There is so much to say about the Eucharist, no book or blog or website can contain it. That being the case, there must be a discipline exercised here to focus one aspect of the great mystery, and only one part of Christ’s sacrifice.
Throughout the history of the Church, there has been a constant and solid teaching that the bread and wine offered by the Church becomes literally the Body and Blood of Christ when the prayers of consecration are said. It is a glorious mystery which must be understood from a spiritual sense. St. Thomas Aquinas explains it well, “The sacrament of the Eucharist is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses, but only by faith which relies on divine authority.”
The Eucharist is the resurrected Christ himself, instituted on the night before he died, intended to remain with generations until the end of time. The sacrifice of the Eucharist has perfected the sacrifices of old in which blood poured from animals for the forgiveness of sin. Only through Jesus’ sacrifice is there a true forgiveness of sin. Early versions of sacrifices with animals were only vestiges pointing ahead to the perfect unblemished Lamb who would be the one and only sacrifice.
Jesus is the Lamb, and his bloody sacrifice on the cross actually was the price paid for the remission of sin. In essence, the Eucharist today is the same sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, this time without physical blood. The most important event in all of history is repeated each and every time the Church shares in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the continual bloodless sacrifice of Jesus.
The shedding of Jesus’ blood is important because it believed in ancient theology sin resides in the blood of a human being. It runs through every vein, artery and capillary we have as it did with our descendants. It would then seem that the only way in which we could rid ourselves of this sin was to let out the sin infested blood from our very selves. Let all the contaminated blood go. We can’t do that, so the sacrifices in the Old Testament we done vicariously through the letting of blood of an animal, not guilty of any sin. Unfortunately, the bloodletting was only a vicarious atonement of sin and not the real one.
An Intimate Union with a human being and God through Christ
Only by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross can the sin be forgiven and excised. No longer a vicarious atonement, but a personal, loving savior. Christ was not guilty of sin, yet he shed his blood, letting his saving blood flow for our benefit. His death in a symbolic way, transferred his sinless blood into our bodies to overcome the tainted blood of our humanity. Each time we receive the Eucharist, it is in a sense, a spiritual blood transfusion.
What is happening, not symbolically, but really, is that Christ begins to take up residence in our beings. What was lacking due to our sinful human nature, is filled with abundance, through the mystery of the Eucharist. When we receive the Blessed Sacrament, our old and sinful nature is being transformed by the Body and Blood of Christ. The bloody sacrifice happened on Calvary once for all, but the bloodless sacrifice continues in the Eucharist for the remission of sin, up until the time when God’s Kingdom will be all in all.