What do you Understand as Holy Communion?

The Holy Eucharist also referred to as Blessed Sacrament or Holy Communion was instituted by Jesus on the night of the Last Super, “…take this all of you and eat it, this is my body” and in the same vein “…take this all you and drink it, this is my blood.”

One of the most essential document of the Catholic Church, the Code of Canon Law, states that the Holy Eucharist is the most august sacrament in which Christ, the Lord himself, is contained, offered and received and by which the Church continually lives and grows (879).

By way of definition, the Code of Canon Law further enunciates that the Eucharistic sacrifice is the memorial of the dead and the resurrection of the Lord in which the sacrifice of the cross is forever perpetuated and is the summit and source of all worship in Christian life (ibid).

In a less technical analysis, the Holy Eucharist could be referred to as the body and blood of Jesus Christ given to humanity by Himself. St Ignatius of Antioch puts it more succinctly, “the flesh of our saviour Jesus Christ”.

The Church re-enacts this rite every day, except on Good Fridays, to commemorate the sacrifice of love that God (Jesus) underwent for humanity or what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) refers to as “the memorial of the pass over of our Lord Jesus.” (1402)

The Holy Mass -- this is actually made up of three sessions: The Rite of Penitence, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist -- provides the faithful with the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ in His true nature in the Holy Eucharist. St. John Paul II, describes the Holy Eucharist as the life of the Church. By this, the Holy Father accentuated the obvious truth that there would be no Church without the Eucharist.

Furthermore, when examined closely, the Holy Eucharist is a stark reminder that God had given to the world everything the world needed to survive. In receiving the Holy Communion, we receive Jesus into our soul; and He does to our soul what the material food does to out body because the Holy Communion is “the sacred banquet in which Christ is received as food (CCC, 1042).

What makes up the Holy Communion

The bread and wine are the material substances in which Jesus manifest Himself in the Holy Eucharist. It is worth emphasised that it cannot be just any ordinary bread or wine.

Besides the stipulations of the Canon Law which says that the bread and the wine must be, in simple language, bread without yeast (wheaten and unleavened) and natural wine made from grapes of the vine (924), the substance of the Holy Eucharist, in the case of the bread is made up of simple, austere element of floor devoid of the elegance of sweetening yeast and in the case of the wine, a natural juice taken from vine.

Besides the reservations the Church makes for this injunction, the simplicity of the material substance presented to God for consecration is a striking resemblance of the simple, poor and ascetic nature of Jesus as against the flamboyance that buttered, sweeten bread will represent -- the haughty fallible splendour of demonic majesty.

The other substance, the wine -- the fruit of the vine --, carries an answer that is self evident. Besides the obvious fact the final days of the life of Jesus was spent on the garden of Gethsemane, filled with the fruit of the vine, this very plant has a special place in the Bible and in the Christian tradition. Thus, the natural substance taken from this fruit remains a perfect offer to God.

Secondly, the presence of the “holy” species discussed above is not the only prerequisite. For the Holy Eucharist to be consecrated and administered to the faithful in all His perfection, it must be done by a person of legitimate consecration, configured into Christ by the special grace of the Most Holy Sprit and serving as Christ’s instrument for His church.

The fun acted by some Pentecostals of praying over cake and Eva wine, or Jerusalem Communion Wine, or Blue Chapel et cetera, is not different from a man saying prayers before meals. It can never be referred to as the Body of Christ because:

(a)  it is made of an imperfect species
(b) it is celebrated by a person of questionable faculty
(c)   Such religious communities do not have any ancestry with the tradition of which the Holy Eucharist was instituted.

In other words, it remains a mock of the real act!

The third point worthy of note is that the substance of the Holy Eucharist, bread and wine is converted in substance into the body and blood of Christ such that the physical content of the chalice is blood and that which is in the ciborium is flesh. The protest of Martin Luther in this respect was fuelled by his inability to understand that God gives His faithful His body to eat and His blood to drink so that they may be in everlasting communion with Him (Jn 6: 51. 54. 56).

Fourthly, in participating in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Christ’s faithful, share in the redemptive work of God. Additionally, when one fully participates in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, one receives forgiveness of sins because the blood of Christ washes all forms of infirmity buried in the soul. Because the blood of Christ was shade for the salvation of all, the reception of the Holy Communion is a physical acceptance of the passion of Jesus Christ as the only way through which mankind is saved.

Furthermore, the Holy Eucharist preserves Christians from grave sins by strengthening the bond Christians share with Jesus. While the above stated benefits are true, it affects one’s relationship with God if the Holy Communion is received in sin. Thus, it is advised that any person who is conscious of sin should first seek forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation before he/she proceeds to receive Christ into his/her soul.

The doctrine of receiving communion ones in a year or ones in a month or in a week does not fit into God’s plan. From a very simple comparison, imagine what one will look like if one eats food once in a year, a month or a week? Let us just focus on one effect of just eating habit – anaemia! Then the simple question follows, how do you think your soul will look like if it is not regularly nourished by the spiritual meal – the Holy Communion?

For the spirit of the Christian faithful to be strong it needs to be nourished by the body of Christ and the blood of Christ must flow in his/her

Furthermore, the Bible commands us to ‘do this in memory of me’. It simply means that in receiving the Body of Christ, the Christian faithful recalls and acknowledges Jesus as his saviour. For sure, this is not a rite to be carried out on monthly or yearly basis but a daily routine -- for in the life of a Christian, Jesus must be acknowledged on daily basis.

Lastly, some Protestants, some Pentecostals, and Jehovah witness, believe that worshiping the Holy Eucharist is idolatry. Of course, coming from their perspective, worshiping a piece of cake is sure idolatry. But, since in the Catholic Church, God is physically present, in substance, in the Holy Eucharist, no body of a sane mind will refer to worshiping God as idolatry.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that to visit the Blessed Sacrament is a proof of gratitude, an expression of love and a duty of adoration towards Christ our Lord.

Finally, I can only say that anybody who wishes to share in the eternal bliss of the Supreme Pastor, Jesus must only receive the strength to do so from Jesus Christ himself and for one to obtain this from Jesus, he/she must be in Him as Jesus is with His father.

This can only be possibly if one eats His body and drinks His blood for He says:  I am the living bread that comes down from heaven; if any one eats this bread, he will live for ever … he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and abides in me and I in him (Jn 6: 51).

Idiongo Ebong

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