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What every Catholic should know about the Eucharist

(courtesy John Aron)

What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach?

It teaches that it is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament.

What did the first Christians believe?

St Ambrose (340-397) writes: “Be convinced that … the power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed … Could not Christ’s word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.”

What did the Council of Trent (1545-1563) teach?

“Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”

When does the transformation take place?

“The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the Consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 1377)

How should we respond?

“In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the Real Presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. The Catholic Church has always offered, and still offers, to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 1378)

Who should receive?

Only Catholics who are in good standing with the Church and are not in a state of mortal sin should receive Holy Communion.

Non-Catholic Christians and the unbaptised are welcome to attend Mass, but should not present themselves for Communion. Catholics may attend non-Catholic worship services, but should not receive Communion or make any formal commitment to the non-Catholic religion.

When should we receive?

Catholics should receive Holy Communion at least once a year, usually during the Easter season.

Every Catholic is obliged to attend Mass each Sunday, and if they are not in a condition to receive Communion should worship God and make a “spiritual communion”.

To receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin profanes the sacrament. To receive unworthily is to “sin against the Body and Blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:27)

How should we receive?

It is permitted to receive the Eucharist standing and in the hand.

However, kneeling to receive on the tongue is a sign of increased reverence and more clearly identifies us as Catholic. It also helps avoid profanation of the sacrament.

What language should we use?

“The Real Presence” is an ambiguous term since it is used by non-Catholics to sidestep the doctrine of transubstantiation. “The Body of Christ” and “The Precious Blood” is a more precise terminology for Catholics.