Sacrament of the Eucharist
The Eucharist has always been one of the most important Sacraments of our faith. We, Catholics, strongly and firmly believe in the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist. In other words, Holy Communion is not symbolic of the body and blood of Jesus, as some of the Protestant Churches hold, but rather the bread and wine are actually transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. We believe that during the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus blessed the bread and wine and said “This is my body… This is the cup of my blood…” This is the foundation of our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Hence, we believe that Jesus is really and substantially present, not symbolically or metaphorically, as some other Churches hold.
Thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, when the priest prays over the bread and wine, the substance of the bread and wine is transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, with no change in the appearance of the bread and wine. This substantial change is called “Transubstantiation”. This term is used to describe the “way surpassing human understanding”.
Sometimes people ask me, why in the Catholic Church, we don’t invite the believers of the Protestant Churches to receive the Holy Communion. The reason is very simple: Those who are united in the same belief of the substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist are allowed to receive the Holy Communion. Hence, those who do not hold the same faith with the Catholic Church are not invited to receive the Holy Communion. However, the Protestants are allowed to receive the Holy Communion only in extreme circumstances, such as when they are in danger of death.
One may ask, how often a Catholic could receive Holy Communion. The Church recommends that the Catholics may receive Holy Communion every time they participate in the Mass. The general prescription of the Canon Law (Canon Law 915, 916 & 917) is that the sacred minister cannot deny the Sacraments to those who seek them, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.
On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the guidelines on the reception of the Holy Communion. Accordingly, Catholics participate fully in the celebration of the Eucharist by receiving the Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive the Communion devoutly and frequently.
Let us be ever nourished by the Eucharist
Fr. Arul Joseph V.