In the first blog we enumerated the goals of this series, by beginning with what the Eucharist is. The goal is not easily answered only in that first blog, so in the second blog We aimed to define what it is, and where these ideas come from. Despite these two blogs there still is not enough written text to begin to describe why the Church professes this as the Source and Summit of Christian Life. Therefore in this blog will we look at how Jesus himself instituted this feast, and why it is to be perpetuated by the Church until the Lord comes again.
Catholic life should revolve around the Eucharist. Simply put it is the very height of worship, and fountain head of life for every believer. To lay this down in finality if anyone but reads this, the Catholic Church does not worship the species of the Meal, and in no way teaches followers to bow their heads to this as if it were an idol. This Meal is made possible because the bread and wine, through the act of consecration become Jesus Christ. By consuming these elements Christ dwells intimately inside of us. There is no other means by which we can have life in us, unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, because his body is real food and his blood is real drink (John 6:55). It was all made possible one night in an upper room, where he was around his twelve chosen apostles, sitting at table after the Passover meal is consumed, during which point in the week it also was the feast of Unleavened Bread.
Exodus chapter twelve begins to explain the institution of the Passover. This is important to understand, because Jesus, who we know is God, performs the first transubstantiation in front of his twelve, it is necessary that we have a background on the revealed source before we can reasonably explain the Institution of the Eucharist. Looking back at this feast institution is key as God began a special dedicated meal for the Jews, now Christ is about to start a dedicated meal for Christians. “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever.” (Exodus 12:14) Evidence of this verse alone shows this feast is not simply a one-time affair, but will be an event to be done in perpetuity.
In the same way the Communion Meal becomes an often repeated feast. Jesus declares us to “do this in remembrance of me.”(Luke 22:19). This would not be a feast like in the Old Testament that would be once a year, but “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread. . .” (Acts 20:7) It would be consumed every first day of the week, but not simply then Christians would eat it also every day, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts’ (Acts 2: ) Which certainly implies that the first Christians were not worried that repeating the feast frequently would cause it to have less meaning. This feast had more meaning with each consumption. Here a daily feast did not become worshipped, but was a feast worshipping the one who instituted it.
Of the Sacraments being instituted by Christ, the Eucharist holds a very special place. It is the one that Jesus commands us to repeat in remembrance of him. He does not institute water baptism with the intent for believers to be re-baptized, nor for Marriage to be repeated, as in divorce and remarriage except in death of the spouse, but here in this special feast of His body and blood are we to eat of it daily. Same goes with the rite of Reconciliation, all the other sacrements instituted by Christ do not share in one specific quality. Which is the type of language that He uses which is purely sacrificial in tone. In reading the intonation “this is my body, this is my blood…do this in remembrance of me,” we find no hint that believers re-crucify or re-sacrifice Jesus Christ. Instead it is the very same meal offered at Mass that occurred on the night he was betrayed. This is expressly taught by the Catholic Church.
“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted then Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind if filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” (Sancrosanctum Concillium paragraph 47).
This text comes from Vatican 2, a council of the Church in the 1960’s, proclaiming and affirming the Apostolic Tradition has believed from the beginning. This is not a new revelation, but instead an old teaching spoken in our modern era. For we can read the same teaching from the early Church Fathers which commonly hold this to be true, that bread and wine was offered to be the sacrifice performed in an oath in the community of the Church. Justin Martyr who wrote a letter to a pagan dictator declared that the Church met on the day of the sun, to eat consecrated bread and wine (St. Justin Martyr Apology 1, 65-67, CCC 1345). Here our historical Church clearly points out what has always been believed, namely that Christ is always present in the Eucharist, as it is not a new Sacrifice, but the same unbloodied sacrifice.
This is made possible because Jesus having offered himself once and for all is eternal, and is always present in our lives. That being God he is not just capable, but is in the very substance, is the substance, of the bread and the wine. There on the blessed Table, he is fully present in the species of bread and wine. Just as when the Word says, “Where two or three of you are gathered in my name, I am in your midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20).
Jesus does not lay down a mere symbol of his body and blood, for the Greek text in reading it sets anyone straight. The original language of Matthew 26:26, and even Mark 14:22 says, “touto estin to soma mou,” and Paul’s in 1 Corinthians (11:24) reads a little differently, “touto mou estin to soma.” In English they both read “this is my body,” and the major verb here is ‘estin’ is equivalently “is” and can mean “is really,” or possibly “is figuratively.” The usual translation of the text we find the word “is” and just like in English it is taken literally in the Greek to mean “This is my body,” not “this is figuratively my body.” Through a reading of the texts one cannot at any time conclude anything other than Jesus, and Paul are literally saying the bread is the body of Christ.
Thus far we have discussed a lot of information to get to this point, and in doing so examined much of the evidence to support the completely Biblical doctrine of the Eucharist. The next blog will focus on the some of the typology used to further the point that this is the belief of the early believers. We will even learn how it was that the Apostles read the Scriptures, how the Church Fathers read it, and even how Jesus Christ himself read it.