Tag: Eucharist

What is the difference between Holy Eucharist and Holy Communion?

What is the difference between Holy Eucharist and Holy Communion?

Virtually no difference, just one of emphasis. Both terms are for the Blessed Sacrament where we receive Jesus in the form of bread and wine.

The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), which means “thanksgiving”. Hence Anglicans refer to the Eucharistic prayer for consecrating the elements of bread and wine “the Great Thanksgiving”.

The word communion comes from the Latin communio, derived from the Greek κοινωνία (koinonia). It refers to the sharing of fellowship between those partaking in the sacrament with one another and with Jesus. It shares the same root as the words community and commune.

St. Augustine of Hippo famously summed up the sacrament with the mystical statement “you have received what you are, the Body of Christ, so that you may become what you have received, the Body of Christ”.[1]

Some people prefer to emphasize the thanksgiving aspect of the sacrament, others on the communal aspect. They choose their terms accordingly.

Some (mostly evangelical Protestants) prefer yet another term, the Lord’s Supper. A few prefer Breaking of the Bread.

All these terms are attested in the earliest texts of the Church. “Lord’s Supper” is Biblical (1 Corinthians), and “Communion” is also briefly mentioned in 1 Corinthians. “Eucharist” is used in the Didache,[2] dating from the first century.

Churches in the Catholic tradition (including Anglicans/Episcopalians and Old Catholics) often use the word Eucharist to refer to the entire rite, while the word Communion is used for the sacramental elements themselves, hence “to receive Communion”. Other churches use them interchangeably, or may not use them at all.

Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus in the items on the altar. They believe in a supernatural religion.

Protestants believe that the bread and wine (grape juice usually) is not the real presence of Jesus but only a sign of respect and devotion to Him. They believe in a naturalistic faith.

The difference is that one accepts, and the other rejects, the real presence of a supernatural Mystery in their respective churches.

Ten (10) Ways We Can Grow in Love with the Eucharist

Ten (10) Ways We Can Grow in Love with the Eucharist

At the Last Supper, surrounded by His Apostles, Jesus gave to the world the most sublime gift of His Real Presence by instituting the Sacrament of the Eucharist – His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Jesus took bread and pronounced the words: “Take and eat, this is my Body”; then He took a cup of wine and said: “Take and drink, this is my Blood. Do this in memory of me.” With these words Jesus instituted the greatest of all of the Sacraments, the Sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist.

Our eternal salvation depends on our reception of the most Holy Eucharist. In the sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus preaches one of His most sublime discourses that we call the “Bread of Life Discourse.” In this discourse Jesus states many times that our salvation depends on our eating His Body and drinking His Blood. The fact that Jesus repeated this message time and time again accentuates the indispensable character of our reception of Him so that we will be saved for all eternity.

Indeed, the greatest action that we can carry out on earth is to receive Jesus into our hearts, minds, and souls in Holy Communion. Even the angels, including the highest choir of angels, cannot receive Jesus into themselves in Holy Communion, but we can. For this reason, the angels experience a holy envy towards us!

Therefore, the essential thrust of this article will be how we can enhance our faith, love and devotion to Jesus who is truly present in the Eucharist, in Holy Communion, in every Mass that is celebrated throughout the world until the end of time.

1. Appreciation

How painful it is when a man or woman takes their spouse for granted? There is no longer love and appreciation for the one who should be loved most in the world. Indeed, this could be the start of a desire to actually separate: when one does not feel loved or appreciated.

Likewise, it is all too common to simply take Jesus for granted and fail to appreciate who He is, what He has done for us and where He is to be found. This nonchalant, flippant, “take for granted” type of attitude pierces the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the very core and center of His loving Heart. Let us never fail to appreciate this most sublime gift of Jesus in Mass and Holy Communion. Receive every Holy Communion as if it were your first, your last and your only Holy Communion!

2. Visit Him Often

One characteristic of true friendship is a desire to visit each other on a frequent basis. Frequent visits and friendly conversations can truly foster a deeper friendship. Likewise, when passing by a church, we should stop, enter, and greet the Lord. We should tell Him that we love Him and sincerely desire to grow in our love for Him.

A short poem can be inspirational: “Whenever I see a Church I stop to make a visit, so when I die the Lord won’t say: Who is it?” When we die and go before the Lord, He will say: “My friend who came to visit me so often, welcome to your eternal home in heaven. You have been my dear friend on earth and now you will be my eternal friend in heaven.”

3. Spiritual Communion

Get into the habit of making frequent Spiritual Communions. This can be done at any time, without expenditure of much time and in an easy manner. Simply tell the Lord that you believe in Him and love Him and that you want Him to come and visit your home, your soul; that you want him as your best friend and Lord. He will come and fill you with peace and joy. Saint Alphonsus Liguori strongly recommended this practice.

4. Read about the Mass and the Eucharist

Spiritual reading can prove to be an invaluable tool for growing in our faith, and especially in our love for Jesus present in the most Holy Eucharist. An ecclesial document that indeed is a masterpiece was written by Pope Benedict XVI with the title The Sacrament of Love. Even though it is deep in theological content, this document is a spiritual masterpiece and can truly serve as a guide and stimulus to help you to participate more fully, actively and consciously in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive Holy Communion with a better disposition.

5. Daily Mass

Aim at attending daily Mass, if this is within your possibilities. As stated earlier, the greatest action that we can do in our lives is to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. When Our Lord gave us the prayer Our Father, He told us to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” The most obvious interpretation is physical bread. However, shrouded within these words is the spiritual interpretation—“Give us this day our daily bread” meaning Jesus, the Bread of life in Holy Mass and Holy Communion. Form the habit of daily Holy Mass and Holy Communion and you will never regret it!

6. Confession and Holy Communion

Saint Ignatius of Loyola points out that by making a general confession of the sins of one’s whole life, one of the most positive fruits of this confession is making better Communions afterward. It stands to reason: the more pure the soul, the more the Lord of all purity desires to enter into that soul.

If you like, try this analogy: clean a dirty window with Windex and then the sunlight can pass through and illuminate the room all the more fully. In Holy Communion we receive Jesus, the Light of the world, who is able to radiate more fully His presence in the soul that has been purified by sacramental confession, washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

7. Mass Intentions

In Parish Masses, normally the priest-officiator has an intention that someone has requested weeks or months before the actual celebration of the Mass. This specific intention of the Mass, however, does not exclude us from offering our own personal and private intentions. In fact, the more we offer intentions for ourselves, for others and for the whole world, the more pleased Jesus is and the more powerful will be the effects of our Holy Communions. Indeed you can offer as many intentions as your heart desires and the Heart of Jesus will rejoice all the more.

8. Active Participation

In many cases people come physically to Holy Mass but they are mentally, emotionally and spiritually absent from the Mass. In other words, their minds are in another world—thinking about events, people, past hurts, or even something as mundane as what food they are going to eat at lunchtime. Sacramental theology teaches unequivocally that the better the disposition, the preparation, and participation in the Sacraments, the more abundant will be the flow of graces. Arrive early! Ask for the help of your Guardian angel. Pray when you should; sing at the right time; listen attentively to the Word of God and the priest who represents Jesus, and you will truly grow in holiness of life.

9. Ask Mary for Her Immaculate Heart

Another very important spiritual aid is to ask for the presence of Mary in your daily walk towards heaven. However, most especially we should ask Mary to give us her Immaculate Heart to receive Jesus with great faith, devotion and love every time we receive Holy Communion.

Saint Pope John Paul II made this beautiful parallel: the “Yes” of Mary to the Archangel Gabriel resulted in Mary receiving Jesus into her mind, body, heart and soul; our “Amen” when we receive Holy Communion results in our receiving Jesus into the very depths of our heart, mind and soul. Our “Amen” is our “Yes” to Jesus! So let us ask Mary to lend us her Immaculate Heart so as to make ever more fervent Holy Communions; our sanctification and salvation depends on how well we receive Jesus, the Bread of life and the Son of Mary.

10. Thanksgiving

How very important it is that we cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Meister Eckhart once stated: “If the only prayer we ever prayed were that of thanksgiving, then that would be enough.” May we never be lacking or remiss in thanking God for all that He has given to us. In fact, all that we have is a gift from God with one exception: the sins that we have freely chosen to commit.

After Mass spend some time in thanking Jesus for coming to visit the humble abode of your heart. You might even take advantage of an acronym that summarizes the four basic ends or purposes of Holy Mass: A.C.T.S.

  • A—stands for adoration. Adore and praise the Lord whom you have as the Sweet Guest of your soul.
  • C—stands for contrition. Tell the Lord that you are sorry for your sins, those of your family and the sins of the whole world.
  • T—stands for thanksgiving.Abound in thanksgiving, but especially for the great gift of the Eucharist. Actually the word “Eucharist” means Thanksgiving. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, eternal is His mercy.”
  • S—stands for Supplication. This simply means we ask the Lord for what we truly need. Saint Augustine comments: “We are all beggars before God.” We are all dependent on and in desperate need of God’s help at all times and in all places.

If these ten practices are carried out, or at least some of them, then your love for Jesus in the Eucharist as the Bread of Life will definitely grow and you will be on the Highway to salvation. May these words of Jesus fill you with consolation: “I am the Bread of life. Whoever eats my Body and drinks my Blood will have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day

Seven Ways To Deepen Our Relationship With God

Seven Ways To Deepen Our Relationship With God

Having a good relationship with God is the greatest thing that can happen to any Christian but sometimes we may not even know what nor how to go about it. Here a few steps that can help us draw closer to God.

1. Seek Humility

Humility is to the spirit what material poverty is to the senses: the great sanctifier.  Humility is the first step to sanity.  We can’t really see – much less love – anyone or anything else when the self is in the way.  When we really believe in our own sinfulness and irrelevance, many other things become possible: repentance; mercy, patience, forgiveness of others.  These virtues are the basic stones of that other great Christian virtue: justice.  No justice is ever achievable in a spider’s web of mutual anger, recrimination and hurt pride.

2. Cultivate Honesty

Absolute honesty is only possible for a humble person. The reason is simple.  The most painful but important honesty is telling the truth to ourselves about our own intentions and our own actions.  The reason honesty is such a powerful magnet is because it’s so uncommon.

Contemporary life is too often built on the marketing of half-truths and lies about who we are and what we want.  Many of the lies are well-intentioned and not even very harmful — but they’re still lies.  Scripture praises the honest woman and man because they’re like clean air in a room full of smoke.  Honesty permits the mind to breathe and think clearly.

3. Seek To Be Holy

Holy does not mean nice or even good, although truly holy people are always good and often – though not always — nice.  Holiness means “other than.”  It’s what Scripture means when it tells us to be “in the world, but not of the world.”  And this doesn’t just miraculously occur.  We have to choose and search for holiness.

God’s ways are not our ways.  Holiness is the art of seeking to commit all of our thoughts and actions to God’s ways.  There’s no cookie-cutter model of holiness, just as piety can’t be reduced to a specific kind of prayer or posture.  What’s essential is to love the world because God loves it and sent his Son to save it, but not to be captured by its habits and values, which are not godly.

4. Pray

Prayer is more than just that portion of the day when we advise God about what we need and what he should do.  Real prayer is much closer to listening, and it’s closely tied to obedience.  God surely wants to hear what we desire, love and fear because these things are part of our daily lives, and he loves us.  But if we’re doing the talking, we can’t listen.  Note too, that we can’t really pray without humility.  Why?  Because prayer demands us to lift up who we are and everything we experience and possess to God.  Pride is too heavy to lift.

5. Read

Scripture is the living Word of God.  When we read God’s Word, we encounter God himself.  But there’s more: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Georges Bernanos and so many others – these were deeply intelligent and powerful writers whose work nourishes the Christian mind and soul, while also inspiring the imagination.  Reading also serves another, simpler purpose: It shuts out the noise that distracts us from fertile reflection.  We can’t read The Screwtape Letters and take network television seriously at the same time.  And that’s a very good thing.

By the way, if you do nothing else in 2019, read Tolkien’s wonderful short story, Leaf by Niggle.  It will take you less than an hour, but it will stay with you for a lifetime.  And then read C.S. Lewis’ great religious science-fiction trilogy – Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.  You’ll never look at our world in quite the same way again.

6. Believe and Act.

Nobody “earns” faith.  It’s a free gift from God.  But we must be willing and ready to receive it.  We can discipline ourselves to be prepared.   If we sincerely seek truth; if we desire things greater than this life has to offer; and if we leave our hearts open to the possibility of God — then one day we will believe, just as when we decide to love someone more deeply, and turn our hearts sincerely to the task, then sooner or later we usually will.

In the real world, feelings that last follow actions that have substance.  The more sincere we are in our discipleship, the closer we will come to Jesus Christ.  This is why the Emmaus disciples only recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the bread.”  Only in acting in and on our faith, does our faith become fully real.

7. Nothing is more powerful than the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist in leading us to the God we seek

God makes himself available to us every week in the confessional, and every day in the sacrifice of the Mass.  It makes little sense to talk about the “silence of God” when our churches are made silent by our own absence and indifference.  We’re the ones with the cold hearts – not God.

He’s never outdone in his generosity. He waits for us in the quiet of the tabernacle.  And he loves us and wants to be loved completely in return.

The best form of receiving the Holy Eucharist; mouth or hand?

The best form of receiving the Holy Eucharist; mouth or hand?

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Reception of Holy Eucharist

The “Sacrament of Unity,” the Eucharist, demonstrates great diversity. In its celebration, ritual families from Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, Armenia, and Rome make their own unique cultural contributions. Indeed, the “mystery of Christ is so unfathomably rich that it cannot be exhausted by its expression in any single liturgical tradition” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1201).

Within these traditions, the faithful may receive Holy Communion in a variety of ways. In the Latin Church alone, legitimate options include the communicant’s posture of standing or kneeling. In addition, the minister may distribute the Blood of Christ directly from the chalice, by intinction (dipping the host in the Precious Blood), or—even if not customary for most Catholics—“by means of a tube or a spoon” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal[GIRM] 245). The consecrated host can also be received in multiple ways, “either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant” (GIRM 160).

Communion in the hand, while relatively new to today’s Latin Church, is acknowledged as an “ancient usage” by the Holy See (see the 1969 Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship’s Memoriale Domini, “Instruction on the Manner of Distributing Holy Communion”). The U.S. bishops, in their Vatican-approved norms on the distribution and reception of Holy Communion, invoke the oft-cited remarks of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 368):

When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost. 

Despite the “ancient usage,” however, and even within the boundaries of the current discipline, the Church has made clear that Communion on the tongue is the preferred practice. (Consider especially the entire 1969 text of Memoriale Domini, as well as Pope John Paul II’s 1980 Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae 11). The Church’s preference for Communion on the tongue is nearly always justified by notions of reverence, devotion, humility, respect, adoration, and decorum. And while Pope John Paul II acknowledges those “who, receiving the Lord Jesus in the hand, do so with profound reverence and devotion” (Dominicae Cenae 11), permission for Communion in the hand is accompanied by warnings of potential disrespect, profanation, weakening of Eucharistic faith, and indifference.

But more needs to be said about these connections between the manner of reception and potential reverence or abuse. Potential for abuse is often not sufficient reason to forego a valid option. Instead, a positive theology for reception of Communion on the tongue is more helpful. Why, for instance, might Communion on the tongue help one’s Eucharistic faith, increase devotion, and better express one’s love to Jesus in the Sacrament? Conversely, whydoes receiving Communion in the hand risk profanation, weakened belief, or signify a possible lack of Eucharistic faith? Indeed, I have received Communion in the hand many times and should like to think I am among those mentioned by St. John Paul II who receive “with reverence and devotion.” Similarly, reception on the tongue does not necessarily guarantee fidelity and a grace-filled spiritual life. Still: how can I more clearly understand the Church’s preference for Communion on the tongue and, more importantly, how can I benefit spiritually from this preferred practice?

Whether receiving Communion on the tongue, in the hand, or each way from time to time, every communicant should reflect upon how the outward manner of reception expresses and fosters his or her Eucharistic faith.

The Passive Action of Communion

An ancient maxim of the Church teaches that “the law of prayer is the law of belief” (lex orandi, lex credendi). Belief and prayer—and prayer and belief—are integrally connected to one another. We pray, for example, in the name of the Father and of Son and of the Holy Spirit because we believe that God is one substance in three persons. Similarly, our belief that Jesus is truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament is deepened by humble prayer on our knees during periods of adoration (See CCC 1124 and Pius XII’s Mediator Dei 46-48).

This liturgical law clarifies the Church’s discipline regarding the reception of Holy Communion. Like most things liturgical—words, music, postures, time, ministers, architecture—the manner of receiving Communion should be understood and carried out in light of our belief. Our reception—whether on the tongue or in the hand—ought to reflect our Eucharistic faith and, at the same time, foster that same faith within us and in the Church.

So, what does the Church, and we as her members, believe about Holy Communion? While there are many (perhaps innumerable) dimensions to receiving the Eucharist, I find three particular notions enlightening to the question of Communion in the hand or on the tongue.

  • First, in Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 

“On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church,” the late pontiff offers a remarkable comparison between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Communicant. “There is a profound analogy,” he says, “between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived ‘through the Holy Spirit’ was ‘the Son of God’ (Lk 1:30-35). In continuity with the Virgin’s faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine” (55). He goes on to liken Mary to a tabernacle—“the first ‘tabernacle’ in history” (ibid.).

If there is a lesson for the communicant, it is that, like Mary, our reception of Jesus is characterized by lowliness, humility, and docility.

  • A second consideration of Eucharistic Communion stems from the texts of the Roman Missal. At the end of the preparatory rites prior to the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest commands us to “Pray that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”

This notion of sacrifice, says Pope Benedict, is “a concept that has been buried beneath the debris of endless misunderstandings” (The Spirit of the Liturgy 27). While it is tempting to think of “sacrifice” as essentially pain, loss, suffering, and deprivation, at its heart sacrifice is union with God, divinization, and “becoming love with Christ” (76).

Consequently, if Eucharistic Communion is the fruit of Christ’s—and our own—sacrifice, that is, his action of selfless turning to the Father, our manner of reception likewise needs be characterized by our heartfelt desire to unite to God our entire freedom, memory, will, and all we possess (“Prayer of Self-Offering,”* St. Ignatius of Loyola, found in the Roman Missal).

Finally is the amazing insight of St. Augustine. Recounted by Pope Benedict in his exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, “Augustine imagines the Lord saying to him: ‘I am the food of grown men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall be changed into me.’ It is not the Eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it” (70).

If we believe that this “mysterious food” (ibid.) has the power to change us—if we believe as St. Augustine and Pope Benedict believe—our manner of eating must signify such belief. Eucharistic food is “not something to be grasped at” but is received with humility and obedience (Phil 2:7-8). Only then will we be, like Christ, “highly exalted” (Phil 2:9).

The three above reflections offer a number of common elements relative to Eucharistic Communion: humility, docility, fidelity, selflessness. Which manner of receiving (the lex orandi) best expresses and fosters these truths (the lex credendi)?

Even though, as Pope John Paul acknowledges, Communion in the hand can be carried out with reverence and devotion; and even though reception on the tongue is no guaranteed symbol of fidelity and humility; Communion on the tongue is, all things being equal, the most suitable manner of reception.

In certain cultures, including our own, the bride and groom often receive from the hand of the other a piece of wedding cake at the wedding banquet. When done with love and devotion and faithfulness, the small gesture signifies not only the care one pledges to the other, but also the concern a vulnerable spouse can expect from the other. At the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, our humble reception of the fruits of his saving work likewise show our devotion to him, our Spouse, and express our abandonment into his care.