the resurrected Jesus as does the wine, the real Blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost. Just as Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for the atonement of mankind, the priest offers the newly consecrated Body and Blood of Jesus present on the altar at Mass back to the Father as an act of adoration, atonement, thanksgiving and petition.