Over the years I have queried within myself: What is receiving Holy Communion really about? What makes it so special? This is ultimately a deep mystery beyond our capacity of fully understand but we have help in today’s Office of Readings – an ancient catechetical instruction which was given to new converts of the Jerusalem Church. It should be read slowly and reflectively to break open its message. I have added commentary in [ ]s. I have also bolded the key texts.
On the night he was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat: this is my body.” He took the cup, gave thanks and said: “Take, drink: this is my blood.” Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he himself has said quite categorically, This is my blood, who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?
Therefore, it is with complete assurance that we receive the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. His body is given to us under the symbol of bread, and his blood is given to us under the symbol of wine, in order to make us by receiving them one body and blood with him. [Our body and blood – our human person – enters into a real common-union with the humanity of Christ.] Having his body and blood in our members, we become bearers of Christ and sharers, as Saint Peter says, in the divine nature. [Our common-union with the body and blood (humanity) of Christ at one and the same time brings us into common-union with the divinity of Christ.]
Once, when speaking to the Jews, Christ said: Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you shall have no life in you. This horrified them and they left him. Not understanding his words in a spiritual way, they thought the Saviour wished them to practise cannibalism.
Do not, then, regard the eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine: they are in fact the body and blood of the Lord, as he himself has declared. Whatever your senses may tell you, be strong in faith. You have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the body and the blood of Christ.