What is this “Eucharist,” this bread from heaven that we receive when the Community of believers gather together? Jesus never abandoned us. God is with us. From the time of the Resurrection and after the Ascension, Jesus is as present with us—body, blood, soul, and divinity—as he was when he walked the streets of Jerusalem in his resurrected body. This he promised—this he has done. Bread cannot become God, but God can become bread. The Incarnation is on-going, and continues on in the Eucharist.
One of the Commandments tells us: Thou shall not take the name of the Lord, thy God in vain.” To do so, is sin and fractures the soul of all humanity. If this is so destructive to the relationship between God and mankind, how much more so when we receive the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord, in vain.
To receive our Lord in the Eucharist without being aware of what we are receiving is to receive him in vain, and to bring down condemnation upon ourselves. As St. Paul warns the Community of believers—the Body of Christ: “Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. In fact that is why many of you are weak and ill and some of you have died.” (1Cor.11:28-30).
Jesus is not only fully with us, fully human, fully divine, and fully alive in the Eucharist—he is also fully with us, fully human, fully divine, and fully alive in the Community of Believers—the Body of Christ. Who is this “Body of Christ?” It is all those gathered together as one body through their union with Jesus Christ. This is the whole Church, together with the Communion of Saints in heaven. One individual believer is not the Body of Christ—but, the whole Church, forming, one loaf, as scripture says: “though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.” (1Cor.10:17).
Not only is it important to recollect ourselves before we receive the Eucharist, it is equally important for the Church to be in communion with one-another. If we are not in union with the whole body of Christ through love, we are outside the Body of Christ.
St. Paul tells us: “If we live by the truth and in love we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love.” (Eph.4:15-16).
It doesn’t matter whether we are a small household of believers, or a large Cathedral filled with believers, the whole “body of Christ” is present when we come together to celebrate Eucharist. Jesus said: “For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.”
(Mat.18:20). Jesus also taught: “On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.” (John 14:20).
Not only is it important that we believe—recognize—that the Eucharist is, in fact, Jesus Christ, we also must realize that the Community of believers is also Jesus Christ. Whatever we do to one-another, we do to Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is the Son of God and loves everyone, we also must love everyone—even our enemies.
Whenever we sin—whenever we fail to love—we are cut off from the “Body of Christ.” When we sin, we reject Christ. When we reject Christ, we cannot remain in him. Our membership in the Community of believers becomes a “pretense.” It is like the “Judas kiss.” We take the name of the Lord in vain. To be a Christian—to be a follower of Jesus—is to take his Name. We bring down condemnation upon ourselves, when we fail to love.
Jesus tells us: “So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.” (Mat.5:23). Jesus also said: “And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too. But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your failings either.” (Mark 11:25-26).
Whenever we gather together for Eucharist, we are living out the parable of the Wedding Feast that Jesus taught in Mat. 22:1-14. Eucharist, foreshadows the final consummation of the marriage between Christ and the Church—the Bride of Christ—which will bring about the Messianic Age. As the parable tells us, it is no small matter to attend the wedding without wearing a wedding garment (Mat.22:11-14). The wedding garment symbolizes “the good deeds of the saints.” (Rev.19:18).
When we gather together to celebrate Eucharist, we gather together to “worship God in Spirit and truth” (John 4:23). It is a time when believers come into union with one-another, and with God, through our union with Jesus Christ in the body of Christ and in the Eucharist. It is a time when we are made one, and continually being formed into the fullness of Jesus Christ. As St. Paul says: “In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself” (Eph.4:13). This perfect Man, is the whole body of Christ—not any one individual.
When we become the perfect Man, Jesus Christ will be made visible to the whole world, and our Lord will return in glory.
Eucharist is a time for spiritual fellowship—not “party time.” As St. Paul said: “Anyone who is hungry should eat at home, and then your meeting will not bring your condemnation” (1Cor.11:34).
Eucharist is a time when our eyes are fixed on God, not on ourselves or one-another; a time of reverence and awe; a time to be still and listen. It is not a time for entertainment. There is a time for everything, and Eucharist is God’s time to draw us into intimacy with him—if we are so disposed.
It is impossible to be in Christ if we hate the Church, or any part of the Church. This includes the Popes, past and present; the bishops, priests, and Religious; and every single member of the Church. It includes every Christian of every Denomination; it includes liberals, conservatives, fundamentalists, new age enthusiasts, and even those who have lost their faith or left the Church. It is impossible to be in Christ if we hate any member of any Religion, as well as unbelievers, agnostics, and atheists.
So then, to sum up: When we come together for Eucharist, we must recognize that we are the body of Christ—that we represent Jesus in all that we think, say, and do; we must acknowledge our sins and have true contrition; we must be reconciled with all and forgive everyone; we must recognize Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; and we must be prepared and open to receive the Lord and to enter into union with him.