What’s in a Name??
As you may have heard us mention (just a few times) before…the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC #1324)! In order to explore that mystery a little further, we felt it appropriate after the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ to offer a reflection on some of the different names for the Eucharist.
What does it mean to be the “Source + Summit” of the Christian Life?
The Eucharist is the totius vitae christianae fons et culmen; fons meaning font, source, origin, Alpha, and culmen meaning culmination, pinnacle, climax, Omega. The Eucharist is everything, and it changes everything. It is the compendium et summa (sum and summary) of our faith—the whole of the Revelation of Christ (CCC# 1327, CCC# 90). St. Irenaeus expressed this concept when while debating a Gnostic he said, “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking,” meaning all of creation and all of the material world is good as a result of the Eucharist, because the Eucharist confirms it. The Eucharist affects how we see reality. It encapsulates our ultimate destiny and goal as humans: to enter into the Trinity. “The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity (CCC# 1325, 260, cf. John 17:21-23).” We can only enter into the Trinity through a divine act—a sacrament! Sacrosanctum Concilium from Vatican II, explains that the Eucharist is Sacrificial, Eschatological, Nuptial, Ecclesial, and Pascal–all at the same time (CCC# 1327).
To understand something better, we must know its name. God revealed His own name to Moses in Exodus, so he could better understand Him; thus, something’s name can be very revealing! The Eucharist is suitably called by a variety of names as it has a threefold significance with regard to the past in its commemorative value, its present unifying power, and to the future by its foreshadowing of heaven (Summa, III, Q. 73, Art 4). There are many names for the Eucharist! Here’s a quick look at five:
The word Eucharist comes the Greek eucharisteo, meaning “to give thanks.” This name recalls Jewish blessings that recall God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification (CCC# 1328). We also recall that Jesus “gave thanks” before the feeding of the Multitudes (Matt 14:19).
(2) Sacrament of CHARITY
Benedict XVI refers to the Eucharist as the “Sacrament of Charity” in his Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (2007), because it is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman (Sacrament of Charity, 1). He uses another term for love, i.e. “agape” in his first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, “God’s own agape also comes to us bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us (Sacrament of Charity, 5). The gift of love is present to us in the Eucharist daily, as is a re-presentation of Christ’s self-sacrifice on Calvary.
(3) Food of TRUTH
The Holy Father also refers to the sacrament as the “food of truth,” saying, “The Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom. Since only the truth can make us free.” It speaks to our thirsting, pilgrim hearts, our hearts yearning for the source of life, our hearts longing for truth!! He goes on to say, “Jesus Christ is the Truth in person, drawing the world to himself (Sacrament of Charity, 2).” Jesus referred to himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life: thus, the Eucharist is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
(4) The Breaking of the Bread
The Earliest name for the Eucharist was the “breaking of the bread.” We find this in Matthew 15:36, Luke 22:19, when Jesus used this rite as part of the Jewish meal (CCC #1329). It is also referred to this way on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24), as well as in the first liturgies spoken of in Acts (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11).
(5) A Memorial
Finally, it is a memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection (CCC# 1330), as a memorial recalls a specific event, usually a sacrifice; makes that event present, and renews the covenant. This memorial is a sign of love and a sign of sorrow for sin!
We can never write enough to fully unpack the beauty and mystery of the Real Presence of Christ in our midst. We pray for the Blessed Mother’s aid in our understanding this great gift, as she was the first to receive Jesus Christ–body, blood, soul, and divinity!
As always, in awe of Him!