How does the Catechism define “apostolic”? Three reasons, the first two of which we will examine here:
27. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in explaining how the Church is apostolic – founded on the Apostles – sees three meanings in this expression. First, “she was and remains built on ‘the foundation of the Apostles’ (Eph 2:20), the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself”. (CCC 857) The Eucharist too has its foundation in the Apostles, not in the sense that it did not originate in Christ himself, but because it was entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles and has been handed down to us by them and by their successors. It is in continuity with the practice of the Apostles, in obedience to the Lord’s command, that the Church has celebrated the Eucharist down the centuries.
Because Jesus entrusted aspects of his life and ministry to the apostles, and the Eucharist was one of these, the Eucharist is apostolic.
The second aspect is closely tied in with the Catholic traditions of Magisterium and tradition.
The second sense in which the Church is apostolic, as the Catechism points out, is that “with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the ‘good deposit’, the salutary words she has heard from the Apostles”. (CCC 857) Here too the Eucharist is apostolic, for it is celebrated in conformity with the faith of the Apostles. At various times in the two-thousand-year history of the People of the New Covenant, the Church’s Magisterium has more precisely defined her teaching on the Eucharist, including its proper terminology, precisely in order to safeguard the apostolic faith with regard to this sublime mystery. This faith remains unchanged and it is essential for the Church that it remain unchanged.
The difficulty for us is to discern which elements are “of apostolic faith” and do not change, and which elements are given a certain cultural and spiritual attachment and Catholics do not want to change.
Terminology, for example, is based on language. And when language changes, what was once a proper terminology may no longer communicate the Eucharistic reality accurately. The most vital aspect of the Eucharist that we teach and communicate is Christ. As long as Christ is taught and presented to the world, to seekers, and to believers, then we have a continuity with the apostles.