We spoke in the previous text about starting a series based around the Eucharist and this second post will continue the discussion. The aim is to speak of the species of the Meal and what it is called, and what names we know it as. We will examine how this bread and wine appear ordinary, but actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. We will also briefly look at the Jewish roots of this new feast. At the end of this blog post we should be able to understand why it is bread, and why it is wine, and not any other elements.
The bread is called the Body of Christ, for it represents physically its ability to be broken, and it is made of wheat. The action of harvesting wheat requires the plant to suffer many processes before it can even be consumed and once it is made into a dough, it also suffers again. Today, we can buy bread at any store and it comes in packages already sliced and ready for consumption. However, the bread did not always exist in such a convenient form. Anyone who has been involved with the making of bread know a lot goes into the process. Firstly it is made of wheat, and while the plant grows it must suffer. Some species are required to season through a winter before harvest, and then it is cut down, sifted, and exposed to a high temperature to remove moisture and be a dried kernel. Thousands of the tiny seeds are then pressed and ground to meal producing flour. After it is flour the product must become bread, and once all the ingredients have been gathered and measured the dough is kneaded and pressed. After that it is formed and must go into the fire of the oven to bake.
In this same way the Body of our Lord was broken, and it suffered, and then He died upon the Cross. Since the body and the bread are likened to one another it would be sufficient to clarify that particular bread which Christ used. In the historical setting we read, “Then he took a loaf of bread. . .” (Luke 22:19a). This loaf of bread is of a particular kind, for all these men were sitting down to an important Hebrew meal called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which occurred at the end of the Passover festival. In the book of Exodus we read about the institution of the Passover Meal, and we recall this about the bread, “you shall eat unleavened bread,” (Ex 12:18). Therefore the only bread at the table of the last meal is one kind: unleavened. This is not the Bread of an ordinary kind, which is cut then served with jam. This is not what we have for Eucharist. This bread is formed and shaped and out of one loaf or ball of dough without any yeast and many thousands of tiny wafer crackers are made. The important thing to stress is that while it is a wafer, it was part of the greater whole and is itself not a singular identity apart from the greater loaf. This is why the word bread is at the same time singular, and a slice is called “slice of bread,” and not a whole new bit of bread.
With the Eucharist each wafer does contain the whole Jesus. It is important to understand that for our Lord being infinite, He cannot be diminished in the many bits of bread eaten all over the world. Each part becomes Jesus in body, blood, soul and in his divinity. We know this because we read, “. . . broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘this is my body given for you. . .’” (Luke 22:19b). This whole bread was broken into many pieces and given, and while given away every bite sized piece was the complete Jesus. It was not as if Jesus took a loaf of bread, declared it his body, broke it and then passed it saying, “Here Peter this is my head. John this is my heart. Judas this is my foot.” Jesus consecrated it into his body and therefore at the altar during the Mass, the wafers are all consecrated as his body and the Catholic approaches the Priest they will receive the whole Jesus, even if they only partake of the bread and not the wine.
Which leads into the next point; the wine drank is the Blood of Christ. Just like the bread, each sip a person takes of the blood is the entire Jesus. Again we know this when we read, “take this and divide it among you,” (Luke 22:17b). Therefore, even though the wine was divided it was always the entire body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ the Son of God. This then becomes the confusing part. For does that mean that when a person takes the bread, which is the whole Jesus, and then takes the wine, also the whole Jesus? Does this mean they took double the Jesus? The answer to that is a no, and it is a reasonable no. For in logic we would think that having a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine are two different things, and that consuming them both would be two things in our stomachs. So it is with the physical parts of the Eucharist. We do take a bit of bread and a swallow of wine, but they are the same Jesus. Once again being infinite God he cannot be diminished. He does not divide himself between wine and bread, for he cannot. The Christ is fully God and we know this when we read, “One God . . . who is over all and through all and in all,” (Ephesians 4:6). When our God is in something and is in something else, He is in all of it, and in all things fully, without diminishment. For if Jesus was partly in the Blood, and partly in the Bread, this would mean that he can be divided and cannot be infinite in all things.
It is of important note that wine is used very specifically, and not ordinary grape juice. When wine is made from grapes there is a lot of stuff that has to happen to the fruit. To begin with the product is killed, removed not only from the vine, but also from the bunch. It then undergoes the Gethsemane of the wine press where the juice is forced out. Then the juice suffers the heat of the day, and since there was no true refrigeration in the time of Christ, it did not take long for the juice to ferment, and become the joyous product called wine. We read in the book of Leviticus that it is wine that is to be offered to God by command (Lev 23:13). In the Old Testament there are certainly a lot of Commands that the Christian is not bound to obey, however, there is no need to reject it out right that wine meant something special to God.
The first offering Abraham receives is from a man called Melchizedek in which bread and wine is offered. Since the Scriptures themselves make a lot of parallels between Jesus and Melchizedek there is also no reason to be surprised Christ offers wine at the last supper. The final meal and tradition given to us from our Lord is bread and wine, and the very first Miracle done by him is turning water into wine. This has to stand out to those who believe that grape juice can somehow be the equivalent of wine. Of interesting note, when we read Moses we find that he talks of the blood of the grape (Deuteronomy 32:14). There are many more objections that can arise from this argument, and since there is no need to squabble over the finest of details, we can instead look directly at what the Church has done these last couple of millennia and establish from her, that wine and bread are the only elements of the Eucharist that can be called the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the same way no one would baptize a new believer in coffee, so too should we eat Bread and Wine and not Twinkies and Milk.