To Receive the Eucharist is To Be In Heaven Already
by Catherine Doherty
Do you ever stop to think of the immensity of the gift that God has given to us in the Holy Eucharist? Have you ever stopped to think what it is to be in communion with God—that is, to communicate of the most holy Body and Blood of Christ? This is a communion that is incredible, impossible to understand! That is wrapped up in a mystery beyond all mysteries: that God, the second person of the most holy Trinity, should give himself to us, as bread and wine. Approach it as if you hear the words: “Take off your shoes; the place is holy.”
A Nuptial Event
To me, Communion is a nuptial event. To me, receiving Communion is already being in heaven, because Christ is heaven, and he is in me. Are there any words in this world that could convey what happens when I go and receive a piece of consecrated Bread, with the Wine or without, as the case may be? I don’t think so. It is eternally new; it is eternally incredible; it is a moment when I truly know who I am. I am the beloved of Christ, for he comes to me in person. My faith transcends the apparent bread and wine; my faith receives him, and so it is a nuptial mystery. For all through the Old Testament and all through the New Testament God calls upon the Hebrews, as if he were a bridegroom and they were his bride.
In the sacrament of the Eucharist there is an ecstasy—that’s a powerful word, but it’s a word that we have to get used to; there is an ecstasy in the Communion of the liturgy. When I receive our Lord, I realize also the nuptial mystery: man and God. For God really has come. God, calling Israel, says: ‘Even if you have prostituted yourself under every bush with a stranger, come to me, my beloved, and I shall make you whiter than snow.’ God the Father makes love to Israel, his chosen people. The theme of love goes through all this, and because we’re human and simple and ordinary, God has chosen the image of marriage—for himself and for his Son.
The great miracle at Cana’s wedding feast, the changing of the water into wine, was, of course, the prefiguration of the Eucharist. Each Communion is our wedding feast with Christ and it is also the wedding feast of the whole Church because we are the Church. How joyous can be our daily (or weekly) ‘wedding day’ with God. If only we understood his love and lived by his love, every day for us would be a honeymoon with God!
I have been married twice. I know the ecstasy of union of bodies and minds and souls between a man and woman united in the holy sacrament of Matrimony and in love with one another. But I do not hesitate one second to tell you that this blessed, holy, and wondrous union is but a pale shadow of what happens at Communion when the Lord of Hosts becomes one with my soul and yours, and even one with our bodies for a time. Truly this moment of union of ourselves with God is the most incredible grace, the greatest sign that God can give us of his love and his longing for us and for our love.
My heart stops beating while I really think of what is happening during the holy liturgy. The Eucharist is a reality that you can touch, that you can hold, that you can taste, that you can feel on your palate.
Christ offers himself: sacrament and sacrifice
The mystery of the liturgy is so very simple. Christ offering himself, sacrament and sacrifice, for you and for me. Here he is, hanging on the cross, dying for us all, obedient unto death to his Father’s will. I personally wouldn’t obey anybody if it wasn’t for Christ. He was obedient to his Father’s will to the last ounce.
He died. He lifted up all the sins of the world. Can you imagine that? All the sins of the world, as it were, on his shoulder. He lifted all these, and in our place he died for them, an absolute, totally unselfish, totally loving, totally complete gift of himself to the Father for us. When you attend the most holy liturgy and hear the words, “This is my body; this is my blood,” from that very moment, you know the infinite, incredible love of God for you. He invites us every day to come to the oasis of his heart and be refreshed by the wine of his compassion and love.
You also are the sacrifice!
When you are there, you offer the sacrifice. But you see, there is a deeper mystery. You also are the sacrifice! I barely dare to touch on this. You are aware that a drop of water, or a little bit of water, goes into the chalice with the wine. What is that water? Who is that water? Why does the water go in there? It represents us. So we are in the chalice. If we are the Mystical Body and the Body is offered, then in a mystical way, we are offered. Put yourself on the paten.Give God your day, your whole day—that little time between two Masses.
Adapted from Spiritual Readings in 1963, 71, 73, and 78; Meditations on the Mass; and Outer Circle Letters.