The Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist: From the Sacred Tradition

and Sacred Magisterium

By Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah

From the Sacred Tradition:

Apart from the sacred Scripture, the voice of the Church Fathers and the teaching authority of the Church from all of which the Church derives inspiration on the knowledge of the Triune God, has not been silent on the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.

From the 1st - 4th Century AD, the Apostolic Fathers in pastoral care or occasionally, recall with almost the same words, the efficacious symbolism of St Paul, of which according to the opportunity, they consider separately or the one (sign) or the other (cause) element.

The Didache for instance announces the ecclesiological symbolism of the Holy Eucharist as follows: As the bread was spread on the mountain and, gathered together, it is reduced to unity, then your Church is gathered from the confines of the earth in your kingdom.

The symbolism is efficacious as presented by St Ignatius of Antioch who presents the Eucharist as the cause of ecclesial unity: if anyone follows a schismatic, he has not heredity of the divine kingdom.

Try therefore using the one Holy Eucharist, one in fact is the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, one is the Chalice in the unity of Blood of Him, one is the Altar, as one is the bishop with the priests and the deacons, mine conserve, so that what you do, do it according to God's will (Philadelph, 3, 24).

From the Sacred Magisterium:

The teaching authority of the Church made it very clear that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist. Thus, it states: At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Lord instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood.

This He did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: Sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet "in which the God-Man, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us" (SC., 47; CCC., 1323).

The three synoptic Gospels and St Paul have handed on to us the account of the institution of the Holy Eucharist; St John, for his part, reports the words of Jesus Christ in the synagogue of Capernaum that prepare for the institution of the Holy Eucharist: Jesus Christ calls Himself the Bread of life, come down from heaven (CCC., 1338).

The Magisterium expressly underlines some facts with regard to the Mass and Altar. She says that the Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated, and the sacred banquet of communion with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Jesus Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Jesus Himself who has offered Himself for us.

On the other hand, that the Altar, around which the Church is gathered in celebration of the Holy Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same mystery: the Altar of the Sacrifice and the Table of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is all the more so since the Christian Altar is a symbol of Jesus Christ Himself, present in the midst of the assembly of His faithful, both as the Victim offered for our reconciliation and as food from heaven who is giving Himself to us: "For what is the Altar of Jesus Christ if not the image of the Body of Jesus Christ?" (St Ambrose, De Sacra. 4, 2, 7: PL 16, 457).

Our Lord Jesus Christ urges us to receive Him in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (Jn 6:53), but this demands our serious preparation for so great and so holy a moment. St Paul thus, recommends a proper examination of conscience to avoid eating and drinking judgment upon ourselves (1 Cor 11:27-29).

There is therefore need for the Sacrament of reconciliation before receiving the Holy Eucharist especially when we are conscious of grave sin in us. Beautiful, many priests of the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, have formed the habit of daily Confession before or immediately after Morning Mass.

St Theresa's Cathedral is a shining example. Interesting, the Bishop of Nsukka Diocese also goes to hear the confessions of his flock. According to him, "it is enriching". Lamentable, some Catholics stay for more than one year before attending Confession.

In synthesis, the Holy Eucharist is the pledge of the glory to come. At the Last Supper, Jesus directed the attention of His disciples toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God (cf Matt 26:29).

Thus, whenever the Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist, she remembers this promise and turns her gaze to Him who is to come: "Marana tha!" "come Lord Jesus Christ!" (Rev 1:4, 22:20; cf 1 Cor 16:22).

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