Wednesday, 14 June 2023 19:10

9. The Eucharist – The Sacrament of Christian Hope

Paul Vu Chi Hy, SSS. 
Ho Chi Minh, Viet-Nam, 16/9/2022.



In proclaiming “the death of the Lord” and professing “his resurrection until he comes again” (1 Cor 11:26; cf. Mystery of Faith from the Roman Missal, Order of Mass), the Eucharist is pre-eminently the sacrament of Christian hope.[1] It contains within it the memorial of Christ’s Passover and the anticipation of his coming in glory. As is well known, in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, the Eucharist is described as “a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”[2]

The Eucharist is thus the divine milieu where the Christian community celebrates the real presence of the risen and glorified Christ, and the eschatological foundation as well as the ground for its ultimate expectations. Apparently, it is out of this hope in Christ that the early Christians continued to devote “themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Here is the sense that, in the Eucharist, the saving act of God has been realized in Christ, and that, through his Passover from death to life, and by the power of the Spirit, the Christian community indeed shares in the life of the resurrection, that is, the glory of God.

Understood in this way, the glorified Christ who is to come is already in communion with the Christian community. And so, when he comes in glory, the final efficacy of the Eucharist will be the full manifestation of the unspeakable reality, which “God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9; Rom 8:28). The Eucharist, therefore, becomes the sacred symbol of the universal reality of God’s Reign promised by Christ (Jn 15:11), filling Christians on their journey through history with hope. As we read in John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (EE):

The Eucharist is a straining towards the goal, a foretaste of the fullness of joy promised by Christ (Jn 15:11); it is in some way the anticipation of heaven… Those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness which will embrace the human in its wholeness. For in the Eucharist we also receive the pledge of our bodily resurrection at the end of the world…[And] This … comes from the fact that the flesh of the Son of Man, given as food, is his body in its glorious state after the resurrection. [So then], With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the “secret” of the resurrection.[3]

In this perspective, indeed, a number of questions enter into the aspects of hope: What is the Eucharist in relation to our understanding of becoming more fully human in all the struggles for life, love and truth? Does it have anything to say to the existence of so much oppression, suffering, brokenness, persecution and death in the world? How can it be more fully appreciated as the sacrament in which “Christ is really and truly present as hope’s food and drink”[4], and celebrated as a fuller anticipation of the heavenly banquet? How does our celebration of the Eucharist as a communal, open, joyful, hopeful meal, and as a sacrifice, a memorial of the Paschal Mystery of Christ connect with Christian hope with practical implications for the way we live in the present and the future? Does the Eucharist contain the promise of new life for all creation in the new humanity of Christ? This Catechesis is, then, presented as an attempt to explore the manifold dimensions of the Eucharistic as the sacrament of Christian hope.

We will consider, first of all, the notion that the Eucharist, as the sacrament of hope, is both a vision of the future and a celebration of the Christian community nourished on the Body and Blood of Christ. And if Christ is our ultimate future glory it matters greatly that we understand and know that the gathering at the Eucharistic table confirms and extends our communion with Christ, with one another and with all creation. For it is in this Eucharistic communion that hope is born. Secondly, we will come to realize an essential feature of significance for a renewed appreciation of how the Eucharist could provide the foundation for Christian hope-filled activity by stimulating a liberating vision of the transformative possibilities for the life of human society. And we will conclude with an acknowledgement of the Eucharist as eschatological gift of God in Christ, for us and for our salvation. This “gift from above” celebrated in the Eucharist encompasses history and the cosmic process in which the Spirit of God is making all the difference.


1. The Form of Eucharistic Hope as Communion: “God will be all in all”

So, it is necessary, at the very beginning, to clarify what is meant by the form of Eucharistic hope as communion. Since the Eucharist is a celebration of the shared life and the destiny of humanity and creation, it enacts the mystery of the interconnection of personal, interpersonal, ecclesial, and cosmic salvation. In a fundamental way, the Eucharist is a sign and an effective source of “Holy Communion.” In the Eucharist the many people become one Body of Christ (1 Cor 10:17) in such a way that Christ takes them up “into himself” as one body of the new creation. This focus on the Eucharist as an event of communion, then, provides a significant point of entry for a renewed anthropology whereby Christian hope is brought into dialogue with contemporary quests for some key aspects of being human.

     1.1. The personal dimension of communion

A first feature within this renewed anthropology in terms of Eucharistic hope, however, arises from our awareness of being human as personal. A person may be defined as a human subject, an individual center of consciousness, an intentional, historical person with his or her own personal traits and life story, one who knows and is known, loves and is loved, and exists as a free, unique and unrepeatable entity.[5] As such, the human person is not simply someone who has a body, but someone who is a body.[6] This concept envisions the human person as at the same time embodied spirit and inspirited body, living in the world as a whole person in relation to God and to others.

Contemplation of the human person in this non-dualistic way, then, draws attention to the Eucharistic hope for the fulfillment of personal life in resurrection. It is distinctive in its inclusive reference to the quest for wholeness. So, while our hope in God’s final triumph over sin, evil, suffering and death is a total hope, it does not exclude the dimension of the person as self-identity, individuality and embodied self-manifestation. If the Risen Christ truly gives himself personally in the Eucharist, where Christians are nourished by the eternal life of the Body of his Resurrection, then hope for personal fulfillment in the resurrection of the total and unified human being is an integral part of Eucharistic hope. In this regard, the whole Eucharistic celebration becomes a locus for the reception and transmission of the vision of a future glory that is more than the salvation of pure spirits.[7] It is the future glory of the totally human. For the Risen Lord who “will transform the body of our humiliation, so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory” (Phil 3:21).

     1.2. The interpersonal and ecclesial dimension: The event of persons in communion

Although in terms of personal identity, being and living, each human person is a unique, transcending, responsible, and free being, there is something fundamentally communal about the human subject. Here another significant feature of Eucharistic hope arises from our emphasis on the interpersonal and ecclesial dimension of personhood. Relationship is a fundamental characteristic of all beings in the world; one is present to oneself only insofar as one is present to others in terms of communion.

Since human existence is an invitation to a life of inclusive communion with other persons, with those of friends and neighbors near and far, by its very nature, then, hope involves a consciousness of communion. It insists that personal and interpersonal fulfillment is inseparable.[8] We see here, for the Christian perspective, it would not be possible to speak of the personhood without the concept of communion.[9] This is so, because hope itself can be seen as meaningful only within the context of this new depth of being, that is, a real communion established among persons.[10] The meaning of the Eucharistic hope then emerges in this interpersonal dimension of personhood.

And if Eucharistic hope is finally in the Triune God, who is essentially relational, then it is necessarily a hope not of isolated individuals but of people in community, in which everyone gathers without the barriers of race, language or cultural traditions. In terms of Eucharist communion, hope is thus a positive attitude to various communities of people, an appreciation of unity in diversity, an understanding of the ultimate reality as mutual self-giving and inter-being. Just as the bread and wine become the real food and drink of the kingdom, those who partake of the Eucharist are united in body to the life of the new humanity of Christ, as the result of the transforming action of the Spirit. So, the Eucharist heals, perfects and fulfills the body of Christians. And this is exactly the character of the life that the Eucharist already celebrates, here and now, even as it awaits the blessed hope, being aware of a glorious community to come.

     1.3. The cosmic dimension of communion

This brings us to a third aspect of being human, which concerns our communion not only with other human beings but also with the whole of creation. Since Eucharistic hope has a cosmic dimension, the future fulfillment which human beings yearn for, cannot be found apart from the transformation of the world to which they are bound in life and death. As an event of eschatological communion, the Eucharist celebrates the unity and solidarity of human persons, the earth, and the whole cosmos when the bread and wine, as earthly realities, come into their own as bearers of the ultimate future of humanity and the nature. Also, according to the findings of contemporary cosmology, we are all part of the whole and see everything in the cosmos and part of ourselves as interrelated.[11] There is nothing outside the scope of this universe as “God’s body”, the source and breath of all existence.[12]

We thus arrive at an understanding of salvation as the entry of all creation into God’s eternal community of love life (Eph 1:22; Phil 3:21). As the memorial of Christ’s all-embracing love, the Eucharist speaks of how “all things have been created” through him, in him, and for him (Col 1:16-17; 1 Cor 8:6). In this way, then, God’s salvation comes upon the whole of creation “without annihilation, without spoliation, without alteration: it enriches.”[13] Precisely here this open-ended character of the Eucharist is the effective source of Christian hope, reminding us of the sacredness of creation.

This also means that the end of the world will not be a destruction of the universe, but rather a transformation and fulfillment, so that it will become “the new heaven and the new earth” (Rev 21:1). The mystery of the Eucharist, therefore, discloses that not only humankind, but all creation is truly incorporated in Christ, and with him, will obtain “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8: 21). In other words, the whole of history is “saved in hope” (Rom 8:24), for Christ is the “first born of all creation” (Col 1:15), and its final homecoming.[14]

Here a renewed Eucharistic hope as cosmic communion thus emerges, embracing the whole of creation, so that it is taken up into the worship of God who will be “all in all” (1Cor 15:28). We come to the Eucharist, bringing the bread and wine as symbols of the whole universe, in which matter, spirit, the meaning of nature, history, society and culture are truly interconnected, ready to be transformed by the Spirit into the Body and Blood of the Cosmic Christ. Hence, the Christ of the Eucharist is revealed as the life and recapitulation of all creation.[15]


2. The Eucharist as source of a hope-filled praxis of liberation

Consequently, how then can such a cosmic vision of hope, thus distinguished from the myth of human progress, highlight the intrinsic and dynamic connection between the celebration of the Eucharist and the praxis of liberation, the responsible action for the salvation of the world? Here the Eucharistic hope finds its expression in another perspective. As a celebration of unity, peace and reconciliation, the Eucharist brings effective meaning and power of hope not only to the personal, interpersonal and cosmic processes, but also to the body politic, the social systems which we create and in turn shape us.

     2.1. The political, social and liberating implications: hunger for justice

The most dramatic illustration of the divine demand for justice and for the liberation of the oppressed is the story of Exodus. Hence, this great story of the liberation from slavery and the journey across the wilderness to the land of promise and the covenant established by God prefigures the liberation of all humanity in the context of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. It is not, however, an isolated example of God’s concern for the poor. The prophets often speak of God’s judgement on those who consider that the performance of religious ritual, rather than the struggle for justice for all, is the principal demand God makes upon people (Is 1:11-17; 58:4-8; Mic 3:1-3; 6:7-11).

God’s saving activity on behalf of the poor and the oppressed is continued and intensified in the New Testament. Throughout the Gospels, for example, Jesus in his public ministry is portrayed as having a special compassion for the marginalized and the lowly. For him, eschatological hope is the basis for social justice and ethics. He welcomed society’s outcasts and sinners into table-fellowship with him as an anticipation of the Kingdom, announcing the year of God’s favour (Lk 4:18-19). According to the biblical witness, therefore, Christian faith is active in works of justice and love, and they are the test of true forms of worship. Here correspondingly, the fundamental characteristic of the Eucharistic hope as praxis of liberation can be understood in terms of communion, which has a threefold sense.[16]

Firstly, it concerns the liberation from social situations of oppression and alienation. The Eucharist embodies and defines a mode of human community as the Body of Christ, for it celebrates Christ’s victory over all that oppresses and divides; it is the victory of a new order into which Christians are gathered together, united with Christ in his death and now raised to live in his glorified life (Rom 6:4-5). The Eucharist indicates this new order as eschatological hope, consisting in a total openness to the Reign of God. To this Eucharistic hope, therefore, Christian response must be a life of mercy, justice and love for others. All kinds of injustice, racism, discrimination, division, exploitation and lack of freedom are thus radically challenged when we come to share the Eucharist, to stand around the table of the Lord, and to break the “Bread of Life”. This is to say, that the Eucharist itself is the privileged place for breaking down the barriers that separate us from each other, so as to have reason to hope that these barriers will break down in the world.

Secondly, the Eucharist as liberation calls for a personal and ecclesial transformation by which Christians live with inner freedom in the face of every kind of bondage. The Eucharist sets them free from the fear of suffering and death, from loneliness, self-centeredness and pride, in order to form a community in which all can share life with each other, having all things in common and placing themselves at the service of the poor and the needy (1 Jn 1:3, 6; 1 Cor 1:9; 2 Cor 9:13; Rom 15:26-27).

Thirdly, the Eucharist is the sacrament of Christian liberation from sin in all its dimensions. Sin, whenever it exists, is a destructive influence in the reality of all relationships, a breaking of communion with God and with other human beings, and thus is the exact opposite of what God is, namely, persons in communion. Recognizing this reality, the Eucharist reveals to us the presence of sin in our selfishness, in all symptoms of the self-serving ambition at the expense of others, the indifference or complicity in social injustice, while drawing us towards a new life transformed through self-sacrificing love into the gracious moment of forgiveness and conversion. Thus, liberation from sin is at the very root of social liberation.[17] Here we can see how the senses of hope are lifted up and significantly intensified. For the celebration of the Eucharist, the taking of communion, is truly “a moment of conversion”, that is, “to go beyond the alienations, boundaries, polarities and classes of the given society in order to become a genuinely open community of love and hope for all.”[18] In other words, each celebration of the sacrifice of Christ is, properly understood, as the outcome of the divine all-forgiving love and reconciliation; it is both a moment of truth and a movement of life and growth, a moment of hope.

     2.2. Bread of Life as hope for the world: hunger for meaning and purpose

Still, to appreciate the Eucharist as a hope-filled praxis of liberation, we can place it in a larger frame of reference. Here we are aware of being in the world, and we begin thinking about the nature of human existence in terms of “hunger”.[19] This notion provides a significant Eucharistic application in terms of a hunger for the “Bread of Life”, for full participation in the divine hospitality. Does not the Eucharist in this perspective recall our responsibility to deal with the dominant hungers of the world, such as the hunger for freedom and dignity, the hunger for peace and love, for meaning and purpose in life?

Since the Eucharist links the “bread of life” (Jn 6: 31-57) with the “manna” given by God to the hungry people in the wilderness (Ex 16: 4-35), the bread broken and shared, enables the Christian community to glimpse the shape of a new world that is coming to be. Here the Eucharist refers, on one level, to the physical sustenance and, on another level, to the human sense of incompleteness, which makes people reach out for new life in terms of communion and continuing improvement. For our Christian tradition confirms that, in the Eucharistic celebration, Christ makes himself known to us not only on the table as the bread of God, but also “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:32, 35). This is an act of sharing daily food with the hungry, showing hospitality to the strangers, and thereby giving them hope. Thus, in the Eucharistic sharing, we find a positive correspondence between human welfare on earth and final salvation in heaven, between the historical future and the eschatological [reign].

Food and drink, however, are not just a means for survival or staying alive. In the New Testament, for instance, every table fellowship with Jesus is, in a wider sense, an event of peace, liberation, trust and hospitality, a sign of reconciliation and an anticipation of the eschatological banquet in the consummation of the [reign] (Lk 14:15; 15:2; Mk 2:15-17; Mt 26:29). If Christian hope can be seen in relation to the deeply human forms of hope, then the Eucharist draws us into a communion which, of its very nature, is evangelizing in the search for more appropriate relationships in social, economic and political life, pointing to a sharing and reconciled community, indicating the new pathway towards happiness and fulfillment.


3. The Eucharist as God’s Gift of Salvation in Christ

Yet the fullness of hope is not reducible to “an upward movement from the core of our being”.[20] We are presented in the Eucharist with a hope beyond all that we deserve, achieve or can even imagine. Just as “the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6: 33), it tells us that the future fulfillment we seek is a marvelous “gift from above” and beyond all telling. So, it is right that the Christian community prays in the Eucharist: “Thy Kingdom come”, constantly asking God to bring this about. In what sense, then, can we say that, in the Eucharist, Christians open their hearts to God’s Kingdom, anticipating the future glory? How does this expectation give new energy for the cultivation of this life with all the practical aspects of hope?

     3.1.  As gift of freedom

In terms of Christ’s self-giving love for the sake of the world’s salvation, we see then, how the Eucharist can be celebrated as the gift of freedom. In all its salvific reality, the Eucharist is Christ’s free gift of self, which reveals the authentic meaning of a love freely given (Jn 13:1). For Christ is present, in his life, death and resurrection, offering the Christian community salvation and the possibility of rising to new level of freedom as members of his glorified Body (Eph 4:22-23).[21] What we truly receive here is “sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Rom 6:22). Hence, in this gracious reality, Christ fulfills who we are in God’s plan, upholding us and, in the midst of all unfulfilled hope of human encounters, giving us the promise of an everlasting love.

Moreover, if freedom is the ultimate fulfillment of hope and the “one thing necessary”,[22] then the Eucharist is the most surprising gift of the divine freedom, connecting it with all the gifts in the mystery of Christ. These gifts can be experienced and expressed as freedom from loneliness and isolation for relationships and communion, freedom from whatever kind of hunger for sharing in the table fellowship, freedom from sin and guilt for salvation and reconciliation, and freedom from fear to hope for the fulfillment of our future glory, the final realization of what God’s love has promised.[23]

     3.2.  As gift of praise and thanksgiving

In this way, then, the Eucharist brings us to its familiar character of hope as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, to an appreciation of all the divine gifts. That means, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.” We can see how, since the very early Church, in whatever the circumstance, the Eucharist has been understood as a sacrament of praise and thanksgiving in the light of hope in which Christians gather together to celebrate and share God’s saving gift in Christ. They come to give thanks, not because of the feeling of being indebted, but precisely because they live in a world of grace and blessing; they become the anticipatory fulfillment of Christ’s self-giving love in history.

In the face of such Eucharistic giftedness, unlike the human situation of giving, God’s giving offers divine life, freely and graciously, and out of the sheer desire to give. Hence, the only fitting response that can give meaning to the acts of praise and thanksgiving of the Christian community is the willingness to enter into the communion with God’s very life and love, and to participate in the sharing of life with others. This is a genuine and spontaneous appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist. And this means that those who participate in the Eucharist are drawn into God’s lifestyle. As the fourth weekday preface in the Eucharistic celebration rightly expresses this point: “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace.”

The Eucharistic gift continues, in this sense, to increase, being at any one moment beyond measure, the continual dawning of the future. It is, therefore, not a gift closed in upon itself, not in any way given back to God, nor adding something to God’s being, but rather witness to the mystery of Christ’s self‑giving love, always overflowing and open to surprise. As gift of praise and thanksgiving, the Eucharist transforms the community of Christians into the new humanity of Christ, so that they, in turn, become bread for the world, to be broken, given away and consumed in anticipation of the future. Here then, praise and thanksgiving are God’s gifts of grace in Christ, exulting in the movement of hope as infallible signs of a transformed heart, as the language of a redeemed community (Rev 15:3-4).[24] So when God is experienced as central to everything that happens and everything that is good, Christian existence becomes, indeed, a hymn of praise and glory, a movement of free love with a universal character. It is a way of living with, in, and from the joy of salvation, that is, in a very real sense, a real sharing in the divine life and communion, a kind of beginning of glory in the Eucharist.

     3.3. As gift of grace in witness and mission

Significantly, we note at this point that the notion of gift is integral to Christian hope. And if the gift is only received in the sense of the giving, then, in a similar fashion, the Christian community is called to embody the very promise of the future glory. In the Eucharist, the self‑giving love of God shows forth in the self‑giving love of Christ, and certainly: “This self‑giving love of Christ shows forth further when through the Spirit, it is embodied in the Church, which in turn gives that life, pours out that love from within itself, so that others may share in it.”[25] Thus, there is a real flow to the Eucharistic gift opening up its possibility, and drawing Christians into communion in witness and mission.

This indeed provides the context for our understanding of the dynamic sense of the Eucharist as the memorial of Christ’s Passover, and is celebrated in the hope of reaching ultimate freedom from the concrete reality of suffering and death. We note that the Gospel writers portray Christ as “the Son of Man [who] must suffer many things… and be rejected… and be killed… and then enter into his glory” (Mk 8:31; Mt 16:21; Lk 17:25; 24:26).

More particularly, this aspect of hope comes into prominence when we recall that its immediate context was the Last Supper of Christ with his disciples, the night before his passion and death. It was in the shadow of betrayal and terminal opposition, the shadow of the Cross that the Eucharist was instituted, and that Christ surrendered himself to God for the sake of all who would follow him (Mt 26:17-19; Mk 14:12-17; Lk 22:7-14). To celebrate the Eucharist is thus to participate in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. It enables Christian hope to embrace all the realities of darkness and light, tragedy, oppression, persecution and transformation, sharing in the patience of God as distinctly paschal elements of a trustful movement forward, for the time of hope is still yet to come. Here given the significant effect of the Eucharist, that is, our communion with and transformation into Christ, we can grasp how the life of hope lives by surrendering to the creative and redeeming mystery of God’s love, and how we “may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13). As the letter of Paul to the Romans has it:

And we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Rom 5:1-5).

Hence, the Paschal Mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ becomes the parable of Eucharistic hope.[26] In the Eucharist, the living sacrifice of Christ becomes the self-sacrificing love of the members of his Body. The bread and wine presented at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist are sacramental signs that prepare us for what is to come. We can offer to God all our sufferings and prayers, thanksgiving and self-surrender, works and acts of love. It is here that we also offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom 12:1). It is the fulfillment of this boundless hope of which we speak when “all of us… are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

In celebrating the Eucharist, the Christian community is thus called to witness to what the resurrection of Christ promises for the future of the world. And hope, if it does not disappoint (Rm 5:5), must be a hope beyond hope, that is, a “living hope” (1Pet 1:3), showing a proper patience and reminding us that the present chaos is not the end of the world, but the labour pain of a new birth coming into glorious form of God’s everlasting love (Rom 8:18-21). This is to say that Christian hope has to rise to the challenge of adopting an existential attitude so as to confront the many faces of despair in all the agonies of the historical world, and more radically still, as the readiness to take up the cross of self-giving love, even to give one’s very life. This is like the long-suffering, patient endurance characteristic at those critical moments of the great martyrs of the Church and the persecuted Christians throughout the ages (Rev 1:9; 2:2-3; 2:19; 3:30). Take the life story, especially the martyrdom of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, for example. His letter to the Romans evinced a great love for the Eucharist and how this account of Eucharistic hope sustained the courage necessary to rely on the “God of hope” (Rom 15:13) alone for the fulfillment of glory. As he mystically expressed:

I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ… Entreat Christ for me, that by these instruments I may be found a sacrifice [to God]… But when I suffer, I shall be the freed-person of Jesus, and shall rise again emancipated in Him (Rom 4:1,2).[27]

Thus, for Ignatius, the Eucharist is the form of his martyrdom, “the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying.”[28] Such is a real participation in the self-offering of Christ, a full conformity to his self-surrender to God for the life of the world. It gives us a true sense of the meaning of our sacrifice as well as that of hope. So, hope can find its nourishment in the Eucharist in which the absolute future is already anticipated and make it possible for us to persist in a life of service and costly demands of Christian discipleship. Here is found the true hope that must be learned in communion with the God who is with us, for us, and involved with us in all our struggle to bring forth a just and loving world for all humanity, and for the whole circle of God’s embracing love (Jn 3:16).

In this perspective, then, the Eucharist has profound significance for the mission of the Church in the world in so far as “it is the sign of the great feast which God will offer” in order to express forever the universal triumph of the divine saving will and purpose.[29] Those who participate in the self-giving love of Christ, then, go out transformed by the Eucharist to transform the world around them with the love they have encountered in the Eucharist, that is, to presuppose “acceptance of the daily effort for justice in love”.[30] At the Eucharist, as Saint Augustine and many others in the Christian Tradition have affirmed, “we are to be what we celebrate and receive what we really are”.[31] As consecrated and transformed by the activity of the Spirit into the Body of Christ, the Christian community bears witness to the glory of God, and therefore, has a mission of hope to a troubled and suffering world. Again, the words of EE point in this direction:

Many problems darken the horizon of our time. We need but think of the urgent need to work for peace, to base relationships between peoples on solid premises of justice and solidarity, and to defend human life from conception to its natural end… Proclaiming the death of the Lord “until he comes” (1Cor 11:26) entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely “Eucharistic”.[32]

Hence, this understanding of the Eucharist as the celebration of a hope-filled preparation for the coming of Christ in a final and definitive way serves not only to lead the Christian community to the expectation of God’s Kingdom, but also to increase a sense of responsibility for the world and, of course, for the holiness and wholeness of all life. It is here that the character of Eucharistic hope is closely related to a participation in history and actively co-operating with Christ, so that the whole world “might be fashioned anew according to God’s design and brought to its fulfillment”.[33]



As we come to a conclusion, we acknowledge the inadequacy of our words. Yet we have attempted to present the Eucharist as a foretaste of the fullness of grace to come. As a commemoration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, the Eucharist reveals both hope for history and hope for the future glory beyond history. Here, then, we truly become one with Christ’s hopeful expectation: “I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day, when I drink it new, in the Kingdom of God” (Mk 14:25; cf. Mt 26:29; Lk 22:18).

As such, a new sense of being in the world and of being in communion is proposed that changes the horizon of hope. Every prayer, every act of sharing, eating and drinking together in the Eucharist is, therefore, a sacramental form of Christian hope, pointing towards its completion in the fullness of time. This is to say that the Eucharist is, in essence, the matrix of the Christian “hope-vision” and “hope-expectation” of reality. It breaks open and discloses a new world in particular times and places, that is, the song of creation, incarnation, resurrection and consummation, yet transcendent in glory beyond all created things.

In the Eucharist we remember and anticipate Christ who is the source, the goal and the form of what the whole world is becoming. In this sense, a “Holy Communion” that is brought about between heaven and earth, between the living and the dead, between the spiritual and the physical, between personal and communal fulfillment, between the human and the cosmic, is symbolized in the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ. It is this Eucharistic hope that most significantly transforms all life and gives meaning to our journey through history.

Ultimately, then, the Christian community is revealed as a people of hope, for it is essentially a Eucharistic community. Our trials and sufferings are, therefore, taken up into the mystery we celebrate and all that is true, good, and beautiful which we have created in this life will be our definitive participation in it. Here certainly is the hopeful embodiment of Christ’s gift of self in our midst for the life of the world. And yet, as absolutely a divine gift that transforms those who receive it, the Eucharist summons the Christian community to work for the future glory in the present with joyful anticipation, confident that people of every race, language and way of life and the whole of creation are given not only grace, but the very author of grace, Christ himself, the divine gift of salvation. For what we celebrate here on earth is but a participation in Christ’s self-giving love, and his love endures forever, enduring in hope in the banquet of eternity, that is, the final gathering of all the ages on God’s holy mountain (Is 25:6; Heb 12:18, 22-24; Mt 22:2-14; Jn 6:51, 54). From this perspective, and all that has been explored, we can say, the horizon of the Eucharist as the sacrament of Christian hope truly opens up in its manifold dimensions.


[1] In terms of Eucharistic hope, this conviction leads Paul to spell out the eschatological significance of being Christian: 1 Cor 11:26; Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10; 2 Cor 5:17; Rom 6: 3-5; 1 Cor 10:11; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 4:1; Eph 4:22; Col 3:9; Rom 8:29; Col 1:18; 1Cor 15:20; Col 3:3-4.

[2] Sacrosanctum Concilium 47, Documents of Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. by Austin Flannery (New York: Costello Publishing; Dublin: Dominican Publications,), 1998.

[3] See Encyclical Letter of John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia: On the Eucharist in its relationship to the Church (EE), (Strathfield, N.S.W: St Pauls’ Publications, 2003), pp. 18-20.

[4] Tony Kelly, The Bread of God: Nurturing a Eucharistic Imagination (Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 2001), p. 83.

[5] See John Zizioulas, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985), pp. 33, 47 and 49.

[6] See Gilbert Ostdiek, "Body of Christ, Blood of Christ," The New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Dermot A. Lane Joseph A. Komonchak, Mary Collins (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1990), p. 141.

[7] Kelly, The Bread of God, p. 82.

[8] See Gabriel Marcel, Homo Viator: Introduction to a Metaphysic of Hope, trans. E. Craufurd (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 60. Hence if there is hope, it will arise not out of empirical evidence that can be tested but out of deep communion.

[9] See John D. Zizioulas, in "The Mystery of the Church in Orthodox Tradition", One in Christ, 24 (1988), p. 299. Cf. also in his book, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985).

[10] Marcel, Homo Viator, p. 152.

[11] See Peter C. Phan, Responses to 101 Questions on Death and Eternal Life (New York/ Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1997), 12-13. Peter C. Phan, "Eschatology and Ecology: The Environment in the End-Time," Dialogue & Alliance 19.2 (1995), pp. 105-106.

[12] See Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics I: Seeing the Form, p. 679.  

[13] François-Xavier Durrwell, The Eucharist: Presence of Christ, trans. S. Attanasio (Denville, N.J.: Dimension Book, 1974), p. 32.

[14] See Anthony Kelly, Eschatology and Hope, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books), 2006, p. 194.

[15] See John D. Zizioulas, Being As Communion, p. 119.

[16] See Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1993), p. 150. Firstly, koinonia signifies the common ownership of the goods necessary for earthly existence. It is a concrete gesture of human charity. Secondly, koinonia designates the union of the faithful with Christ through the Eucharist. It is a means of sharing in the body of Christ. Thirdly, koinonia means the union of the Christians with the triune God. This summary is cited in Horton Davies, Bread of Life and Cup of Joy: Newer Ecumenical Perspectives on the Eucharist (West Broadway, Eugene OR 97401: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999), pp. 123-124.

[17] Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, p. 149.

[18] Kelly, The Bread of God, pp. 70-71.

[19] See Monika K. Hellwig, The Eucharist and the Hunger of the World (Franklin, Wisconsin: Sheed & Ward, 1999), pp. 2, 9-10, 14.

[20] See Anthony Kelly, Eschatology and Hope, p. 204.

[21] See Lumen Gentium 48, Documents of Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. by Austin Flannery, (New York: Costello Publishing; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1998), p. 408.

[22] See Anthony Kelly, Eschatology and Hope, p. 205.

[23] In the Eucharistic hymn, Verbum Supernum, Saint Thomas Aquinas gives a summary of four freedoms, central to Christian life: “By being born he gave us companionship. At Supper, he gave us food. On the Cross he was our ransom. Reigning in glory he gives us reward [eternal life].” Cited in John Moloney, “The Eucharist: Proclamation and Gift of Freedom”, in Eucharist and Freedom, 46th International Eucharistic Congress, Wroclaw, Poland, (May, 1997).

[24] Kelly, The Bread of God, pp. 75-76.

[25] David N. Power, Sacrament: The Language of God's Giving (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1999). p. 281.

[26] See Kelly, Eschatology and Hope, p. 73. See also Dermot A. Lane, Keeping Hope Alive: Stirrings in Christian Theology (New York, Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1996), pp. 68-69.

[27] See David W. Bercot, Editor, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson), p. 351. See also Roch A. Kereszty, Ocist., Wedding Feast of The Lamb: Eucharistic Theology from a Historical, Biblical, and Systematic Perspective (Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2004), p. 95.

[28] See David W. Bercot, Editor, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 251. See also Roch A. Kereszty, Ocist., Wedding Feast of The Lamb: Eucharistic Theology from a Historical, Biblical, and Systematic Perspective, p. 95.

[29] Geoffrey Wainwright, Eucharist and Eschatology, p. 128.

[30] Gustave Martelet, The Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World, trans. Rene Hague (New York: Seabury Press, 1976), p. 187.

[31] See Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon, 272: PL 38, 1246-1248.

[32] EE 20.

[33] See Vatican II Council, Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World 2. See also pars. 38, 39, in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. by Austin Flannery, (New York: Costello Publishing; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1998), pp. 937-938.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 June 2023 19:22