The Holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and more profoundly configured to Christ by Confirmation, share with the whole community, through the Eucharist, in the Lord’s own sacrifice.
At the Last Supper, on the night he was handed over, our Saviour institued the Eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross down through the centuries, until he returns, entrusting to the Church, his beloved Spouse, the memorial of his death and resurrection: sacrament of piety, sign of unity, bond of charity, paschal feast in which Christ is received, the soul is filled with grace and the pledge of future glory is given to us.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1322-1323
What we see when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, the Mass, already gives us an intuition of what we are about to live. At the centre of the space intended for the celebration there is an altar, which is a table covered with a tablecloth, and this makes us think of a banquet. On the table there is a cross to indicate that on this altar what is offered is the sacrifice of Christ: he is the spiritual food that we receive there, under the species of bread and wine. Beside the table is the ambo, the place from which the Word of God is proclaimed: and this indicates that there we gather to listen to the Lord who speaks through Sacred Scripture, and therefore the food that we receive is also his Word.
Word and Bread in the Mass become one, as at the Last Supper, when all the words of Jesus, all the signs that he had performed, were condensed into the gesture of breaking the bread and offering the chalice, in anticipation of the sacrifice of the cross, and in these words: “Take, eat; this is my body… Take, drink of it; for this is my blood”.
Jesus’ gesture at the Last Supper is the ultimate thanksgiving to the Father for his love, for his mercy. “Thanksgiving” in Greek is expressed as “eucharist”. And that is why the Sacrament is called the Eucharist: it is the supreme thanksgiving to the Father, who so loved us that he gave us his Son out of love. This is why the term Eucharist includes the whole of that act, which is the act of God and man together, the act of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.
Therefore the Eucharistic Celebration is much more than simple banquet: it is exactly the memorial of Jesus’ Paschal Sacrifice, the mystery at the centre of salvation. “Memorial” does not simply mean a remembrance, a mere memory; it means that every time we celebrate this Sacrament we participate in the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. The Eucharist is the summit of God’s saving action: the Lord Jesus, by becoming bread broken for us, pours upon us all of his mercy and his love, so as to renew our hearts, our lives and our way of relating with him and with the brethren. It is for this reason that commonly, when we approach this Sacrament, we speak of “receiving Communion”, of “taking Communion”: this means that by the power of the Holy Spirit, participation in Holy Communion conforms us in a singular and profound way to Christ, giving us a foretaste already now of the full communion with the Father that characterizes the heavenly banquet, where together with all the Saints we will have the joy of contemplating God face to face.
Dear friends, we can never give enough thanks to the Lord for the gift he has given us through the Eucharist! It truly is a wondrous gift, and that is why it is so important to go to Mass on Sundays. Going to Mass to pray and to receive Communion, the bread that is the body of Jesus Christ that saves us, offers us forgiveness and unites us with the Father. It is good to do this! And every Sunday we go to Mass because it is precisely the day of our Lord’s ressurection. It is for this reason that Sunday is so important to us! And with the Eucharist we feel a belonging to the Church, to the People of God, to the Body of God, to Jesus Christ. We will never understand all its value and all its wealth. Let us, therefore, ask him that this Sacrament may continue to keep his presence alive in the Church and shape our communities in charity and communion, according to the Heart of the Father. And this we do throughout our lives, starting with the day of our first Communion. It is important that children prepare well for their First Communion and that each child receive it, as it is the first step of this strong belonging to Jesus Christ, after Baptism and Confirmation.
There are very specific signals for understanding how we are living this, how we experience the Eucharist; signals that tell us if we are living the Eucharist in a good way or not very well. The first indicator is our way of looking at or considering others. In the Eucharist, Christ is always renewing his gift of self, which he made on the Cross. His whole life is an act of total sharing of self out of love; thus, he loved to be with his disciples and with the people whom he had a chance to know. This meant for him sharing in their aspirations, their problems, what stirred their soul and their life. Now, when participating in Holy Mass, we find ourselves with all sorts of men and women: young people, the elderly, children; poor and well-off; locals and strangers alike; people with their families and people who are alone…. But the Eucharist which I celebrate, does it lead me to truly feel they are all like brothers and sisters? Does it increase my capacity to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and cry with those who are crying? Does it urge me to go out to the poor, the sick, the marginalized? Does it help me to recognize in theirs the face of Jesus? We all go to Mass because we love Jesus and we want to share, through the Eucharist, in his passion and his resurrection. But do we love, as Jesus wishes, those brothers and sisters who are the most needy? For example, in Rome these days we have seen much social discomfort either due to the rain, which has caused so much damage to entire districts, or because of the lack of work, a consequence of the global economic crisis. I wonder, and each one of us should wonder: I who go to Mass, how do I live this? Do I try to help, to approach and pray for those in difficulty? Or am I a little indifferent? Or perhaps do I just want to talk: did you see how this or that one is dressed? Sometimes this happens after Mass and it should not! We must concern ourselves with our brothers and sisters who need us because of an illness, a problem. Today, it would do us such good to think of these brothers and sisters of ours who are beset by these problems here in Rome: problems that stem from the grave situation caused by the rain and social instability and unemployment. Let us ask Jesus, whom we receive in the Eucharist, to help us to help them.
A second indication, a very important one, is the grace of feeling forgiven and ready to forgive. At times someone may ask: “Why must one go to Church, given that those who regularly participate in Holy Mass are still sinners like the others?”. We have heard it many times! In reality, the one celebrating the Eucharist doesn’t do so because he believes he is or wants to appear better than others, but precisely because he acknowledges that he is always in need of being accepted and reborn by the mercy of God, made flesh in Jesus Christ. If any one of us does not feel in need of the mercy of God, does not see himself as a sinner, it is better for him not to go to Mass! We go to Mass because we are sinners and we want to receive God’s pardon, to participate in the redemption of Jesus, in his forgiveness. The “Confession” which we make at the beginning is not “pro forma”, it is a real act of repentance! I am a sinner and I confess it, this is how the Mass begins! We should never forget that the Last Supper of Jesus took place “on the night he was betrayed” (1 Cor 11:23). In the bread and in the wine which we offer and around which we gather, the gift of Christ’s body and blood is renewed every time for the remission of our sins. We must go to Mass humbly, like sinners and the Lord will reconcile us.
A last valuable indication comes to us from the relationship between the Eucharistic Celebration and the life of our Christian communities. We must always bear in mind that the Eucharist is not something we make; it is not our own commemoration of what Jesus said and did. No! It is precisely an act of Christ! It is Christ who acts there, who is on the altar. It is a gift of Christ, who makes himself present and gathers us around him, to nourish us with his Word and with his life. This means that the mission and the very identity of the Church flows from here, from the Eucharist, and it is from here that it always takes shape. A celebration may be flawless on the exterior, very beautiful, but if it does not lead us to encounter Jesus Christ, it is unlikely to bear any kind of nourishment to our heart and our life. Through the Eucharist, however, Christ wishes to enter into our life and permeate it with his grace, so that in every Christian community there may be coherence between liturgy and life.
The heart fills with trust and hope by pondering on Jesus’ words recounted in the Gospel: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54). Let us live the Eucharist with the spirit of faith, of prayer, of forgiveness, of repentance, of communal joy, of concern for the needy and for the needs of so many brothers and sisters, in the certainty that the Lord will fulfil what he has promised us: eternal life. So be it!
From the age of reason (7 years old), every baptised person can and must receive the Eucharist. However, the most common age in our communities is from the 3rd year of catechism (8/9 years old). Any Catholic who has not made their First Communion at the time of the catechesis can, with due preparation, receive the Holy Eucharist.
Assiduous participation in parish catechesis and Sunday Mass is required for children and adolescents. It is through dialogue between the catechist and the parents that the readiness of the child is established and once prepared, he/she will be presented to receive First Communion.
Specific training (normally held every year) is offered for adults for the celebration of the Eucharist (the Sacraments of Christian Initiation are received at the same time).
For those who have already made their First Communion, all that is necessary is to be in a state of grace from the start of Mass in order to receive Communion.
For children and adolescents, the date of First Communion is the same as that of Baptism and Confirmation, that is, on Easter Sunday at one of the parish masses. It can also take place on any other day if agreed with the parents.
For adults, the date of the First Communion will be set each year (normally after Easter) according to the agenda of the bishop who will preside over the celebration (where Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist will take place).
Generally, First Communion is celebrated at the main Parish church.
For health reasons or in the case of the elderly, it might not be possible to participate in the Sunday Eucharist in person. If this is the case, you can contact the parish and we will do everything to designate an Extraordinary Minister of Communion who will take the Holy Eucharist every Sunday to your home, Old Age Home, Health Centre or wherever you may be residing.
In these cases, the priest will usually go the first time to hear confession and absolve sins, so as to be in a state of grace to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Any questions or requests for information should preferably be submitted to the parish registry office, in order to obtain the most appropriate response.
Click hereto learn about the rules in force in the Patriarchate of Lisbon regarding the celebration of the Sacraments.