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What is the Eucharist?

By Bishop Richard Moth

At the Last Supper, “Jesus took bread and when he had said the blessing, he broke it and gave it to the disciples. “Take it and eat;’ he said, ‘this is my body.’  Then he took a cup and when he had returned thanks, he gave it to them. ‘Drink all of you from this,’ he said, ‘for this is my blood the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
 
Jesus takes bread and wine – simple things used in the Passover Meal that had been celebrated since Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt – and something new and wonderful happens.  These are new words, they are not the words of the Passover celebration.  “This is my body…this is my blood.”  Jesus gives us Himself.  “I am the bread of life.  Anyone who eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.” 

The Eucharist, given to us by Jesus at the Last Supper, is the high-point of the life of the Church.  It is the greatest prayer we have, the most wonderful celebration possible in this world.
  
When we celebrate the Eucharist, we give thanks (“Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving”).  The Eucharist is Sacrifice – Jesus Himself acting through the ministry of the priest, Himself offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice and makes Himself truly present. The word ‘transubstantiation’ explains that Jesus Himself changes the very substance of bread and wine into His Body and Blood.  The Eucharist is more than a reminder – Jesus is active and truly present.
    
When Communion is received we are one with Jesus.  Because we are one with Him, we are one with our brothers and sisters who share in the “one bread and the one cup.”   We are also at one with the Church in heaven, with Mary and the Saints who have “gone before us with the sign of faith.”
 
The Eucharist is also about our Mission – the word “Mass” comes from our being sent out from the celebration on the mission that God has given to us.  We give thanks and are fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus, enabling us to go out into the world to be His people and bring Him to others.