Hello Rosary Lovers! The Eucharist is a MASSIVE deal in the Catholic Church. It’s the main reason many Catholics are Catholic.
In this post, we’ll ask: What do Catholics believe about the Eucharist? Why is it such a big deal in the Catholic religion?
Catholics Have a Remarkably Unique View of the Eucharist
The first thing to say here is that Catholics don’t think of the Eucharist like other Christians. Protestant Christians have many different views about the Eucharist in their churches.
Many modern Protestants believe the Eucharist to be a only, or little more, than a symbol of Christ’s body and blood. Many other Protestants believe the Eucharist is in some way the body and blood of Jesus, but in some kind of a lesser sense than Catholics do.
Even Orthodox Christians, who share a tremendous amount in common with Catholics, don’t always think the same way about the Eucharist as Catholics do. For example, a lot of Orthodox Christians do not accept the Catholic Church’s view of transubstantiation (although Orthodox many do).
It needs to be said, however, that of all other non-Roman Catholic Christians, the Orthodox certainly have by far the closest view of the Eucharist to the Catholic Church.
The Eucharist is a Real Sacrifice
For Catholics, the Eucharist is a real Sacrifice. It’s not a pretend sacrifice, or a symbolic sacrifice, but a real one.
Catholics believe that at Mass, the real sacrificial Victim of Jesus Christ comes down on our altars. There, he is presented before us and presented to God.
Jesus himself is also present in the person of the Catholic priest. So Jesus both offers himself, and is the one offered. It’s Jesus doing it all, using the physical realities of the Church: the priests, the bread, the wine, the chalice and so on.
The fact that the Eucharist is a Sacricice is an extremely significant fact.
In the Old Testament, we are introduced to God’s character and to divine revelation for the first time. There we are told repeatedly, over and over, that the only way to properly worship God is by the offering of bloody animal sacrifice.
We see this in the story of Abraham, who constantly builds altars to God, sacrificing animals on them. Noah does this as soon as he leaves the ark.
The children of Israel when leaving Egypt claim they are leaving to sacrifice to their God, the LORD. God gives them many, many instructions about this in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Animal sacrifice is so important in the Old Testament in the worship of Almighty God that without it, people could not worship God properly.
Surprisingly, in many, many human cultures across the world and since the dawn of time, we continue to find evidence that people everywhere offered animal sacrifices to the gods or the Divinity.
There seems therefore to be a very strong, subconscious knowledge in human nature that the Divine Being (however it is understood by the various cultures) requires bloody sacrifice in worship.
For instance, traditionally, this was a large part of Hindu worship. It was part of many ancient religions.
Islam today still has a place within it for the slaughtering of animals, though not for the purpose of worshipping Allah.
Jewish religion traditionally was filled with this. Today, because Jews don’t have a temple, they believe that God accepts their prayers in place of animal sacrifice. But when Jews get their temple back, they will offer sacrifice once again.
Anyway, you get the point hopefully. Sacrificing blood to God is innate in human nature. It’s almost as if it’s written into human DNA.
Therefore, it is only appropriate that God himself has provided us with his own sacrifice. And that sacrifice is the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ for our sins, which is the very same sacrifice as the Holy Catholic Mass.
The Mass and the Crucifixion of Jesus are not two separate sacrifices, but ONE AND THE SAME infinitely holy Sacrifice.
The Eucharist fulfils all of the Old Testament animal sacrifices, and all of the offerings of bread and wine to God that are found in the Old Testament as well (there are many of these).
The Eucharist, therefore, is the supreme act of worship in the universe that God has created.
Because of this, the Catholic religion believes that it is not possible to properly approach God or worship God without coming to him through the Eucharist.
It is well worth pointing out here that this is why Catholics don’t have a problem with praying to Mary and the saints. Because Eucharistic sacrifice is the supreme act of worship to Divinity, Catholics realise that they are not doing this with Mary and the saints. They are merely praying to them, appealing to them. This is then, strictly speaking, not worship.
If Catholics offered Mary the Eucharist, it would be a very grave incident of idolatry. We would never do this. The Eucharist is offered to God and to God alone.
And being a Sacrifice, the Eucharist is the highest form of Prayer in the universe. Therefore, when Catholics pray to Mary in their own spare time, they aren’t offering this high form of Prayer to her, the Prayer of worship. They are offering something far less.
The Eucharist is the very Flesh and Blood of Christ
The next thing we can say about what Catholics believe about this Eucharist is that they believe it is the very flesh and blood of Jesus.
Like I said before, many Christians believe the Eucharist to be in some sort of vague way the flesh and blood of Jesus, but Catholics go far further than any other Christians here.
Catholics believe in a doctrine called transubstantiation. This is the belief that during the Mass, the bread and wine truly and really become the very flesh, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.
Does this mean the bread and wine physically change? Not in the least. In fact, apart from the Eucharistic miracles that have very rarely taken place in Catholic history (even in very recent times), the bread and wine never ever change their physical appearance.
How do they change then? They change in their very essence – their ‘what-ness’ – their fundamental reality.
In other words, the Catholic looks at the consecrated Host and by faith sees Christ in all his glorious reality and presence. The Catholic sees bread also, but the Catholic looks beyond the bread to see what the bread has really become: Christ.
This means that for Catholics, they believe they are truly eating Jesus Christ, the holy Sacrifice.
You might recall that this takes place often in the Old Testament, when the priests eat the sacrifices which are offered to God.
Just as Jesus said: ‘My flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed‘ (John 6). Surely Jesus couldn’t have said this if he didn’t literally mean it.
The Eucharist is God
Because the Eucharist is really and truly Christ, Catholics deduce that the Eucharist is also GOD.
That’s quite an amazing thing.
When a Catholic looks at the uplifted Host, or when we look at the Eucharist in Eucharistic Adoration, Catholics see their God, the Creator of heaven and earth. They see the meaning of everything in the consecrated Host.
To fix your eyes on a consecrated Host is to see before you the very reason for your existence, and the very reason for the existence of everything else that you can see, smell, taste, touch or hear.
The Eucharist is BEING. It is REALITY. It is EXISTENCE. Because it is God.
In the Eucharist, you are seeing Wisdom itself. You are seeing all Knowledge. You are seeing Everything and all things.
I don’t really know how to express this enough.
The Eucharist is the New Covenant
Another important Catholic belief is that the Eucharist is the New Covenant.
Jesus taught this when he said: ‘This cup/chalice is the new covenant in my blood.’ The cup itself, the cup of the Saviour’s blood, is itself the new covenant.
As an interesting sidenote, if Jesus didn’t mean this literally, he would not have used the word ‘cup/chalice’. A metaphorical or symbolic chalice/cup doesn’t make much sense here, since we know it’s a literal cup/chalice he’s referring to.
In other words, what is the Gospel?
The Gospel is the EUCHARIST!
This is one of the main reasons people convert to the Catholic Church. It is one of the main reasons many Protestants have converted to Catholicism. They have discovered that the Eucharist is itself the Gospel, and they desperately want and need it.
The Eucharist is Intense Communion with God
When we think of what the Eucharist is, we come to realise that there couldn’t possibly have been a more intimate way God could have reached us.
Think of it: God himself gives us his own flesh and blood to literally eat and drink under the forms of bread and wine.
He could have given us his body and blood physically, but he loves us so much that he chose to give it to us under a form which makes it very easy to receive, and a lot more palatable to human nature.
But in reality, we really do receive God’s flesh and blood, his human soul and his eternal divinity. That is absolutely amazing. You can’t get closer to the Creator of all things than that. That’s how much he loves us.
This is an intense communion with God, a communion that none of the people of the Old Testament knew, but longed for.
The Eucharist is Intense Communion with other Catholics
Likewise, because the Eucharist is the Body of Christ, it is inseparable from the reality of the Church, and every member of the Church.
Therefore, when we eat the Eucharist, we are having real communion with each other. We are sharing in each other’s lives in a very intimate way.
St Augustine once pointed to the consecrated Host on the altar of his Catholic Church and said to the people present: ‘There you all are, on this table.’ How? In the Eucharist.
All Catholics are united to each other in the Eucharist, and therefore when we eat the body of Christ we have having the most intense kind of fellowship and communion with each other.
So it is all the more vital that we love each other deeply and continue to grow in this love that we have for each other.
It is all the more vital we continue to call other Christians who don’t know this amazing reality into this reality and experience of love.
And it is all the more vital that we continue to call the whole world and even all of creation in this glorious union with the Divine Being.
If you have any questions or wish to leave a comment, please do so, and I’ll try my best to response as soon as I can.
God bless, in the Holy Eucharist, through the blessed and immaculate heart of Mary full of grace.