Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

THE ORIGINS OF THE EUCHARIST

The Letters of Paul, written between the year 40 and the year 60 speak of the tradition of the celebration of the Eucharist originating in the words and actions of Jesus at his Last Supper which were passed on to him and which he in turn passed on to the communities he established.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke recount the meal Jesus shared with his disciples the night before he died in which he associated the actions and words of that meal with his death on the cross on the following day. The Eucharist celebrates and represents this same mystery throughout the ages of the Church. John’s account of the Last Supper has a different emphasis but Chapter 6 of his gospel contains an extended reflection on the meaning of the Bread of Life which is deeply Eucharistic.

The Acts of the Apostles also shows that the Eucharist (at first called ‘the Breaking of Bread’) was one of the cornerstones of Christian life and identity from earliest times. While the first context for the Eucharist was an actual meal, Paul’s Letters show that, even by the mid-first century, the Eucharistic meal was separating from an ordinary meal.

Christianity grew from Jewish roots, and the development of the Eucharist was influenced by Jewish prayer and practice, especially the offering of praise and thanks to God and the liturgical understanding that when the great events of salvation are celebrated ritually, for example at Passover, their power and reality are extended into the present and are immediately available to each person.

The New Testament texts as well as being based in Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper were influenced by the words and actions of the first Christian communities as they celebrated the ritual that Jesus gave to his own on the night before his death.

The basic shape of the Eucharist is established in these early texts: bread and wine are taken, thanks and praise are offered to God over them, the bread is broken and the bread and wine received by all. All experience the presence of Christ with them as they eat and drink the Body and Blood of the Lord.

The basic meaning of the Eucharist is also established in the texts of the scripture: the Eucharist proclaims and makes present through the ages the mystery of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

1 How would you describe the connection between Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper and his Death on the following day? Why do we say that the Eucharist ‘proclaim[s] the death of the Lord until he comes’ (1Cor 11:26)?

3 Why might Jesus have chosen bread and wine as the way in which he remains present to his church throughout history?

2 Imagine and describe a celebration of the ‘Breaking of the Bread’ before the year 50.

4 ‘The Eucharist makes the Church; the Church makes the Eucharist’ (H. de Lubac). What does this saying tell us about the relationship between the Church and the Eucharist? Could one exist without the other?

1 comment:

Christian LeBlanc said...

Re bread and wine, I'd say the main reason is to align Jesus' priesthood with Melchizedek's. But it also reminds us that we don't continue to kill a Lamb which was killed once; but we do continue to offer it.