Wednesday, 14 June 2023 14:45

7. The Eucharist as a Source of Responsibility for the Integral Ecological Crisis

Olivier Ndondo, SSS. 
Rome, Italy, 2/11/2022. 

Original text in French.


The current integral ecological crisis, which is manifested in the hostility of nature and the increase in the number of poor people in the world, is without a doubt the “greatest challenge in the history of humanity”[1] because of the threat it poses to the life and future of planet Earth.

If this is the case, that is the responsibility of the Christian in this situation? Can he or she feel responsible for the safeguarding of creation? In other words, can the Christian who celebrates the Sunday Eucharist, whose material is the fruit of the earth (creation) and the work of all, feel challenged by the ecological crisis and the safeguard of creation? 

This reflection aims to answer these questions. It is an analysis that highlights the responsibility of the Christian who celebrates the Eucharist with regard to the ecological crisis and the safeguarding of creation. This study focuses on three points:

  • The mystical dimension of God's presence in the universe;
  • The responsibility of the Christian in the safeguarding of creation, starting from the Eucharist;
  • Eucharist, place of homage and safeguarding of life.

A part from this introduction, a conclusion will bring our reflection to a close.


1. The mystical dimension of God's presence in the universe

No one can doubt that the Eucharist is a source of responsibility for the safeguarding of the “common home”. However, it is not possible to speak of the Eucharist and the safeguarding of creation without emphasizing the mystical dimension of God's presence in the universe. In fact, according to Pope Francis, “the universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. There is therefore a mystique in a leaf, in a path, in the dew, in the face of the poor”.[2] In his encyclical on ecology, Pope Francis invites us to discover God's action in everything and to find God in external creatures. In a poetic style and quoting a spiritual master, Alî al-Khawwâç, the pope reminds us that God can be discovered in the breath of the wind, the sound of flowing water, the buzzing of flies, the creaking of doors, the singing of birds, the sighing of the sick, the groaning of the afflicted.


By emphasizing the mystical dimension of creation, Francis recognizes that there is an intimate connection between God and beings. Creation is no longer to be considered as a mere nature, but a vehicle for the mysterious presence of the divine who assumes that nature. He invites us to go beyond visible things to see in them the signs of the presence of the author of creation, God. It is in this perspective that the sacraments should be understood. According to the pope,

the sacraments are a privileged mode of how nature is assumed by God and becomes a mediation of supernatural life. Through worship, we are invited to embrace the world on a different level. Water, oil, fire and colors are assumed with all their symbolic power and are incorporated into the worship. The hand that blesses is an instrument of God's love and a reflection of the closeness of Jesus Christ who came to accompany us on the path of life. The water that is poured over the body of the baptized child is a sign of new life. We do not escape from the world, nor do we deny nature when we want to meet God.[4]

It is in the presence of the Incarnate Word, of which the sacraments are signs, that all the creatures of the material universe find their true meaning: “the Son of God integrated into his person a part of the material universe, where he introduced a seed of definitive transformation.”[5]

To better elucidate the place of nature in revelation, Jesus made use of particular realities. These realities are best seen in the process of the institution of the Eucharist. Not only did Jesus become incarnate (cf. Jn 1:14), he also used the products of nature to institute the sacrament of his love, the Eucharist:

In the Eucharist, creation finds its greatest elevation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself in a sensitive way, reaches an extraordinary expression when God becomes man, becomes food for his creature. The Lord, at the summit of the mystery of the Incarnation, wanted to reach our intimacy through a fragment of matter. Not from above, but from within, so that we can meet him in our own world. In the Eucharist the fullness is already realized; it is the vital center of the universe, the overflowing focus of inexhaustible love and life. United with the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God.[6]

Following his predecessors who emphasized the cosmic dimension of the Eucharist, Pope Francis recognizes that the Eucharist is in itself an act of cosmic love.[7] To emphasize the cosmic dimension of the Eucharist, Francis borrows an idea dear to his predecessor:

Even when celebrated on a small altar in a country church, the Eucharist is always celebrated, in a sense, on the altar of the world. The Eucharist unites heaven and earth, it embraces and penetrates all of creation. The world, which comes from the hands of God, returns to him in joyful and full adoration: in the Eucharistic Bread, creation is stretched towards divinization, towards the holy wedding, towards unification with the Creator himself.[8]


2. The Christian's responsibility for the care of creation, starting from the Eucharist

The Eucharist and creation are two themes that feed and enrich each other, articulate each other in a coherent way, enlighten each other and make each other elucidate. The Eucharist is a true reference[9] point for the theology of ecology and for human responsibility for creation. “The Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concern for the environment, and it invites us to be guardians of all creation.”[10]

Christ's choice of bread and wine as Eucharistic material, the relationship of wine to blood and life, the Sunday rest and the Sunday celebration can help us to understand or clarify the Christian's responsibility for the care of creation, starting from the Eucharist. The eucharistic species of bread has several semantic implications. According to the vocabulary of biblical theology:

Bread, a gift of God, is for us a source of strength (Ps 104:14), a means of subsistence so essential that to lack bread is to lack everything (Am 4:6; Gen 28:20); also, in the prayer that Christ teaches his disciples, bread seems to summarize all the gifts that are necessary for us (Lk 11:3); moreover, it has been taken as a sign of the greatest of gifts (Mk 14:22).[11]

Bread is the fruit of nature. Bread is a place of communion between the human and the divine. This is why bread is also used in worship. Especially in the Eucharist, the use of bread in worship constitutes a high moment: after the multiplication of the loaves with liturgical gestures (Mt 14:19), Jesus orders during the Last Supper to renew the action by which he made of the bread his sacrificial body and sacrament of the unity of the faithful (1 Cor 10:16-22, 23-36) and of the wine, his blood.

Thus, in the institution of the sharing of his body and life “through bread”, the consideration of the elements of nature reaches its highest degree. But in the Eucharist, Jesus takes another step forward: he makes the bread “his own body”. Nature is no longer simply recognized as a gift from God, in the sense of “give us this day our daily bread”. It is declared to be a “constituent” of the very thickness in which “real communion” with the divine is accomplished.

In the Eucharist, nature is more than a “gift”. Through it, humans enter into the drama of a mysterious, intimate and profound communion with the divine. Through the species of bread and wine, the whole of nature itself, in addition to its biophysical reality, acquires the dignity of being a place of “communion” with God.

The Eucharist implies a cosmic ecology. In the Eucharist, nature, and not only human flesh, is elevated to the dignity of being a vehicle of encounter with the divine real presence (and this without pantheism). This does not follow from a dictate of the human over the material. As Kehl says,

As a reality pre-given by the Creator, nature possesses a specific value of its own (like every creature which is indeed posited by God in its own existence), and this value of its own, in its very principle, places limits on the power of man to dispose of things. (Even if) in the concrete case, it is always very difficult to determine with precision these limits placed on man when he works and uses the pre-given natural realities.[12]

In the Eucharist, the “this is my body” also indicates the deal where the drama of the immeasurable mystery of “inter-presence” between God, the world and humans is played out.

Like bread, wine, the second component of the Eucharist, has great symbolic value, both in secular and cultic life. Like bread, wine is a gift from God (Gen 27:28). It is a source of life for man when he drinks it in moderation (Si 31:27). Wine symbolizes all that is good in life.[13] From a religious point of view, the symbolism of wine is placed in an eschatological context.[14]

Jesus will use bread and wine to institute the Eucharist that he has entrusted to his disciples. Wine refers to “the immeasurably pleasing reality of God's love”. Now this love is what is most intimate in God on the one hand; on the other hand, God's love is what is most life-giving in creatures and creation as a whole. God's love is in this sense that which, like blood, gives life to creation. Wine refers to love and love refers to the most intimate life-giving element, blood. Jesus can then take the wine to say “take this is my blood”, that is to say the most life-giving element in me which will be the most life-giving in you.

To drink wine that has become the blood of Christ is to drink the most intimate part of God, his love. It is to drink the love of God “in him Jesus” to obtain vivification and eternal joy. It is to drink from the source of goodness that is God himself.

In this context, the natural “goodness” of “drinking wine” is Thus, the goodness that structures the small things of nature are “participating analogues” that allow us to envision the goodness of the Creator, the love of the Creator of which they are made. In this sense, the goodness of creatures, which is one of the “figurations” of the goodness of communion with eternal salvation and/or eternal joy, constitutes a cosmic revelation of the divine goodness. A reading of nature in its goodness, in its life-giving nature, leads to a contemplation of the source from which it is made. The sense of the elements of nature that make the act of the Eucharistic institution function refers to the sense of the divine, and the sense of the divine refers to looking at nature in what it has of good.

The Eucharist is a catechesis on the goodness of creation as it intimately reflects the goodness of the Creator. In the creation texts, creation is given to us. It is therefore a gift of love and not a “scorpion”, a “snake”, or even a poison (cf. Lk 11:11-12) that is entrusted to humanity.

The theology of symbolism on the meaning of wine in relation to the blood and love of God, illuminates the meaning of creation as a gift of divine life, of his goodness for the life of creation and creatures. It is a more explicit response of integral ecology to the different concerns of the world caused by the harmfulness generated by a bad management of the ecosystem and its elements.

With this analysis of the meaning of blood and wine, based on the vision of Pope Francis, the Eucharist puts the humanist on the spot for a self-criticism, a questioning of the various perversions of nature against its “original nature” which, in the perspective of faith, should be good a priori, transcendentally.

If nature is a place of life and in our relationship to it, we “drink of the divine goodness”, we commune with the blood of Christ, that is, with the love of God, then this creation should not be perverted into toxic poison against humans and against itself. From the Eucharistic theology focused on “wine”, the believer can derive motives to support a prophetic mission of denouncing all intoxications of nature against life at any level.


3. Eucharist, place of homage and safeguarding of life

The Eucharist is a call to safeguard and promote life and creation as a whole. The Christian responsibility for the care of creation, especially the care of life, becomes more urgent if we take into account the words of Jesus: “this is my blood” (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24). At the heart of the imperative expression “this is my blood” is the reality of “blood”. Blood has different connotations and implications of meaning in relation to the Christian's responsibility for life.

Blood is central to the vitality and existence of living organisms with blood. Blood sustains and animates life. It constitutes the particular reality by which an organism lives. In the Holy Scriptures, it is sacred. To shed the blood of another, whether a sacrificial victim or a human being, is generally to perform an act that introduces one into a relationship with the other world, the invisible world. Blood is sacred in the eyes of God. It constitutes the intimate and unique value of the being, as God wants it. Blood is “what being” has of inalienable as a property of God. In this perspective, the following cannot be justified.

The trafficking of human beings, organized crime, drug trafficking, the trade in blood diamonds and the skins of endangered animals, the purchase of organs from the poor in order to sell them or to use them for experimentation, or the rejection of children because they do not meet the wishes of their parents, the logic of “use it and throw it away”, which generates so much waste.[15]

No one can touch the blood of another. “To give one's blood for” is to give the most intimate thing one has for one's own survival and for the good of the other. Jesus gives his disciples to drink his blood. Jesus invites to commune with his life through communion with his blood. Jesus invites to share with him more ontologically and “existentially” what is most intimate to him.

For Jesus, the life of the human being is so precious and sacred in the eyes of Jesus that it deserves that his blood be shed to protect and save it. Life in its present and eternal sense deserves everything for Jesus, even the sacrifice up to the blood shed on the wood of the cross. Thus, the blood of Jesus becomes a source of peace for humanity: “God was pleased to make all the fullness of life dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things to himself, both on earth and in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20).[16]

Blood is therefore dense with sacredness, with belonging to the Other, to God, with belonging to the divine. Since it is a property of the Other, everything should be invested to protect life. Jesus gives his life to protect life. The organization of life in society should respect the imperative of “do not kill” (Deut 6: 17). Life (symbolized here by blood) is thus an element of nature which, in revelation, is the object of a particular gaze from God. It is a particular property by which Jesus bases his love and wants to change society.

The Eucharist, as a place of homage to life, thus invites any organization of nature to be elaborated in respect of life.

In this sense, an ecological practice that is harmful to life, in some or in others, is not in conformity with the meaning of things as intended by the Scriptures. Eucharistic communion is therefore a process of sharing this invitation to invest everything as privation so that the blood of all may be respected. The words of the Eucharistic institution invest with the divine presence, the life that the blood symbolizes or the intimate vital element that, by the Creator, makes the existential sacred structure of what he or she is.

“Take and drink” means, commit yourselves as I do to the sacrifice for the protection of life, of each other's blood. Share this sacrifice daily. Do it in memory of me (Lk 22:19). Jesus' words are a call to a continuous and endless daily commitment to the protection of life on earth (revolution in the service of the poor, the sick, the needy) and to eternal life. This protection of life implies an organization of the world in such a way that it does not become harmful to the life that God has “seen fit”.

“Take and drink” is a source of responsibility for the safeguarding of the other and of creation, for the maintenance of the relationship with the other. Its neglect “destroys my inner relationship with myself, with others, with God and with the earth”.[17] It is a call to maintain a good relationship with the other. To underline this aspect, Pope Francis refers to the dramatic conversation between God and Abel: “What have you done? Listen to the blood of your brother crying out to me from the ground” (Gen. 4:9-11).[18]

Reflection on the Eucharist values life and therefore invites the sense of responsibility that should characterize every Christian towards the poor, and his “need to strengthen the awareness that we are one human family”.[19] In fact, this reflection takes place in the dynamics of the organization of ecological projects and the safeguarding of creation. The Eucharist appeals not only to an “anthropocentric” or “cosmocentric” vision, but rather to a “biocentric” vision of ecology.

As blood symbolizes life, the Eucharist sheds a high light on all life-sustaining endeavors, even in their most basic dimension. Thus, while recognizing that the Eucharist, especially on Sundays, emphasizes its ecclesial[20] or community dimension, it should be recognized at the same time that the Eucharist is a source of commitment for each baptized person, for the safeguarding of life and creation. Thus, the Christian is called to good stewardship of everything that touches in any way the respect for life. For “both aspects, that of the celebration and that of the lived experience, are closely related”.[21]

The Eucharistic celebration implies the mission to protect life and creation as a whole. By receiving the Bread of Life, Christ's disciples are prepared to approach, with the strength of the Risen One and his Spirit, the tasks that await them in their ordinary lives. Like the first witnesses of the resurrection, the Christians called every Sunday to live and proclaim the presence of the Risen One are called to be evangelizers and witnesses in their daily lives. After the celebration of the Eucharist, each disciple of Christ returns to his or her own environment with the duty to make of his or her entire life a gift, a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God (cf. Rom 12:1), indebted not only to his or her brothers and sisters for what he or she has received in the celebration, but also to the whole of creation.[22]

Participation in the Sunday Eucharist has a special importance for the care of creation. It acquires a fundamental meaning that helps the Christian to understand his relationship with creation. It renews the very understanding that man has of Sunday rest. The Sunday Eucharist becomes for every Christian a call to “the purification of the relationship of the human being with God, with ourself, with others and with the world”.[23]

Through Sunday rest and the celebration of the Eucharist, the Christian learns to integrate into one’s life the value of leisure and celebration. One restores the true meaning of Sunday, which is “the day of the resurrection, the first day of the new creation, whose first fruits are the risen humanity of the Lord, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality”.[24]

The celebration of the Eucharist is a call for every Christian to include in his or her mentality and actions a dimension of receptivity and gratuitousness that can help him or her avoid empty activism, voracious passion and the isolation of a conscience that sees only personal gain. In other words, Sunday rest constitutes for each member of the faithful

a broadening of the gaze that allows us to recognize once again the rights of others. In this way, the day of rest, with the Eucharist at its center, spreads its light over the entire week and leads us to internalize the protection of nature and the poor.[25]



The ecological crisis, in this sense, it is for all a challenge and a true school of formation to responsibility.

The Eucharist is, without a doubt, the center of the universe and an inexhaustible source of responsibility for the safeguarding and promotion of life and of creation as a whole. In the Eucharist, the “this is my body” and the “this is my blood” also point to the drama of the immeasurable mystery of “inter-presence” between God, the world and humans, which is a source of commitment for every Christian. 

As a call and a true reference point for Christian responsibility for the care of creation, making the protection of life more than urgent, “the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concern for the environment, and it invites us to be guardians of all creation”.[26]


[1] Aurélien Barrau, Le plus grand défi de l’histoire de l’humanité. Face à la catastrophe écologique et sociale, Neuilly-sur-Seine 2019.

[2] Francis, Laudato Si’ (LS), Encyclical letter (2015), 233.

[3] Cf. LS, 233.

[4] LS, 233.

[5] LS, 235.

[6] LS, 236.

[7] LS, 237.

[8] LS, 236.

[9] By repository we mean a structured set of information or a reference system related to a field of knowledge, for the purpose of a practice or a study, and in which there are elements of definitions, solutions, practice or other related subjects of this field of knowledge.

[10] LS, 236.

[11] Xavier Léon-Dufour (dir.), Vocabulaire de Théologie Biblique, Paris 1970, p. 875.

[12] Medard Kehl, « Et Dieu vit que cela était bon ». Une théologie de la création, Paris 2008, 493.

[13] Friendship (Sir 9:10), human love (Song of Songs 1:4; 4:10), joy (Zech 10:7; Judith 12:13). It can also evoke the unhealthy intoxication of idolatrous cults (Jer 51: 7; Rev 18: 3) as well as the happiness of the disciple of wisdom (Prov 9: 2).

[14] Cf. Am 5:11; Mi 6:15; Is 51:17; Am 9:14; Hos 2:24; Mk 2:22; Jn 2:10; Mt 9:17; Mt 26:39). This cup that he asks his disciples to drink (Jn 6:53-56) is a food of eternal life and a pledge of eternal glory. However, before drinking the new wine in the Kingdom of the Father, the Christian will be nourished, throughout the days, by the wine that has become the blood shed of the Lord at the Eucharist (Cf. 1 Cor 10:16).

[15] LS, 123.

[16] LS, 100.

[17] LS, 70.

[18] LS, 70.

[19] LS, 52.

[20] John Paul II, Dies Domini (DD), Apostolic letter, (1998), 34.

[21] DD, 40.

[22] DD, 45.

[23] LS, 237.

[24] LS, 237.

[25] LS, 236.

[26] LS, 236.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 June 2023 19:04