Oct 25, 2005
One of my many memorable experiences from this past World Youth Day in Germany was participating in Eucharistic adoration on the night of the vigil. As I entered the tent that served as an adoration chapel, I looked around the room and realized what a strange sight was before me. If someone who was a stranger to the Catholic faith had entered the room at that moment, he or she would certainly have been overcome by a sense of wonder and curiosity. Hundreds of people knelt in silent awe before a small, round piece of bread. Any outsider would surely be confused at seeing this Catholic practice known as adoration.
But there are also many Catholics who do not understand adoration because they do not have a proper understanding of the Eucharist. We worship and adore this piece of bread because we believe that it is the amazing, all-powerful God, the Creator of the universe. To any outsider, this belief is completely absurd. How can the infinite God fit into a tiny wafer? And why would a truly omnipotent God want to stoop down to this level? These are deep questions, but they are very important, because they deal with the Eucharist. The second Vatican Council tells us that the Eucharist is the source and summit of all that we believe. (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, no. 11) Our entire faith is based around this small, seemingly insignificant piece of bread, because we truly believe that this piece of bread is Jesus Christ. It does not merely symbolize, represent, or contain the essence of Christ, but rather, it truly IS Christ, who becomes present during the Transfiguration so that we may have the opportunity to meet Him and enter into communion with Him.
Despite these beliefs, we often become passive in our faith. After attending Mass every Sunday for many years, we have a tendency to lose our sense of amazement and wonder at what is occurring. We listen to the readings and the prayers of the consecration, recite the appropriate responses, and receive Holy Communion without realizing the greatness of what is taking place. But if we truly believe that Christ is present in the consecrated bread and wine, we should approach the altar with awe at the miraculous occurrence that is taking place – in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary is made present for us, and we take our Lord God into our very person. In the reception of the Eucharist, we are entering into the most intimate communion with God that we can ever experience in this life. That is not something to be taken lightly, or to be received casually. Rather, it is something that should captivate us again and again each time we participate in it. To avoid becoming spiritually passive, we must constantly seek a deeper understanding of our faith through prayer, spiritual reading, and frequent reception of the sacraments. We must strive especially to obtain a better understanding of the Eucharist, around which our entire Catholic faith is centered.
The Catholic Church’s teachings regarding the Eucharist are beautiful and deep. It would be impossible to explain them all in this short article, but I would encourage everyone who reads this to turn to the Catechism to read more on the subject. Our beliefs about the Eucharist are among the most important and central beliefs of our Catholic faith, and it is therefore essential that we learn as much as we can about the nature of the Eucharist. By understanding the Eucharist, we are better able to appreciate the Mass, and we are better prepared to receive this amazing gift of Christ’s own Body and Blood in the form of bread of wine each time we receive Communion.