What is the Eucharist?

Source and Summit

Following the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, the Eucharist is the sacrament that completes a Christian’s initiation in the Church. Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper with his disciples, the night before his death, to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross. This sacrament is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium): Everything that we think, believe, pray, and do is oriented toward the Eucharist.

Body and Blood

At the heart of the Eucharist are the bread and wine that become the Body and Blood of Christ during Mass. Bread and wine have a rich heritage in Scripture—we see these same humble staples in the harvest firstfruits, the manna in the desert, the wine at the wedding in Cana, and the loaves Jesus multiplied to feed thousands. At the Last Supper, our Lord used these ordinary elements of bread and wine to institute the Eucharist (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23), a new Passover (see Exodus 12). The Church re-presents Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and commemorates his death and resurrection with every celebration of the Eucharist, in anticipation of Christ’s coming kingdom.

Holy Mass

The Mass has two main parts, the liturgy of the Word (gathering, readings, homily, and intercessions) and the liturgy of the Eucharist (presentation of bread and wine, consecration, and communion).

Mystical Body of Christ

The term “Body of Christ” is used in two different but related senses. The first sense, more specifically called the Eucharistic Body of Christ, refers to the fact that the consecrated bread and wine are the resurrected and glorified body of Jesus Christ. The second sense refers to the Church itself: members of the Church, who are the Body of Christ, have Christ as their head. This second sense is sometimes called the Mystical Body of Christ. The Mystical Body of Christ includes both the living and the dead. The Eucharistic and Mystical Body of Christ are linked—we are brought together as the Church when we receive Christ in the Eucharist.