Terms for the Eucharist

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Thank you for your helpful blogging. In a prior post (https://paulturner.org/exposition-and-adoration-2/) you noted the liturgical books use specific terms for the Eucharist, and that they do not use the term “Our Lord” for the Eucharist in the monstrance. These are interesting distinctions. It would be good to learn more about them and what they mean. Could you share more about the (clearly intentional) use of terms like “Body of Christ”, “Blessed Sacrament”, “Most Holy Eucharist”, “Lord’s Body/Blood”, “Lamb of God”, “host”, etc., and the non-use of seemingly related terms?  The prior post also mentioned that “the sacrament is localized, whereas the Lord is not.” This makes sense, but it would be great to hear more (e.g., where, then, is the Lord?).

During this Eucharistic Revival such clarifications may help us grow in our sense of sacramentality and hence in our liturgical participation. If there is any reading you suggest for further study, that would be great as well. Thank you.


A: These are my reflections on the terminology I see in the various liturgical books.

Eucharist: The word means “thanksgiving” and it refers to the holy communion that we share at Mass. In adjectival form, it is used for “eucharistic prayer” because this prayer of thanksgiving effects the consecration and opens the door to holy communion. We also speak of the liturgy of the Eucharist as the second half of the Mass, and sometimes the Mass is called (by synecdoche) “the Eucharist.” 

Holy Communion: This refers to the act of receiving the consecrated bread and wine. Whereas “Eucharist” generally refers to something directly related to the Mass, Holy Communion may be administered outside of Mass. That is why we more properly speak of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, rather than Eucharistic Ministers. They function both within and without the Mass.

Real Presence: This is our belief that Christ is truly present in certain forms. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal speaks of four ways that Christ is really present at Mass: in the assembly, in the minister, in the Word, “and indeed substantially and uninterruptedly in the Eucharistic species” (27).

Blessed Sacrament: This is how we refer to the hosts reserved in the tabernacle. They were once consecrated during a celebration of the Eucharist, but they remain after other hosts were consumed in holy communion. All these hosts offer the faithful the real presence of Christ, but when referring to the contents of the tabernacle or a monstrance at exposition, it is more appropriate to call such hosts the “Blessed Sacrament”, not “holy communion.”

Eucharistic Adoration: Even though adoration takes place apart from Mass, it most appropriately follows Mass so that a host consecrated in the celebration of the Eucharist is put on display in a monstrance immediately after communion and is available for the adoration of the faithful after the prayer after communion.

Jesus Christ: Whereas the gospels speak about “Jesus”, the prayers in the liturgy refer to him as “Jesus Christ” or perhaps “Jesus our Lord.” In distributing communion, the minister says, “The Body of Christ,” not “The Body of Jesus.” This makes a distinction between the historical body of Jesus of Nazareth and the glorified body of Jesus after the resurrection. When we receive communion, we receive the risen Jesus. When you bite the host, you are not biting skin or inflicting pain. You eat and drink the Body and Blood of the risen Lord.

Our Lord: All three Persons of the Trinity are properly addressed as “Lord”, so it’s important to know which one is the object of our prayer. The liturgical books refer to the hosts in the tabernacle as the “Blessed Sacrament,” rather than “Our Lord.” Some people refer to the tabernacle hosts as “our Lord”, but more precisely they are the Sacrament of our Lord, the Blessed Sacrament in which our Lord is truly present. When we pray to our Lord, we are not praying to consecrated hosts, but to the God who becomes present to us in this mysterious way.