Church Celebrates Most Holy Body And Blood Of Christ

Was the Last Supper a Passover Meal?

It would seem so, though the essential elements of the meal (lamb, bitter herbs and sauce) never figure in the narrative. What appears is just the unleavened bread and a cup of wine, probably the third ‘cup of blessings’.

There’s a reason for this: Jesus is less concerned with celebrating the rite of the Passover, and more concerned with celebrating his own “passing from this life to the Father.”

St Paul realised this when he wrote, “Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed for us.”

The disciples, according to Jesus’s instructions, find a room fully furnished on the upper floor of a house in the city. They make their preparations there.

In the course of the meal, Jesus takes a piece of unleavened bread, blesses it and shares it with his disciples, saying: “This is my body”. The sense of these words means ‘This is me’, and it can be taken either literally or metaphorically. The Catholic tradition has always seen these words as applying really to the bread, and changing its substance into the body of the Lord.

Similarly, Jesus takes a cup of wine and says, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant…” The allusion here is to the sacrificial blood of the Sinai covenant, and the meaning of blood as the life of the victim. Here Jesus is the victim, and through his sacrificial death, life will come to a great number without restriction. The word “many” is a Hebrew way of saying “for all”.

The Eucharist therefore is interpreted as food (bread and wine) which brings new life to all men and women. “To eat my flesh and drink my blood” means to receive the living Jesus into one’s heart, to act as he does, to listen to his word, to be transformed by his presence.

Lastly, there is a dimension of hope to which the Eucharist points. Jesus himself says that he will not drink the wine again “until I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” Much of the symbolism of the Eucharist is bound up with that of the Messianic Banquet at the end of time, where God invites all without restriction to share in his bountiful meal. The Eucharist therefore anticipates a time of abundance and prosperity, of justice and equity for all, of absence of sorrow and heartbreak, and the satisfaction of all our hungers.

What the ‘body and blood’ of the Lord anticipate today, will be ours forever at the end of time.

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