SACRAMENTS: Eucharist: Holy Communion

Bishop Holding Host AloftBody and Blood of Christ

The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, the Son of God.

Some additionally observe that the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is and contains the Body, Blood, Soul, Mind and Divinity of Christ.  The Eucharist has this Nature in a manner that is Mystery beyond our human comprehension.

We should receive the Eucharist and pray before It.   Thankful to God for this Special Gift, we Reverence the Ineffable Holiness of the Eucharist and Realize its interconnection with God’s Loving Sacrifice for us upon the Cross.

Saint Thomas the Aquinas wrote of the Eucharist, as excerpted by the Divine Office:

O Precious and Wonderful Banquet, that brings us Salvation and contains all Sweetness!  Could anything be of more intrinsic Value? No other Sacrament has greater Healing Power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the Soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.  It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the Salvation of all may be for the Benefit of all.  Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the Sweetness of this Sacrament, in which Spiritual Delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the Memory of that Surpassing Love for us which Christ revealed in His Passion.


Source and Summit of the Christian Life (Fount and Apex)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994, 1997) says that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of the Christian Life, declaring in ¶1324:

The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.'[ ] ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself …

The Catechism cites Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1964 as part of Vatican II.  Lumen Gentium in ¶ 11, refers to “the Eucharistic Sacrifice” as “the Fount and Apex of the whole Christian Life,” as translated into English on

Most Holy and Sacred, to Be Reverenced

The Eucharist is Holy and Sacred.  We therefore are to Adore and Reverence the Most Holy Eucharist.  We may only receive Communion if not in a state of grave sin, and we genuflect before It.  Indeed, desecration of the Eucharist brings excommunication.

Last Supper: the First Eucharistic Celebration

Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper two millenia ago, when He Consecrated the Bread and Wine and declared This is My Body, given up for you; This is My Blood, the Blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant, Shed for you and for all, so that sins may be Forgiven.  He also exhorts us, do this in memory of Me.

Saint Thomas the Aquinas wrote of the Eucharist, as excerpted by the Divine Office:

It was to impress the vastness of this Love more firmly upon the hearts of the Faithful that our Lord instituted this Sacrament at the Last Supper.  As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after Celebrating the Passover with His Disciples, He left it as a Perpetual Memorial of His Passion.  It was the Fulfillment of ancient figures and the Greatest of all His Miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of His Departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding Consolation.


Jesus continues to Consecrate the Eucharist at Mass, using the Priest Celebrant as His visible Instrument.


Mass, Tabernacle, Adoration

Today, the Eucharist continues by a Priest, acting as an Instrument of Christ, carrying out the Consecration at Mass, during the portion of the Mass known as the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

We, therefore, encounter the Eucharist at Mass.

In addition, the Eucharist is kept in Tabernacles, in Churches and Chapels, and we receive opportunities to pray before It.

During Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, such as during a Holy Hour or at Perpetual Adoration, a large Host is displayed in a Monstrance, behind a clear cover, usually in the center of a large Cross.

The Eucharist also is carried, in a special case, to remote locations, to take Communion to the sick, by a Priest or authorized person such as a Eucharistic Minister.

Receive the Eucharist

As Catholics, it is important that we receive the Eucharist.  It also is important that we therefore are properly disposed and prepared to receive the Eucharist, such as by renouncing sin, going to Mass each Sunday and Holy Day, and going to Confession.

Frequent reception of the Eucharist is encouraged.

Although laity are limited to receiving Communion twice in a day, with the second time being at a Mass (e.g., if one attends a daily Mass and later attend a Wedding Mass or Mass of Christian Burial).

A Catholic is required to receive Communion at least once per year.

The USCCB provides the following Guidelines for Receiving Communion, dated to 1996:

As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 §4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 §3).

All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

Divine Mystery, Beyond Our Comprehension

The Eucharist, and Transubstantiation, by which Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, while still retaining some of the accidents of wheat or wine to outward appearances, is beyond our human comprehension or even our ordinary human senses.  Similarly, the ultimate Nature of the Holy Trinity and other aspects of God, His Divine Nature, and the Divine Plan are beyond our human minds.  Yet we still can encounter and experience God, including encountering the Most Holy Eucharist, and with God’s Divine Mercy and Divine Help, we can grow in our Relationship with God.


There have been instances of the Eucharist actually exhibiting physical characteristics such as issuing Blood.

Blessed Mother Teresa

While often associated with action, rather than being a contemplative, Blessed Mother Teresa observed that she could never have accomplished the work she performed without spending an hour a day before the Eucharist in prayer.

We therefore see the Eucharist as an opportunity for Communion with God, and also a source of strength and Grace to carry out God’s Work, in the process living out our lives as our real and true selves, seeking to act as instruments of God.

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas, who composed hymns used at Adoration, also authored a writing on the Eucharist excerpted in the Divine Office:

… God’s only-Begotten Son … by becoming man … when He took our flesh He dedicated the Whole of Its Substance to our Salvation.  He Offered His Body to God the Father on the altar of the Cross as a Sacrifice for our Reconciliation.  He Shed His Blood for our Ransom and Purification, so that we might be Redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin.  But to ensure that the Memory of so Great a Gift would abide with us for ever, he left His Body as Food and His Blood as Drink for the Faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

(Note that when referring to the “form” of bread and wine, the reference is to the mere appearance, or superficial aspects of the appearance.  In reality, the bread and wine are Consecrated into the Body and Blood of Christ.)

Failure by Some to Accept the Eucharist

It was right after Jesus fed the five thousand (more like twenty thousand, when women and children were added in), that Jesus gave the Bread of Life discourses, explaining that His Flesh is True Food, His Blood True Drink.

The lack of Faith and inability to accept these teachings resulted in a number, even of His own Disciples, to give up following Him, and go back to their old lives.  This was the time when Jesus asked the Apostles if they, too, would leave, prompting Peter to say, Lord, where are we to go? You have the Words of Eternal Life.

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