The Eucharist comes to us as a work and gift of the whole Trinity.
– Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM
A friend recently told me that her father used to help her mother in the kitchen with the most tedious of tasks. One thing he liked to do was peel walnuts and sort them into buckets. Then, he would give bags of the nuts to friends and family. My friend’s father recently passed away and a few months later she reached into her freezer to get some of the walnuts to make banana bread. As she looked at the bag of walnuts she realized that even though her father was gone, he had left her nourishment for her journey.
At that moment, my friend suddenly had a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. Jesus knew he was going to ascend into heaven, but he left his followers with something to nourish them, and not just earthly food but his own Body and Blood.
We are looked after.
We are cared for.
We have a heavenly Father who knows our every need and goes to great lengths to give us what we require. Our daily bread is not a symbol or mere earthly sustenance; it is true spiritual food, the real flesh and blood of our Savior the God-man. The Eucharist is nourishment that transcends ceremony and finds its power and its essence in the very workings of the Trinity itself.
Here are some of the amazing effects of the Eucharist:
1) Union with Christ: Reception of Jesus in the Eucharist fuses our being with that of Christ. St. Cyril of Alexandria describes it as similar to “when melted wax is fused with other wax.” The Christian journey is a journey to become like Christ, to “abide in him” and he in us. The Eucharist is the means for this to happen.
2) Destruction of venial sin: The Eucharist destroys venial sin. Destroys! Through sin, the fervor of our charity can be dampened by venial sin. But when we receive the Eucharist we are united with Charity himself, which burns away the vestiges of our venial sins and leaves us cleansed and ready to begin again.
3) Preservation from mortal sin: While we should refrain from receiving the Eucharist when we are aware of being in a state of mortal sin, we should receive the Eucharist as much as possible when we are able because it preserves us from grave sin. It is as if the Eucharist’s power washes away the venial sin in our souls and then covers us with a protective coat which helps us to stay away from serious sin.
4) Personal relationship with Jesus: Many Christians speak of the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, which is very true. But it is primarily through the Eucharist that we can truly have an intimate encounter with the Person of Jesus. Benedict XVI once pointed out this connection:
“Today, there is a need to rediscover that Jesus Christ is not just a private conviction or an abstract idea, but a real person, whose becoming part of human history is capable of renewing the life of every man and woman. Hence, the Eucharist, as the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission, must be translated into spirituality, into a life lived ‘according to the Spirit’” (Sacramentum Caritatis).
5) Gives life: According to the Catechism, the Eucharist “preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism” (CCC 1392). In other words, reception of the Eucharist increases the life of grace already present within us. Sounds even better than a trip to a spa!