The Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrament
Since Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine in a sacramental way, the Blessed Eucharist is unquestionably a sacrament of the Church. Indeed, in the Eucharist the definition of a Christian sacrament as “an outward sign of an inward grace instituted by Christ” is verified.
The investigation into the precise nature of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, whose existence Protestants do not deny, is beset with a number of difficulties. Its essence certainly does not consist in the Consecration or the Communion, the former being merely the sacrificial action, the latter the reception of the sacrament, and not the sacrament itself. The question may eventually be reduced to this whether or not the sacramentality is to be sought for in the Eucharistic species or in the Body and Blood of Christ hidden beneath them. The majority of theologians rightly respond to the query by saying, that neither the species themselves nor the Body and Blood of Christ by themselves, but the union of both factors constitute the moral whole of the Sacrament of the Altar. The species undoubtedly belong to the essence of the sacrament, since it is by means of them, and not by means of the invisible Body of Christ, that the Eucharist possesses the outward sign of the sacrament. Equally certain is it, that the Body and the Blood of Christ belong to the concept of the essence, because it is not the mere unsubstantial appearances which are given for the food of our souls but Christ concealed beneath the appearances. The twofold number of the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine does not interfere with the unity of the sacrament; for the idea of refection embraces both eating and drinking, nor do our meals in consequence double their number. In the doctrine of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there is a question of even higher relation, in that the separated species of bread and wine also represent the mystical separation of Christ’s Body and Blood or the unbloody Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Lamb. The Sacrament of the Altar may be regarded under the same aspects as the other sacraments, provided only it be ever kept in view that the Eucharist is a permanent sacrament. Every sacrament may be considered either in itself or with reference to the persons whom it concerns.
Passing over the Institution, which is discussed elsewhere in connection with the words of Institution, the only essentially important points remaining are the outward sign (matter and form) and inward grace (effects of Communion), to which may be added the necessity of Communion for salvation. In regard to the persons concerned, we distinguish between the minister of the Eucharist and its recipient or subject.
Written by J. Pohle. Transcribed by Charles Sweeney, SJ.The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York