July 25, 2019
There is something to be said about someone willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of another. It is even more significant when the person offering the sacrifice initiates a meal of remembrance for the sole purpose of participating in this act of mercy and thanksgiving again.
If someone were to ask you what is so significant about receiving bread and wine at a Catholic Mass, a very straightforward answer would be: Jesus Christ wanted us to receive Him in a very humble and present way, recalling His uninhibited desire to die for our sake, both physically and spiritually.
Receiving what the Church calls the “Holy Eucharist” — the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the form of unleavened bread and pure wine — conveys the reality that the salvation of humanity rests on the actual representation of a human sacrifice through a sacred meal of bread and wine. As we see in Matthew 26 and Mark 14, Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist. It directly represents who He is as the paschal lamb, the lamb of sacrifice, through human elements of bread and wine that serve as the perfect and direct representation of Christ.
Jesus did indeed offer Himself both physically and spiritually through the reality of a sacred meal. The significance of the use of bread and wine are meant to help us understand that Christ, through His crucifixion, is the living bread that came down from heaven — the Word made flesh, fully and truly present: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The Gospels, His miracles, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and the healings that He performed, testify to this. The sacred significance of receiving the Holy Eucharist at every Mass is that we are truly receiving Christ.
When did Jesus initiate the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist?
Matthew 26 and Mark 14 are key Biblical references to Christ’s institution of the Holy Eucharist and celebration of the Last Supper with His Apostles. The significance of this feast was so that Christ could leave an element to His Apostles of who He is — the Word of God taking on human form.
But it’s still bread and wine?
People ask, “But aren’t you just eating bread and drinking wine? Sounds like you’re just having a little potluck at Mass.” But not so.
When you look at the elements of bread and wine, you look at the accidents (appearances) that remain visible, but the substance of the bread and wine are changed by our Lord, through the blessing of a priest, at every Mass throughout the world.
The bread and wine are meant to help us understand that Christ, through offering His sacrifice — because He is the living bread that came down from heaven, the Word made flesh — is fully and truly present: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The Gospels, His miracles, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and the healings that He performed testify to this. The Eucharist naturally becomes one of the gifts or miracles that we receive at every Mass.
Why is this sacrament the source and summit of our faith?
People ask, “What’s the big deal with the Eucharist? If it’s merely symbolic, then you really have nothing to worship.” But it’s more than that. It’s Christ.
If Christ is the Word of God, if Christ took on human form and He is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, then it makes sense that this becomes the apex or the centrality of why we worship Him in the Holy Eucharist, or why we do what we do as Catholics. Everything is centered on Him. The fact that He gave us a meal of remembrance housed in the Mass or the liturgy becomes significant for us as Catholics.
That’s why it becomes the source and summit of everything that we see. In other words, it becomes a foretaste of what we will experience in heaven, found at every Mass. So the source and summit becomes key for us as Catholics because we see a visible reality of Christ’s love for us through this meal that He instituted for us to partake of.
There is something to be said about someone willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of another.