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The Holy Eucharist as a meal

23 Jan 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sacraments

The Holy Eucharist is the center of our worship as Catholics; everything we do revolves around this sacrament. If the Eucharistic table (The altar) is taken out of the Catholic Church, it is as good as changing the Church’s name because it’s no longer the Catholic Church. The Eucharist is the Church’s pride, the Church’s strength, and God’s gift of himself to the Church. In the Eucharist, the Church celebrates the memory and reality of the death,  resurrection, and continues presence of Jesus Christ in the Church.

The institution of the Mass

The institution of the Mass

Jesus Christ himself instituted the Holy Eucharist within the context of a meal. They were at the table when he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his apostles as food and as a gift of himself. Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’  And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood Lk. 22:19-20. He instituted the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday even before the Body and Blood’s actual sacrifice on good Friday. It was a privilege the apostles never understood until after the resurrection, that they experienced the giving of the Body and Blood even before it was given on the cross. It was given within the context of a meal; what is the point of bread if not to be eaten, of wine if not to be drunk? Thus the Eucharistic sacrament of sacrifice is a sacrificial meal.

The Mass is divided into two parts; the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist, and both involve eating. Just as the bread is broken to be eaten, so also the word is broken to be eaten. The word of God is God. In the beginning, was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God Jn. 1:1.  Just as the Eucharist is food, so also God’s word is food, they both satisfy the same hunger. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts Jer. 15:16.

The Eucharist is not the kind of food we eat carnally; it does not satisfy physical hunger; neither does it give physical energy but makes us satisfied and strong in the Lord. It is the food prepared by Christ himself and of himself for his Church. About this food, St. Paul warns, whoever, therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. 1Cor. 11:27-29.

The Eucharist is a family meal, the family of God, the Church.  It brings us together around one table, hence the name communion.Bread of life Communion is the product or the fruit of the Holy Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we commune with one another and with God. At a point during the mass, we shake hands or embrace each other as our culture permits. This sign of peace is an expression of love, oneness, and reconciliation in Christ Jesus. The common meal, the sharing from the same loaf and the same cup should make us one.

The ordinary food we eat becomes part of us, but we become part of Christ Jesus in the Eucharistic meal. The ordinary food feeds the flesh while the Eucharist feeds the Souls; it gives eternal life.

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