Last week’s article described in general the sacrament of the Eucharist. This article will describe the terms Eucharist and Communion, which both refer to the same sacrament, but with different emphases. Whenever Jesus is present to us under the appearance of bread and wine we refer to this sacrament as the Eucharist. Thus, we say that the priest consecrates the Eucharist at Mass, that we celebrate Eucharistic Adoration, and that the Eucharist is present in Churches with the blessed sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. When we receive the Eucharist into ourselves by consuming the Sacrament, we call that reception Holy Communion.
The term Eucharist comes from the Greek term eucharistia, which means thanksgiving. And, in the Mass, the Church, through Jesus, gives thanks to the Almighty God for all of creation and for our salvation. That openness to the divine is the occasion for Jesus coming to us under that appearance of bread and wine, which He does at every Mass. At the end of Mass, the Eucharist is then reserved in the tabernacle so that people can come into the company of Jesus at any time during the day. This presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the ability to be with Him as assuredly as Moses was with God on Mount Sinai, or the Apostles with Jesus as He walked the earth, is available to all people of any faith and age.
When we receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion, this glorious occasion builds upon and strengthens our union with Jesus and with His Church, glorifying us from within. Because this reception assumes a union with Jesus and His Church, one must be Catholic and in a state of grace to receive this sacrament worthily. C.S. Lewis’ book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader describes an analogy to the effects of receiving Communion. In that book, he describes a ship’s journey to the end of the world as an allegory of the spiritual life. At one point, the adventurers come to a place where they see and taste what appears to be sweet water. But the water is in fact divine light that takes the physical aspects of water. When they drink that divine light, their eyes are enlightened and they can travel further along. When we receive the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, under that appearance of bread, we are glorified and able to advance more along the path of everlasting life.