Catechism of the Catholic Church: Eucharist
Article 3 - The Sacrament of the Eucharist
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
- The Eucharist - source and summit of ecclesial Life
- What is this Sacrament called?
- The Eucharist in the economy of salvation
- The Liturgical celebration of the Eucharist
- The Sacramental sacrifice thanksgiving, memorial presence
I. The Eucharist - Source and Summit of Ecclesial Life
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."
II. 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
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,
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
The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated
amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the
1330 The memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection.
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,
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.
III. 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
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 Christ.
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 kingdom.
IV. 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 did:
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 things.
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
When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
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 these gifts.
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 gathering, the liturgy of the Word, with readings, homily and
- the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the presentation of the bread and
wine, the consecratory thanksgiving, and communion.
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 Lord.
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
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 in need.
1352 The anaphora: with the Eucharistic Prayer - the prayer of
thanksgiving and consecration - we come to the heart and summit of the
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
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 Churches.
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."
V. The Sacramental sacrifice thanksgiving, memorial presence
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
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 made present.
1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist as: - thanksgiving and
praise to the Father;
- the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;
- 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 or
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
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
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
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
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
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