Sacrament of Eucharist
“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life”, says the Second Vatican Council. It is the summit to which Christian Initiation is directed and from it the Christian draws life. The ritual by which Eucharist is celebrated was formed in the Jewish tradition of the Passover Meal. This was a ritual of thanksgiving in the context of a special meal at which the story of God’s saving work in the history of the Jewish people was retold. In the ritual eating of the Paschal lamb the people shared in that ongoing salvation offered by their God.
Jesus built upon this rich ritual heritage and gave it its full meaning. At his final supper Jesus revealed himself as the One in whom God offers to the world the free gift of salvation: no longer ritualised in the lamb of Passover but in his giving of himself in his death and resurrection.
Over the centuries this ritual of the Last Supper became our ritual of Eucharist at which we are formed by listening to the Words of Scripture and the “eating and drinking” by which “we proclaim the Death of our Lord Jesus Christ”. In the celebration of the Eucharist the newly baptised reach the culminating point of their Christian initiation. Now raised to the ranks of the royal priesthood they have an active part in the celebration. They then fully participate in the Mass, particularly in gathering as the holy People of God, offering the prayers of intercession, bringing the gifts for the celebration to the altar, offering sacrifice and giving praise and thanksgiving to their God, exchanging the sign of peace and receiving Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ.
Sunday after Sunday Christians gather to celebrate the apostolic tradition of “the breaking of bread”. The community gathers as the priestly people of God to provide God with the opportunity to be with His beloved people. “This is my body given for you – do this in memory of me”. So, the people gather to be the sacrament where God is present – “where two or three gather in my name there I am in their midst”. This people come with attentive hearts to listen to the Word of God and to be formed into the Body of Christ. We each bring to the altar of celebration the richness of our life, (with its joys and sorrows, its hopes and expectations), which has been lived in faithful obedience to God’s calling. We place upon the altar the spiritual sacrifices we have made over the past week. These many diverse gifts are consecrated by the Holy Spirit invoked by the presider of our celebration. In our procession to the altar at Communion we receive the consecrated gifts of bread and wine to be the very Body of Christ. Sustained by this free gift of our God we return to our life as ambassadors of Christ, bringing his gospel of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and service to all. The Eucharist is then the summit and source of our life.
The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is then the focus of our Catholic life. We are each called to active participation in its celebration. Some of us may provide music and song to enhance its beauty; others may serve to proclaim the Scriptures assigned to the Mass; others may help in serving at its celebration; others ensure that the place of celebration is clean and beautiful. However all are called to ensure that they participate with attentive faith, freed from the burden of division.