Why is the Eucharist So Central?

Q: You said that Eucharistic adoration is the first thing you would do to renew a parish. Why is the Eucharist so central?

Because life is a Eucharist.

Too bad it has such a technical- and “churchy”-sounding name. It is love; it is life; it is the whole meaning of our lives. It is not just one very good thing in life, or in the world; life and the world are in it.

It’s not just that there is an analogy, a likeness; it’s not just that our life is like the Eucharist or that the Eucharist is like our life. Rather, our life is a Eucharist.

What does “Eucharist” mean? It means what its Inventor designed it to mean. It means: “Open your mouth and I will fill it” (see Ps. 81:10). This applies to the Eucharist, and it applies equally, in exactly the same way, to life. All good things — food and water and air and pleasure and parents and children and friends and animals — come from God, through a long chain of intermediaries, from the Big Bang and evolution and human history down through one minute ago. For it is the same God (there’s only one!) who fills our whole nature, body and soul, with the same thing, His gifts, whenever we open the mouth of our bodies and spirits.

This article is from the book Ask Peter Kreeft. Click image to learn more.

That’s what faith and hope and love all are: the opening of the mouths of our spirits. God keeps saying that to us every day and every moment: “Open your mouth and I will fill it.” And we keep ignoring Him, because He comes in many disguises. He does this — He hides — to test and strengthen our faith, and He does that because faith and trust is the root of love.

The Eucharist is not just an analogy between matter and spirit, body and soul, a mere symbol. That’s the Protestant idea of the Eucharist. It assumes the false Cartesian dualism of body versus soul as two separate things that might resemble each other. Do the words and the meaning of a book “resemble” each other? It’s not just that in the Eucharist we open the mouths of our bodies and in life we open the mouths of our souls and wills, but in both we open both, together, at once. If we separate those two things and do not open both mouths, the Eucharist does not “take”; it does not hold. To receive the sacrament with body only and not soul, without faith and hope and charity, is sacrilege, not sacred­ness; and to receive God’s will with our minds and imaginations but not act on it with our bodies is just as lame. For instance, to say, “I accept your commandment to feed the poor, but I will not share my life or my time or my food or my money with them” is not obedience but disobedience. Read James 2:14–16, and Christ’s parable of the two brothers (Matt. 21:28–32): the one who said yes yet did not do his father’s will, and the other one who said no yet did his father’s will.

The Eucharist is neither a piece of material magic nor a mere spiritual thing, a symbol. It’s one thing, not two, just as you and your body are one thing, not two, and as Christ and His Body are one thing, not two.

Christ’s Body is the Church. That’s not an analogy or a symbol either. Whatever I do to His Body, His people, I do to Him. He said that, not me.

The Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself, in toto, both divinity and humanity, and in His humanity both soul and body, and in His body, both flesh and blood. We adore it because it is not an “it”; it is a “He,” a Person, a divine Person. It is our God and our Savior Himself, in person, coming to us in unimaginable love and unsurpassable intimacy. That’s all.

This article is adapted from a chapter in the book, Ask Peter Kreeft: The 100 Most Interesting Questions He’s Ever Been Asked. It is available as a paperback or ebook from Sophia Institute Press.

Also check out Dr. Kreeft’s article, “Why is Mary So Important for Catholics?” here on CE.

Photo by Sonia Quintero on Unsplash

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Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and also at the King's College (Empire State Building) in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 55 books. Dr. Kreeft is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He has received several honors for achievements in the field of philosophy, including the Woodrow Wilson Award, Yale-Sterling Fellowship, Newman Alumni Scholarship, Danforth Asian Religions Fellowship, and a Weathersfield Homeland Foundation Fellowship.

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