Having launched our holiday season with the celebration of our Thanksgiving meal this yesterday, we remember too our sacred act of “breaking bread” that we share at our Eucharistic table each week.

The word Eucharist in Ancient Greek means the ACTION of giving thanks to God. So, our Eucharist is not only a noun, but even more so is a VERB. Our weekly prayer of the Eucharist is like a soufflé that we create together; it builds and builds as we pray our sacred ancient prayer and then consummates in the sharing of communion (common union).

When Jesus says, “This is my Body, this is my Blood” it is like He is saying to us “I’m all in” not unlike when we say, “I’m in this, body and soul.” Each week at Mass Jesus is saying to us “I wish to give you ALL of me.” We are invited each week to our altar table (our “thanksgiving” table if you will) because Jesus wishes to be so close to us so as to become food for us; to be nourishment for us – to become part of our very selves. What a beautiful, profound mystery we live. 

As we know, Eucharist is our defining sacrament as Catholic Christians. St. Augustine defined a sacrament as a “visible sign of invisible grace.” We understand grace as God’s self-communication. God is always trying to communicate with us, to reveal to us the great mystery from which we are born, and live and continue to have our being through this gift of grace.

Traditionally we are taught that there are seven sacraments, namely Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage and Holy Orders. But, unlike our modern understanding of numbers, ancient people often used numbers symbolically to represent other qualities. For example, four is the number for earth and three is the number for heaven (there are four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. There are three Persons in God). When we join earth and heaven, the material and the spiritual, the created and the divine, four and three, we have “all that is.” And so, seven means universal, completeness, totality. When we say there are seven sacraments in this religious sense, we are saying that all created things are windows to the divine.

This is all to say we aren’t limited to these “big seven” sacraments. We swim in God’s grace like a fish in water. God is with us and in us all the time, wishing to communicate and reveal to us the great mystery that God is. Our “sacramental principle” as Catholics states that virtually everything (EVERYTHING) is potentially revelatory of God if we are paying attention; the kiss your child gave you this morning, the card you received from a long-lost friend, our favorite song on the radio, the sunrise – these are God’s little love notes to us, visible signs of invisible grace. A sacrament in the broadest sense is “any person, event, or thing through which we encounter God’s presence in a new or deeper way.” THE seven sacraments are highly focused action, words, rituals that help us to pay attention to that grace of God that is with us all the time.

The word Liturgy in Greek means “public work” – any work undertaken in the service of the general populace. The word Mass comes from the Latin word, missa, meaning to be “sent out.” So, if we put this altogether, in a very real way, we, the church, the People of God, are to be the sacrament of grace to the world, giving thanks to God (Eucharisting) always and everywhere.

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