The Sacrament of the Eucharist completes Christian initiation and unites us with Christ and with the Church.
The bishops at the Second Vatican Council emphasized the centrality of this sacrament and called it the “source and summit of Christian life.” (Lumen Gentium, no. 11)
Jesus gave the Eucharist to the Church at the Last Supper when he offered himself to his disciples in the form of bread and wine. Jesus’ words and actions anticipated his sacrifice on the Cross for the Salvation of all. In this new covenant, sealed by his blood, Jesus unites God and the human family. At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples: Do this in memory of me.
The word Eucharist comes from a Greek word meaning “to give thanks.” The Mass, our central act of worship, is a prayer of thanksgiving. We give thanks and praise to God as we offer gifts of bread and wine, symbols of all that we have been given by God. At the consecration, by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the words and actions of the priest, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Though the bread and wine remain the same in appearance and taste, their substances are changed into the Body and Blood of the risen Christ. The Church calls this change transubstantiation. The Body and Blood together with the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ are really and substantially present under the form of bread and wine. This is called real presence. As we receive the Eucharist, we are transformed by the grace of the sacrament to become signs of Christ’s presence in the world. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we honor Jesus’ command to “Do this in memory of me.”
The Eucharist is a memorial of the Last Supper. As a memorial, the Eucharist is more than a simple remembering of past events.
The Eucharist makes present the sacrifice of the Cross that Christ offered once and for all people.