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Words on the Holy Eucharist

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" they said. Jesus replied:

"I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever."

He taught this doctrine at Capernaum, in the synagogue. After hearing it, many of his followers said, "This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?" Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, "Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

"It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.

"But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, "This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him." After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.

John 6:52-66
(The Jerusalem Bible)

And as they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and give it to them. "Take it," he said "this is my body." Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, "This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many."

Mark 14:22-24
(The Jerusalem Bible)

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me." In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me." Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, and so anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be behaving unworthily towards the body and blood of the Lord.

Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation.

1 Corinthians 11:23-29
(The Jerusalem Bible)

Let no one be deceived! Even the heavenly powers and the angels in their splendor and the principalities, both visible and invisible, must either believe in the Blood of Christ, or else face damnation. Let him grasp it who can. Let no rank puff up anyone; for faith and love are paramount the greatest blessings in the world. Observe those who hold erroneous opinions concerning the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how they run counter to the mind of God! They concern themselves with neither works of charity, nor widows, nor orphans, nor the distressed, nor those in prison or out of it, nor the hungry or thirsty.

From Eucharist and prayer they hold aloof, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His loving-kindness raised from the dead. And so, those who question the gift of God perish in their contentiousness. It would be better for them to have love, so as to share in the resurrection. It is proper, therefore, to avoid associating with such people and not to speak about them either in private or in public, but to study the Prophets attentively and, especially, the Gospel, in which the Passion is revealed to us and the Resurrection shown in its fulfillment. Shun division as the beginning of evil.

You must all follow the lead of the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed that of the Father; follow the presbytery as you would the Apostles; reverence the deacons as you would God's commandment. Let no one do anything touching the Church, apart from the bishop. Let that celebration of the Eucharist be considered valid which is held under the bishop or anyone to whom he has committed it. Where the bishop is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not permitted without authorization from the bishop either to baptize or to hold an agape; but whatever he approves is also pleasing to God. Thus everything you do will be proof against danger and valid.

Ignatius of Antioch (circa AD 110)
Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6:1-8:2
(Ancient Christian Writers Volume I, pages 92f)

We call this food the Eucharist, of which only he can partake who has acknowledged the truth of our teachings, who has been cleansed by baptism for the remission of his sins and for his regeneration, and who regulates his life upon the principles laid down by Christ. Not as ordinary bread or as ordinary drink do we partake of them, but just as, through the word of God, our Savior Jesus Christ became Incarnate and took upon Himself flesh and blood for our salvation, so, we have been taught, the food which has been made the Eucharist by the prayer of His word, and which nourishes our flesh and blood by assimilation, is both the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. The Apostles in their memoirs, which are called Gospels, have handed down what Jesus ordered them to do; that He took bread and, after giving thanks, said: "Do this in remembrance of Me; this is My body." In like manner, He took also the chalice, gave thanks, and said: "This is My blood"; and to them only did He give it....

St. Justin Martyr (circa AD 150)
The First Apology Chapter 66a
(The Fathers of the Church: a New Translation Volume 6, pages 104ff)

Proclaiming the death according to the flesh of the only begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, and professing his return to life from the dead and his ascension into heaven, we offer the unbloody worship in the churches and so proceed to the mystical thanksgivings and are sanctified, having partaken of the holy flesh and precious blood of Christ, the saviour of us all. This we receive not as ordinary flesh, heaven forbid, nor as that of a man who has been made holy and joined to the Word by union of honor, or who had a divine indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and real flesh of the Word. For being Life by nature as God, when he became one with his own flesh, he made it also to be life-giving, as also he said to us: "Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood...." For we must not think that it is the flesh of a man like us (for how can the flesh of man be life-giving by its own nature?), but as being made the true flesh of the one who for our sake became the son of man and was called so.

Council of Ephesus (431)
"Third Letter of Cyril to Nestorius" Paragraph 7
(Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils Volume I, pages * 53f)

His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been changed in substance [Latin transsubstantiatis], by God's power, into his body and blood, so that in order to achieve this mystery of unity, we receive from God what he received from us. Nobody can effect this sacrament except a priest who has been properly ordained according to the Church's keys, which Jesus Christ himself gave to the apostles and their successors....

Fourth Lateran Council (1215)
"Constitutions: 1. On the Catholic Faith" Paragraph 3
(Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils Volume I, page * 230)

The Holy Council teaches and openly and without qualification professes that, after the consecration of the bread and the wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is truly, really and substantially contained in the propitious sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of those things which are perceptible to the senses. Nor are the two assertions incompatible, that our Savior is ever seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father in his natural mode of existing, and that he is nevertheless sacramentally present to us by his substance in many other places in a mode of existing which, though we can hardly express it in words, we can grasp with minds enlightened by faith as possible to God and must most firmly believe. For thus did all our forefathers, as many as were in the true Church of Christ and treated of this Most Holy Sacrament, most clearly profess: namely, that our Redeemer at the Last Supper instituted this so admirable sacrament when he bore witness in express and unambiguous words that, after the blessing of the bread and the wine, he was offering to them his own body and his own blood. Since those words, recorded by the holy evangelists and afterwards repeated by St. Paul, bear that proper and very clear meaning which the fathers understood them to have, it is surely a most intolerable and shameful deed for some base and argumentative persons to twist them to false and imaginary meanings that deny the reality of Christ's flesh and blood, against the universal understanding of the Church which, as the pillar and bulwark of the truth, detests these contrived theories of evil people as the work of the devil, and constantly recalls and confesses with gratitude this outstanding favor of Christ.

Council of Trent (1551)
"Decree on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist" Chapter 1
(Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils Volume II, pages * 693f)

To know with full and perfect faith what is the virtue of the Most Holy Eucharist is to know what God, made Man, accomplished for the salvation of the human race in His infinite mercy. For as it is a duty of true faith to proclaim our belief in Christ and worship the Supreme Author of our salvation, who by His wisdom, laws, example and the shedding of His blood renewed all things, it is a duty of equal obligation to worship Him who is really present in the Eucharist, that so He may abide among men to the end of the world, and by the perennial communication of Himself make them sharers in the blessing of His redemption.

Pope Leo XIII (1902)
Mirae caritatis Paragraph 6
(Official Catholic Teachings: Worship and Liturgy page 3)

Our Savior inaugurated the eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood at the Last Supper on the night he was betrayed, in order to make his sacrifice of the cross last throughout time until he should return; and indeed to entrust a token to the Church, his beloved wife, by which to remember his death and resurrection. It is a sacrament of faithful relationships, a sign of unity, a bond of divine love, a special Easter meal. In it, Christ is received, the inner self is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.

Second Vatican Council (1963)
Sacrosanctum concilium Number 47
(Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils Volume II, page * 830)

Though the ecclesial communities which are separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us which flows from baptism, and though we believe they have not retained the authentic and full reality of the Eucharistic Mystery, especially because the Sacrament of Orders is lacking, nevertheless when they commemorate his death and resurrection in the Lord's Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and look forward to his coming in glory....

Second Vatican Council (1964)
Unitatis redintegratio Number 22 Paragraph 3
(Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils Volume II, pages * 919f)

We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the Sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His Body and His Blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, so the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and We believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under the appearance of those elements which seem to our senses the same after as before the Consecration, is a true, real and substantial presence.

Pope Paul VI (1968)
Solemn Profession of Faith Paragraph 30
(Official Catholic Teachings: Christ our Lord page 411)

The Church lives on the eucharist, lives on the fullness of this sacrament, whose sublime essence and meaning have often been explained by the Church's magisterium from the earliest times down to our own. Even so, we can say with certainty that this teaching supported by the profound minds of theologians, by people of deep faith and prayer, by ascetics and mystics in their complete fidelity toward the eucharistic mystery still is as it were only at its beginnings: their teaching cannot encompass in thought nor express in word what the eucharist is in its fullness, what it signifies, and what it brings to pass. The eucharist is literally the ineffable sacrament. The inescapable duty and the visible grace and origin of all the resources of the Church as the people of God are specifically these: to remain faithful and to go forward continuously in eucharistic life and devotion and to bring about spiritual progress centered around the eucharist. Consequently, it is completely impermissible for us, whether in thought, life, or deed, to take away from this blessed sacrament anything of its full nature and proper meaning. The eucharist is at once sacrament and sacrifice, sacrament and communion, sacrament and presence. No matter how clearly the eucharist has always been and must always remain the expression and celebration of the human community of Christ's disciples and followers, it still cannot be treated only as just another opportunity for professing this community. For in the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord's body and blood, the integral meaning of the divine mystery and the full force of this sacramental sign must be respected; in it Christ's presence is real, the heart is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory given to us.

Pope John Paul II (1979)
Redemptor hominis Number 20 Paragraph 4a
(Documents on the Liturgy (1963-1979) pages 438f)

Jesus said: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; . . . he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and . . . abides in me, and I in him" (Jn 6:51, 54, 56).

The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church's life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body which is the Church.

The Eucharistic celebration always includes: the proclamation of the Word of God; thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits, above all the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine; and participation in the liturgical banquet by receiving the Lord's body and blood. These elements constitute one single act of worship.

The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, that is, of the work of salvation accomplished by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, a work made present by the liturgical action.

It is Christ himself, the eternal high priest of the New Covenant who, acting through the ministry of the priests, offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. And it is the same Christ, really present under the species of bread and wine, who is the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord.

The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: "this is my body which will be given up for you.... this is the cup of my blood...."

By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity.

As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead and to obtain spiritual or temporal benefits from God.

Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.

Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ increases the communicant's union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves him from grave sins. Since receiving this sacrament strengthens the bonds of charity between the communicant and Christ, it also reinforces the unity of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.

The Church warmly recommends that the faithful receive Holy Communion each time they participate in the celebration of the Eucharist; she obliges them to do so at least once a year.

Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration. "To visit the blessed sacrament is... a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord" (Paul VI).

Having passed from this world to the Father, Christ gives us in the Eucharist the pledge of glory with him. Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) ## 1406-1419

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