Catechism of the Catholic Church
THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
1322 The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have
been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and
configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the
whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.
1323 "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior
instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did
in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages
until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the
Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a
sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal (Passover) banquet 'in which Christ is
consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is
given to us.'"
I. THE EUCHARIST - SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF ECCLESIAL LIFE
1324 The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."
"The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and
works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are
oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole
spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."
1325 "The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that
communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by
which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's
action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to
Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."
1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves
with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be
all in all.
1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our
way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn
confirms our way of thinking."
II. WHAT IS THIS SACRAMENT CALLED?
1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the
different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It
Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek
words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that
proclaim - especially during a meal - God's works: creation, redemption,
1329 The Lord's Supper, because of its connection with the supper which
the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because
it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat
when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread, above
all at the Last Supper. It is by this action that his disciples will
recognize him after his Resurrection, and it is this expression that the
first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by
doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ,
enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.
The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated
amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.
1330 The memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection.
The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ
the Savior and includes the Church's offering. The terms holy sacrifice
of the Mass, "sacrifice of praise," spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy
sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the
sacrifices of the Old Covenant.
The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church's whole liturgy finds
its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this
sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration the Sacred
Mysteries. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the
Sacrament of sacraments. The Eucharistic species reserved in the
tabernacle are designated by this same name.
1331 Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to
Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single
body. We also call it: the holy things (ta hagia; sancta) - the first
meaning of the phrase "communion of saints" in the Apostles' Creed - the
bread of angels, bread from heaven, medicine of immortality, viaticum...
1332 Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of
salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of
the faithful, so that they may fulfill God's will in their daily lives.
III. THE EUCHARIST IN THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION
The signs of bread and wine
1333 At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine
that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit,
become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the
Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return,
what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread..." "He took
the cup filled with wine..." The signs of bread and wine become, in
a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they
continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory
we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the "work of
human hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine" -
gifts of the Creator. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest
Melchizedek, who "brought out bread and wine," a prefiguring of her own
1334 In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among
the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to
the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of
the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover
commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt;
the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel
that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the
fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God's faithfulness to his
promises. The "cup of blessing" at the end of the Jewish Passover
meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the
messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus
instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the
blessing of the bread and the cup.
1335 The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord
says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his
disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this
unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana
already announces the Hour of Jesus' glorification. It makes manifest
the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father's kingdom, where the
faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.
1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just
as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: "This is a hard
saying; who can listen to it?" The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling
blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of
division. "Will you also go away?": the Lord's question echoes through
the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has "the words
of eternal life" and that to receive in faith the gift
of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.
The institution of the Eucharist
1337 The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the
end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to
the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them
the commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love,
in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his
Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and
Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his
return; "thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament."
1338 The three synoptic Gospels and St. Paul have handed on to us the
account of the institution of the Eucharist; St. John, for his part,
reports the words of Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum that prepare
for the institution of the Eucharist: Christ calls himself the bread of
life, come down from heaven.
1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced
at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood:
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to
be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the
passover meal for us, that we may eat it..." They went... and
prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the
apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat
this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat
it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."... And he
took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to
them, saying, "This is my Body which is given for you. Do this in
remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup
which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my Blood."
1340 By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of
the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive
meaning. Jesus' passing over to his father by his death and
Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and
celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and
anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the
"Do this in memory of me"
1341 The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words "until he
comes" does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is
directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their
successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his
Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.
1342 From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord's
command. Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the
breaking of bread and the prayers... Day by day, attending the
temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food
with glad and generous hearts.
1343 It was above all on "the first day of the week," Sunday, the day of
Jesus' resurrection, that the Christians met "to break bread." From
that time on down to our own day the celebration of the Eucharist has
been continued so that today we encounter it everywhere in the Church
with the same fundamental structure. It remains the center of the
1344 Thus from celebration to celebration, as they proclaim the Paschal
mystery of Jesus "until he comes," the pilgrim People of God advances,
"following the narrow way of the cross," toward the heavenly banquet,
when all the elect will be seated at the table of the kingdom.
IV. THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATION OF THE EUCHARIST
The Mass of all ages
1345 As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin
Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration.
They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical
families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161)
around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:
On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or
country gather in the same place.
The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read,
as much as time permits.
When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered
admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves... and for
all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by
our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain
When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to
him who presides over the brethren.
He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe,
through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a
considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have
been judged worthy of these gifts.
When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give
voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.'
When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded,
those whom we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted"
bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.
1346 The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds according to a fundamental
structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our
own day. It displays two great parts that form a fundamental unity:
- the gathering, the liturgy of the Word, with readings, homily and
- the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the presentation of the bread and
wine, the consecratory thanksgiving, and communion.
The liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the Eucharist together form "one
single act of worship"; the Eucharistic table set for us is the table
both of the Word of God and of the Body of the Lord.
1347 Is this not the same movement as the Paschal meal of the risen
Jesus with his disciples? Walking with them he explained the Scriptures
to them; sitting with them at table "he took bread, blessed and broke
it, and gave it to them."
The movement of the celebration
1348 All gather together. Christians come together in one place for the
Eucharistic assembly. At its head is Christ himself, the principal agent
of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the New Covenant; it is he
himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration. It is
in representing him that the bishop or priest acting in the person of
Christ the head (in persona Christi capitis) presides over the assembly,
speaks after the readings, receives the offerings, and says the
Eucharistic Prayer. All have their own active parts to play in the
celebration, each in his own way: readers, those who bring up the
offerings, those who give communion, and the whole people whose "Amen"
manifests their participation.
1349 The Liturgy of the Word includes "the writings of the prophets,"
that is, the Old Testament, and "the memoirs of the apostles" (their
letters and the Gospels). After the homily, which is an exhortation to
accept this Word as what it truly is, the Word of God, and to put it
into practice, come the intercessions for all men, according to the
Apostle's words: "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and
thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings, and all who are in high
1350 The presentation of the offerings (the Offertory). Then, sometimes
in procession, the bread and wine are brought to the altar; they will be
offered by the priest in the name of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice
in which they will become his Body and Blood. It is the very action of
Christ at the Last Supper - "taking the bread and a cup." "The Church
alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, when she offers what
comes forth from his creation with thanksgiving." The presentation of
the offerings at the altar takes up the gesture of Melchizedek and
commits the Creator's gifts into the hands of Christ who, in his
sacrifice, brings to perfection all human attempts to offer sacrifices.
1351 From the very beginning Christians have brought, along with the
bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need.
This custom of the collection, ever appropriate, is inspired by the
example of Christ who became poor to make us rich.
Those who are well off, and who are also willing, give as each chooses.
What is gathered is given to him who presides to assist orphans and
widows, those whom illness or any other cause has deprived of resources,
prisoners, immigrants and, in a word, all who are in need.
1352 The anaphora: with the Eucharistic Prayer - the prayer of
thanksgiving and consecration - we come to the heart and summit of the
In the preface, the Church gives thanks to the Father, through Christ,
in the Holy Spirit, for all his works: creation, redemption, and
sanctification. The whole community thus joins in the unending praise
that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to the
1353 In the epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send his Holy
Spirit (or the power of his blessing) on the bread and wine, so that
by his power they may become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and so
that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit
(some liturgical traditions put the epiclesis after the anamnesis).
In the institution narrative, the power of the words and the action of
Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present
under the species of bread and wine Christ's Body and Blood, his
sacrifice offered on the cross once for all.
1354 In the anamnesis that follows, the Church calls to mind the
Passion, resurrection, and glorious return of Christ Jesus; she presents
to the Father the offering of his Son which reconciles us with him.
In the intercessions, the Church indicates that the Eucharist is
celebrated in communion with the whole Church in heaven and on earth,
the living and the dead, and in communion with the pastors of the
Church, the Pope, the diocesan bishop, his presbyterium and his deacons,
and all the bishops of the whole world together with their Churches.
1355 In the communion, preceded by the Lord's prayer and the breaking of
the bread, the faithful receive "the bread of heaven" and "the cup of
salvation," the Body and Blood of Christ who offered himself "for the
life of the world":
Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist ("eucharisted,"
according to an ancient expression), "we call this food Eucharist, and
no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is
true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth,
and lives in keeping with what Christ taught."
V. THE SACRAMENTAL SACRIFICE THANKSGIVING, MEMORIAL, PRESENCE
1356 If from the beginning Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and
in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of
times and liturgies, it is because we know ourselves to be bound by the
command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: "Do this in remembrance
1357 We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial
of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to the Father what he has
himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by
the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the
Body and Blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made
1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:
- thanksgiving and praise to the Father;
- the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;
- the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit.
Thanksgiving and praise to the Father
1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by
Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for
the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation
loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the
Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the
sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good,
beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity.
1360 The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a
blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his
benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption,
and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving."
1361 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church
sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of
praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his
person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of
praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be
accepted in him.
The sacrificial memorial of Christ and of his Body, the Church
1362 The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making
present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the
liturgy of the Church which is his Body. In all the Eucharistic Prayers
we find after the words of institution a prayer called the anamnesis or
1363 In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the
recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works
wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these
events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how
Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is
celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of
believers so that they may conform their lives to them.
1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the
Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and
it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the
cross remains ever present. "As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by
which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar,
the work of our redemption is carried out."
1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is
also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is
manifested in the very words of institution: "This is my Body which is
given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for you is the New
Covenant in my Blood." In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very
which he gave up for us on the cross, the very Blood which he "poured
out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes
present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and
because it applies its fruit:
[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God
the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there
an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end
with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed,"
[he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible
sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice
which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be
re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its
salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily
1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one
single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers
through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross;
only the manner of offering is different." "And since in this divine
sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered
himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained
and is offered in an unbloody manner... this sacrifice is truly
1368 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which
is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With
him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his
intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacrifice
of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The
lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are
united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire
a new value. Christ's sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible
for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.
In the catacombs the Church is often represented as a woman in prayer,
arms outstretched in the praying position. Like Christ who stretched out
his arms on the cross, through him, with him, and in him, she offers
herself and intercedes for all men.
1369 The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of
Christ. Since he has the ministry of Peter in the Church, the Pope is
associated with every celebration of the Eucharist, wherein he is named
as the sign and servant of the unity of the universal Church. The bishop
of the place is always responsible for the Eucharist, even when a priest
presides; the bishop's name is mentioned to signify his presidency over
the particular Church, in the midst of his presbyterium and with the
assistance of deacons. The community intercedes also for all ministers
who, for it and with it, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice:
Let only that Eucharist be regarded as legitimate, which is celebrated
under [the presidency of] the bishop or him to whom he has entrusted it.
Through the ministry of priests the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful
is completed in union with the sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator,
which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests' hands in the name
of the whole Church in an unbloody and sacramental manner until the Lord
1370 To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still
here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In
communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the
saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist
the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with
the offering and intercession of Christ.
1371 The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed
who "have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified," so that they
may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ.
Then, we pray [in the anaphora] for the holy fathers and bishops who
have fallen asleep, and in general for all who have fallen asleep before
us, in the belief that it is a great benefit to the souls on whose
behalf the supplication is offered, while the holy and tremendous Victim
is present... By offering to God our supplications for those who
have fallen asleep, if they have sinned, we... offer Christ
sacrificed for the sins of all, and so render favorable, for them and
for us, the God who loves man.
1372 St. Augustine admirably summed up this doctrine that moves us to an
ever more complete participation in our Redeemer's sacrifice which we
celebrate in the Eucharist:
This wholly redeemed city, the assembly and society of the saints, is
offered to God as a universal sacrifice by the high priest who in the
form of a slave went so far as to offer himself for us in his Passion,
to make us the Body of so great a head... Such is the sacrifice of
Christians: "we who are many are one Body in Christ" The Church
continues to reproduce this sacrifice in the sacrament of the altar so
well-known to believers wherein it is evident to them that in what she
offers she herself is offered.
The presence of Christ by the power of his word and the Holy Spirit
1373 "Christ Jesus, who died, who was raised from the dead, who is
at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in
many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two
or three are gathered in my name," in the poor, the sick, and the
imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the
sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is
present... most especially in the Eucharistic species."
1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is
unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the
perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments
tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the
Blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ
and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially
contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended
to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real'
too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it
is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself
wholly and entirely present."
1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's Body
and Blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church
Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the
Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this
conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:
It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and
Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The
priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power
and grace are God's. This is my Body, he says. This word transforms the
And St. Ambrose says about this conversion:
Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the
blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that
of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed... Could
not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist,
change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a
feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.
1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring:
"Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his Body that he was
offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction
of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by
the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the
whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ
our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of
his Blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and
properly called transubstantiation."
1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the
consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist.
Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and
entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the
bread does not divide Christ.
1378 Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our
faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine
by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of
adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still
offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only
during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts
with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the
faithful, and carrying them in procession."
1379 The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the
Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and
those absent outside of Mass. As faith in the real presence of Christ in
his Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of
silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species. It
is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an
especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such
a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of
Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
1380 It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain
present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take
his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his
sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross
to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he
loved us "to the end," even to the giving of his life. In his
Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who
loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that
express and communicate this love.
1381 "That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true
Blood is something that 'cannot be apprehended by the senses,' says St.
Thomas, 'but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.' For this
reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 ('This is my Body which is given
for you.'), St. Cyril says: 'Do not doubt whether this is true, but
rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, since he is the
VI. THE PASCHAL BANQUET
1382 The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial
memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the
sacred banquet of communion with the Lord's Body and Blood. But the
celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the
intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive
communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us.
1383 The altar, around which the Church is gathered in the celebration
of the Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same mystery: the
altar of the sacrifice and the table of the Lord. This is all the more
so since the Christian altar is the symbol of Christ himself, present in
the midst of the assembly of his faithful, both as the victim offered
for our reconciliation and as food from heaven who is giving himself to
us. "For what is the altar of Christ if not the image of the Body of
Christ?" asks St. Ambrose. He says elsewhere, "The altar represents the
Body [of Christ] and the Body of Christ is on the altar." The
liturgy expresses this unity of sacrifice and communion in many prayers.
Thus the Roman Church prays in its anaphora:
We entreat you, almighty God,
that by the hands of your holy Angel
this offering may be borne to your altar in heaven
in the sight of your divine majesty,
so that as we receive in communion at this altar
the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,
we may be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace.
"Take this and eat it, all of you": communion
1384 The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in
the sacrament of the Eucharist: "Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the
Flesh of the Son of man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you."
1385 To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so
great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience:
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an
unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the
Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of
the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the Body
eats and drinks judgment upon himself." Anyone conscious of a grave
sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to
1386 Before so great a sacrament, the faithful can only echo humbly and
with ardent faith the words of the Centurion: "Domine, non sum dignus ut
intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea"
("Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only
say the word and my soul will be healed."). And in the Divine Liturgy
of St. John Chrysostom the faithful pray in the same spirit:
O Son of God, bring me into communion today with your mystical supper. I
shall not tell your enemies the secret, nor kiss you with Judas' kiss.
But like the good thief I cry, "Jesus, remember me when you come into
1387 To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful
should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor
(gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of
this moment when Christ becomes our guest.
1390 Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species,
communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive
all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of
receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common
form in the Latin rite. But "the sign of communion is more complete when
given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic
meal appears more clearly."
The fruits of Holy Communion
1391 Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit
of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with
Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: "He who eats my Flesh and drinks my
Blood abides in me, and I in him." Life in Christ has its foundation in
the Eucharistic banquet: "As the living Father sent me, and I live
because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."
On the feasts of the Lord, when the faithful receive the Body of the
Son, they proclaim to one another the Good News that the first fruits of
life have been given, as when the angel said to Mary Magdalene, "Christ
is risen!" Now too are life and resurrection conferred on whoever
1392 What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion
wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the Flesh of
the risen Christ, a Flesh "given life and giving life through the Holy
Spirit," preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received
at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of
Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of
death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.
1393 Holy Communion separates us from sin. The Body of Christ we receive
in Holy Communion is "given up for us," and the Blood we drink "shed for
the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist
cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from
past sins and preserving us from future sins:
For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the
death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord's death, we proclaim the
forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his Blood is poured out, it is
poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that
it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always
have a remedy.
1394 As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist
strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and
this living charity wipes away venial sins. By giving himself to us
Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered
attachments to creatures and root ourselves in him:
Since Christ died for us out of love, when we celebrate the memorial of
his death at the moment of sacrifice we ask that love may be granted to
us by the coming of the Holy Spirit. We humbly pray that in the strength
of this love by which Christ willed to die for us, we, by receiving the
gift of the Holy Spirit, may be able to consider the world as crucified
for us, and to be ourselves as crucified to the world... Having
received the gift of love, let us die to sin and live for God.
1395 By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist
preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of
Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break
away from him by mortal sin. The Eucharist is not ordered to the
forgiveness of mortal sins - that is proper to the sacrament of
Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are
in full communion with the Church.
1396 The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church.
Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ.
Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body - the
Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation
into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been
called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call: "The cup
of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of
Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the Body
of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for
we all partake of the one bread:"
If you are the Body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament
that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you
receive. To that which you are you respond "Amen" ("yes, it is true!")
and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, "the
Body of Christ" and respond "Amen." Be then a member of the Body of
Christ that your Amen may be true.
1397 The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body
and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the
poorest, his brethren:
You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your
brother... You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of
sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal. God
freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not
become more merciful.
1398 The Eucharist and the unity of Christians. Before the greatness of
this mystery St. Augustine exclaims, "O sacrament of devotion! O sign of
unity! O bond of charity!" The more painful the experience of the
divisions in the Church which break the common participation in the
table of the Lord, the more urgent are our prayers to the Lord that the
time of complete unity among all who believe in him may return.
1401 When, in the Ordinary's judgment, a grave necessity arises,
Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and
Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the
Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give
evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and
possess the required dispositions.
VII. THE EUCHARIST - "PLEDGE OF THE GLORY TO COME"
1402 In an ancient prayer the Church acclaims the mystery of the
Eucharist: "O sacred banquet in which Christ is received as food, the
memory of his Passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and a
pledge of the life to come is given to us." If the Eucharist is the
memorial of the Passover of the Lord Jesus, if by our communion at the
altar we are filled "with every heavenly blessing and grace," then
the Eucharist is also an anticipation of the heavenly glory.
1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples'
attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God:
"I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that
day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." Whenever
the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns
her gaze "to him who is to come." In her prayer she calls for his
coming: "Marana tha!" "Come, Lord Jesus!" "May your grace come and
this world pass away!"
1404 The Church knows that the Lord comes even now in his Eucharist and
that he is there in our midst. However, his presence is veiled.
Therefore we celebrate the Eucharist "awaiting the blessed hope and the
coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ," asking "to share in your glory when
every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see you, our God, as
you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ
1405 There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the
new heavens and new earth "in which righteousness dwells," than the
Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, "the work of our
redemption is carried on" and we "break the one bread that provides the
medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes
us live for ever in Jesus Christ."
1406 Jesus said: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if
any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever... he who eats my
Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life and... abides in me, and I
in him" (Jn 6:51, 54, 56).
1407 The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church's life, for
in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his
sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross
to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on
his Body which is the Church.
1408 The Eucharistic celebration always includes: the proclamation of
the Word of God; thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits,
above all the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine; and
participation in the liturgical banquet by receiving the Lord's Body and
Blood. These elements constitute one single act of worship.
1409 The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, that is, of the
work of salvation accomplished by the life, death, and resurrection of
Christ, a work made present by the liturgical action.
1410 It is Christ himself, the Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant
who, acting through the ministry of the priests, offers the Eucharistic
sacrifice. And it is the same Christ, really present under the species
of bread and wine, who is the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
1411 Only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and
consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood
of the Lord.
1412 The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread
and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and
the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during
the Last Supper: "This is my Body which will be given up for you...
This is the cup of my Blood..."
1413 By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine
into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the
consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and
glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body
and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS
1414 As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the
sins of the living and the dead and to obtain spiritual or temporal
benefits from God.
1415 Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must
be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must
not receive communion without having received absolution in the
sacrament of penance.
1416 Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ increases the
communicant's union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and
preserves him from grave sins. Since receiving this sacrament
strengthens the bonds of charity between the communicant and Christ, it
also reinforces the unity of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.
1418 Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he
is to be honored with the worship of adoration. "To visit the Blessed
Sacrament is a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a
duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord".
1419 Having passed from this world to the Father, Christ gives us in the
Eucharist the pledge of glory with him. Participation in the Holy
Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the
pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us
even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the