In a recent episode of the St. Philip Institute Podcast Luke Arredondo discussed the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs 1322-1327 on the Eucharist. Below is a brief excerpt from this episode. You can view the full podcast episode here.

This year in the diocese of Tyler we are celebrating the year of Mary and the Eucharist. We thought it would be a great opportunity to take the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist and break them open.

Source and Summit of the Christian Life

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324

This first line, “the source and summit of the Christian life” is a paradox. This means the Eucharist is where everything comes from. If we don’t have the Eucharist, we don’t have what we need to live the Christian life. 

But it is at the same time the summit. It’s the high point and it’s the low point. It’s where you start and it’s where you end. 

It’s sort of like when parents say that they walked uphill to school in both directions. It doesn’t make sense in a geographical way. But in a mystical and theological way the Eucharist lays the foundation for us and helps us reach the summit. 

The Eucharist is in fact the summit of Christian life. Everything about the Church is oriented toward the Eucharist. 

An Efficacious Sign

“The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.” 

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1325

The next paragraph says “the Eucharist is the efficacious sign.” This is very basic sacramental theological language. What it means is the sacraments are not merely signs that point us toward something. They are efficacious signs, which means they make present what they point to. The sacraments make present what they signify. 

In Baptism for instance, the water cleanses and is a natural image of cleansing and purifying. But Baptism is not just an image or symbol of cleansing. It actually purifies the soul from sin. 

The Eucharist is then the efficacious sign that actually brings about communion in the divine life. 

Untied to the Heavenly Liturgy

Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all. In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1326-1327

The Eucharist unites us to the heavenly liturgy. We are united to the heavenly liturgy through the Eucharist. That’s a really big deal. 

In Scott Hahn’s book The Lamb’s Supper, Hahn describes how the imagery in the Book of Revelation shows that the heavenly liturgy is a heavenly Eucharistic celebration. This is what the Catechism is talking about here.

In the Eucharist, we are already participating in the life of Heaven. This is one of the reasons why we should be quiet and respectful in Mass. It is the unity of Heaven and Earth that is taking place through the Eucharist. It anticipates what eternal life will look like. At Mass in the Church, we are already in Heaven.  

This is really significant and one of the things that when I first read about that I said “Why didn’t anyone tell me this?” If that’s a new thing for you, really reflect on that the next time you’re at Mass. The fact that we are in Heaven while we are on Earth when we attend Mass.

By Dr. Luke Arredondo

Luke Arredondo is Director of Faith Formation for the St. Philip Institute. He received his PhD in Religious Ethics from Florida State University, and his MA in Theological Studies at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, where he studied under Brant Pitre and Chris Baglow. He is co-author with Stephen Bullivant of O My Jesus: The Meaning of the Fatima Prayer (Paulist 2017), and has written for the National Catholic Register, Aletia, and Catholic East Texas. His most important work, however, is as a husband to his wife, Elena, and father to their five children.