The Eucharist: The Decisive Victory

Author: Fr Mieczysław Piotrowski S.Chr.

The human heart is a battleground. It is the site of a perennial struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, life and death. On the one hand, we desire eternal happiness; on the other, we fall prey to temptations that present sin in such a glamorous light as to persuade us that it is the source of our happiness rather than our worst tragedy.

Evil is merciless in its power and insistence, revealing itself as a tempting proposition of illusory good and freedom. Unaided, none of us is proof against the attacks of evil spirits.

At times it may seem to us that the forces of darkness have the upper hand, that evil is more powerful than the good, that Satan is lord of the world, that wickedness triumphs, despite our prayers. The general moral decline only further strengthens the antipathy to all things godly. None of Christ’s followers can avoid struggle with the forces of evil. None of us can avoid these forces or escape the battlefield. The way to heaven engages us in a constant struggle with Satan, who is the genius of lies and master of the insidious art of enslaving human hearts.

But the Book of Revelation gives us a supremely consoling piece of news. Satan and his angels have already lost the decisive battle. By His passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ has once and for all defeated the devil, hell, and death; and our Savior invites all men and women to partake in His victory. To this end Jesus instituted the Eucharist. Thanks to the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, we can constantly participate in the greatest event in human history: the death and resurrection of Christ, which is the definitive victory over Satan, sin, and death. Though we are locked in a constant struggle with the powers of darkness, yet thanks to Christ, who in the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist makes ever present His final victory over Satan, we can in our personal battle with the forces of evil overcome the diabolic temptations. We can raise ourselves from the greatest sins, break the chains of every form of enslavement, and heal wounds that humanly speaking are incurable.

Questioning the Eucharist

Christ’s listeners were shocked on being told that only those who ate His body and drank His blood could have eternal life (Jn 6:54). Scandalized by these words, they disputed with one another: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52). For many of the listeners Christ’s teaching of the Eucharist was intolerable: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (Jn 6:60). As a result, many disciples became disenchanted, stopped believing in Jesus, and left Him (Jn 6:66). It was at that moment, upon hearing Jesus’ teaching about the Eucharist, that betrayal was born in the heart of Judas. Christ Himself tells us this: “‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him” (Jn 6:64).
Having imparted His teaching of the Eucharist, Jesus was aware that His disciples murmured against Him. Hence He asked rhetorically: “Do you take offense at this?” (Jn 6:61). And He proceeded to tell them of the mystery of the glorification of His humanity through His passion, death, and resurrection. What happened to the body of Jesus after His death and resurrection?

The tragedy of sin and death

The inevitability of suffering and death is a fact of supreme moment to every human being. “Death is terrible,” writes St. Faustina in her Diary (321). Death’s horror enables us to experience the tragic consequences of original sin and every one our personal sins. It brings home to us the gravity of rejecting God and His mercy.

The struggle for eternal salvation began at the dawn of human existence. From the account of the original sin we learn that Satan succeeded in persuading the first human beings that happiness and freedom were achievable by disobeying God and breaking their first covenant with Him. By submitting to Satan’s temptation, man gave himself over to the forces of evil and fell into the bondage of sin (Jn 8:34) and death (Gen. 5:12). Thus death entered the world because of the hatred of the devil and those who belong to him (Wis. 2:24). After the original sin, Adam and Eve, i.e. all of humanity— created by God as a community forming a single spiritual organism)—found itself under the power of Satan. Unaided, man was unable to free himself from enslavement to falsehood, sin and death, since sin prevented him from knowing the truth about himself and recognizing his sinfulness. This was the necessary condition of reconciliation with God, who blotted away all sins and freed souls from the power of Satan.

The drama of salvation and the Eucharist,

God the Creator, who forms a perfect community in the love of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, responded to the rebellion and hatred of man with a love that knew no limits.

To free man from his enslavement to sin and death, the second Person of the Holy Trinity became a real mortal man, with a soul and body, a human intellect and will, so that through death He might conquer the lord of death, who is the devil. During His life on earth Jesus Christ waged a triumphant battle with the forces of evil and so brought salvation to all of humanity.

In this dramatic battle with Satan for man’s salvation, the Redeemer used but one weapon—love united with truth. By becoming a real man, Christ entered into the reality of sin and death, into which all of humanity had descended. Jesus responded to the indifference, scorn, and hatred of Satan and sinners with a loving mercy taken to its utmost limits. The Man-God assumed the sins of us all. Bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows, He was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” (Is. 53:4-6). It is precisely because the Nazarene was the Son of God, one with the Father, that He was able to take upon Himself the sins of all those who had existed since the creation of the world and would exist to the day of the Parousia. Since He was both man and the Divine Person of the Word, Jesus was able by His suffering and love to encompass the full extent of evil’s destructive power. He united with every sufferer so as to turn suffering into the means of maturing in love.

Christ’s passion and the aggression of the forces of evil reached their climax in the agony and death on the cross. Jesus died in appalling torments, which He expressed in His cry to the Father, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:43). Though He was Himself without sin, yet with the heart of the Man-God, He tasted the terrible pain that is sin, whose fruit is the hell of utter desolation, the experience of God’s absence, and the horror of death.

The extent of Christ’s suffering and agonizing death on the cross reveals the appalling truth about sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor: 5:21). Christ unmasked the primeval lie that sin brought happiness and freedom: “You will not die,” Satan had said in the Garden. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

In suffering the full horror of sin at the moment of death, Jesus died for every human being. The utterly innocent, sinless Jesus “became sin itself.” He took upon Himself the faults of us all that He might save all humankind. Thus the drama of suffering, sin, and death was brought into the reality of the Holy Trinity.

Throughout this ordeal of suffering owing to sin, the Son’s love of the Father never wavered; it remained as constant as it had since time out of mind. It was not God, then, who underwent a change but humanity itself. Jesus offered Himself to the Father by suffering and dying for all sinners: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). This total self-giving of the Son to the Father was reciprocated by the self-giving and love of the Father. By the power of the mutual love of the Father and the Son, that is to say, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ slain and mangled humanity, which had become sin itself, since it had taken upon itself all the sins of men, received the gift of resurrected life. Jesus rose again in a glorified, divinized body no longer subject to death. Thus, by the power of the love of the Father and Son, which is to say, by the power of the Holy Spirit, all evil stood conquered and all sins forgiven. Satan and his hellish kingdom were definitively defeated.

The death and resurrection of Christ reveal the infinite mercy of God. As Jesus tells St. Faustina, “My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or angel, will fathom it throughout all eternity” (Diary, 699). In taking upon Himself the sins of all men, by suffering agony and death Himself, God in His infinite Mercy took to His heart the fate of every man and woman so as to heal with His merciful love the most painful wounds, submerge the deepest springs of evil, and forgive all sins. “My daughter, set this down! Say that the greater the misery of a soul, the greater her right to My mercy; urge all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of My mercy, because I want to save them all. On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls – no one have I excluded!” (Diary, 1182).

In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus enabled all people to partake in the drama of salvation and thus participate in His passion, death, and resurrection. As Blessed John Paul II observes in his encyclical on the Eucharist: “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and ‘the work of our redemption is carried out.’ This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11).

When we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, we receive the eternal life and love of God Himself and thus enter into the life of the Holy Trinity. “The saving efficacy of the sacrifice—stresses John Paul II—is fully realized when the Lord’s body and blood are received in communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion; we receive the very One who offered himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the Cross and his blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Mt. 26:28) (EE, 16).

The Eucharist is the Risen Jesus Himself—Jesus in His glorified, invisible humanity. Here is the essence of His teaching about this sacrament when He spoke to His disciples (Jn 6: 62-63). In His death and resurrection, Christ’s humanity took on a new divine mode of existence: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). The Risen Jesus became all present In His glorified body. In the Eucharist, Christ bestows upon us His very self, sharing with us His risen life and love, that we may even here on earth experience the reality of heaven.

“O Jesus, concealed in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, my only love and mercy, I commend to You all the needs of my body and soul. You can help me, because You are Mercy itself. In You lies all my hope” (Diary, 1751).

previous   |   next Back

Copyright © Wydawnictwo Agape Sp. z o.o. ul. Panny Marii 4, 60-962 Poznań, tel./ fax: 61/ 852 32 82 | tel. 61/ 647 26 86