The Biblical roots of the Eucharist
It is our faith that in the Eucharist bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ, Transubstantiation. (to be touched on tomorrow).
In reflecting on salvation history, the Church sees a foreshadowing of this outpouring of divine love in the offering of bread and wine by the priest Melchizedek; noted in the Book of Genesis 14:18. In addition to the unleavened bread of the Passover celebration commemorating the Exodus, God’s gift of manna in the desert, and the cup of blessing of the Passover meal prefigure the Eucharist.
Jesus himself established the Sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper in the context of the Jewish feast of Passover. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, 11:23-26, gives us an accurate account of what took place,
For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn pass it on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he too the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, …
For some Catholics, these words might be too familiar. Some of us have heard these words hundreds, or maybe thousands of times since our childhood repeated at every Mass. We might be tempted to take them for granted or consider them routine. But what if we have never heard them before? What if we were Peter or James or one of the other Apostles present at the Last Supper? What would these words have meant to them? Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a memorial of his death and resurrection and he commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return in glory and has been celebrated since those Apostolic days.
The Church has been faithful to his mandate from its first days, breaking bread on Sunday to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. The Church will never cease doing so until our Lord comes again in the fullness of time.
Fr James Ralston