The Sign(s) of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist
Bread and wine.
Institution by Jesus Christ
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.'”
“‘I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?’
Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.'”
The Grace (effect)
The principal effects of the Most Holy Eucharist to those who worthily receive are that it:
- preserves and increases the life of the soul (which is grace) just as natural food sustains and increases the life of the body;
- absolves venial sins and preserves us from mortal sin;
- produces spiritual consolation.
Who May Receive the Eucharist?
Catholics who have received their First Sacraments, who are not conscious of grave sin, and who have fasted for at least one hour are encouraged to devoutly and frequently receive Holy Communion.
This is very important:
To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion (CCC 1385).
In summary: taking this Sacrament with serious, unconfessed sin on the soul brings condemnation rather than salvation!
We are also required to fast for just one hour before receiving. Water and medicine do not break a fast. Catholics are obliged to receive this sacrament at least once per year, if possible during Easter (CCC 1388).
Non-Catholics are not ordinarily admitted to Holy Communion and are asked to pray that the action of the Holy Spirit will draw us closer together and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us (CCC 1398-1401).
Why Can’t Non-Catholics Receive Holy Communion?
Contrary to popular belief, the reason non-Catholics are asked to refrain from receiving Holy Communion is not because the Church wants anyone to feel excluded. The Church, in fact, has a certain responsibility to non-Catholics.
Because what makes us Catholic is our belief of Jesus’ True Presence in the Eucharist, it would be a disservice to allow non-Catholics to partake in this extraordinary union when they do not know or understand that which they are joining in. Why? Because they would not have been able to properly prepare themselves.