What IS the Eucharist? What happens THROUGH the Eucharist?
If you would like to know the answers to those questions, read your denomination’s catechism. If you still are not satisfied with those answers (or your church does not have a clear teaching on the Eucharist) then read on!
The past few months, I have been thinking quite a bit concerning what I believe about the nature of the Eucharist. When listening to people talk about the Eucharist, the debate usually falls along the lines of whether it is the real presence of Christ or just a symbolic presence, and whether or not it causes grace in its recipients. I answer “kinda” to both questions. This is what I have come to start believing though it will likely be altered as critiques are offered and new ideas presented…
In the Eucharist, the things of this world: bread and wine (juice) are offered up to God to be transformed. In technical terms, this is the moment of epiclesis, when the priest, or minister, asks the Holy Spirit to transform the worldly elements into divine material: Christ’s body and blood. Without going into extreme detail, I believe that does happen! In some sense (not a transubstantiation, though) the bread and wine are transformed into Christ’s body and blood. When Christians come to the altar to receive the Eucharist (receive, not take), they are receiving Christ into their lives. Christ sustains us and upholds us. These newly divine things (Christ’s Body and Blood) became for us spiritual food from the Father given through the Spirit in the form of Christ. Through eating, Jesus indwells us by his Spirit and becomes the source of our continual sanctification.
Analogous to the worldly elements of our own lives, in the Eucharist, Christians themselves are called (through remembering Christ and receiving God’s sustaining power) to offer themselves up to be transformed. As human beings, we are of this world, but as Christians united to Christ, we are not of this world. Just as the Holy Spirit transforms the bread and wine into Christ, the Holy Spirit, through offering ourselves in Eucharistic worship, transforms our lives for our continual sanctification and sustenance.
Even more so, modeling the Christian theme of being changed into Christ’s likeness, as the bread and the wine are transformed into Christ, through receiving the elements by the power of the Holy Spirit, we ourselves are transformed by the Holy Spirit into Christ-likeness.
Godself is given to us in the Eucharist (the transformed elements being Christ) as the greatest divine gift. Through the gift of Godself, our lives are united to God so that the out-flowing of the Father’s blessings may be done through us. After the Eucharist, Christians, renewed recipients of the grace of Godself, are more adequately able to give that grace to others through living the Christian life in Christ-likeness and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
By adding my own voice to the mix, I hope to renew a conversation. Many of the churches I have attended in the past have no theology of Eucharist or see it simply as a tradition that is an occasion for Christians to remember God’s wrath being laid on Jesus for our sins (another point I disagree with but that will be left unsaid until a further post). I hope that my post has gotten you thinking about what the Eucharist means to you and more importantly, I hope this has allowed for a middle ground between irrevelency and a salvific view of the Eucharist.
May the next time you receive the Eucharist be filled with grace through the gift of Godself to you in the form of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. And finally, remember that as we offer up the worldly elements to God for their transformation, we too should offer up our own lives for transformation for the benefit of the world.