Eucharist: The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ
The Eucharist is the final sacrament of initiation. From very early on in Church tradition there has been a strong emphasis on initiating potential members in the proper way. Different liturgical practices sprang up in various places, all with their own unique understanding of what Christian initiation meant. Very early on baptism, anointing (what happens at Confirmation), and Eucharist are seen within these practices. However, the method of doing these things varied, sometimes widely, in the ancient Christian world. Some of the rites of these areas seemed to baptize with oil instead of water, some intertwined baptism with a profession of faith, while others simply used the Trinitarian formula (in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) found in the Gospels. Some traditions accompanied their Eucharistic celebrations with entire meals, where others may have simply had the bread and wine.
These early traditions eventually encountered one another, shared ideas, and slowly overlapped and became more and more similar. The overall initiation sacrament, which encompassed all baptism, anointing, and Eucharist slowly developed into three distinct sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
At every Mass, the Eucharist is celebrated. Bread and Wine become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The Mass, the celebration of the Eucharist, is the source and summit of the Christian life. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #10)
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” and “I am the living bread which comes down from heaven.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” (John 6)
Jesus instituted the celebration of the Eucharist at his Last Supper with his disciples and asked us to continue to participate “in remembrance” of him. As a sacrament of initiation, every time we receive Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist, we are re-initiated, re-membered into his mystical body.
Preparation for Eucharist
Catholic’s Preparing for the Eucharist
For those raised in the Catholic Church, preparation for the Eucharist begins at baptism as the children are formed throughout their life to participate in the faith. They should go to Mass regularly and be brought up in the customs of the faith (prayer, liturgical calendar, service, etc.). Sacramental specific catechesis begins in 1st grade in our Elementary Faith Formation program. Preparation is a two year process that culminates in the reception of the Eucharist in 2nd grade during the Easter season. The 1st graders go to regular faith formation classes where they learn about the faith. The 2nd grade children use a curriculum called “Call to Celebrate” by Our Sunday Visitor, which explores both 1st Reconciliation and 1 Eucharist more indepth to prepare them for receiving their sacraments.
Those Becoming Catholic Preparing for the Eucharist
Those interested in becoming Catholic should join the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). The RCIA is a process of spiritual growth and learning about Catholicism. Through the RCIA, you are invited to enter into a relationship with God and the Church. Those who go through the RCIA and wish to become Christians are baptized and receive the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. Contact Tim in our parish office to join RCIA. (919-848-1533).
Non-Catholics are warmly welcomed to the Mass, and we are gladened by their presence. Although they may not receive Holy Communion, they are encouraged to unite themselves to Christ in prayer, that all may be one and that the divisions between us may cease.