It is significant that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, duly prepared by our Lord's words, recognized him at table through the simple gesture of the 'breaking of bread'. When minds are enlightened and hearts are enkindled, signs begin to 'speak'. The Eucharist unfolds in a dynamic context of signs containing a rich and luminous message. Through these signs the mystery in some way opens up before the eyes of the believer.
[I]t is important that no dimension of this sacrament should be neglected. We are constantly tempted to reduce the Eucharist to our own dimensions, while in reality it is we who must open ourselves up to the dimensions of the Mystery. 'The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation'.
There is no doubt that the most evident dimension of the Eucharist is that it is a meal. The Eucharist was born, on the evening of Holy Thursday, in the setting of the Passover meal. Being a meal is part of its very structure. 'Take, eat... Then he took a cup and... gave it to them, saying: Drink from it, all of you' (Mt 26:26, 27). As such, it expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with us and which we ourselves must build with one another.
Yet it must not be forgotten that the Eucharistic meal also has a profoundly and primarily sacrificial meaning. In the Eucharist, Christ makes present to us anew the sacrifice offered once for all on Golgotha. Present in the Eucharist as the Risen Lord, he nonetheless bears the marks of his passion, of which every Mass is a 'memorial', as the Liturgy reminds us in the acclamation following the consecration: 'We announce your death, Lord, we proclaim your resurrection...'. At the same time, while the Eucharist makes present what occurred in the past, it also impels us towards the future, when Christ will come again at the end of history. This 'eschatological' aspect makes the Sacrament of the Eucharist an event which draws us into itself and fills our Christian journey with hope.
Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum, 14-15.