The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-18)
St. Paul’s writings indicate that the sacramental life of the early Church was focused around initiation through baptism (as we discussed last week), and the celebration of the Eucharist.
Paul makes very clear to the Corinthians what he believes the Eucharistic celebration to be – our sharing in Christ himself. Through the consecration of, and sharing in the bread and wine at the altar, we become one with Jesus who offered himself as a sacrifice.
Yet the Eucharist unites us not only with Christ, but with each other. “We who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” When we gather around the altar to celebrate the Mass, we become one body in Christ; through the very act of gathering for worship, through listening to the Word, through prayer, and especially through sharing in the Eucharist.
The altar is the focus of our Eucharistic celebration. Through the sacrifice celebrated upon it, we become the Body and Blood of Christ. We say “Amen” not just to Christ present in consecrated bread and wine, but “Amen” also to Christ present within each one of us.
The altar on which the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present under sacramental signs is also the table of the Lord to which the People of God is called together to participate in the Mass, as well as the centre of the thanksgiving that is accomplished through the Eucharist… The altar, moreover, should be in the place where it is truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 296, 299)