THE SACRAMENT OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST
The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfilment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 1)
The Eucharistic sacrifice is the “the source and summit of the Christian life." The Second Vatican Council teaches that “at the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries 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 eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 47)
The Holy Eucharist is a mystery as profound and unfathomable as the Trinity. One does not understand how Christ can assume the form of bread and wine. One believes; if it helps to substitute the word understand, then we must understand that the bread looks like bread but is not bread, it is the Body of Christ. The wine looks like wine but is not wine, it is the Blood of Christ.
THE SACRAMENT OF EUCHARIST
In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ is contained “truly, really, and substantially.” (Council of Trent, Session XIII, Can. 1)The Eucharist therefore is not a mere symbol but rather the Eucharist is God Himself. This is why Our Lord says: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6: 53-56)
Catholics who have received First Communion are encouraged to receive Communion at Mass regularly. A person is to be in a state of grace while receiving communion, that is, a person must not be conscious of having committed any mortal sins since their last confession. Also, Catholics are required to fast from everything but medicine and water at least an hour before receiving communion.
RECEIVING THE EUCHARIST FOR THE FIRST TIME
The sacrament of First Communion is important for Catholic families and individuals, as the Eucharist occupies a central role in Catholic theology and practice. For Catholics, Holy Communion is the third of seven sacraments received. It occurs only after receiving Baptism. Two years of instruction in Catechism (either in a Catholic school or Catechism classes after school), having reached the age of reason (usually, around the second grade) and a first confession (the first Sacrament of Penance) must precede the first reception of the Eucharist. This order of the sacraments is practiced universally by all Roman Catholics.
The relationship in Communion is a two-way thing. There is not just the child receiving Christ. There is Christ also, wanting to come to the child.
For anyone to receive communion, that person must be considered to be without sin and in a state of grace. Traditionally, young Catholic children will make their first confession, also called the Sacrament of Penance, a week before receiving their First Communion. At confession, the child will tell his or her sins and misdeeds to a priest and receive a penance in exchange. The penance usually is several prayers to be recited immediately after leaving the confessional. After this, the child is considered to be absolved of sin, and he or she is ready for his or her First Communion.
Confession isn't the only requirement for receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; the Sacrament of Baptism must have been received as well. A child, or any person, who has not baptized cannot receive communion. If the child has been baptized, he or she generally begins studying for First Communion in first grade. Catholic children who don't attend Catholic school go to religious instruction classes after school or on weekends. In most cases for young children, at least two years of religious education must be undertaken before they can receive communion for the first time.
On the day of one's First Communion, and whenever receiving communion thereafter, those who are partaking must fast — which means not eating any food — for at least one hour before receiving the sacrament. Drinking water or taking medicine, however, are exceptions. This type of fasting is called the Eucharistic Fast.
A child's first communion is often a cause for celebration, but to many Catholics, the event has a deeper meaning. They believe that the event means that a child has studied and understood, to the best of his or her ability, what Catholics call the mystery of transubstantiation — the changing of the substance of ordinary bread and wine into the substance of Jesus Christ's body and blood, according to Catholic beliefs. Catholics believe that, before receiving communion, a child also should be able to tell the difference between Eucharistic bread and regular food.
After First Communion, young Catholics must attend church every Sunday, and they are encouraged to receive communion frequently. If one has missed Sunday mass without good reason or has committed a mortal sin, that person is expected to go to confession before receiving communion again.
In the Diocese of Nelson, the Sacrament of First Eucharist is administered in second grade. Preparation for this Sacrament begins in first grade. To register for Catechism classes, contact the Parish Office.