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Explaining the Eucharist

The Eucharist is one of the seven sacraments in the Catholic church. As part of the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus Christ is contained, offered and received under the appearances of bread and wine.

Catholics believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and that the bread and wine are not just symbolic or a figure of Christ. Catholics believe the bread and wine changes from wheat and grape into the body and blood of Christ, a change referred to as transubstantiation.

The Eucharist was instituted at the Last Supper, the night before Jesus' crucifixion. The Biblical story of the Last Supper provides the basis for the Eucharist, which is often referred to as Communion.

When Christ first instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, which was attended by His disciples, including one who Christ predicted would ultimately betray Him, He took the bread, blessed and broke it before instructing His apostles to eat it and know that it is His body. He then did the same with the wine, which he told His apostles was His own blood that was being shed so sinners could be forgiven.

Today, young Catholics receive the Eucharist at what is commonly referred to as their First Communion or First Holy Communion. It is a festive day and one to be celebrated when a family member receives the Eucharist for the first time. Many families celebrate with parties where guests dress in formal attire. This dress code extends to the recipients of First Communion as well. Female recipients often wear a white dress with a veil to symbolize purity, while boys where white or blue suits, depending on the country where they live.

It is tradition to give First Communion recipients religious gifts, including rosaries or prayer books. Some recipients are even given a crucifix to remind them of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for them and the significance of the Eucharist they just received.