By Msgr Michael de Verteuil
Chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission
The Catholic Church speaks of the celebration of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life (e.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church,1324, quoting the Second Vatican Council).
A source, we know, is a place or thing from which something begins or can be obtained. This article looks at how the Eucharist is the source, where we get what we need to live the Christian life.
The Eucharist is like a school which forms us, influencing the life that follows the celebration. It teaches us (as we surrender to it) to live in gratitude, service, unity, dependence on God, all these things we celebrate in the Eucharist.
Gratitude: For example, in the Mass we pray, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God….It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give you thanks. We offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.”
Service: At the heart of our celebration is the memorial of the total self-offering of Christ to the Father. “In the Eucharist God has shown love in the extreme, affirming the criterion of service”(Pope St John Paul II).
Unity: We celebrate our oneness with one another e.g., at the beginning of Mass, we confess to one another and ask that each one pray for the other. Later we pray, “…grant that we who are nourished by his Body and Blood… may become one body, one spirit in Christ .”
“We humbly implore that all who partake in the Body and Blood of Christ may be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.”
We share a sign of peace with one another and receive Communion which St Paul tells us forms us into one body (1 Cor 10:17).
We celebrate these things in the Mass then go as from the source to live them out in our daily lives. As Pope St John Paul II wrote in The Day of the Lord, “Receiving the Bread of Life, the disciples of Christ ready themselves to undertake with the strength of the Risen Lord and his Spirit, the tasks that await them in their daily lives. For the faithful who have understood the meaning of what they have done, the Eucharistic celebration does not end at the church door.
Once the assembly disperses, Christ’s disciples return to their everyday surroundings, with the commitment to make their whole life a gift, a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.”
And this from Fr Richard Fragomeni, professor at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago: “The Eucharist is a way of being in the world. It is a fashioning of a people who become renewed in humanity. The flow of the new life originates in Christ, then in the Eucharistic sharing, through the discipleship, to the cultures and societies of the world. It is a divine plan. It is a plan for the renewal of the world.”
St Paul (1 Cor 10:16) teaches that as we receive the Lord in Communion, we come into communion with Him. This communion nourishes us for the spiritual journey and forms us more and more into Christ.
The Eucharist is the source of our Christian lives—formed by the celebration, fed at the tables of the Word and the Body and Blood of Christ, we go as from a source to live the mission Christ entrusted to us.
As we gather again to celebrate the Eucharist, let us ask the Lord to give us a new love, a new zeal for the Eucharist, remembering it as the source of our Christian life.