The Holy Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality, part three Print
Year of Faith
Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

By Abbot Marcel Rooney, OSB

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


In the previous two articles on the theology and spirituality of the Holy Eucharist, there were outlined a number of important points about the faith of the Church in this central sacrament.

Prayers of the Mass on Feast of Corpus Christi

In a very telling way, almost all these points are expressed in the Prayer texts of Holy Mass for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), which we have just celebrated on Sunday, June 3.

The Collect/Opening Prayer of Holy Mass on the solemnity, for example, speaks of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as the memorial of Christ’s Passion — as does the Preface.

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.

As this series has said before, this does not mean that Christ dies again and again in our liturgical celebrations. Rather, the use of the word memorial means that we are taken up into the grace and mystery of the original and only Passion.

Praying to experience fruits of Christ’s redemption

This is why the Collect prays that the Church might experience anew “the fruits of your redemption”. We are praying that we might gain the spiritual riches that were available to His disciples at the Last Supper and the hill of Calvary and the empty tomb when Jesus was with them.

He is with us too — recall how in the last article the various forms of Jesus’ Presence were outlined. His Presence with us is not physical as it was with the first disciples, but rather sacramental — which is just as real a Presence for us who have faith as for those who knew Him by sight.

It is our hope that Jesus’ Presence will stir up anew in us the gift of redemption which he came to bring us.

Praying for unity and peace

The Prayer Over the Offerings speaks of “gifts of unity and peace” which our offerings are signs of, again in a sacramental way (the Latin original speaks of them as “mystical signs”).

To clarify the “unity”: A piece of bread is a unity, made up of many grains of wheat coming together.

Similarly, a cup of wine results from many grapes being forged into unity. We can understand how the Church has always seen these elements are symbols of the kind of unity we are to have, as members of the Body of Christ, coming together thanks to the gift of His call and grace.

Christ is the passover lamb

The Preface is rich with theology that helps us understand the Holy Eucharist. After reiterating that it is the saving memorial of the Cross, the text points out that Jesus offered Himself for us, as the unblemished Lamb of God — bringing a far deeper grace of redemption than the Passover lamb heralded for the people of the Old Covenant period.

It is this offering of Jesus which gives God perfect praise and thanksgiving, which was discussed at length in the first of these Eucharistic articles.

The Preface goes on to state that the Holy Eucharistic Body and Blood of Jesus makes us holy, and thus proclaims the beginning of the transformation of the world.

Holiness means being ‘set apart for God’

“Holy” means “set apart” for God. Our reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus sets us apart from all other people, because, in a marvelous paradox, we do not so much take Jesus into ourselves at Holy Communion as He takes us into Himself.

If enough of us can have such a unity in Jesus, the world definitely will be transformed, will become holy.

And that transformation is a prophetic kind of preparation for the final transformation all are to experience, when the earthly grace of the Holy Eucharist passes over to be the everlasting heavenly Banquet which we are to share once we have passed over from this earthly life in Christian death.

The Prayer After Communion states this same dimension of the Holy Eucharist.

Beautiful sequence prayer

In sum, it would be good to quote a verse of the Sequence that may be sung after the 2nd Reading of this Solemnity:

“Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us,
Jesus, in your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.”

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.