Institution of the Eucharist
The three Synoptic Gospels have chronicled that Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper (Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; Lk 22:7-20). It was the traditional Passover feast for the Jews but for Jesus and the Apostles, it was a unique Passover celebration of the New Covenant. Instead of the usual Paschal Lamb, as prescribed in the Book of Exodus (Cf. Ex 12:1-51), Jesus shared the Bread and the cup of wine signifying His Body and Blood as the Paschal Lamb of the New Covenant, which would be sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins of the humankind (Cf. Mt 26:28).
While celebrating this new Paschal meal, Jesus gave an explicit command to the Apostles: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19). This command of Jesus calls for our attention pointing out two important truths:
- “Do this” – Jesus has given power to the Apostles and their successors in the Priesthood to celebrate the Eucharist, by consecrating the Bread and wine to be transformed into His Body and Blood and to distribute the same to the believers. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1Cor 11:26).
- “in remembrance of me” – Jesus has willed that this celebration should be a memorial of His redeeming love, and of His true, real and substantial presence in our midst.
The Most Holy Eucharist, in so far as it contains Christ Himself, our Pasch and the Living Bread that gives life to us, can be glorified as the most exalted Sacrament. The other Sacraments are tied together with the Eucharist and directed towards it. The presence of Jesus, the Son of God in the Eucharist bestows strength and blessings on us. Therefore, let us acknowledge with a grateful heart the gift of Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist (Cf. Vatican II, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, #5).
“This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).
May the Bread of Life be our solace, comfort and strength.
Fr. Arul Joseph V.