The Eucharist and Its Effects
The Holy Eucharist is the profound sacrament of the Church, the
profound expression of God's love for His people. In this
sacrament, we have the ultimate expression of the mutual
expression of love between God and man. God, by giving us Himself
in the Eucharist, gives Himself to us in a way which is total, and
which places Himself completely at our disposal. It is a form of
limited consecration to us, and through this He asks us to give
ourselves to Him completely, to fully consecrate ourselves to Him.
By being consumed by us, He gives us Life. This desire on His part
for mutual love and self-giving is the essence of the Eucharist,
for in giving Himself to us, He gives us not just eternal live but
a share in His Divine Life. It is the Eucharist which is the heart
of the Mystical Body.
If the Eucharist is a sacrament of Love, it is necessarily a
sacrament of union. As Boylan says (1), "All love demands union;
the more ardent the love, the more complete the union it seeks.
The love of our Lord for us is no exception." It is through the
operation of the Eucharist that He brings us to union with
Himself, and it is through the Eucharist that He communicates to
us His Divine Life, His Divine nature. We see this desire for
union in the married state. The greater the love, the greater the
desire for union, and in the union there springs forth life. So,
too, with God. The married state is a prefigure of the union we
anticipate with God. St. Paul, in 1 Cor 6:16, calls marriage the
symbol and shadow of the still more intimate union of Christ with
His Church. Since we are His Church, the Mystical Body, it is a
union of God with us that St. Paul refers, or rather a union of us
with God. If we look at the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, as
told by St. John, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, it is a
prayer of union. It is no coincidence that Our Lord gave us this
prayer at the very ceremony at which He gave us the means to
effect this union.
We also see that Our Lord has continued His love of contradiction
with the Eucharist. When He chose His disciples, He told them they
would be fishers of men. These fishermen knew well that when they
fish, the fish are alive and, when caught, they die. When they
fish for men, the men are spiritually dead, and in being caught
they receive eternal Life. In the Eucharist we have a similar
contradiction. Ordinary food is consumed and becomes that which
consumes it. In the Eucharist, we consume God and become that
which we consume.
Jesus did not merely become one of us, suffer human hardship, and
die for us. He loves us with such a complete and infinite love
that He wants us completely united with Him. He wants to give of
Himself to us over and over through the Eucharist so that more and
more we may share in Him; that more and more, as Jesus said(2),
"... they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in
You, that they also may be in Us, ... . The glory which You have
given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are
One." To do this, He provided us with this most perfect means of
unity; the Eucharist.
This infinite Gift, this Most Perfect of all possible gifts, comes
to us in the most humble way possible. Through the action of the
priest, simple unleaven bread, and simple wine, each become the
Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the living and triumphant
Jesus Christ, the same Jesus Christ Who defeated satan and
conquered death. Through the action of the priest, Jesus has given
us this most profound sacrament, this most unimposing means to
share in His Divine Life, this most astonishing gift of Himself as
our most precious of all possible foods. He has given us the
ultimate gift of His Love. There is nothing else in all of
creation that can compare with this gift. It is Divinely unique.
Not only has Our Lord given us this gift of the Eucharist, He has
told us, in this prayer at the Last Supper, the effects of the
Eucharist. It is stated in such simple terms, and yet has such
profound meaning. We shall abide in Him, and He shall abide in us.
We shall be united with Jesus in the most intimate of all possible
ways. He shall give us His Life, just as His Life was given to Him
by the Father.
Boylan tells us that the results of reception of the Eucharist can
be considered in three ways: union with Christ, spiritual
nutrition, and its special signification with the Passion of
Christ(3). With regard to the first effect, union with Christ, St.
Paul tells us in 1 Cor 10:16-17, that we do in fact receive the
Body and Blood of Jesus. He refers to it specifically as
communion, not as participation. For St. Paul, it is a common
union of God and man. St. John Chrysostom says, referring to St.
Paul, that we do not just participate with Christ in receiving
communion, we unite with Him. This union is not mere metaphor; it
is reality. A reality that calls forth from us the three
theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
Boylan also tells us(4) that when we receive the Eucharist,
mindful of what is taking place, we should take this opportunity
to give Him our heartfelt thanks for the privilege of receiving
him, recognize our need for His love and express our love for Him,
to request the grace to love Him more, request the grace to
conform our lives to His will for us, and offer ourselves to Him
for Him to make of us that which He wants us to be.
As our spiritual food, when we receive the Eucharist we
participate in the enigma whereby we become that which we consume,
instead of that which we consume becoming us. It is by means of
the Eucharist that the Mystical Body is put into effect, for it is
through the Eucharist and the effect of its transforming union of
us with Christ that we become full members of this Mystical Body.
In Baptism we receive that which is essential and sufficient for
our salvation. In the Eucharist, we receive that which is
essential for the perfection of the Mystical Body and our
individual perfection as Christians(5).
If we consider again the words of Christ in John 6:57, "He that
eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, abides in Me and I in him", we
see a profound expression of His love for us. If we love another,
we desire to be identified with that other. We speak of a married
couple as if it is a single thing. We do not refer to married
people so much as individuals as two people who have become as
one. We use common expressions like, "we think this or that", or
"we don't feel this or that". It is a unity of being without a
loss of individual identity. This expression of Jesus' love for us
reported in John tells of His desire to be united with us in a
most intimate, and eternal, way. He could only express this desire
if He also had the love which calls it forth. He gave us all of
Himself on the Cross for the sake of this unity, and continues to
give of Himself every day in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the
The power of the Eucharist is also expressed by Boylan(6) when he
tells us, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, that "There is nothing in
our selves or in our past that one Communion cannot more than
repair - if we have but enough faith! Listen to St. Thomas: 'This
sacrament contains in itself Christ crucified (Christum passum).
Whence, whatever is the effect of the Passion of Our Lord, all
that is likewise the effect of this sacrament.'". As Boylan so
aptly puts it(7), "whatever our sins have done to us, the Holy
Communion can repair; and whatever our sins have done to God, the
Mass - which is part of the Eucharist - can restore." This means
we must have unlimited confidence in God's love for us and His
willingness to do whatever He can to bring us to Himself. The only
thing He needs from us is our willingness, our submission of our
free will to His will for us. There is nothing He will not do for
us, for He is our Saviour in every sense of the word. He places
Himself at our disposal, and in return asks only our cooperation.
And he even gives us what we need to do this, for it is such a
contradiction with reason that it takes His grace to help us
realize this extent of His love, this self-gift of His in the
Eucharist. If you believe, you have received His grace as His free
gift. The effects of the Eucharist are like the effects of food
for our body. Food sustains life, and the Eucharist sustains the
life of the soul. It gives us the grace we need to deny ourselves
and to life for Christ, to live for our Life. The more love we
have for Christ, the less self-love we have. The more we love God,
the more we can resist temptation, and so the Eucharist
strengthens us spiritually. Thus, the Eucharist has the effect of
bringing to life the virtues in us so that we can live the life of
Christ in us. But just as ordinary food can be effected only when
properly digested, so, too, the Eucharist can only produce its
good effects when we are properly disposed to receive it. The
Eucharist is a sacrament of Life, and so we must be spiritually
living to have its effects. If we are spiritually dead, we must
first receive the sacrament of spiritual resurrection, the
sacrament of Reconciliation, so that which is dead is brought back
to life. Then, having received life, we can receive Divine union.
Boylan tells us(8), again quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, that all the
sacraments receive their power from the Passion of Christ, but
"the Eucharist is 'the perfect sacrament of the Passion' for it
contains Christ and the whole power of His Passion." It is thus
through the Eucharist that we can receive the effect of the
transforming union with Christ.
We can have all this if we but surrender our will to that of
Christ. To do so is our greatest accomplishment. To do otherwise
is our greatest tragedy.
 Boylan, Dom Eugene, This Tremendous Lover, Christian Classics,
Westminster, Maryland, 1989, pg 159.
 John 17:21-22
 Boylan, pg 162
 ibid, pg 162
 ibid, pg 163
 ibid, pg 165
 ibid, pg 166
 ibid, pg 170
Copyright (c) Jim Dobbins