This week we will focus on Article 23: You Are What We Eat. Have you ever seen that poster that pictures a whole array of junk food with these words: “You are what you eat”? It's intended to make us think a little more about what we put into our mouths.
Centuries ago St. Augustine had a similar goal and used similar language. “Receive what you are,” he wrote. “If you are his body and members of him, then you will find set on the Lord's table your own mystery. Yes, you receive your own mystery” (Sermo 272: PL 38, 1247, cited in Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia # 40)
This is a fundamental insight into the meaning of the Eucharist. There is an intimate connection between the body of Christ we receive from the altar and the body of Christ that comes to the altar. The core mystery of the Eucharist lies in this connection between the sacramental body and the mystical body of Christ that is the Church.
We became members of Christ's body when we were baptized. The Eucharist renews and strengthens the unity of the body of Christ. When we come to the table and share the body and blood of the Lord, we are committing ourselves to live as the body of Christ. St. Augustine put it this way: “You reply 'Amen' to that which you are, and by replying you consent. For you hear 'The Body of Christ' and you reply 'Amen . . .' Be what you see, and receive what you are."
Receiving Communion brings us into an intimate union with Christ, but that intimacy can never exclude those around us. When we share the body and blood of the Lord, we are united not only with the head of the body but also with every member of the body of Christ. That's the purpose of the Eucharist, and that's why we call it Communion.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Greg Esty
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