Holy Communion

Why do Catholics worship the bread used in their communion service?

First of all, some definitions. Holy Communion is the reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Eucharist is the prayer to God of thanksgiving for the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. The liturgical action called the Eucharist is also traditionally known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Therefore, if one believes that the communion bread becomes the Real Presence (Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity - CCC 1374, 1378) of Jesus Christ during the Liturgy of the Mass, it would then be reasonable to adore or worship Jesus who is really physically present in the Eucharist.

The real question, then, is why do Catholics believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist?

Now for some history. God has used bread on many occasions in miraculous ways to demonstrate that he is among us and cares for us. God, through Moses, provided Manna for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt (Ex. 16:14-31). God, through Elisha, fed 100 men with 20 loaves of barley (2 KINGS 4:42-44). They had their fill and had food left over. Finally, Jesus fed the crowd of 5000 with just two fish and five barley loaves (MT 14:19-21, MK 6:39-44, LK 9:13-17, and JN 6: 9-14). They had their fill with 12 baskets of food left over.

Now, what did Jesus say about spiritual food (bread) that he gives us to eat? "I am the bread which came down from heaven." (JN 6: 41) "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."(JN 6: 51)

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (JN 6: 52) Jesus continued, (JN 6: 54-56) "he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. "

Many of his disciples, when they heard these words commented, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" And many of the disciples turned away from Jesus and no longer followed him. Notice that Jesus did not take the opportunity to clarify his words to those who turned away from him. He could have said, Come back, you misunderstood me. I did not mean you should literally eat my body and drink my blood. He could have said that, but he didn't. Any one who reads these word of Jesus prayerfully and meditates on them, will come to believe that Jesus did mean his words Literally.

Therefore, when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion (MT 26: 26-28, MK 14: 22-24, and LK 22:19-21) he said This is my body.... not This is a symbol of my body.... or anything else that would lead one to believe that he did not mean the words literally.

When a validly ordained priest (ordained by a Bishop whose own ordination can be traced back through an unbroken succession of Bishops all the way to the first Apostles - CCC 77, 862, 880, 1209, 1556) says the words of consecration during the liturgy of the mass; This is my body... it is the same sacrament that Jesus himself instituted at the last supper!

The catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) calls the Eucharist the source and summit of our 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.

The catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) describes the Eucharistic sacrifice:

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 us.
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