Is the Eucharist the source of our Strength?
“The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called: Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words: 'ευχαριστία' (eucharistein) and 'ευλογείν' (eulogein) recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim - especially during a meal - God's works: creation, redemption, and sanctification”.(Cf. CCC 1328)
or as St. Luke would recount in his gospel narratives “Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks… [εὐχαριστήσας – eucharistēsas]” (Luke 22:19). From the above, the word Eucharist means “given thanks” and in the Jewish background, an action specially intended to God alone. A primitive usage of this word was adopted to refer to the entire sacrament of the Eucharist, (more referred to as the Mass by Catholics) as a central act of Christian worship [a sacrifice] of Christ’s saving act on the cross. As was put in plain words in the Didache – the teaching of the apostles, which dates to the time of the apostles and uses the word in this context.
Celebrate the Eucharist as follows: on the cup:
“We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which Thou
madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory forever”.
And over the broken bread:
“We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou madest
known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory forever…,
…so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy
kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever…”
Therefore the use of this word become associated with the celebration of the Eucharist which is more best described as the bread and the wine that are being transformed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. Having given a little light to its derivative it is therefore necessary to center on its relationship with daily life, for this, is the core of the Eucharist in leading us.
1. The Vatican Council II, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” designates: The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. It is the center of the Catholic faith. It is the medium through which life flows into the celebration of the mystery behind man’s redemption thus, giving strength to our daily life with all its cares and concerns, its joys and sorrows. It is the memorial of the Father’s saving action, which transforms our world through us as we bring the world to him on His altar, our gifts of bread and wine and He returns us to the world with gifts transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of His Son, nourishing and animating our every action. The Eucharist is the perfect nourishment for our souls as we journey daily towards God, it is the aliment for our spiritual nourishment and one of the two sources of spiritual nourishment in the Mass: “the table of the Word” and “the table of the Eucharist” this action is well captured in the Catechism “…With a mother's foresight, [the Church] also lavishes on us day after day in her liturgy the nourishment of the Word and Eucharist of the Lord.” (cf. CCC 2040). Like the material food we eat daily for sustenance which produces in our bodily life material support the Eucharist in himself gives life in full. The council fathers opines that“…communion with the flesh of Christ, as flesh given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit: preserves, increases and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum. (cf. CCC 1392) thus, it becomes food not just for ourselves but also to strengthen our communion with Christ and with one another as the Body of Christ. We become what we eat for the mission because it lightens our day and inflames our thirst with unquenchable desire for the service of others.
2. It is the sacrament of Charity that points us outward as One Body to the needs of others. Pope Benedict, in his Apostolic Exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” (The Sacrament of Charity, no. 84) describes it as “…The love that we celebrate in the sacrament is not something we can keep to ourselves, …What the world needs is God's love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in him. The Eucharist is thus the source and summit not only of the Church's life, but also of her mission: an authentically Eucharistic Church is a missionary Church". For this, is the very nature; everyone is sent on a mission with the missionary Church: to witness, to confirm and to strengthen all people because from the Eucharist flows the source of our missionary outreach and in it still holds the essential part of Christian life in mission. By its very nature it demands to be shared with all. Truly, nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make him known to others since we cannot approach the Eucharistic table without being drawn into the mission which, beginning in the very heart of God, is meant to reach all people.
3. It is the sacrament of service because it commits us to the poor and compels us to become more caring, more giving and more dedicated towards the needs of our neighbour. “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren…”(cf. CCC 1397) As the Eucharistic Mass ends with the words: “Ite, missa est” it becomes an invitation to go live up the gospel among our neighbour, the poor and the hungry: thus we are sent out by the Lord to be Christ like, to be his transforming presence within our world.
4. Another wonderful moment of fraternizing with the Eucharistic Lord is by a continuing renewal of our ending desire daily with him in adoration. Just as one cannot be exposed to the sun without feeling its rays so too one cannot be before the Lord without being transformed or without receiving those divine, vivifying rays of grace and love that he emits. Little wonder a quote avows that “It is through the adorable mystery of the Eucharist, that the Face we so long to contemplate is set before our eyes and burned into our souls”.
5. In the breaking of Bread, we receive the Body of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, supported by the Church to strengthen us on our mission by an intimate contact with God conferring in us the grace to overcome temptations, He separates us from sin because what we receive in the Holy Communion is "…given up for us," and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins (cf. CCC 1393) freeing us from the attack of forces and enriching us with the piety, an honest life, devotion to prayer which daily fortifies our soul.
In the Eucharist, we become Participants in the World, no longer Observers, because it will cause us to care profoundly about “Humanity, who are all Other Jesus”. Our heart will ache when we are separated from Him by Sin. Thus, the desire to do God's will in everything above our own at whatever cost to ourselves. Pope Benedict in Sacramentum Caritatis – Sacrament of Charity calls it “The first and fundamental mission that we receive from the sacred mysteries we celebrate is that of bearing witness by our lives…” (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis 85). Which leaves us with no other inclination than to become witnesses, through our actions, words and way of being.
Augustine C. Oparah