Getting the Eucharist

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Roughly six months after my conversion, I had what I like to think of as my first real “revelation” surrounding Church teaching—specifically the Eucharist.

I was sitting in Mass with my wife, trying to pay attention while simultaneously attempting to contain my fidgety baby boy.  At that point in my Catholic life, I had long since accepted Church teaching on the Eucharist. I had read the scripture, the books, the essays, I’d attended Mass, discussed it in RCIA, and I fully believed that it was the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday since I was confirmed, I knew that when I stepped up to the front of the communion line, I was receiving Christ.

But here’s the thing, I spent years as a Southern Baptist drinking grape juice and eating tiny crackers made of sawdust believing that the whole “This is my Body” ordeal was a just a big ‘ol symbol for…something. Despite the fact that I really and truly did believe that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ, I still felt like there was a mental block somewhere. It was like I understood it, but I didn’t fully get it. Get it?

So, I prayed. I prayed at every Mass for Christ to reveal himself to me through the Eucharist. I wanted him to break me, punch me in the gut, and make me see this sacrifice for what it really is.

That particular Sunday was no different. I said a little prayer from my kneeler, and when it was time to get up, I made my way to the Communion line.

I can’t remember the hymn, but I do remember it being really beautiful and touching. As I slowly walked behind my wife to the front of the Church, I felt compelled to look upwards at the enormous, incredibly detailed crucifix hanging above. (Seriously, this thing is a piece of work)

It wasn’t the first time I’d ever looked upon our crucifix, and it certainly wasn’t my first time seeing a depiction of Christ on the cross. But for whatever reason, I started meditating on the passion and focusing on whom that really was hanging there, nailed to two pieces of wood, broken, bloodied, and humiliated.

It wasn’t just some guy named Jesus. It wasn’t some troublemaker, or revolutionary, or some pest to Rome. It wasn’t just a teacher, or a prophet, or a “really good dude”. That was God, my God, the creator of the universe, who is love, who is truth, who spoke our world into existence. He made himself flesh, and let his very own creation strip him, beat him, and kill him. And for what?

Us. Me. You. The entire human race: an undeserving group of sinful, selfish, ignorant, stupid people who are entirely deserving of Hell and eternal separation from God. But lucky for us, our Lord loves us so much that He, an all knowing, all powerful, omniscient, eternal being that exists outside of time itself, became man through Christ and died for us.

It’s like when a parent takes responsibility for something really stupid that their child did, except multiplied by infinity.

I was gazing up at the crucifix with those vivid thoughts burning in my head, and I realized that it was my turn to receive. I stepped up, bowed, and Father presented the Body to me.

“The Body of Christ.”

It wasn’t the first time those words had been spoken to me, but it was the first time I think I’d ever heard them, and I mean really heard them.

The. Body. Of. Christ.

In my imperfect, undeserving hands, I held the Body of Christ.

Our God didn’t just sacrifice himself for us; He took it a step further. He gave us his body to take and eat. EAT! To ingest, chew, swallow, and put in our imperfect, human bodies. He offered himself to us—totally, fully, unconditionally—so that we could feed our spiritual hunger, so that we could have salvation. That’s how much He loves us.

How could we possibly comprehend that?

I took the body. I ate it. I went back to my seat, and I prayed. Hard. I was broken. You get what you ask for, I guess.

As someone who’s been at least somewhat of a Christian his entire life, I’d spoken about the love of God before. I’d written about it. I’d shared it. But this was the first time I’d ever really felt it. It was the first time I looked that realization in the face, and saw the infinite, unfathomable love that God has for me—for all of us.

There’s that gut punch.

Of course, this barely scratches the surface of the truth and theology behind the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This is just how Christ revealed it to me. This is how he answered my prayers. I think what I find so special about this revelation is that there was no bright light, no vision, no voice. It was quiet, gentle, yet humbly overwhelming.

After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.

When you open yourself to the Lord, he will deliver. Right on the heels of this revelation came another, which was: It’s okay if you don’t fully get it, more of which I will talk about next time.

Matthew Tyson

Matthew Tyson

Matthew is a Catholic convert, blogger, and freelance writer living in Alabama with his wife and baby son. After joining the Church in March of 2013, he started the Mackerel Snapper blog as an effort to reach out to other possible converts and help educate non-Catholics about the faith. Outside of writing, Matthew is an avid reader, hockey fan, and devout Whovian. You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @MackSnapMatt, or email him at matthewallentyson@gmail.com

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57 thoughts on “Getting the Eucharist”

  1. Avatar

    So it also begs the question about two or more together in His name. What does
    Jesus provide those Baptists by truly being among them ?

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        What is the difference from Jesus being physically present when
        two or more are gathered in His name and receiving Jesus in the
        Eucharist ? Does His physical Presence to Baptists have anything to do with salvation or is it just tokenism ?

      2. Avatar

        You’re comparing apples to oranges. All Matthew 18:20 is doing is encouraging people to pray together, it’s not the same as receiving the Eucharist.

        The Eucharist is a Sacrament. It is something Jesus commanded us to do, and he was very clear.

        “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life within him, and I will raise him on the last day.” John 6:53

        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.”– Luke 22:19

        When people pray together, is Jesus among them? Yes, but he isn’t physically standing there next to them. During the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus is physically there. The bread and wine become the Body and Blood.

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        ” When people pray together, is Jesus among them? Yes, but he isn’t physically standing there next to them. ”
        Then what benefit do they receive from Jesus being among them ?

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        Through prayer? Many things. But it really isn’t about how you can benefit from it. Prayer is so much more than “what you get”. It’s about what you give. It’s how we communicate with Christ and offer ourselves to Him.

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        @james, when 2 or more are gathered in His Name, we know He hears our prayers because that is what He promised & that is a great good. It is also the part of the “benefit.” There are many more: Christian community, praying for each other, coming to know Christ better through discovering what He is doing in the lives of others, etc.

        Are you asking whether non-Catholics can be saved? Or are you asking, why bother? Are you asking something else? Can you clarify your question?

      6. Avatar

        ” Are you asking whether non-Catholics can be saved?
        No, Love, we know that anyone may be saved.
        Or are you asking, why bother?
        No, Love, I was looking to see what Matt thought about the quality of one Real Presence (being in their midst during a prayer service ) as opposed to the RP of the Eucharist. Jesus is present in both circumstances.
        Now to elaborate on the command to eat and drink. Since Matt mentioned that Baptists eat wafers made of “sawdust” and drink grape juice, I wondered – we never got this far – why, since all the above quotes are SOOO specific about what Jesus said, that the faithful of the CC very rarely drinks His Blood. Even Protestants use the method called ‘tincture’ – dipping a wafer in wine – to receive as Christ asked. At least the symbolism of the
        Baptists follows Jesus’ instructions.
        To sum up. The communion of non catholics with Jesus
        in their midst seems just as edifying and beneficial to
        Baptists as Christ’s present in the Eucharist does to
        Catholics.

      7. Avatar

        I have to be honest with you, James. Your responses are not clear or concise. I’ve already answered the question about the difference between prayer and the Eucharist. I honestly can’t see a way to answer you again without repeating myself. Also, I’m really confused as to where you’re going with with your statement that Catholics rarely drink His Blood. We receive it every week at Mass. Some even go every day.

        I go back again to the apostles and early Christians. They all believed in real presence and taught about it on numerous occasions. You can find it in Paul’s letters. You can find it in the writings of Ignatius, Cyril, Justine Martyr, etc. The idea that Christ wasn’t in the Eucharist is something that came along after the Protestant Reformation, 1500 years later.

      8. Avatar

        Matt, I’ll try to be clear. I am Catholic so I believe in the real Presence. Jesus indicated both His body and His Blood. The priest drinks His Blood. We don’t. So the specific instruction to eat and drink are circumvented by the magesterium, maybe for practical reasons but unless
        it is a very special occasion you are not partaking of the
        Blood of the Lamb which is referenced much more than the Body. We are expected to wash our robes, not in the body of the Lamb but His Blood. Now I will cut and paste what I
        posted to Love –
        Even Protestants use the method called ‘tincture’ – dipping a wafer in wine – to receive as Christ asked. At least the symbolism of the Baptists follows Jesus’ instructions.
        Now, will you please explain the “sawdust” in the wafer ?

  2. Avatar
    Sally Shelton Thornton

    Breaks my heart how people are so focused on “what’s in it for me?” type attitude. Jesus has already suffered and died for us – Isn’t that enough? We are supposed to praise and worship and share in the body of Christ not so much for us but to give God the glory. If you are going to go to church just to see what YOU can get out of it then you are not going for the right reasons.

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      Jesus assumes that men are selfish and will follow Him to further their own selfish ends, after all we are sinners. Jesus promises heaven to those that follow him; heaven is where we will not suffer and will be filled with the love of God. That sounds like a reward worth fighting for.

      1. Avatar
        Sally Shelton Thornton

        Joe, We are supposed to go to church to worship & praise for LOVE of God & Jesus not out of fear of Hell. I do realize that it takes most people many years to actually fall madly in love with Jesus and enough so that we actually want to follow the commandments especially “Keep Sunday Holy” by going to church

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      Sally, I felt the same way when I read James comments. It seems many of us are out to gain something instead of giving ourselves to God. My intrinsic motive is to serve him. I am having some trouble teaching my twelve year old twins (boy, and girl) about the rewards of pleasing God for no other reason than to show him how much we love him….
      btw, they attend church every Sunday, and Catholic school too, they love it, but somehow they are not understanding the purpose of devotion to God in it’s completeness.

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        Listen, CYA, while you and Sally are in church praying for your own needs I’m holding the hand of dying Christians, Catholics, Jews, atheists and others. My hospice ministry is a corporeal work of mercy and a calling to this cradle Catholic who understands more about the gospels than you could hope to know.

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      Unfortunately, Sally, neither you nor Matt caught the gist of where I was going. Since Baptists – along with those of every other faith – go to heaven without the Eucharist then it stands to reason that praying together works just as well. That was the whole point. And who is Mattt to say that Jesus isn’t physically present when two or more are gathered..

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        Jesus is present when we are gathered in His Name; He promised He would be in our midst. If you accept that promise, then why not accept the promise “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do
        not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has
        life within him, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:53)? John 6:53 is more than a promise to be with us. It’s Christ’s life within us.

        Which doesn’t mean all Catholics will go to heaven or that Protestants won’t be saved. God makes that determination. We don’t. We do know that Christ instituted the Eucharist & that there is more than salvation. There’s also Christification – being made like Christ by having His life within us. Can He make those who don’t receive the Eucharist like Him? God can do anything. But since He told us eat His Body & drink His Blood, why wouldn’t we obey Him? Why decide to obey some of His teachings but not others?

        The Eucharist is not the same as praying together, though we do pray together. At the Last Supper, the word Jesus uses, “amanesis” (Greek), is more than a memorial. A more accurate translation would be, Do this to make Me present.” Amanesis takes us into Kairos – God’s time – eternity. The past & present come together so that each celebration of the Eucharist places each of us at that table w/ Christ as He says: This is My Body, This is My Blood. We are there, just as the 12 were.

        Paul tells us: “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.” (1 Cor 11:27-29) If the consecrated wine & bread aren’t really Christ’s Body & Blood, why does Paul say they are? And the benefit is doing as Christ told us to do & believing that everything He told us is the truth, even John 6:53.

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        Now to elaborate on the command to eat and drink. Since Matt mentioned that Baptists eat wafers made of “sawdust” and drink grape juice, I wondered – we never got this far – why, since all the above quotes are SOOO specific about what Jesus said, that the faithful of the CC very rarely drinks His Blood. Even Protestants use the method called ‘tincture’ – dipping a wafer in wine – to receive as Christ asked. At least the symbolism of the Baptists follows Jesus’ instructions.
        To sum up. The communion of non catholics with Jesus
        in their midst seems just as edifying and beneficial to
        Baptists as Christ’s present in the Eucharist does to
        Catholics.

      3. Avatar
        Sally Shelton Thornton

        Ok James that’s where Protestants and Catholics differ some. We believe that you are not necessarily going to heaven just by believing i.e. Faith Without Works is Dead. We believe that when we receive the eucharist we are actually becoming more like Jesus since we are receiving his flesh and blood. i.e. You Are what you eat. We believe that receiving communion is a sacrament and in this sacrament the Holy Spirit changes us; his grace perfects us and he fulfills our every desire. We believe the sacraments are necessary to help us toward perfection and thus becoming more like Jesus.

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        I never said everyone goes to heaven but many do – after
        purgatory, even if they don’t believe in it – and of course
        faith w/o works don’t work. And what part of receiving in
        both species don’t you understand ? You do seem a little
        bit slow on the uptake Sally, but no big deal. Peace now.

      5. Avatar

        Actually I don’t think its too far over my head. I don’t think its that complicated at all. These are rituals with pagan origins.

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    I don’t get it. The doctrine of the real presence is not in Scripture. There is nothing in the supper accounts that would lead us to believe that Jesus was now in a piece of bread literally. That is not what the last supper was about.

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      Well, we can start in the Scripture by looking at the passages I quoted above. Christ repeats to his disciples numerous times that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He isn’t speaking metaphorically. There are no corrections. He lost followers over this statement, and yet he didn’t call for them, or try to stop him. Should we accept that Jesus was that much of a jerk? Or would it make more sense that they flat our rejected that notion?

      Then, at the last supper, Jesus plainly states, “This is my body.” He doesn’t say, “This is like my body” or “This is a symbol for my body.” Instead, he makes it very clear what he means.

      But if we move past the life of Christ, Paul confirms this teaching in 1st Corinthians:

      “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?”… “Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself”

      Paul really takes communion seriously. Why? Because he teaching real presence. Were it just a symbol that we do every once in a while, there would be no reason to be so incredibly strict on the teaching.

      Even further, we can look at what the early Christians believed.

      that “they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again” (6:2, 7:1).–Ignatius of Antioch

      “Not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus–Justin Martyr

      “Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that, for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy
      of the body and blood of Christ–Cyril of Jerusalem

      In early Christianity, meaning those who walked with Christ and their immediate successors, all believed that Christ was present in the Eucharist. Anyone who believed otherwise was heretical, and it wasn’t until the Protestants came to be that the teaching changed. So you can accept what those closest to Jesus believed, or you can believe the opinion of someone who came 1500 years later.

      I’m no theologian, so I’ve provided some links at the bottom of this comment for you if you care to do some further reading. I truly hope you do, because this is the truth, and I want everyone to accept it. I quoted a lot out of the first link.

      God bless. I hope this helps.

      http://www.catholic.com/tracts/christ-in-the-eucharist

      http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm

      http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/euchc2.htm

      1. Avatar

        Jesus also said He was a door and a shepherd. Should we take these things literally?

        If Jesus is speaking literally about the bread and wine being Himself then you have serious problems. One is that it would mean He has 2 new natures with His other 2 natures (human and divine). Secondly, there is no indication that the disciples took Him literally either. If they did, they would be guilty of cannibalism.

        These are just some of the problems with the literalist view that leads to absurdities.

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        Why did Jesus give the disciples wine and bread and say “this is my body”? Why did Jesus say to repeat the breaking of bread and drinking of the wine?

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        But Jesus didn’t say it was symbolic, he said; “this is my body”; he didn’t say, this represents my body.

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        Well, the first problem here is that you’re putting limitations on what God can’t and cannot do.

        As far was interpretation goes, I think you can find plenty of evidence that the apostles took him literally. Citing the scripture and quotes from early Church Fathers above, why do you think they felt this way? We’re talking about the men who studied under the apostles–those being the men that walked with Christ himself. They didn’t have the Bible then, so where did the idea come from? Did it just pop up out of nowhere among ALL Christians? No. It was taught. It was tradition.

        This is the same reason we take certain parts of the Scripture literally and certain parts contextually. It’s not strictly literal or strictly contextual 100%. We have the tradition and teachings of the apostles and early Fathers to rely on.

        In order for your view to hold up completely, you have to be willing to accept that for the first 1500 years of Christianity, starting with the moment immediately succeeding the assumption, that everyone was wrong.

      5. Avatar

        Since no one is infallible (except the Lord Christ) then it does not follow that a church father or church cannot get something wrong.

        Real presence was not believed by everyone in the first 3 centuries.

        Schaff provides some perspective:

        “The doctrine concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, not coming into special discussion, remained indefinite and obscure [during the period from 100-325 AD]. The ancient church made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the holiest mystery of Christian worship, and accordingly,
        celebrated it with the deepest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christ’s presence, nor into the relation of the sensible signs to his flesh and
        blood. It is unhistorical to carry any of the later theories back into thisage; although it has been done frequently in the apologetic and polemic discussion of this subject.”

        Philip Schaff’s History of the Church – Passages on the
        Eucharist

      6. Avatar

        Right, Jesus meant it literally, he did not say this represents my body, he said this IS my body and you are to continue to “munch” on my body, as long as you are alive.

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        He doesn’t have to say it was symbolic. To say something represents something means it symbolizes something. That is exactly what Jesus is saying at the supper.

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    Matthew, your article about the revelation brought tears to my eyes and peace in my heart for you. Our God is an awesome God. To experience Him in the Holy Eucharist as you have just shared doing is a gift to be treasured. Thank you for your honesty. As a Catholic Christian, I share your belief and am so happy for you.

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    Very good article Matthew, the moment you speak of comes to all that believe, sooner or later and when it does come it is very dramatic.

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    Sally Shelton Thornton

    I found something interesting while thumbing through my diary today. It was excerpts from a Mass on Ewtn. The priest was speaking about how We are made in God’s image. He was explaining that means in God’s likeness (in God’s grace) means we are given the ability to will to choose I.e. Distinguish betw good and bad and these choices are not obtained w out Gods grace. Hence sharing in the sacrament of communion instead of starving ourselves from the sacraments. I loved your testimony Matthew, thank you for sharing your faith. It was a very uplifting story and has made me appreciate my faith even more.

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    kneeling catholic

    Hello Matt!
    I will definitely add you to my ‘blog roll’! and btw, welcome home, son!
    At first I was going to zing you for mentioning hand-Communion, but it looks like your combox has already hit its limit of know-it-alls!! 🙂
    I really wish that sometime, if you ever can get finished answering all your commenters, you might look into the topic of Communion-in-the-hand versus Communion placed directly on the tongue. You probably are not yet aware that the topic is for-better-or-worse a ‘Shibboleth’ amongst Catholics. We would definitely love to ‘red-rover’ you over to our side!

    1. Avatar

      Thanks so much for reading! It makes me happy to hear that you’ll be following along.

      Now, to be fair, when I was going through RCIA the Priest taught us both ways to receive, and that way just what stuck with me. However, I do occasionally receive on tongue, especially if I’m the one carrying the little boy. My wife, on the other hand, always receives on the tongue.

      Thanks again for reading! God bless.

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