UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

Eucharist and Thanksgiving

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John P. Grigus

John the Evangelist identifies the place where the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish had occurred as one “where the Lord had given thanks” (Jn 6:24). This was the characteristic manner in which the disciples tended to recall the action of Jesus at table. This was especially true of the Lord’s Supper when he “took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins’.” (Mt 26:27-28).

To have become so deeply etched into their memory, this action of Jesus giving thanks must have been rooted in much more than following of a prescribed ritual. It must have proceeded from a very profound and personal awareness of the union he enjoyed with the Father as the source of all good, his included, which he was now revealing to his disciples – so much so, that it was this characteristic way of Jesus giving thanks that would also allow the two disciples on the way to Emmaus finally to recognize the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread (cf. Acts Lk 24:13-35).

This aspect of the Eucharist as a thanksgiving flowed into the Church’s own understanding of the inner nature of this Sacrament as is suggested by the literal translation of the Greek term, eucharistein [giving thanks]…. Consequently, as the Catechism states, the Eucharist 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” (CCC, 1325 )….

It is with this sense of thanksgiving that we should also come to every Eucharist. Indeed, if we have participated fully in the Eucharist and understood the grace it offers us, then the attitude of thanksgiving will permeate the whole of our lives. We will find ourselves becoming ever more aware and ever more grateful for all the good things God gives us every day, thereby allowing our whole lives to become a symphony of praise and thanksgiving to our God. Then even the momentary trials and difficulties of life will not depress us for, united with the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross reflected in every Eucharist, we will see them as so many opportunities to grow in greater love and holiness and therefore greater experience of the good for which to be grateful ….

One of the principal reasons which Pope John Paul II had in writing his beautiful Apostolic Letter on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, was to share with the whole Church his own personal amazement at this wonderful gift of the Father in his Son. There he recounts in a very personal way how, “For over a half century, every day, beginning November 2, 1946, when I celebrated my first Mass in the Crypt of Saint Leonard in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, my eyes have gazed in recollection upon the host and the chalice, where time and space in some way merge and the drama of Golgotha is re-presented in a living way” (EE, 59).