With four of our parishioners preparing to receive First Communion on May 14, it is a good time to reflect upon the Eucharist, through which Jesus is as present to us as surely as He was with the Apostles, and shares His very life with His people. For in the Eucharist, Jesus is truly with us, human and divine, under the appearance of bread and wine. And when we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus into our very selves, joining our lives with His.
At every Mass, bread and wine are brought up to the altar and, with the Eucharistic Prayer, become Jesus Himself, while retaining the appearance and material aspects of bread and wine. This glorification of bread and wine is wondrous and sacred; but as with so much in our faith, it builds upon natural wisdom. Thus, for example, when a man and woman give each other rings at their wedding, the rings are no longer merely rings, but symbols of their union that help bring about the unity they symbolize. Or, when a nation adopts the design of a flag, the decoration upon a piece of cloth ceases to be a mere decoration, but becomes a naturally sacred emblem that should help establish the unity it signifies. In many other ways, such as uniforms, coats of arms, or family heirlooms, material things become more than what they appear to be; they help to establish the deep effects that they symbolize.
All the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, take this natural phenomenon to glorious and astonishing level. For, because the sacraments are established by Jesus Himself, they are guaranteed to bring about the effects they signify; and those effects give us nothing less that friendship with the Almighty God Himself, the first promise of heavenly glory. In the Eucharist, the power of Jesus coming to us under the appearance of bread and wine is so great that those elements cease to be bread and wine, but are in fact the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. And, while the appearance of bread is more symbolic of the body of Christ, and the appearance of wine more symbolic of His blood, all of Jesus is present under both species. When we receive Holy Communion, therefore, we are truly united, in the depths of our bodies and souls to Jesus, Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man.