Jesus said " I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; he who eats my flesh and blue cross.2drinks my blood has eternal life... For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:51, 54-55). The Eucharist (from the Greek word "eucharistia" meaning "thanksgiving") is the centre and high-point for the Church's life and of her members. At this rite, the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is made ever-present and real to the Church's members, associated with us by Christ himself through our thanksgiving and praise. The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, upon which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration (a sacred dedication) using the actual words of Christ during the Last Supper:

"For this is my body, which will be given up for you...

for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant,

which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins."

In these words Christ explicitly linked the Last Supper - with its bread and wine - to his very body, and the sacrifice of himself upon the cross which was to follow afterwards.

The sacrament of the Eucharist, commonly called the Mass, always includes the proclamation of the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible) - assembled by the Catholic Church at the Synod of Hippo in AD 393, and authoritively canonised at the Council of Trent (AD 1545-1563). It also includes thanksgiving to God the Father for the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine to undergo the miracle of transubstantiation (see below) and where faithful Catholics are able to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. All these parts of the Mass make up a single act of worship.The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover; that is his death upon the cross for the remission of the sins of the world. In Jewish history and the Old Covenant, the Passover was the commemoration and re-presentation of Israelite liberation from slavery in Egypt, in which the blood of a lamb was marked over their homes. God sent his angel to take the lives of all the Egyptians' first-born sons, while the Israelite families were spared, or 'passed-over'. Later, Israellite priests would sacrifice a lamb, shedding its blood in commemeration of this event. and for the sins of the Israelite nation. The lamb's body would later be consumed by the priesthood themselves. In a similar way Christ's death causes the wrath of God to 'pass over' Christians in all times and places, where the sacrifice of Christ has covered their sins (propitation). As with the Old Covenant, the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ is also offered in reparation for the sins of the dead, and to request spiritual and earthly benefits from God.

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This is understood not merely as symbolic, but actually makes his work of our salvation literally present to those in attendance. It is Christ himself, the 'Lamb of God' and the eternal high priest of the New Covenant who offers the sacrifice to God the Father. This is done through the ministry of validly ordained priests, acting 'in persona Christi' or 'in the person of Christ', with Jesus acting through the priestly celebrant of the Mass to consecrate the bread and wine (the eucharistic elements). By this consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ occurs. Transubstantiation (Latin: "trans" - change, "substantia" - substance) is the changing of the physical 'stuff' of the bread and wine into another kind, that of the resurrected body and blood of Christ: complete with his soul and divinity.

At this point only the appearances of bread and wine remain. They remain from that point onwards, essentially something different: Christ himself, living and glorious; present in a true, real and tangible manner. Due to this reality, anyone who wishes to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in a state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally, that is, having committed a sin with the character of: 1) a grave nature, 2) full knowledge, and 3) with full consent, must receive absolution in the sacrament of confession. Communion with the Body and Blood of the Lord increases our union with Christ, forigves us our venial sins, and preserves us from grave sins.

adorationThe Church warmly recommends that the faithful receive Holy Communion when they attend the Eucharist; indeed, they are obliged to do so at least once per year. Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is honoured with the worship of adoration. "To visit the Blessed Sacrament is... a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord" (Pope Paul VI, 1965). Both during the Eucharist and outside of the celebration, we express our faith in the real presence of Christ through bowing deeply as a sign of our adoration of Jesus Christ. If not kept visible for solemn worship, then the Blessed Sacrament is kept in a sacred tabernacle within all Catholic church buildings. We cannot understand this truth by our senses, but only by faith, as Christ told us "This is my body which is given for you" (Luke 22:19). It is highly fitting that Christ should remain with us in this form, to consume his Body and Blood under their typical appearance would otherwise be repugnant to us, and following his death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven he wanted to leave us with us with his sacramental presence - a memorial of his love by which he wuld remain with us to the end.

Preparation for the Holy Eucharist

It is most often celebrated by children around the age of seven or eight, when they have reached the age of reason and are capable of participating in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church. First Holy Communion is to be preceded by the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation.

The preparation of children for these Sacraments is a collaborative effort of home, school and parish. In the autumn of each year an invitation will be made to parents to apply for a place for their child on the forthcoming Programme.

At school the candidates will receive a general religious education that includes information about the Sacraments in the life of the Church. School Staff also participate in some aspects of the Preparation Programme and in the actual Celebration of the Sacraments.
For those not in Catholic schools the Preparation Course takes place in the Parish and runs over several months. Meetings are held during term time, out of school hours, and are led by parish Catechists with appropriate parental involvement. There are also activities to be undertaken at home by each family. Regular participation at Sunday Mass is expected of all candidates with the active support of their parents.
Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is included in the course and this Sacrament is usually celebrated during the season of Lent. First Communions take place in the period after Easter.



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