For as long as I have had the honor of receiving communion, the rule has been to fast for one hour before reception. The days of fasting from midnight are real to me only in light of my parents’ memories. I am thankful that the rule was changed. It was a necessity in light of the many times of day that Masses are offered today. Yet, I do find that on the days when I go to early morning Mass and have not eaten breakfast beforehand, my appreciation of the Sacrament is different. At that moment in time, the Eucharist satisfies both my spiritual and physical hunger.
In The Sacraments We Celebrate: A Catholic Guide to the Seven Mysteries of Faith, Msgr. Peter Vaghi discusses how the Eucharist was designed to feed both our bodies and our souls. He points out how the only miracle that is told in all four Gospel accounts is the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. It is “surely an image of the Eucharistic bread. ‘for the Jewish feast of the Passover was near.’ Even the language in John 6:11 recalls the institution of the Eucharist – ‘Jesus then took the loaves of bread, gave thanks [eucharistein] and passed them around.’” Jesus fed the multitude in body and in spirit.
He continues to do so today. The Eucharist is the gift of Jesus himself. It is both physical and spiritual food. While the appreciation of physical satisfaction may only occur when we go to Mass hungry, we are always in need of spiritual food.
What does it mean to be spiritually hungry? How does the Eucharist satisfy that desire? Msgr. Vaghi states that Jesus addresses “the same kind of hunger in us that he did in the crowds of people assembled in John 6, a hunger for belonging, a hunger for healing and reconciliation, a hunger for growth in holiness. . . Yes, Jesus nourishes us, that deep hunger for God, a deep hunger satisfied by the Eucharist, the bread of life, the source of our life, this sacrament of love.”
I know in my own life that if I only go to Mass and receive the Eucharist once a week, I find it much harder to get through the week than if I am able to go at least one extra time. The Eucharist gives me a strength and a peace that I cannot get through any other means. Yes, I can pray (and I do!) and it helps tremendously. I can go to adoration and sit in the presence of Jesus and that offers much grace as well. Still, nothing is like receiving the Eucharist itself.
I know I don’t fully understand the mystery of the Eucharist, but I believe that Jesus is truly there, that He comes into each of our hearts and our bodies. He does this because He loves us and wants to offer the very gift of Himself to us. He knew that life is hard. He knew we would be hungry – that we would need food for the journey. The Eucharist is our food. It strengthens us, body and soul.
Copyright 2010 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur