Winter 2012

The Eucharist as the Form of Christian Life

Nicholas J. Healy Jr.

“When he hands over the substance of his life to the Church, Christ communicates a form or a way of life that can include or embrace every aspect of human existence, and ultimately the entire material order of creation.”

Christianity’s new worship includes and transfigures every aspect of life. . . . There is nothing authentically human—our thoughts and affections, our words and deeds—that does not find in the sacrament of the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the full. Here we can see the full human import of the radical newness brought by Christ in the Eucharist: the worship of God in our lives cannot be relegated to something private and individual, but tends by its nature to permeate every aspect of our existence. Worship pleasing to God thus becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment of which is lifted up, since it is lived as part of a relationship with Christ and as an offering to God.1

These words of Pope Benedict XVI are an invitation to think more deeply about the cosmological and social implications of the eucharistic mystery. The gift of Holy Communion is not only the innermost sanctuary of the faith of the Church—“the source and summit of Christian life”2—it is also the key to discovering the original truth or logos of creation in all of its distinct dimensions. “The Christian faithful,” suggests Pope Benedict, “need a fuller understanding of the relationship between the Eucharist and their daily lives. Eucharistic spirituality is not just participation in Mass and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It embraces the whole of life.”3

In order to better understand how the eucharistic mystery can “include and transfigure every aspect of life,” it is necessary to meditate on the mode of Christ’s presence in the sacrament. The Church’s faith in Christ’s real or substantial presence in the Eucharist signifies that the whole of Christ’s life—including his hidden life of work in Nazareth—is eucharistic. The Eucharist is the all-encompassing form of Christian life because it is first the inner form of Christ’s own life both as man and as God.

1. Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, 71.

2. Lumen gentium, 11.

3. Sacramentum caritatis, 77.