What is Catholicism

The Meaning of the Eucharist

4 Minute Read - By Amber Zolc

As a little girl, when I prepared for my First Holy Communion I learned that Jesus was present in the bread and wine. But for many years, I would go to mass and go through the motions Sunday after Sunday, seemingly disconnected from what I was doing. 

Encountering Jesus seemed like a quick action I did at Mass, and then moved on with my life. 

But in my late teens, I experienced Jesus present with us in a way I had never understood before. 

At the time I was a university student and attending a conference. On the second night of the conference, we were having a time of worship singing together. Shortly after this time began things took a turn. I found myself following the crowd to kneel down, not sure what else to do but follow. The evening's tone quickly changed as the familiar modern songs gave way to Latin. There was incense and an ornate gold object placed on the altar. 

I looked around to see what others were doing so I could blend in. As I watched the people around me, I saw something in their face—love and adoration. 

I started to think about what was happening before me. People had tears flowing while others looked tremendously joyful. I recall thinking to myself, people are reacting as if Jesus was really here in the room with us. As I gazed up at the altar that passing thought became a deeply realized truth. 

Somewhere in the recesses of my memory, I remembered being taught about Jesus being present in this sacrament, but I’d never recognized it. That night, as I looked at the Eucharist, displayed on the altar I experienced it. In the midst of the crowded room, I felt as if it were only Jesus and me.

I felt like Jesus was looking right at me, no one else. Like He knew me so deeply with all my flaws and imperfections. There was a vulnerability in feeling so exposed, yet also a deep peace in knowing I was perfectly loved.  

When I saw in the faces of the other students gathered at the conference, they showed me a reality that I hadn’t had in my Sunday experience. They knew Jesus like he was standing in front of them. Like He was really present in their midst—Emmanuel, which means God with us.

I was captivated that night by the wonder and the beauty of this sacrament. 

As Catholics, we believe that Jesus becomes truly present in the ordinary signs of bread and wine. He comes to us in a way we can see Him, taste Him and touch Him.

It’s the physical reminder that He is standing right next to us, whenever we need. 

I remember receiving a phone call from my mom on a Friday evening. My dad had been rushed to the hospital; he was in a coma and the doctors didn’t think he’d make it to the morning. I wanted to be with my family but they were in Saskatchewan while I was here in BC. All of the emotions came flooding over me and I didn’t know what to do. That night, I found myself hopping in my car and heading directly to the adoration chapel. I just wanted to be comforted by His presence. Jesus with me in the midst of the sorrow and the grief. I encountered such peace that night being close to Jesus. 

I find myself running to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in moments of joy too.

When my fiancé proposed I found myself sharing the good news with family and friends, but I also went to share with Jesus. It was nice to hear the messages of loved ones in this season, but I wanted to hear Jesus' words to me in the midst of it all. That day as I sat in the adoration chapel sharing with Jesus my dreams about the future. After some time I paused for a moment and I asked Him what he wanted to speak to me in this season. In the quiet, I heard a simple message, “Amber, the love that your fiancé has for you is only a fraction of the love I have for you.” 

The Eucharist for me means Emmanuel. I know often in my day to day life it is easy to forget that God is with us. More often it feels like He is distant or far away. Emmanuel—this title for Jesus reminds me that He is here with us in our everyday ordinary life, and in ways our human senses can encounter Him. I am so grateful that I can run to Him and draw close to Him in this amazing way.

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