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Chapter 17. The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Christian Life • 225

Holy Communion offers us strength, called grace, to preserve us

from mortal sin. By deepening our friendship with Christ, this Sacrament

makes it more difficult for us to break our union with him by mortal sin.

Holy Communion expands the life of the Church. The Church as

a communion is bound ever more closely together through the celebra-

tion of the Eucharist. As an ancient axiom states, the Church makes the

Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church. In receiving Communion,

we are more fully united to the Church.

Holy Communion commits us to care for the poor. St. Paul reminded

the Corinthians that in sharing the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, they

were also called to care for the poorer members of the community (cf. 1

Cor 11:17-34).

Participation in the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is a

source and means of grace even apart from the actual reception of Holy

Communion. It has also been long understood that when circumstances

prevent one from receiving Holy Communion during Mass, it is possible

to make a spiritual communion that is also a source of grace. Spiritual

communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and

worshiping him present in his Body and Blood.


To participate actively in the Mass, we need to resist a tendency to pas-

sivity when gathered in an audience-like setting. At Mass, we are an

assembly of believers called to be a community joined in the praise and

worship of God.We do this in the singing of hymns, psalms, recitation of

prayers and responses, especially in our “Yes” to God in the Great Amen.

Active participation also requires an interior attention and a profound

inner offering, as St. Paul urges in Romans 12:1: “I urge you therefore,

brothers, by the mercies of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,

holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.”

When the assembly of the faithful, from the hands of the priest,

offers the sacrifice of Christ to the Father, the members of the assembly

are called to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to

God. In using the word


, St. Paul does not mean simply our flesh