At the Last Supper, Jesus spoke particular words. He declared bread to be his body, wine to be his blood.
The bread, he said, is his body “given up for you” and the cup of the new covenant is his blood “poured out for you”. Jesus gave his life once and for all as a sacrifice for us. And he told us to gather “in memory of me”. Which is what Christians have been doing ever since.
The feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ invites us to reflect on the wonderful gift of the Eucharist. It is first and foremost a celebration during which God nourishes us with God’s own life. It is a memorial, not only of the redemptive suffering and death of Jesus, but of his entire life of self-emptying love. In sharing the one bread and drinking the one cup, we pledge to imitate him, who can never be repaid.
In the Eucharist, we gather in the shadow of the cross to give thanks for the death and resurrection of Jesus which has saved us from death. We gather in response to the command of Jesus to “Do this in memory of me”. We gather knowing that the sacrifice required of us is no less than that of our very selves.
The Act of Spiritual Communion, written by St Alphonsus de Liguori, is a beautiful prayer for when it’s not possible to receive the Eucharist in person:
I believe that you are present in the Most
I love you above all things,
and I desire to receive you into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive you
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace you as if you were already there
and unite myself wholly to you.
Never permit me to be separated from you.
For Christians, one of the most painful consequences of the COVID-19 crisis was the closure of churches. People could not gather for public worship, except in tiny numbers for funerals and weddings. But, thanks to modern communications technology, people could still participate in online liturgies, and they did. Parishes were transformed into not just local but global virtual communities, with participants tuning in from far and near. By the end of the first period of lockdown, many parishes and local churches had built up substantial online congregations. New possibilities for evangelisation were opened up, priests and people saw the potential offered by communications technology in a way they never had before. It is good news for the Church going forward.
But while Catholics were delighted to be able to tune in online to a liturgy that suited them, there was one crucial element of the celebration in which they could not take part: they could not receive the body and blood of Christ; they could not be physically nourished by his body and blood. For online participants, it was a major sacrifice, a keen loss.
It was a painful reminder of how precious it is to be able to receive the Eucharist in person and to never take that privilege for granted. It has been an opportunity for us to think about the importance of the Eucharist in our lives. It was only when they couldn’t physically come to Mass that many Catholics realised just how much it means to them. The first time they were able to receive Holy Communion again was an emotional experience, a moment of joy, something to treasure.
It’s how we should always approach the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of the life of the Church, and our food for life
- Vatican II teaches us that the Eucharist is the source and the summit of the life of the Church.
- The Eucharist is a commemorative meal at which Jesus’ death is remembered.
- The body of Christ is our soul-nourishing food, the bread that gives us life
Eucharist comes from the Greek word Eucharistia, which means “thanksgiving”. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we give thanks to God for all that God has done for us.
Make an effort to visit the Blessed sacrament whenever you are passing a Church