by Natalie Yuhas
Spring is full of new life as everything blooms and the weather warms up. It is also a time of new life in the Church as many children receive the blessed sacrament of First Holy Communion and thereby enter more fully into the Church community. My family sits in the same seats in the exact same row every weekend at Mass, and the angle we are at gives us a perfect view of the kids’ faces as they receive the Eucharist for the very first time. I love seeing how excited they get as they finally walk up and hold out their hands, just as they have seen their parents and everyone else in the community do for so long. The genuine smile and joy that radiates from their faces after they receive the Eucharist is unparalleled. Every time spring rolls around and I get to watch the new wave of children receive their First Communion, I am reminded of how beautiful the Eucharist really is.
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is, as are all the sacraments, a gift of God’s grace and a physical way to understand what is sacred. Holy Communion is a sacrament that originated at the Last Supper where Jesus broke bread and shared wine with his apostles before He was crucified. He presented these disciples with His Body and Blood under the species of bread and wine. During Mass, the bread and wine are consecrated by the priest, thus transforming them from mere bread and wine to the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is different than other some other Christian faith traditions, which regard the Eucharist as simply a symbol for the body and blood.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that, "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'" (CCC 1323).
God gave us the greatest sacrifice though His only Son, and the Eucharist is a way to remember this covenant with God. Participating in the Eucharist is to embrace a union with God through His love and sacrifice.
Catholics also believe that “Holy Communion separates us from our sin” (CCC 1393). Not only does the Eucharist bring us into intimate union with God, but it also is an instrument for our salvation. The Eucharist restores, strengthens, and prevents us from sin. Through habitual participation in the Eucharist, it is as if we are replacing bad, sinful habits with a habit of unity and love with God.
The Eucharist is at the heart of what it means to be Catholic. We believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the Eucharist continually joins us into this great sacrifice. The key to Eucharist is this unity and love.