By FR. HUGH BARBOUR, O.PRAEM     3/22/2023

When we speak about what we Catholics, both clergy and lay folk, do with the Holy Eucharist, what words do we use, specifically what verbs do we use? These verbs, or words which express actions, will tell us how we think about this great mystery of our faith and show us what more we still need to know about and to do with what we call the Blessed Sacrament.

Usually the verb we most associate with the Eucharist is receive or take, as in “I receive the Eucharist,” or “I took Holy Communion.” Of course, a sacrament in which we drink and eat is obviously in the form of a meal, and a meal is something we take or receive from the one who has prepared it. Yes, the verb “receive” reminds us that the Eucharist can be a sacred meal, an eating and drinking of the sacramental signs. This
eating and drinking tells us that the Lord Jesus is our spiritual nourishment as he himself tells us in the sixth chapter of St. John’s gospel: “My flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink.” Food is assimilated into our bodies: we become what we eat, so the Lord tells us in the same chapter “The one who feeds on me will live because of me.”

We become one with the Lord in a manner so perfect that it can only be perceived by faith in this life, and in the vision of God in the life to come. In receiving the Eucharist, we have an intimate and effective union with the Lord in a way that goes far beyond the other ways, even the closest, where one human being comes into union with another. All this is implied in the expression “receive the Holy Eucharist.”

The next verb we use the most frequently is the verb adore or worship. The first, adore comes from the Latin which means to lower the face in a bow or to lower the lips in a kiss expressing reverence to someone greater. The second is from the Anglo-Saxon word which means “glory” or “dignity.” Worship comes from the same root as our word “worth” and “worthy.” In the case of the Blessed Sacrament we mean specifically the adoration and worship due to God alone, reverence of the highest kind. This is because the Eucharist is symbol of the most powerful sort. It is a symbol which contains what is signifies. It not only is the sign of the Lord’s Body: it is his adorable Body. It is not only the sign of his Blood under the appearance of wine, but it is his Blood which we worship. Christ as God is inseparable from the different aspects of his human nature: his Godhead is united to his Soul, and his Body, and his Blood, and so too in the sacrament under the appearances of bread and wine. That is why so many come to our churches throughout the day and night to adore the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s Body.

The most important verb which shows what we do with the Eucharist is the verb offer. We offer the Eucharist. Why does the Eucharist have the actual Body and Blood of the Lord? So we may offer him in the Mass as he offered himself on the Cross. The Eucharist is most of all in the Mass an offering here and now of the Body and Blood of the Lord once offered on the Cross. It makes no sense to see the Eucharist as a meal unless we understand the meal as a share in Christ’s sacrifice. We adore before the Sacrament so as to extend the effects of this sacrifice. Yet it is the sacrifice that is the main thing. Participating at Holy Mass is the main way we share in the Eucharist.

There would have been no Last Supper without Calvary. And the Mass is our Calvary offered for the living and the dead, offered by the priest, offered by each of the faithful!

So, the order is simple: Offer, then adore, then receive the Most Holy Eucharist. Each of these has its own place, but the offering of sacrifice is the central reality.