The grand narrative of Scripture points to the Bridegroom and his Bride; namely Jesus and his Church. When man first met woman in Genesis, Adam declared, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” and therefore, “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24). And Paul testifies that this “is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32). For just as the man and woman become “one flesh,” so now Christ and the Church become “one flesh.” How can this be? It is simple: the Eucharist.
Before Jesus instituted the Eucharist as the source and summit of Christian faith at the Last Supper, he prefaced it in John 6 where he said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56). Our flesh partakes in the flesh of Jesus, and we become one flesh with Jesus. This is the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is the union between the Bridegroom and his Bride. This is amazing!
Before I became Catholic in my mid-twenties, although I was a Christian, I did not know what sacraments were and certainly did not esteem the Eucharist, or Communion, as anything other than symbolic. As I journeyed toward the Catholic Church, I started reading what the early Church taught about the Eucharist and was blown away to discover that they took Jesus’ words quite literally. In fact, the Eucharist was central to Christian worship and life. One of the earliest Christian writings we have is by St. Justin Martyr who said, “We do not consume the Eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving” (First Apology in Defense of Christianity, St. Justin, 157 AD, excerpt from Liturgy of the Hours, v. II, p. 694). St. Irenaeus echoes St. Justin’s remarks around the year 180 AD when he said, “[Jesus] declared that the chalice, which comes from his creation, was his blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood. He affirmed that the bread, which comes from his creation, was his body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body. When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the Word of God, the Eucharistic elements become the body and blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow” (St. Irenaeus, Against heresies, 180 AD, excerpt from Liturgy of the Hours, v. II, p. 727). Thus we see that Jesus, the apostles, and their successors taught that the Eucharist was truly the flesh and blood of Jesus. That being the case, the Bride really becomes one flesh with the Bridegroom each time the Holy Eucharist is consumed by the People of God. For as the husband and wife are one all the time by virtue of their being sacramentally joined together in marriage, so we are one with God through the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism. And just as the oneness of the husband and wife culminates and manifests in the act of intercourse, so we manifest our oneness with Christ through partaking in the Eucharist. Christ and his Church are one. As our Lord Jesus taught us, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).
Oh what sweet depth of intimacy we get to have with the Living God! My prayer is that every Christian would come to realize the union between Christ and his Church as celebrated in the Eucharist. Every time you partake in the Eucharist, my son, do not take it for granted, rather ask God to unveil this mystery to you more and more. May you come to cherish this intimate union with your Savior!