The Holy Eucharist

(Luke 22:15-20) He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God. Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise, the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”

In the above passage, Luke writes about the Last Supper. It’s obviously significantly important because all the gospels speak of the Last Supper. During the Last Supper, Christ breaks the bread and tells the apostles that it is His body. He tells them to take it and eat it. He gives them the cup of wine and tells them it is His blood and to drink it. A key phrase in all of this is, “do this in memory of me.” He commanded His apostles, and they obeyed the commandment as seen here:

(Acts 20:7) On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight.

The first day of the week in both the Julian calendar (which was used then) and the Gregorian calendar (used today) is Sunday. The Jerusalem community chose this day in order to relate it to the resurrection of Christ. The verse shows that the liturgy of the Eucharist has been in practice since the Last Supper.

We believe Christ when He says the bread is His body and the wine is His blood. The apostles believed it as well. All Catholics have believed it since the conception of the church.

(John 6:55-56) For my flesh is true food , and my blood is true drink . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

The bread and wine are really God’s flesh and blood? That’s absurd!

tran-sub-stan-ti-a-tion n.

  1. Conversion of one substance into another.
  2. In many Christian churches, the doctrine holding that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, although their appearances remain the same.

While the bread and wine maintain the appearance of bread and wine, it actually becomes the flesh and blood of God. Jesus lost many followers when He revealed this mystery. But is it really so absurd? God is spirit (John 4:24) and substance. Does the flesh and blood of God need to appear as human flesh and blood to be so? Still, to this day, many have trouble believing that Jesus was one being of flesh and spirit. So, it’s understandably hard to believe that bread and wine can become a living part of God. However, the object of His flesh is not what matters. What matters is that He can become one with it, and when He does, it ceases being bread and wine and becomes the living flesh and blood of God. These things are hard to accept. We are finite and natural creatures. It’s difficult to understand God’s eternal nature when all we know is the limited and physical universe. But if that’s all we allow ourselves to know, then it is all we’ll ever understand.

(John 6:60-63) Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life while the flesh is of no avail.

“It is the spirit that gives life while the flesh is of no avail.” This one sentence is a profound philosophical statement. In Philosophy, objects are defined by substance and accidentals. The substance is the essence and nature of the object, while the accidentals are the physical aspects of the object such as smell, taste, weight, color, etc. In Transubstantiation, the substance changes, but the accidentals remain the same. This is why the bread remains bread, and the wine remains wine. However, the essence of both has become the body and blood of the Risen Christ.

(1 Corinthians 2:12-14) We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms. Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him, it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it because it is judged spiritually.

Where in the Bible do the Apostles teach Holy Communion?

(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

In the above passage, Paul is writing to the Corinthians and reminds them of what Holy Communion is. He says, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…” This means what he learned from Christ, he has taught them. Again he speaks of Holy Communion in the next passage showing his belief that the bread and wine are Christ’s body and blood.

(1 Corinthians 10:15-16) I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. The cup of blessing that we bless is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

He uses “we” when he writes, showing that he practices Holy Communion as well as the others.

The Bible also shows that “gathering to break bread” was also practiced in the first Christian churches. The church of Jerusalem:

(Acts 2:42) They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

In the church of Corinth, Paul chastises them for using Holy Communion as their own supper instead of a sacrament, thus not leaving enough for everyone:

(1 Corinthians 11:20-22) When you meet in one place, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk. Do you not have houses in which you can eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed? What can I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this matter I do not praise you.

(1 Corinthians 11:33-34) Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that your meetings may not result in judgment.

Why is Holy Communion sometimes referred to as the New Passover?
Notice there is more than one cup in Luke’s passage at the top of this thread. There’s a cup before and after he breaks the bread. This is because they’re eating the Passover meal. In Jewish tradition, there are a total of four cups which are part of the ritual. The first is typically consumed in the morning to start the Passover celebration. The first cup in Luke’s passage is actually the second Passover cup. After the bread is broken, the third cup, called the cup of blessing, is consumed. Notice two things about Luke’s passage that are important. One, there is no sacrificial lamb at the table, and two, they never drink the fourth and final cup to end the Passover celebration. This is because, as the prophecies state, Jesus is the sacrificial lamb and Jesus implements a New Passover, which is Holy Communion. The final wine is not consumed until He has been sacrificed.

(John 19:28-30) After this, aware that everything was now finished so that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Jesus drinks the final wine while he’s up on the cross and then says, “It is finished” and dies. This completes the New Passover, where he has sacrificed himself for us. This new Passover is celebrated in Holy Communion.

Why may only Catholics participate in the Eucharist?
This is because, to participate in the Eucharist, you must believe what Jesus and the Apostles taught; that the bread is truly his flesh and the wine is truly his blood. The verses below attest to that. However, it’ not just for Catholics. There are other Christian faiths that believe in transubstantiation and may join in Communion even in a Catholic church.

(1 Corinthians 11:27) Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.

(1 Corinthians 11:29) For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.