Why the Eucharist Matters
For Christians around the world, the bread and wine (known as Communion to some and Eucharist to others) have been markers of true church life. Some churches see the bread and wine as a symbol or memorial of what Christ did for us on the Cross. Others see it as the very body and blood of Christ which we partake of at the table. Growing up, I took the former view as the orthodox view. I never fathomed that it could be possible that Christians would partake in a pagan practice akin to cannibalism. I know hold the latter view and it’s precisely because I know now that it was neither “pagan” or “cannibalistic.” I believe in the Eucharist.
The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eukharistia and it means “thanksgiving.” The Eucharist is Christ’s own thanksgiving to the Church and it is the Church’s thanksgiving celebration which surrounds the table.
In learning more about the early church’s view on the Eucharist, I became astonished to see that the early Christians, such as Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, defended the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist as what was taught by the apostles to the Church. In John 6, we see Jesus breaking the bread and distributing the wine to his disciples and those same disciples taught their understanding of the Eucharist to their disciples. In many cases, seeing the Eucharist as the real flesh and blood of Christ was not only defended by these early Christians but they also believed that the Eucharist provided a foundation for understanding a Christian’s own transformation in Christ.