- Greek: eucharistia, thanksgiving
The sacrament and sacrifice of the New Law in which Christ the Lord is Himself present, offered, and received under the species of bread and wine. The name is from the account of the Last Supper. The Catholic Church teaches that
“in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the God-man are really, truly, substantially, and abidingly present together with His Soul and Divinity for the nourishment of souls, by reason of the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, which takes place in the unbloody sacrifice of the New Testament, i,e., the Mass.”
This Real Presence is proved from the literal interpretation of the promise of Christ to give his Body and Blood, as found in Saint John’s Gospel, 6, and from the four independent accounts of the fulfilment of the promise at the Last Supper (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11). From the same accounts it follows that Christ is present by Transubstantiation, namely the entire substance of bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the accidents only of bread and wine remaining. With the single exception of Berengarius of Tours (1088), none denied this doctrine until the 16th century, when the reformers put forth various errors of a mere figurative or virtual presence, as also of the manner of Christ’s presence. They were all condemned in the Council of Trent. The accidents of bread and wine are therefore without their proper substance, yet are real and not mere subjective impressions. The mode of Christ’s presence is spirit-like, somewhat as the soul in the body. He is whole and entire in the whole Host and whole and entire in every part thereof. At one and the same time He exists in heaven and in many different places on earth. From the Real Presence it follows that He is to be adored. It is evident that the Eucharist is a sacrament, for it is a visible sign of invisible grace instituted by Christ. Its principal effect is the union of the soul with Christ by love, and spiritual nourishment by increasing sanctifying grace. It produces also a certain spiritual delight, blots out venial sin, and preserves from mortal sin by exciting to charity, and as Christ explicitly promised is the pledge of a glorious resurrection and eternal happiness.