1322 The holy Eucharist completes Christian
initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood
by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate
with the whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.
1323 "At the Last Supper, on the night
he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his
Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the
cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust
to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection:
a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet
'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge
of future glory is given to us.'"
THE EUCHARIST - SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF ECCLESIAL
1324 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. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the
whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."
1325 "The Eucharist is the efficacious
sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity
of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination
both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship
men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."
1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration
we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal
life, when God will be all in all.
1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum
and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist,
and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."
WHAT IS THIS SACRAMENT CALLED?
1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament
is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain
aspects of it. It is called: Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving
to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the
Jewish blessings that proclaim - especially during a meal - God's works:
creation, redemption, and sanctification.
1329 The Lord's Supper, because of its
connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the
eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the
Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.
The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used
this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed
and distributed the bread,l above all at the Last Supper. It is
by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection,
and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate
their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all
who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and
form but one body in him.
The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because
the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible
expression of the Church.
1330 The memorial of the Lord's Passion
The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present
the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church's offering.
The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, "sacrifice of praise," spiritual
sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes
and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.
The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the
Church's whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in
the celebration of this sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration
the Sacred Mysteries. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it
is the Sacrament of sacraments. The Eucharistic species reserved in the
tabernacle are designated by this same name.
1331 Holy Communion, because by this sacrament
we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood
to form a single body. We also call it: the holy things (ta hagia;
sancta) - the first meaning of the phrase "communion of saints" in
the Apostles' Creed - the bread of angels, bread from heaven, medicine
of immortality, viaticum....
1332 Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy
in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending
forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God's will in
their daily lives.
THE EUCHARIST IN THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION
The signs of bread and wine
1333 At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration
are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation
of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's
command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious
return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread...." "He
took the cup filled with wine...." The signs of bread and wine become,
in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue
also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give
thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the "work of human
hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine" - gifts
of the Creator. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek,
who "brought out bread and wine," a prefiguring of her own offering.
1334 In the Old Covenant bread and wine
were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign
of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new
significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel
eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that
liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will
always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God;
their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God's
faithfulness to his promises.
The "cup of blessing" at the end
of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological
dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When
Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to
the blessing of the bread and the cup.
1335 The miracles of the multiplication
of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes
the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance
of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into
wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus' glorification. It makes
manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father's kingdom,
where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of
1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist
divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized
them: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" The Eucharist
and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never
ceases to be an occasion of division. "Will you also go away?": the
Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover
that only he has "the words of eternal life" and that to receive in
faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.
The institution of the Eucharist
1337 The Lord, having loved those who were
his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave
this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed
their feet and gave them the commandment of love. In order to leave
them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to
make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial
of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate
it until his return; "thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament."
1338 The three synoptic Gospels and St.
Paul have handed on to us the account of the institution of the Eucharist;
St. John, for his part, reports the words of Jesus in the synagogue of
Capernaum that prepare for the institution of the Eucharist: Christ calls
himself the bread of life, come down from heaven.
1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to
fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body
and his Blood:
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread,
on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and
John, saying, "Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat
it...." They went ... and prepared the passover. And when the hour came,
he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have
earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I
tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom
of God.".... 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." And likewise the cup after supper, saying,
"This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood."
1340 By celebrating the Last Supper with
his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish
Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to his father by his
death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper
and celebrated in the Eucharist,
which fulfills the Jewish Passover and
anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.
"Do this in memory of me"
1341 The command of Jesus to repeat his actions
and words "until he comes" does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what
he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and
their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death,
of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.
1342 From the beginning the Church has
been faithful to the Lord's command. Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written:
They devoted themselves to the apostles'
teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.... Day
by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes,
they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.
1343 It was above all on "the first day
of the week," Sunday, the day of Jesus' resurrection, that the Christians
met "to break bread." From that time on down to our own day the celebration
of the Eucharist has been continued so that today we encounter it everywhere
in the Church with the same fundamental structure. It remains the center
of the Church's life.
1344 Thus from celebration to celebration,
as they proclaim the Paschal mystery of Jesus "until he comes," the pilgrim
People of God advances, "following the narrow way of the cross," toward
the heavenly banquet, when all the elect will be seated at the table of
THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATION
OF THE EUCHARIST
The Mass of all ages
1345 As early as the second century we have
the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the
Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for
all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor
Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians
On the day we call the day of the sun,
all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.
The memoirs of the apostles and the writings
of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.
When the reader has finished, he who presides
over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful
Then we all rise together and offer prayers*
for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we
may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments,
so as to obtain eternal salvation.
When the prayers are concluded we exchange
Then someone brings bread and a cup of
water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.
He takes them and offers praise and glory
to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit and for a considerable time he
gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of
When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings,
all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.'
When he who presides has given thanks
and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those
present the "eucharisted" bread, wine and water and take them to those
who are absent.
1346 The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds
according to a fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout
the centuries down to our own day. It displays two great parts that form
a fundamental unity:
The liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the
Eucharist together form "one single act of worship"; the Eucharistic
table set for us is the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of
the gathering, the liturgy of the Word, with
readings, homily and general intercessions;
the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the presentation
of the bread and wine, the consecratory thanksgiving, and communion.
1347 Is this not the same movement as the
Paschal meal of the risen Jesus with his disciples? Walking with them he
explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table "he took bread,
blessed and broke it, and gave it to them."
The movement of the celebration
1348 All gather together. Christians come
together in one place for the Eucharistic assembly. At its head is Christ
himself, the principal agent of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the
New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic
celebration. It is in representing him that the bishop or priest acting
in the person of Christ the head (in persona Christi capitis) presides
over the assembly, speaks after the readings, receives the offerings, and
says the Eucharistic Prayer. All have their own active parts to play in
the celebration, each in his own way: readers, those who bring up the offerings,
those who give communion, and the whole people whose "Amen" manifests their
1349 The Liturgy of the Word includes "the
writings of the prophets," that is, the Old Testament, and "the memoirs
of the apostles" (their letters and the Gospels). After the homily, which
is an exhortation to accept this Word as what it truly is, the Word of
God, and to put it into practice, come the intercessions for all men,
according to the Apostle's words: "I urge that supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings, and all
who are in high positions."
1350 The presentation of the offerings
(the Offertory). Then, sometimes in procession, the bread and wine are
brought to the altar; they will be offered by the priest in the name of
Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice in which they will become his body
and blood. It is the very action of Christ at the Last Supper - "taking
the bread and a cup." "The Church alone offers this pure oblation to the
Creator, when she offers what comes forth from his creation with thanksgiving."
The presentation of the offerings at the altar takes up the gesture of
Melchizedek and commits the Creator's gifts into the hands of Christ who,
in his sacrifice, brings to perfection all human attempts to offer sacrifices.
1351 From the very beginning Christians
have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to
share with those in need. This custom of the collection, ever appropriate,
is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make us rich:
Those who are well off, and who are also
willing, give as each chooses. What is gathered is given to him who presides
to assist orphans and widows, those whom illness or any other cause has
deprived of resources, prisoners, immigrants and, in a word, all who are
1352 The anaphora: with the Eucharistic
Prayer - the prayer of thanksgiving and consecration - we come to the heart
and summit of the celebration:
In the preface, the Church gives thanks
to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, for all his works: creation,
redemption, and sanctification. The whole community thus joins in the unending
praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to
the thrice-holy God.
1353 In the epiclesis, the Church asks
the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing)
on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and
blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist
may be one body and one spirit (some liturgical traditions put the epiclesis
after the anamnesis).
In the institution narrative, the power
of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit,
make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's
body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all.
1354 In the anamnesis that follows, the
Church calls to mind the Passion, resurrection, and glorious return of
Christ Jesus; she presents to the Father the offering of his Son which
reconciles us with him.
In the intercessions, the Church indicates
that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the whole Church in
heaven and on earth, the living and the dead, and in communion with the
pastors of the Church, the Pope, the diocesan bishop, his presbyterium
and his deacons, and all the bishops of the whole world together with their
1355 In the communion, preceded by the
Lord's prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive "the
bread of heaven" and "the cup of salvation," the body and blood of Christ
who offered himself "for the life of the world":
Because this bread and wine have been
made Eucharist ("eucharisted," according to an ancient expression), "we
call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes
that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of
sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught."
THE SACRAMENTAL SACRIFICE THANKSGIVING, MEMORIAL,
1356 If from the beginning Christians have
celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed
despite the great diversity of times and liturgies, it is because we know
ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion:
"Do this in remembrance of me."
1357 We carry out this command of the Lord
by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to
the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread
and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ,
have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously
1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist
as: - thanksgiving and praise to the Father;
- the sacrificial memorial of Christ and
- the presence of Christ by the power
of his word and of his Spirit.
Thanksgiving and praise to the Father
1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation
accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving
for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation
loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection
of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise
in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in
creation and in humanity.
1360 The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving
to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to
God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation,
redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving."
1361 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice
of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all
creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he
unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession,
so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ
and with him, to be accepted in him.
The sacrificial memorial of Christ and of
his Body, the Church
1362 The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's
Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique
sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. In all the Eucharistic
Prayers we find after the words of institution a prayer called the anamnesis
1363 In the sense of Sacred Scripture the
memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation
of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration
of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is
how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is
celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers
so that they may conform their lives to them.
1364 In the New Testament, the memorial
takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates
Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered
once for all on the cross remains ever present. "As often as the sacrifice
of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated
on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out."
1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ's
Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character
of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: "This
is my body which is given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for
you is the New Covenant in my blood." In the Eucharist Christ gives
us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which
he "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice
because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because
it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:
[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and
for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of
the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his
priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night
when he was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church
a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody
sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be
re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its
salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.
1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice
of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same:
the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself
on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "In this divine
sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered
himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained
and is offered in an unbloody manner."
1368 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice
of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the
offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire.
She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In
the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the
members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings,
prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering,
and so acquire a new value. Christ's sacrifice present on the altar makes
it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.
In the catacombs the Church is often represented
as a woman in prayer, arms outstretched in the praying position. Like Christ
who stretched out his arms on the cross, through him, with him, and in
him, she offers herself and intercedes for all men.
1369 The whole Church is united with the
offering and intercession of Christ. Since he has the ministry of Peter
in the Church, the Pope is associated with every celebration of the Eucharist,
wherein he is named as the sign and servant of the unity of the universal
Church. The bishop of the place is always responsible for the Eucharist,
even when a priest presides; the bishop's name is mentioned to signify
his presidency over the particular Church, in the midst of his presbyterium
and with the assistance of deacons. The community intercedes also for all
ministers who, for it and with it, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice:
Let only that Eucharist be regarded as
legitimate, which is celebrated under [the presidency of] the bishop or
him to whom he has entrusted it.
Through the ministry of priests the spiritual
sacrifice of the faithful is completed in union with the sacrifice of Christ
the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests'
hands in the name of the whole Church in an unbloody and sacramental manner
until the Lord himself comes.
1370 To the offering of Christ are united
not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the
glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin
Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In
the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary,
united with the offering and intercession of Christ.
1371 The Eucharistic sacrifice is also
offered for the faithful departed who "have died in Christ but are not
yet wholly purified," so that they may be able to enter into the light
and peace of Christ:
Put this body anywhere! Don't trouble
yourselves about it! I simply ask you to remember me at the Lord's altar
wherever you are.
Then, we pray [in the anaphora] for the
holy fathers and bishops who have fallen asleep, and in general for all
who have fallen asleep before us, in the belief that it is a great benefit
to the souls on whose behalf the supplication is offered, while the holy
and tremendous Victim is present.... By offering to God our supplications
for those who have fallen asleep, if they have sinned, we . . . offer Christ
sacrificed for the sins of all, and so render favorable, for them and for
us, the God who loves man.
1372 St. Augustine admirably summed up
this doctrine that moves us to an ever more complete participation in our
Redeemer's sacrifice which we celebrate in the Eucharist:
This wholly redeemed city, the assembly
and society of the saints, is offered to God as a universal sacrifice by
the high priest who in the form of a slave went so far as to offer himself
for us in his Passion, to make us the Body of so great a head.... Such
is the sacrifice of Christians: "we who are many are one Body in Christ"
The Church continues to reproduce this sacrifice in the sacrament of the
altar so well-known to believers wherein it is evident to them that in
what she offers she herself is offered.