The Holy Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality, part two Print
Year of Faith
Thursday, May. 30, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

By Abbot Marcel Rooney, OSB

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This is the second in a series of articles examining the theology and spirituality of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

We have seen in a previous reflection that the first thing the Holy Eucharist does is proclaim God’s great love for us, above all through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus (i.e., His Death, Resurrection, and Ascension) which is the means of our eternal salvation.

In the light of that great divine love coming to us, through sacramental signs, we need to respond in faith and in love.

Interested in learning more about the Mass?

Abbot Marcel Rooney's DVD series, “Reflections on Holy Mass” may be ordered through the Orate Institute of Sacred Liturgy, Music, and Art via the institute’s Web site at or by phone at 608-203-6735.

So the Holy Eucharist becomes a wonderful meeting place: God coming to us, in the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, to renew in us the once-for-all gift of salvation and love He has for us.

It is also our coming back to God, through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, to give ourselves to him.

Giving praise and thanks

The first way we do that is through thanksgiving and praise of the Father. This is discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), number 1358.

Examples of this spirit are also found throughout the Eucharistic liturgy during the Holy Mass. Let us cite just two:

  • Eucharistic Prayer II says, “It is truly right and just. . . to give you thanks, Father most holy. . .” And, “giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence. . .”
  • Eucharistic Prayer II says, “. . . all you have created rightly gives you praise . . .” And, “ . . .we offer you in thanksgiving. . . ”

In a word, the Church is so overjoyed at the eternal salvation it has received from God that it cannot stop praising and thanking God for such a Gift.

Mass is sacrificial memorial

The second way we respond to God’s Gift is by offering the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body (CCC 1358). This is made explicit in all the Eucharistic Prayers, in the part of the Prayer which follows the Words of Consecration.

  • Eucharistic Prayer I says, “. . . we celebrate the memorial [and we] offer to your glorious majesty. . .”
  • Eucharistic Prayer II says, “. . . as we celebrate the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, we offer you, Lord. . .”
  • Eucharistic Prayer III says, “. . . as we celebrate the memorial. . . we offer in thanksgiving. . .”
  • Eucharistic Prayer IV says, “. . . we now celebrate the memorial of our redemption. . . we offer you. . . the sacrifice acceptable to you which brings salvation to the whole world.”
Christ’s sacrifice was once-for-all

This does not mean that Christ’s death and resurrection happen again, over and over, whenever Holy Mass is celebrated. Rather, it means that we — through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist — enter into that once-for-all Mystery, to tap the saving grace that is present in it for all time and space.

The Second Vatican Council said this in other words: “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross, by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7), is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.” (Lumen Gentium 3). This is Gift indeed.

Responding to God in faith

The third way we respond to God’s Gift is by recognizing in faith and responding in love to the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit (CCC 1358).

We need to “recognize in faith” this Presence, because what is before our eyes looks like bread and wine, even after the Consecration of Holy Mass.

But faith tells us that through the Consecration, a conversion has taken place so that “the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” in the Eucharistic Species (Council of Trent, DS 1651).

The Presence of Christ at Holy Mass is found in different ways:

(1) He is present in the Word proclaimed (which is why we treat the Lectionary with such reverence).

(2) He in the altar, which will hold the sacred Species.

(3) He in the celebrating priest, who represents Christ to the community in a unique way as Good Shepherd of the flock of God.

(4) He in the people themselves, for “wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20).

(5) He in the sacraments, which are sacred signs bringing the presence of Christ to our daily lives.

Preeminently present in the Eucharist

But, above all, Christ is present in a pre-eminent way in the consecrated Eucharistic Species — both in the Action of Holy Mass, and in the reserved Blessed Sacrament, which is, therefore, worthy of special worship.

May our faith in the reality of the Blessed Trinity present at every Holy Mass grow more and more, so that we ourselves, by sharing in the Holy Eucharist, might become that Presence in the world in which we live.

Abbot Marcel Rooney, O.S.B., is president of the Orate Institute of Sacred Liturgy, Music and Art, resident in the Madison Diocese. The Institute is devoted to helping people understand more and pray better the sacred liturgy.