Christ gave us three beautiful sacraments of initiation into himself, namely, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The early Church Fathers were well aware of the relationship between Baptism and Eucharist, seeing in the latter a more complete incorporation into the death and resurrection of Christ. As Pope John Paul II has written, “The Eucharist is indelibly marked by the event of the Lord's passion and death, of which it is not only a reminder but the sacramental re-presentation.” The pierced side of Christ was a reminder of these two sacraments of initiation, with the water being a symbol of Baptism and the blood, a sign of our redemption in Christ. Baptism raises us “to the dignity of the royal priesthood,” Confirmation configures us more closely to Christ, and the Eucharist gives us the great privilege of participating in the “Lord’s own sacrifice.”
I. The Eucharist: Source and Summit of Ecclesial Life
The Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood at the Last Supper:
in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”
The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and an anticipation of eternal glory. The sacrifice of the cross is eternal and applies to all men until the Second Coming of the Lord.
The Eucharist is a pure offering, a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. It is a gift from the Father for he handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself and it is the free love offering of his life by the Son through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience. The bread became Christ’s Body, when at the Last Supper he said, “This is my body which is given up for you. Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22: 19). By consuming the Eucharist in the divine liturgy, the once for all sacrifice of Christ, symbolized by the broken bread, we enter into communion and form one body in him. “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10: 17). The Holy Eucharist is as St. Augustine wrote, sacramentum unitatis ecclesiae and when we receive his Body, we are nourished and strengthened “by a divine, ineffable bond are united with each other and with the Divine Head of the whole Body.” St. John Chrysostom explains:
For what is the bread? It is the body of Christ. And what do those who receive it become? The Body of Christ – not many bodies but one body. For as bread is completely one, though made of up many grains of wheat, and these, albeit unseen, remain nonetheless present, in such a way that their difference is not apparent since they have been made a perfect whole, so too are we mutually joined to one another and together united with Christ.
When the words of Christ are spoken by the priest during the Holy Mass along with the epiclesis, the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. The whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained therein. “This presence is called ‘real’ not to exclude the idea that the others (e.g., Christ’s presence in the bishops) are ‘real’ too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and entire, God and man.” The mode of Christ’s presence is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” The Holy Eucharist is the “Sacrament of sacraments’ to which all the others are ordered “as to their end.”
 CCC, 2643 and 614.
 Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 19. St. Cyprian also referred to the Eucharist as “the sacrament of unity” in his great work ecclesiae catholicae unitate, 6-7 according to Enrico Mazza, The Celebration of the Eucharist: The Origin of the Rite and the Development of its Interpretation (Collegeville: Liturgical press, 1999), p. 131.
 In Epistolam I ad Corinthios Homiliae, 24, 2: PG 61, 200 quoted in EE, 23.
 Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, 39. Hereafter cited as MF.
 CCC, 1374.
 CCC, 1211.
 Fulton J. Sheen, These are the Sacraments, New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962, online version at http://www.ewtn.com/library/DOCTRINE/SACRAMEN.TXT.
 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia Eucharista, 11. Hereafter cited as EE.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church (Rome: Vatican, 2nd Edition, 1997), 1322. Hereafter cited as CCC.
 Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47. Hereafter cited as SC.
 CCC, 1402.