Those going through the RCIA process should have the opportunity to discover the joy of the sacramental life, and principally the joy of the Eucharist, which they will receive on their reception into the Church. Indeed, it can in fact be very vexing when falling in love with the Catholic Church – Her tradition and mission etc. – and not yet being able to participate in the reception of Communion with everyone else. It is like a time of wandering in the desert like the Israelites, eagerly awaiting that time when the manna comes to nourish and give new life (Exodus 16:1-36).
As a convert from fairly low-church Anglicanism, the notion of the Eucharist did not in fact come easily to me at first. It was more obvious, as far as I was concerned, to think of the Holy Mass as the gathering of a community, for listening to the Word of God, and generally celebrating the Faith. However, as I was moving toward my reception into the Catholic Church I did often feel left out as I saw everyone go up for Communion, and I stayed put.
As time went on I came to understand the Eucharist as rather the centre of the Holy Mass. This is the truth of the Mass, at its summit is the unbloody sacrifice (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367), which takes place for the redemption of the world.
We generally do not want to reach out into the dark and go beyond that which we feel we understand. The Eucharist is, as St Thomas Aquinas said, the “Mystery of the Faith”. A relationship with the Eucharist demands a certain reaching out into the dark, for it will be reaching out to that which we know the intelligence will never fully grasp. And yet, Can we really be fully Christian without this reaching out to Christ Himself, Who comes to us – and is offered for us – on our altars? As much as this doctrine is attacked today, as much as it is scorned by the world, the Eucharist is in fact that which we should most deeply contemplate.
Unless Jesus Christ perpetuates the Mystery of the Incarnation – and not just in Heaven by merit of His Ascension – but here among us, fully involved in our everyday lives, then we have grounds to complain that we have been abandoned by the One Who said that He would never do such a thing (Matthew 28:20). Unless He realises His one sacrifice over and over for the salvation of all those in each and every time, then His death on Golgotha is simply not a personal salvific event for us. He may say that we are His friends (John 15:15), but unless he makes Himself available to us, to sit with Him, indeed to befriend Him, then what sort of friend is He? It is simple, if we do not have the Eucharist then we do not have Jesus Christ.
- The Holy Eucharist is at the pinnacle of the Christian drama, and every other aspect of the Faith becomes clear in its light. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).
As the Church, we are now travelling through this time of Advent together. It is a dark time, a time of waiting, of longing, of wandering in the desert. Our Lord will come as a babe on Christmas Day, that our eyes may see salvation (Luke 2:30). For now, we wait, we wander in the desert, and as we wander we are nourished by the living bread which comes down from Heaven (John 6:51) just as those of the Old Covenant were nourished in their wanderings by the manna on the dunes. Advent, in turn, is an opportunity to discover the Eucharist as our one and only everlasting consolation and joy.