The Eucharist as 'a given'

By  Nisheeta Menon, Youth Speak News
  • June 12, 2008

For 2,000 years, Christians have been called to the table of the Eucharist in memory of Christ’s death and resurrection. There is no doubt that the Eucharist is central to our faith.

So how can a Catholic grow up without ever really considering its significance? I’m not sure, but I am living proof that this can happen.

For many years I did not understand that the Eucharist was not merely a “symbol” for Christ, but His actual body and blood. Even during my First Holy Communion, I remember being caught up in the excitement of it all, only to be somewhat let down by the fact that there was no magical tingly feeling when I consumed the host for the first time.

Throughout my childhood, my focus has fallen on other areas of the faith including Scripture, music ministry and social justice. I have always accepted the Eucharist as a “given” — a part of the Mass that we enact every Sunday, as we have for generations. Through some of my Catholicism courses in university, I studied the church’s teachings on the Eucharist and I became familiar with the doctrine of transubstantiation — the belief that bread and wine become the body and blood Christ at consecration, while still maintaining the same physical aspects. Yet I still have trouble connecting with the Eucharist in any kind of meaningful, powerful way.

I have come to realize how much young people in our world, myself included, are surrounded by a culture of “instant gratification.” Often we seek immediate rewards with the smallest amount of effort in the smallest amount of time. Therefore, many of us have grown to rely upon “the stuff of science:” tangibility, intelligibility, physicality, etc. When we are left facing something that we cannot measure or understand entirely, we move on to something easier.

This is precisely where our faith challenges us. Our faith often forces us to go beyond appearances, to believe what we cannot see and trust what we cannot understand. Rather than simply pass over  elements of our faith, we are invited to invest our time in meditating on them, praying about them and asking the difficult questions that are sometimes easier to avoid. We are called to probe the depths of our faith in relation to concepts such as the Eucharist, asking ourselves: What does this mean to me? How does this belief change the way I see the world? From June 15-22 I will be joining pilgrims of all ages and backgrounds at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City. This event will allow us to celebrate and discuss the Eucharist in light of the theme: “The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World.”

As with any gift, I have learned that the Eucharist must be unwrapped and discovered by each Catholic in a personal way. The Eucharist is indeed “a given” — a gift freely given by God which requires a response of gratitude, faith and action. As I attend the Congress, I hope to move forward in my personal journey to encounter Christ through the Eucharist and determine what my own response to this gift will be.

(Menon, 21, studies Christianity and Culture at St. Michael’s College in Toronto.)

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