05 September 2018, The Tablet

The people’s sacrament

National Eucharistic Congress

The people’s sacrament

Pope Francis holds a monstrance in the parish of Nostra Signora di Bonaria, in Ostia, on the outskirts of Rome


Nowhere is the truth that we live in a consumer society clearer than in the Eucharist. In several Christian denominations, frequent reception of the consecrated host is far more common now than 50 years ago. At Mass, often only the priest received it, while the laity remained in their places in prayerful contemplation. This now seems strange.

Reception of Communion has become the focal point of the Mass for most Catholics. Even among Anglicans, Sunday parish Communion rather than morning prayer is now normal. Lutheranism has also undergone a eucharistic renaissance.

Eucharistic consumption inverts normal consumption. The ordinary food I eat is taken into my mortal body and broken down by the digestive process. However, as Gregory of Nyssa observed, when I receive the consecrated bread, I am assimilated into Christ’s immortal body and in so doing am myself transformed.

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