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So rich is the mystery of the Eucharist that we have a number of terms to illumine its saving grace: the Breaking of the Bread; the Lord’s Supper; the Eucharistic Assembly; the Memorial of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection; the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Holy and Divine Liturgy; the Eucharistic Liturgy; Holy Communion; and Holy Mass (cf. CCC, nos. 1328-1332).
The use of bread and wine in worship is already found in the early history of God’s people. In the Old Testament, bread and wine are seen as gifts from God, to whom praise and thanks are given in return for these blessings and for other manifestations of his care and grace. The story of the priest Melchizedek’s offering a sacrifice of bread and wine for Abraham’s victory is an example of this (cf. Gn 14:18). The harvest of new lambs was also a time for the sacrifice of a lamb to show gratitude to God for the new flock and its contribution to the well-being of the family and tribe.
These ancient rituals were given historical meaning at the Exodus of God’s people. They were united into the Passover Meal as a sign of God’s delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, a pledge of his fidelity to his promises and eventually a sign of the coming of the Messiah and messianic times. Each family shared the lamb that had been sacrificed and the bread over which a blessing had been proclaimed. They also drank from a cup of wine over which a similar blessing had been proclaimed.
When Jesus instituted the Eucharist he gave a final meaning to the blessing of the bread and the wine and the sacrifice of the lamb. The Gospels narrate events that anticipated the Eucharist. The miracle of the loaves and fish, reported in all four Gospels, prefigured the unique abundance of the Eucharist. The miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana manifested the divine glory of Jesus and the heavenly wedding feast in which we share at every Eucharist.
In his dialogue with the people at Capernaum, Christ used his miracle of multiplying the loaves of bread as the occasion to describe himself as the Bread of Life: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:51, 53).
Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the “King of Glory,” respectful silence in the presence of the “ever greater” God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications.—Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2628
The importance of Eucharistic Adoration is shown in the fact that the Church has a ritual that regulates it: the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction. This is an extension of the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which occurs in every Mass: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament flows from the sacrifice of the Mass and serves to deepen our hunger for Communion with Christ and the rest of the Church.The Rite concludes with the ordained minister blessing the faithful with the Blessed Sacrament.
Holy hours are the Roman Catholic devotional tradition of spending an hour in Eucharistic Adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The bishops have created a variety of holy hours that focus our prayer to Jesus Christ on peace, life, vocations, and other topics that are at the heart of the life of the Church and the world.
Children commonly prepare for and receive their First Holy Communion in 2nd or 3rd grade. See the faith formation page for more information. Older children and adults prepare through the RCIA program, and receive their First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil Mass.