Archbishop's Message

EUCHARIST AS THE SACRAMENT OF SACRAMENTS

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

As part of our Archdiocesan Eucharistic Synod, we are invited this month to reflect on the centrality of the sacrament of Eucharist in relation to all the other sacraments of our Catholic Church.

As we know, the Holy Eucharist holds a central place in the sacramentality of the Church and thus in the sacramental life of every Catholic Christian. Catholic tradition has always held the Eucharist as the First Sacrament. St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (Volume III, No.63,6) rightly describes the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as the ‘end and consummation of all the sacraments’. And he explains this primacy of the Eucharist in two perspectives:

i) Christ is the first sacrament and all the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church are ways of encounter with the sacramentality of Christ. The sacraments of the Church aim to elevate each of us to the salvific experience of Christ’s mediation. This sacramentality of Christ and the salvific experience, which forms the foundation of all the sacraments, permanently abides in the Holy Eucharist. Thus, the Holy Eucharist renders the sacramentality of Christ accessible to us permanently in our Holy Tabernacles. This is to say that the author of the sanctity of all sacraments permanently abides in the Eucharist and thus has ordained the Blessed Sacrament as the greatest of all sacraments.

ii) The sanctifying function of all the other sacraments of the Church ultimately leads us to Holy Eucharist. Therefore St. Thomas claims that ‘divine worship principally consists in the Eucharist’.

Let us consider the inter-relationship between the Holy Eucharist and all the other sacraments of our Catholic Church.

1. Through Baptism, we become members of the Body of Christ. Baptism is the door through which we enter the communion of the Eucharistic body of the Christ and the Church.

2. Confirmation perfects us as members of the ‘royal priesthood’ and ‘the holy people’. The Holy Spirit that is endowed on us in the sacrament of confirmation affirms ‘the priestly nature’ of every baptized Christian and thus enables us to contribute to the consecration of the Holy Eucharist in the Holy Mass through the celebration of our common priesthood

3. The primordial purpose of the Sacrament of the Holy Orders is to ensure the continuation of the sanctifying and vivifying presence of the Christ. This purpose is most efficiently fulfilled in the priestly function of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

4. The Sacrament of Reconciliation prepares a penitent to receive the Holy Eucharist in a worthy manner. The Church has for centuries insisted that our genuine love for the Eucharist leads to a growing appreciation of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Early Church fathers insist that the outcome of the process of conversion is also the restoration of full ecclesial communion, expressed in a return to the Eucharist.

5. Matrimony is a sacrament that prepares the spouses to enter a mutual union with the Church of Christ. Eucharist signifies the sacredness of the corporeal dimension of love in marriage. In the theology of Saint Paul, conjugal love is a sacramental sign of Christ’s love for his Church, a love culminating in the Cross, the expression of his ‘marriage’ with humanity and at the same time the origin and heart of the Eucharist.

Anointing of the sick, has historically been understood chiefly as the food for the way (viaticum). The Holy Communion administered during the sacrament becomes both a source of healing and a preparation for eternal life. Thus, the sacrament of extremeunction brings into effect the communion that the Holy Eucharist signifies.

Dear brothers and sisters, the objective of these reflections on the centrality of Eucharist is not to rank or grade the sacraments in order of their importance or significance. This is only to show their interrelatedness. Every sacrament that we preside or celebrate leads us to the Holy Eucharist.

The celebration of sacraments in our communities, becomes efficient and fruitful when their connectedness with the Holy Eucharist is acknowledged and understood. I would therefore insist that every sacramental celebration in our parishes should aim specially to orient the faithful to a deeper communion with the Blessed Sacrament. Thus, our parishes can evolve into sanctified communities centered on the Eucharist.

May the Blessed Mother, whom God chose to be the first ever Tabernacle, intercede for us that the sacramentality of our discipleship be firmly rooted in the Holy Eucharist.

With prayerful wishes,

 

Most Rev. George Antonysamy

Archbishop of Madras - Mylapore