HomeQuestions & AnswersWhat is the Eucharist?
Questions & Answers

What is the Eucharist?

Tags: Eucharist, Holy Communion
1. What is the Eucharist?
When Jesus celebrated the Passover with his apostles before his Passion and Death, he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22: 15-16). “And he took 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.’ 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (Luke 22: 19-20).
This central truth of our Faith is recorded in several parts of the New Testament: Luke 22: 7-20; Matthew 26: 17-29; Mark 14: 12-25; and St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26.

Every time the priest at Mass says the words of Consecration, the miracle of the Eucharist happens: what was formerly bread and wine is now, under the same appearances, the Body and Blood of Christ.

As the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man” (no. 282).

Contemplating the Mystery
The Creator has loved his creatures to this extent. Our Lord Jesus Christ, as though all the other proofs of his mercy were insufficient, institutes the Eucharist so that he can always be close to us. We can only understand up to a point that he does so because Love moves him, who needs nothing, not to want to be separated from us.
Christ is Passing By, 84

Motivated by his own love and by his desire to teach us to love, Jesus came on earth and has stayed with us in the Eucharist.
Christ is Passing By, 151

2. How and when is this change produced?
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 (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1413

It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood (“transubstantiation”) that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. And St. Ambrose says about this conversion: “Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed.”

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 (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1641).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1375 and 1377

Contemplating the mystery
What we cannot do, our Lord is able to do. Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, leaves us, not a symbol, but a reality. He himself stays with us. He will go to the Father, but he will also remain among men. He will leave us, not simply a gift that will make us remember him, not an image that becomes blurred with time, like a photograph that soon fades and yellows, and has no meaning except for those who were contemporaries. Under the appearances of bread and wine, he is really present: his Body and Blood, with his Soul and Divinity.
Christ is Passing By, 83

Under the appearances (“species”) of bread and wine Jesus is really present: his Body, his Blood, his Soul, and his Divinity.
3. How is Jesus present in the Eucharist?
The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.”

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1374

St John, in his Gospel, quotes some more words of Jesus: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. He (...) abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6: 51, 54, and 56).

Contemplating the mystery
Because of the Blessed Trinity’s love for man, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist brings all graces to the Church and to mankind. This is the sacrifice announced by the prophet Malachy: “From the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and a fragrant sacrifice and a pure offering is made to me in all places.” It is the sacrifice of Christ, offered to the Father with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit – an offering of infinite value, which perpetuates the work of the redemption in us and surpasses the sacrifices of the old law.
Christ is Passing By, 86

When it comes to speaking of Christ’s Love, we are lost for words. He has so abased Himself that He accepts everything; He exposes Himself to everything – to sacrilege, to blasphemy and to the cold indifference of so many people – in order to offer even one man the chance of hearing the beating of his Heart in his wounded side.
In Love with the Church, 39

4. How can we be convinced that God himself is present under the appearance of bread and wine?
St Josemaria, Opus Dei founder, during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
St Josemaria, Opus Dei founder, during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the Cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us “to the end” (Jn 13:1), even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love.

That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that “cannot be apprehended by the senses,” says St. Thomas, “but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1380 and 1381

Contemplating the mystery
“Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore, Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more, See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art. Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived; How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed; What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do; Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.”
St Thomas Aquinas, hymn Adoro Te Devote, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1381

Our whole faith is brought into play when we believe in Jesus, really present under the appearances of bread and wine.
Christ is Passing By, 153

Lord, I believe firmly. Thank you for giving us faith! I believe in You, in that marvel of Love that is your Real Presence under the Eucharistic species, after the Consecration, on the altar and in the Tabernacles where you are reserved. I believe more firmly than if I could hear you with my ears, more firmly than if I could see you with my eyes, more firmly than if I could touch you with my hands.
St Josemaría, letter dated March 28 1973, no. 7; quoted in the Pastoral Letter from the Prelate of Opus Dei on the Year of the Eucharist, 6 October 2004.

5. How do we show our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?
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.”

The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent outside of Mass. As faith in the real presence of Christ in his Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species. It is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Genuflect slowly, devoutly, and well. And while you are adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, say to him in your heart, “I adore you, my hidden God
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1378-1379

Contemplating the mystery
God has decided to stay in the tabernacle to nourish us, strengthen us, make us divine and give effectiveness to our work and efforts.
Christ is Passing By, 151

How little time people find to spend with God these days! Don’t be in a rush yourself. Don’t make a clumsy twist of your body, which looks like mockery, instead of a reverent genuflection. Make a genuflection like this, slowly, devoutly, and well. And while you are adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, say to him in your heart: “Adoro Te devote, latens Deitas. I adore you, my hidden God.”
St Josemaria, notes taken from a family gathering, October 1972; quoted in the Pastoral Letter from the Prelate of Opus Dei on the Year of the Eucharist, 6 October 2004.

6. What is a Visit to the Blessed Sacrament?
Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honoured 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, Mysterium Fidei, 66).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1418

Contemplating the mystery
Don’t omit the visit to the Blessed Sacrament. After your usual vocal prayer, tell Jesus, really present in the Tabernacle, of the cares and worries of your day. And you will receive light and strength for your life as a Christian.
The Way, 554