During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays families gather around the dinner table to feast and catch up on current events. We have built into us a desire for family unity, with one another, and also with God. Even a dysfunctional family wants unity. In fact, families that eat together on a regular basis, five nights a week, have a dramatically higher rate of staying together.
This need for family unity resonates at the Mass. We all come together, from all different backgrounds, and we partake in the Eucharistic meal, Holy Communion.
Is the Eucharist just a symbolic meal, a nice gesture we do at the Mass?
In order to receive the life-changing benefits from the Eucharist, we first have to unveil what is the Eucharist. We have to look beyond just a meal.
At the Last Supper Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover. This was also a todah sacrifice. Todah is the Hebrew word for “thank offering” or “thanksgiving.” When we translate the Hebrew word todah into Greek we get the word eucharistia, or Eucharist in English.
The Passover and the todah had all the same components: bread, wine, a lamb to sacrifice, hymns, and prayers. When Jesus broke bread He declared thanksgiving. He gave thanks to the Father for bringing new life through His Death and Resurrection.
Jesus not only celebrated the todah, He physically became the thanksgiving sacrifice. Christ also united the todah sacrifice with the sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary. The Passover sacrifice began in the upper room at the Last Supper with the todah, and was complete at His death on the Cross at Calvary. They are one in the same sacrifice.
Then he took a loaf of 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.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” – Luke 22:19-20
One year prior to the Last Supper, Jesus preached the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:35-58). Jesus knew preparation was in order. This was going to be a “hard saying.” Over and over again Jesus said “My flesh is real food, My blood is real drink.” Jesus meant what He said.
Now fast forward to the Last Supper. When Jesus said “this is my body, this is my blood” the disciples remembered what Christ said one year prior about His body being real food and blood real drink. It sank in. This was more than just a thanksgiving sacrifice. Jesus had become the Eucharistic (todah) sacrifice.
At Mass Jesus comes to us in the form of bread and wine, in an unbloodied, perpetual thanksgiving (todah) sacrifice. To nourish our souls and remind us of what He did for us on the Cross. We have been given new life. Sanctifying life through this thanksgiving sacrifice we call the Eucharist.
“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life” (CCC 1324). Whenever I hear a Christian that vacated the Catholic Church say they left because they “found Jesus.” A person can’t get any closer to Christ than in the Eucharist. Leaving the Catholic Church distances a person from Christ because of the intimacy one receives in the Eucharist at Mass.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is powerful. A Mass that provides beauty, reverence, and uplifts the sacredness of the Eucharist can have a tremendous impact on your life. Sacred music is important too, such as chant and polyphony. In my daily life I enjoy popular music, but at Mass it is a sacred place and the music that reflects its sacredness makes our experience, and participation, that much greater.
If you want to get the most out of Mass, if you want your experience at Mass to be life changing, approach the Eucharist with reverence. Ask God to transform you, to change your life. The Eucharist can make that happen. When I go to the Latin Mass there is a transcending effect I receive after Mass, because I know that Jesus is bodily present in the Eucharist and I give thanks for what He’s done in my life.
by John Connor