What does the word “Eucharist” mean?
December 27, 2020, 12:00 PM
Holy Eucharist is the official name for the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. While we commonly refer to the actual consecrated hosts that we receive in Holy Communion as “the Eucharist,” the term is sometimes applied also to the Mass itself in which the sacrament is celebrated. “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word eucharistein, which literally means “to give thanks.” It is applied to the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament because the celebration and reception of the Eucharist “is an action of thanksgiving to God” (CCC 1328).
The ultimate way to thank God for the amazing love He has poured out on us in Jesus Christ is to receive this love with a grateful receptivity. If you have ever loved someone, you know that the greatest gift is when that love is noticed, received, appreciated, and returned.
This is what we do at every Mass. At every Mass we call to mind how God has blessed us by creating, redeeming, and sanctifying us. That is why the readings at Mass usually start from the Old Testament and then move to the New Testament, giving us a “snapshot” of the big picture of salvation history. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we are the recipients of the culmination of all that God has down for mankind since the beginning of time – making salvation history our own. Recognizing and receiving all of this awesome generosity with thankful hearts is a beautiful act of gratitude to God; hence the word eucharistein, which, again, means “to give thanks.”
The Eucharist can also be seen as an act of thanksgiving offered on our behalf. What God the Father has done for us in Christ is far too great for us to ever repay it. God is infinite; He has no end and no equal. For Him to save us in Christ is an act of infinite generosity, which would require infinite gratitude. But we are finite. How can we offer Him the gratitude He deserves? We cannot. All we can do is “raise the cup of salvation” and offer Him what He has given us as a gift, His only Son. When we join our hearts to the heart of God the Son offering Himself to God the Father in the Eucharist, we are able to offer to the Father the thanks that He deserves.