As we Christians walk our road of Faith, Hope, and Charity, we have many acts of faith to fulfill along the way. Among the most important is the reception of the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion.
What is the Eucharist? In Greek, the word means: Thanksgiving or Giving of graces.
The Eucharist is where Christ physically gives His Body and Blood to the faithful through this controversial act. Why is it controversial in the Christian Church today? Well, there are some Christians who believe in the real presence of Christ in the bread and the wine; and, there are others who do not.
This controversy over the Body and Blood of Christ isn’t new by any means. And in fact, we can see the seeds of the conflict in the Gospel of John as Jesus spoke at Capharnaum:
John 6:26-58 – “Jesus answered them, and said: Amen, amen I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perishes, but for that which endures unto life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you. For him hath God, the Father, sealed. They said therefore unto him: What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered, and said to them: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he hath sent. They said therefore to him: What sign therefore dost thou shew, that we may see, and may believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread.
And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall not hunger: and he that believes in me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, that you also have seen me, and you believe not. All that the Father gives to me shall come to me; and him that comes to me, I will not cast out. Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again in the last day. And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who sees the Son, and believes in him, may have life everlasting, and I will raise him up in the last day.
The Jews therefore murmured at him, because he had said: I am the living bread which came down from heaven. And they said: Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then saith he, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered, and said to them: Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, comes to me. Not that any man hath seen the Father; but he who is of God, he hath seen the Father. Amen, amen I say unto you: He that believes in me, hath everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. … Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eats me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eats this bread, shall live for ever.”
And what happened as a result of the words Jesus spoke at Capharnaum that day? The Word of God spoke in a way that sewed seeds of doubt among many of His weaker disciples:
John 6:60-65 – “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”
And, the doubt amongst His followers was so great that Judas would be inspired to on Jesus:
John 6:67-71 – “Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? And Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered them, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” He was speaking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. For although Judas was one of the Twelve, he was later to betray Jesus.”
Jesus knew that some would never accept His command to eat His flesh and drink His blood. And specifically of Capharnaum, a city where His fainthearted followers deserted Him after He had taught and performed miracles, Christ said the following:
Matthew 11:23-24 – “And you, Capharnaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will descend to Hades! For if the miracles that were performed in you had happened in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
But, for all of the faithful Apostles who remained with Christ until His earthly end, they were able to receive graces from Jesus at the Last Supper, the first time Christ follows through on giving the bread of life that He had promised to the disciples at Capharnaum:
Matthew 26:26-29 – “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, spoke a blessing and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant,which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until the day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
The second time Christ holds this ceremony, in the flesh, before His ascension follows His resurrection on the road to Emmaus:
Luke 24:30-35 – “And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in this way, and opened to us the scriptures? And rising up, the same hour, they went back to Jerusalem: and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were staying with them, Saying: The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way; and how they knew him in the breaking of the bread.”
If we put all of this information together, we see a compelling case which shows that lukewarm disciples of Christ literally could not stomach the idea of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ as He commanded them to do. So, as Christians, we must do as Christ commands. However, there are conditions we must consider in order to avoid desecrating the Holy Communion with Christ. Paul briefly touches on the subject in his letter to the Corinthians, issuing a warning to those who would knowingly and unworthily participate in Holy Communion:
1 Corinthians 11:23-28 – “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
If we are to serve Christ faithfully on earth, then we must receive His flesh and blood just as we receive His Spirit and His teachings. We must purify ourselves through penance and prayer so that we may be ready to receive Christ in both spirit and flesh. Have we done all we can to purify ourselves before Christ? And how often do you participate in Holy Communion with our Lord?
1 Corinthians 10:15-18 – “I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?”
Let us give thanks for the Eucharist, the Holy Communion! For even angels cannot participate in this physical act of Christ. And, let us remember that we humans, we lovers of Christ are truly blessed.
God love you all!