“The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.” – CCC 1324
What do you think of when you hear the word “source?” You’re probably picturing your teacher saying you need sources for one of those long research papers, or a reservoir on top of a mountain where a river starts. A source is the origin of something; where it all begins. And then what about “summit?” I think of a mountaintop, or when you’ve finally reached the final goal and gone “to the heights” (s/o to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, if you’ve never heard of this guy, go look him up). But why does the Catechism use these carefully chosen words used to define the Eucharist? That’s the question we’ll be looking at.
To put it simply, witnessing and receiving the Eucharist is the closest we can get to Heaven while on earth. It is the genuine body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ and He instituted it himself which makes it all the more sacred. This sacrament fundamentally impacts us too, body and soul. We become a temple of Christ, carrying our Lord within us. With the love that Jesus has shown us, it gives us the ability to love others. I have found that some of the best conversations I’ve had with God happened in those minutes after receiving Communion. A priest in my diocese has this excellent analogy of the way Jesus comes into our hearts after Communion. It goes like this. Recall in Mark’s gospel when Jesus drove the merchants and moneychangers out of the Temple. He was mad they were disgracing His father’s house, and he used force, even flipping over their tables. It’s like that when we receive Jesus into our hearts; he drives out all of our sins and impurities with strength and aggression because He’s protecting the Temple, which is us when we receive Him. In changing our soul, the Eucharist is the source of the radical love that Jesus loves us with and it’s how we love others. It’s the summit of our transformation and conversion to Christ.
The Eucharist is also a huge test of our faith. Some people ask how we know for sure that it is Jesus and not just some piece of bread. Well, because we trust Christ and the words He spoke, that’s simple. However, simple doesn’t mean easy. Faith is honestly the most difficult virtue to practice. Doubting Jesus’s presence, going through the motions at Mass, these things get in the way of faith. But there’s a funny thing about faith and love: they go hand in hand. In knowing and experiencing God’s love, our faith strengthens. And when we have faith and trust in God, we’re even more aware of how real His love is. So in times of doubt with the Eucharist, remember this: we don’t see Jesus with our eyes, we see Him with our hearts.
Sometimes I lose faith and get a little frustrated with the way the Sacrament is celebrated. I think, “Come on God, can’t you do a little better than just a piece of bread?” But I’ve realized something. Being the mortal humans we are, God revealed in all of His glory and would be too much for us to handle. Our bodies wouldn’t be able to take it in and we’d probably die of shock. Our Lord humbles himself to the appearance of bread and wine so that we can actually receive Him. It’s such a gift that the Creator of the Universe loves us that much. And it’s amazing to think about the grace we receive every time we go to Communion. Nothing compares to the spiritual nourishment of actually consuming and digesting our Lord, in all of His fullness and divinity. That simply can’t be replaced or missed out on. The Eucharist is the source of our longing for Christ and His love. It is the summit of our spiritual hunger, where we are filled at the feast.
This grace is not only sustaining, but also miraculous. There are reports of miracles with this grace such as Blessed Alexandrina da Costa in the 1940s. She lived the last 13 years of her life receiving the Eucharist every day and completely abstaining from all other food. Doctors and medical professionals verified the entire ordeal. Or take Blessed Imelda Lambertini from the 1300s, an Italian girl of only nine years who was denied Holy Communion because of her age. After Mass one day, she was found praying in sorrow with a host floating above her head. So the priests and nuns decided to give her First Holy Communion with the miraculous host. Overcome with complete and utter joy, she died of happiness shortly after, and her body remains incorrupt to this day. These are just two of many Eucharistic miracles.
Finally, the Eucharist is central to the Mass. Think about a Mass without it, like would that even be a Mass? It’d be like Good Friday, the only day of the Liturgical year Mass isn’t celebrated. The service on that day is holy and blessed, but reflects the deadness and emptiness of life without Jesus. Now think about how everything at Mass revolves around the Eucharist, and leads up to it. Bells are even rung at the moment of consecration to say “Hey, if you take nothing else from this Mass, at least pay attention here! Jesus is right there!” In this way the Eucharist is the source of the entire Liturgy, breathing life into the Mass. It is the summit of the whole Mass, where everything reaches a pinnacle.
Reflecting on these words, source and summit, can help us as Catholics to better understand the mystery of the Eucharist.