The Eucharist’s Relation to the Cross

Christ offered Himself once for all on the Cross. He said, “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30). The Eucharist does not repeat this sacrifice, but re-presents it to the Father. The sacrifice that was accomplished on Calvary is offered again in each Mass. It can be offered now only because “it is finished,” perfected, “a perfect offering.”

“In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which He gave up for us on the Cross, the very blood which He ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ ” (Mt 26:28; CCC 1365). We know this is true because Christ said so:
“This is my body which is given for you,” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:19-20).

The Eucharist is not merely an image or symbol of Christ’s sacrifice; it is Christ’s sacrifice. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same [Christ] now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the Cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘ . . . in the Mass, the same Christ who offered Himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner . . . ” (CCC 1367)

Christ on the Cross of Calvary 2000 years ago and Christ on the altar of your local Catholic church today are the same person. The Christ we meet today in the Mass is the Christ of history, for He is “Jesus Christ; the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). Christ is not divided by time.

Christ is also not divided by space or limited by matter. “Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species [consecrated bread and wine] and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ” (CCC 1377).

The practical consequence of this fact is that we can and should have the same attitude to the Eucharist that we would have to Christ Himself if He were visibly present as He was to His Apostles: the same attitude we would have had if we were standing under the Cross as He was offering His life blood for our salvation.