The Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrament
Since Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine in a
sacramental way, the Blessed Eucharist is unquestionably a sacrament of the
Church. Indeed, in the Eucharist the definition of a Christian sacrament as
“an outward sign of an inward grace instituted by Christ” is verified.
The investigation into the precise nature of the Blessed Sacrament of the
Altar, whose existence Protestants do not deny, is beset with a number of
difficulties. Its essence certainly does not consist in the Consecration or
the Communion, the former being merely the sacrificial action, the latter
the reception of the sacrament, and not the sacrament itself. The question
may eventually be reduced to this whether or not the sacramentality is to be
sought for in the Eucharistic species or in the Body and Blood of Christ
hidden beneath them. The majority of theologians rightly respond to the
query by saying, that neither the species themselves nor the Body and Blood
of Christ by themselves, but the union of both factors constitute the moral
whole of the Sacrament of the Altar. The species undoubtedly belong to the
essence of the sacrament, since it is by means of them, and not by means of
the invisible Body of Christ, that the Eucharist possesses the outward sign
of the sacrament. Equally certain is it, that the Body and the Blood of
Christ belong to the concept of the essence, because it is not the mere
unsubstantial appearances which are given for the food of our souls but
Christ concealed beneath the appearances. The twofold number of the
Eucharistic elements of bread and wine does not interfere with the unity of
the sacrament; for the idea of refection embraces both eating and drinking,
nor do our meals in consequence double their number. In the doctrine of the
Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there is a question of even higher relation, in
that the separated species of bread and wine also represent the mystical
separation of Christ’s Body and Blood or the unbloody Sacrifice of the
Eucharistic Lamb. The Sacrament of the Altar may be regarded under the same
aspects as the other sacraments, provided only it be ever kept in view that
the Eucharist is a permanent sacrament. Every sacrament may be considered
either in itself or with reference to the persons whom it concerns.
Passing over the Institution, which is discussed elsewhere in connection
with the words of Institution, the only essentially important points
remaining are the outward sign (matter and form) and inward grace (effects
of Communion), to which may be added the necessity of Communion for
salvation. In regard to the persons concerned, we distinguish between the
minister of the Eucharist and its recipient or subject.
Written by J. Pohle. Transcribed by Charles Sweeney, SJ.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909.
New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909.
Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur.
+John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York