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The Eucharist in Scripture

by Marty Barrack
Copyright © 2000 - 2001 Martin K. Barrack. All rights reserved.


The Gospel According to Matthew

"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Mt. 26:26-28)

 

The Old Testament


God Raises His Covenant Children

Jesus introduced the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. It did not exist during the days of the Old Testament. However, our Father in heaven gradually prepared us to receive it. These Old Testament accounts describe pre-figurations of the Holy Eucharist.


Abel

The earliest shadow of the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood was Abel, the younger son of Adam and Eve. Cain murdered the good shepherd Abel. The Lord told Cain, Gn 4:10 "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground." The Book of Hebrews reminds us of, Heb 12:24 "… [Christ's] sprinkled Blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel."


Melchizedek

Melchizedek pre-figured Christ. When Abram returned from his victory over Chedorlaomer, Gn 14:18 "Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High …" to bless Abram, pre-figuring the bread and wine consecrated by a priest at Mass. The Book of Hebrews tells us, Heb 7:2 "[Melchizedek] is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem [shalom], that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever."


Moses

Moses, the first Israelite priest, read the Torah to all of the six hundred thousand Israelite people assembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and threw the blood of sacrificed oxen on the people, saying Ex 24:8 "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you." Jesus said at the Last Supper, Mt 26:28 "This is my blood of the covenant."

Ex 34:29 "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain ... the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God ... he put a veil on his face." Jesus comes to us veiled, under the appearance of bread and wine. We could not stand the superbrilliant light of His full glory compared to our own souls darkened by sin.


The Harvest

In ancient Israel, the Spring harvest consisted of grain or wheat. Bread has long been the symbol of the Spring harvest. The Autumn harvest was mostly grapes and olives. Grape wine and olive oil were symbols of the Autumn harvest. Bread and wine. God commanded, Lv 23:12-13 "You shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the cereal offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil … and the drink offering with it shall be of wine." Priests anoint with oil. Torah unites bread and wine, and the priest, with the sacrifice of the lamb.


Tabernacle Sacrifice

Bread of the Presence

The Bread of the Presence, in the ancient Tabernacle and later in the Temple, 1 Kgs 7:48 prefigured Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

In the Tabernacle God commanded Moses, Ex 25:8 "Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst." In the sanctuary, in the ark of the covenant, God told Moses, Ex 25:22 "There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you..." God added, Ex 25:30 "You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me always." Jesus told us, Mt 28:20 "I am with you always."

Abimelech the priest gave David this sacred bread. 1 Sam 21:6 "So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence." Jesus taught us that it was for all His disciples. Mt 12:1 "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck ears of grain and to eat. ... [Jesus] said to them, 'Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence ... I tell you, something greater than the temple is here."

Jesus showed us what was greater than the Temple. Lk 22:19 "He took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'"


Blood of the Lamb

During Moses' time the priests sacrificed in the Tabernacle, a portable house of God in the wilderness. After Solomon built the First Temple, it became the place of sacrifice. The highest form of Hebrew worship was sacrifice, not prayer alone, just as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest form of Catholic worship. A priest is one who offers sacrifice. The Catholic priest is the counterpart not of the rabbi, but of the ancient Jewish priest who offered bloody sacrifices. The deacon, who reads the Gospel, is the rabbi's counterpart.

The Old Testament sacrifice of a lamb, as opposed to any other animal, was important. The lamb did not resist, run away, or even cry out. Isaiah had foretold that the Lamb of God would do the same, Is 53:7 "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."

The Jewish priests, before sacrificing the lamb, always asked, "Do you love this lamb?" If the family didn't love the lamb there would be no sacrifice. Jesus three times asked Peter, Jn 21:15 "Do you love Me?" Jesus allowed Peter to replace his triple denial with a triple affirmation that he did indeed love the Sacrificed Lamb.

The family would place the lamb into the hands of the priest. When we give something to God we place it in His hands. Jesus' last words on the Cross were, Lk 23:46 "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit!"

The priest and the head of the family then prayed together that God would accept the blood of the innocent lamb for the sins of that family for the entire year, just as the Lamb of God shed His Blood to redeem the sins of all His human family. The Catholic priest says, "Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father."

The head of household then cut the lamb's throat with a sharp bronze knife while the priest caught the lamb's blood in a large bronze bowl. The priest then made seven complete trips around the altar, sprinkling the blood from the lamb on each of the four "horns." Then he took the lamb's body and placed it on the altar and started the ritual fire. With a big fire and a small lamb, the sacrifice was over quickly. The smoke rose from the altar. If the wind blew the smoke away and dispersed it, the priest told the family that its offer was rejected, and that it should repent and come back the following year. But if the smoke drifted upward, higher and higher until it disappeared from view, the priest told the family that God had accepted the sacrifice.

Before the great tabernacle sacrifice, Jewish priests washed their hands in a bronze laver, or basin. Ps 26:6 "I wash my hands in innocence, and go about Thy altar, O Lord." Today the Catholic priest washes his hands saying inaudibly, Ps 51:2 "Lord, wash away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin."

The first priest attended at a great golden lampstand with seven oil lamps, called a menorah. It was dark in the tabernacle, and the menorah gave light.

The second priest attended at the table of showbread. God had commanded Lv 24:5 that the Jewish priests, from Aaron forward, place twelve loaves of bread on a golden table "before the Lord." On each sabbath, the priests ate the bread which had been set in place on the preceding sabbath. This bread was to be eaten by the priests in a sacred place since it was Lv 24:9 "most holy" among the offerings to the Lord. God had said, Ex 23:18 "You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread." During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the Catholic priest consecrates unleavened bread on the altar which becomes Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and is consumed by the royal priesthood as the most holy offering in the New and Everlasting Covenant.

The third priest served at the altar of incense. It looked like a small altar of sacrifice, with the same four horns. On it was a bronze laver. The priest would take a red-hot burning ember from the fire in which the lamb had been sacrificed, put it in the basin, and pour some incense on it, that his prayers might have a fragrant scent and go straight up to God. On solemn occasions Catholics spread incense about the altar as an act of reverence and purification. The smoke rising to heaven represents our own desire to have our prayers ascend heavenward in God's sight. Ps 141:2 "Let my prayer be counted as incense before Thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice."

God told Moses to place the Torah in the Ark of the Covenant, which in turn was placed within a tabernacle. God commanded, Ex 27:20 "You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be set up to burn continually." All was placed within the tabernacle. By night, there was always a fire over the tabernacle, Ex 40:38 This began the idea of an eternal lamp beside the Jewish tabernacle. A thousand years later the Temple lamp miraculously continued to shine for eight days with only one day's supply of oil. Catholics continue this ancient Israelite tradition by placing a lighted candle beside the tabernacle in which the consecrated Hosts repose.

In the center of the tabernacle was a room called the Holy of Holies. Once a year the cohen gadol, the high priest, alone would enter that room. In it was the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the ark were the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, a golden bowl of manna, and the five Torah scrolls. The Torah was a witness against the Israelites, Dt 31:26 but above it all was God's solid gold mercy seat, with a crown and two cherubim kneeling in prayer. Above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim, was a brilliant light, the shining glory of God. Ex 25:22 "From above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you." When the priest saw that light he took a huge cup of blood and sprinkled it until it was empty. Jewish tradition holds that not one drop of the blood of sacrifice ever touched the mercy seat or the cherubim; it all went into the bright light of God's glory. Jesus said, Jn 8:12 "I am the light of the world." Jesus' covenant family gave Him their imperfect sacrifices, and He gave them His perfect sacrifice.


The Todah Sacrifice

The ancient Jews had a special ritual meal called the Todah (Hebrew: thanks) (pronounce: Taw-DAH). Although the Todah sacrificed an animal, it was greater than other animal sacrifices because it added the suffering of one's own life. David wrote, Ps 40:6,8 "Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required. … I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy law is within my heart." Again, David wrote, Ps 51:17 "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit." And again, Ps 69:30 "I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs." Isaiah spoke the words of God, Is 1:11 "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams." God called instead for a baptism: Is 1:16 "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from My eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good."

The seventy elders who went up with Moses to see God offered the Todah: Ex 24:11 "They beheld God, and ate and drank." Twelve centuries later, twelve apostles beheld God, and ate and drank as Jesus prepared to offer His Todah sacrifice: Lk 22:19 "He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it…" From the beginning, Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity has been called Holy Eucharist (Greek: eucharistia, thanksgiving).

The ancient rabbis believed that when the Messiah would come all sacrifices except the Todah would cease, but the Todah would continue for all eternity. In 70 AD the Temple fell to earth and all of the bloody animal sacrifices stopped. Only the Todah remains, the eucharistia, the Final Sacrifice at which the last words spoken are Todah l'Adonai, "Thanks be to God."


Passover

Jesus was pre-figured in the original Passover, when God commanded that Moses tell the Israelites, Ex 12:5-6 "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male … the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening," as Jesus the Lamb of God was crucified in dim light. Mt 27:45 God commanded, Ex 12:8 "They shall eat the flesh that night," and told Moses, Ex 12:12 "I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt." But He promised, Ex 12:13 "The blood shall be a sign for you … when I see the blood, I will pass over you." Most of us know that the original Passover pre-figured the Body and Blood of the crucified Lamb. But there is more to the Passover story.

Pharaoh commanded the death of every Hebrew male infant in Egypt, Ex 1:22 but death passed over Moses. Ex 2:5-10 Twelve centuries later, before Herod commanded the death of every Hebrew male infant in Bethlehem, Mt 2:13 death passed also over Jesus.

The Jewish celebration of Passover has from the beginning been an experience of exile and return, as its participants re-live the experience of the desert and encounter with God. After Jesus was crucified the apostles also experienced a sense of exile in the desert followed by a transforming encounter with God. In this way Jesus is spiritually present in the entire Seder.

The Seder table is different in many ways from the Jewish table setting on all other nights, as the ma nishtano acknowledges. God chose a young Jewish girl, a virgin who lived in Nazareth, to begin the rest of the story. Mary began her own Seder each year as Jews have since time immemorial, by lighting candles to give festive light to the table. Mary also gave us Jesus, the Jn 8:12 light of the world. Jesus has been at every Seder from the first one to this very day, spiritually present in the bread, wine, and lamb.


Bread

Jesus is spiritually present in the bread. It is unleavened, pure as Jesus was pure. It has dark stripes, as His back was striped by Pilate's scourging. It is pierced, as He was pierced on the Cross. Once it was the bread of life for Israel on the desert, as Jesus is the Jn 6:35 Bread of Life for all mankind. During the Seder, the head of the family takes three pieces of unleavened bread, reminding us of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He breaks in half the second piece, suggesting the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity crucified. He then wraps one of these two pieces, called the afikomen (Hebrew: festival procession), a reminder of Jesus' constant call, "Follow Me," in white linen, reminding us of Jesus linen burial cloth, and "buries" or hides it, as Jesus was entombed. Later the youngest at table "resurrects" or finds the afikomen as Jesus rose from the dead. The head of the family then breaks the afikomen and passes it around for all to eat, as Jesus did when He told His apostles, Lk 22:19 "This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." In that way, Jesus through the Seder calls us to follow Him into His death and resurrection, to become a new person in Christ.

The unleavened bread also reminds us of the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt. The dough that they were sunbaking on the hot rocks of the Egyptian fields was removed before it could leaven, and so remained flat. It represents our need to remain ever alert and prepared for the day when God calls us to our destiny as Jesus told us, Mt 25:13 "Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."


Wine

Jesus is spiritually present in the wine. When the afikomen is broken and passed around for all to eat, Jews drink the third of four cups of wine, called the cup of blessing because it represents the blood of the sacrificed paschal lamb. It is the cup that Jesus gave to His apostles, saying, Lk 22:20 "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My Blood." He did not drink the fourth, the Kalah cup, explaining, Mt 26:29 "I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." But later that evening at Gethsemane, Jesus prayed by moonlight, Mt 26:39 "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." After He was captured, Jesus asked Peter, Jn 18:11 "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?" Many Catholics believe that Jesus drank the last cup on the Cross, Jn 19:29 "They put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said, 'It is finished'; and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."


Lamb

Pasch or pesach in Hebrew means "he passed over." The paschal lamb recalls the lamb that was sacrificed that its blood might be daubed on the doorposts of every Jewish home, and its body eaten in every Jewish home, that the angel of death might know it as a household of the faithful and pass over. God had originally commanded Ex 12:6 that the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel kill the paschal lambs. When Solomon built the first Temple, Jewish priests sacrificed the paschal lambs there. But after Jesus ascended to heaven and the second Temple fell never to rise again, the Temple sacrifices could no longer be done, so Jews began to represent the paschal lamb with a lamb's shank bone.

Jesus is spiritually present in the shank bone of the lamb. The Jews in Egypt ate the paschal lamb to be physically redeemed and led to the promised land of Canaan. Catholics for two thousand years have consumed the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, Jn 1:29 that we might be spiritually redeemed and find the promised kingdom of heaven.

In the ancient days, when the Jewish priest had killed the last lamb of the Passover, he uttered the Hebrew word Kalah, "it is finished." Moments before He died on the Cross, Jesus said, Jn 19:30 Kalah (it is finished).


The Exodus

After the Passover, with its pre-figuration of Calvary, the Israelite people began their long exodus from the land of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. God told Moses, Ex 16:4 "I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not." Moses told the Israelites, Ex 16:8 "When the Lord gives you in the evening flesh and in the morning bread to the full…" The "bread from heaven" reminds us of Christ's words, Jn 6:49 "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." The "evening flesh" reminds us of Christ's sacrifice. Mt 27:45, 50 "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. … And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit." The "morning bread" reminds us of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Israelites gathered up the manna, Ex 16:17 "…some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat." This reminds us of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, Mt 15:37 "And they all ate and were satisfied." That miracle pre-figured the Holy Eucharist, from which the smallest piece is a full portion of Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and which can never run out because Jesus said He would be with us until the end of time. Mt 28:20 As long as a priest lives we Christ's flock can have all we want.


Elijah

At a time when the land parched from lack of rain, God sent Elijah the Tishbite to the brook Cherith, that is east of the river Jordan, promising, 1 Kgs 17:4 "You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." So Elijah went. 1 Kgs 17:6 "And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook."

When the brook dried up God sent Elijah to Zarepath, saying, 1 Kgs 17:9 "Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you." Elijah found the widow and asked her, 1 Kgs 17:10 "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." The widow and her son had virtually no food left and were near starvation. 1 Kgs 17:12 "As the Lord lives," she said, "I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a cruse; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."

But Elijah told her, 1 Kgs 17:13 "Fear not; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel, 'The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth." The widow did as Elijah said, and she and her son and Elijah ate for many days. 1 Kgs 17:16 "The jar of meal was not spent, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke by Elijah."

After that, the woman's son became ill and died. Elijah carried the woman's son into the upper room where he had been living and prayed, 1 Kgs 17:21 "Oh Lord my God, let this child's soul come into him again." 1 Kgs 17:22 "And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived."

The food brought by the ravens reminds us of the manna, which itself pre-figured the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. The ravens brought bread, which pre-figured Christ's Holy Eucharist, and meat, which pre-figured His redemptive sacrifice. The water from the brook which kept Elijah alive pre-figured the living water that flowed from Christ's side. At Zarepath, Elijah was again fed by a pre-figure of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. The widow pre-figures our Blessed Mother, who was a widow on the day of Christ's sacrifice. Her son pre-figures Christ, who died and rose from the dead.

In the wilderness Elijah was awakened by an angel's touch. 1 Kgs 19:6 "There was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water." The cake reminds us of the Holy Eucharist. The water, of the water that Jesus turned to wine at Cana Jn 2:9 and then to the Blood of the Covenant in Jerusalem. Mt 26:27 The angel told Elijah, 1 Kgs 19:7 "Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you." Elijah took this food for his forty days' journey to Horeb, the mountain of God. Jesus fasted forty days in the wilderness while He was tempted by the devil. Mt 4:1 Lest temptation be too great for us, we receive the Holy Eucharist, food for our pilgrim journey to Calvary, the new and true mountain of God.

Finally, Elijah 2 Kgs 2:11 "was carried up in a whirlwind into the sky," as Jesus Lk 24:51 "was carried up into heaven."


Elisha

God performed a miracle through the prophet Elisha. 2 Kgs 4:42 "A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, 'Give to the men, that they may eat.' But his servant said, 'How am I to set this before a hundred men?' So he repeated, 'Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’ So he set it before them. And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord."

Elisha's miraculous feeding of a hundred men pre-figured Jesus' Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.


The Psalms

Jews two thousand years ago knew the 150 psalms by heart, as we know songs today. They were not numbered; they were identified by their first words. If the first words, or any words, from a psalm were quoted, a Jew would be able to quote the rest of it.

Jesus cry on the Cross, Mt 22:46 "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," reminded those present that His sacrifice fulfilled prophecy. Psalm 22 begins, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?" The Jews present on Calvary would have recited from memory the prophetic words, Ps 22:17 "I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots."

The Jews present would have recognized Jesus' final words on the Cross as a Psalm quotation, Ps 31:5, "Into Thy hand I commit my spirit," and recited from memory King David's next words, "Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God." They would have continued reciting the psalm until its final words, "Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!"

Psalm 23 contains the Eucharistic prophecy, Ps 23:5 "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies." As we eat what God gives us, we will fear no evil but dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 78 refers to the manna. Ps 78:24 "[God] rained down upon them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven."


Ezekiel

God pre-figured the Holy Eucharist through the prophet Ezekiel. Ez 3:3 "'Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.' Then I ate it; and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey." Jesus often used the title, Son of Man, in Matthew 8:20, 12:32, 13:41, 16:27 and 17:9. God had called Ezekiel to eat a figure of the Word of God made flesh.




The New Testament

The Gospels The Eucharist by Signorelli

The New Testament accounts describe the Holy Eucharist as Jesus gave it to us. The term "bread from heaven" becomes fully clear only when we reach the Revelation to John. The Gospels Christ said at Capernaum. Jn 6:51 "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."

Jewish life is rich in symbolism. The Seder table is filled with symbolic foods. Jesus said, Mt 26:23 "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with Me, will betray Me." He referred to the urhatz, the first washing; slaves eat quickly without stopping to wash their hands, but now Jews wash their hands in a bowl of warm water as a symbol of their freedom. The moror, bitter herbs which remind Jews that the Egyptians made their ancestors' lives bitter with hard labor, are dipped in charoset, a sweet mixture of chopped apples, nuts, and wine, to recall that even hard lives have their sweet moments. The matzo is the bread of haste that the Hebrews ate as they fled from Egypt. The karpas, green vegetables, represent the coming of Spring with its renewal of life, symbolizing the journey from slavery to the promised land; Jews dip them in salt water before eating to recall the tears shed along the way. If Jesus had said the Holy Eucharist was a symbol the Jews at Capernaum would instantly have accepted it.

The Jews knew that He was speaking literally. Jn 6:52 "How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?" On other occasions when our Lord spoke of Himself as a Jn 10:9 "door" or a Jn 15:1 "vine," nobody said, "How can this man be made of wood?" or "How can this man be a plant?" They recognized these as metaphors. But when Jesus insisted, Jn 6:53 "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." The Jews who heard this said, Jn 6:60 "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" They remembered God's command to Noah and all mankind, Gn 9:4 "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." God spoke more forcefully to His chosen people. Lv 17:10 "I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people." It was only after Christ's redemptive sacrifice and the Holy Spirit's enlightenment that the Apostles saw the full meaning of our Father's next words. Lv 17:11 "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life." In the Old Covenant our Father in heaven had commanded His children not to eat the blood of animals because we are not to participate in the life of animals. Animals, having no immortal souls, are lower than man in the order of created nature. However, in the New and Everlasting Covenant we consume the Blood of Christ to participate in Christ's eternal life.

Jesus knew we would need a lot of help to become accustomed to the Holy Eucharist. He performed the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes in the dim light of the original Passover sacrifice Ex 12:6 and of His Crucifixion. Mt 27:45 He performed the four great Eucharistic actions: He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His apostles to feed the people: Mt 14:15 "When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.' Jesus said, 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat.' They said to him, 'We have only five loaves here and two fish.' And he said, 'Bring them here to me.' Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over."

The three Gospel narratives of the Last Supper are absolutely consistent. Matthew: 26:26 "This is My Body." 26:27 "This is My Blood…" Mark: 14:22 "This is My Body." 14:24 "This is My Blood…" Luke: 22:19 "This is My Body." 22:20 "This … is the New Covenant in My Blood." Jesus' next words instituted the Catholic priesthood: Lk 22:19 "Do this in remembrance of Me."

Jesus assured the Apostles that the Holy Eucharist is a reflection of the heavenly banquet. Mt 26:29 "I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

After His resurrection, Jesus walked with two disciples to Emmaus. When they arrived, He celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them; Lk 24:30 "While He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them."


Acts of the Apostles

The apostles celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. Acts 2:46 "Day by day, attending the Temple together and breaking bread in their homes…"

The Apostles were visibly religious Jews. They wore the kippah (prayer hat), the tallit (prayer shawl with fringes) and the tephillin (phylacteries). Long after Jesus ascended to the Father, Peter protested that he had never in his life eaten anything unkosher. Acts 10:14 When these Jewish Apostles remembered Christ's command, Lk 22:19 "Do this in remembrance of Me," they added it to their synagogue worship. They began with synagogue prayer and Scripture readings, and then went to their homes to celebrate the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. To this very day, the Introductory Rite and Liturgy of the Word come directly from Jewish synagogue worship. The Liturgy of the Eucharist comes directly from the Apostles' breaking bread in their homes.

At Troas, Paul spoke all night, but he made sure to receive the Holy Eucharist. Acts 20:7 "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight." Acts 20:11 "And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed."

On the Adriatic Sea, at dawn, Paul celebrated Mass for 276 people. Acts 27:35 "...he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves."


The Epistles

Acts 20:11 "When Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten…" St. Paul explained clearly what "breaking bread" meant. 1 Cor 10:16 "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?" St. Paul continued, 1 Cor 11:27 "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord." St. Paul in these words confirmed Catholic teaching that the "bread … of the Lord" is truly Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and that the "cup of the Lord" is the same substance: "Whoever … eats the bread or drinks the cup … will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord."

St. Paul added, 1 Cor 11:29 "For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the Body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." If we receive the Holy Eucharist without acknowledging, at least in our hearts, that it is His true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, we send ourselves to hell.


The Revelation to John

In the beginning God had said of marriage, Gen 2:24 "Therefore a man … cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." Jesus assured us, Jn 6:56 "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." God prepared us first through natural marriage and then through the Holy Eucharist for the supernatural marriage to come at the end of time, Rev 20:7 "For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride [the Church] has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed in … the righteous deeds of the saints." The Holy Eucharist, through which Christ abides in us and we in Him, will be our wedding feast. Rev 19:9 "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."


Where to Find More

Most of this article consists of brief excerpts from Marty Barrack's new book, Second Exodus, woven together to highlight the Holy Eucharist in Scripture. See Marty's web site at http://www.secondexodus.com. Second Exodus is available from the Association of Hebrew Catholics' Miriam Press at (888) 462-9414 or from Remnant of Israel at (888) 352-7153.

Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, Copyright © 1946, 1952, 1971 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission.


Other Related Articles on Scripture

  EWTN: The Eucharist - has several articles on the Eucharist in Scripture
  The Roman Theological Forum
"...an association of scholars working with other interested persons for the advancement of theology and philosophy within the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. It addresses contemporary questions of theology and philosophy, beginning from a Thomist point of view, and it is promoting with special attention a neo-Patristic approach to the interpretation of Sacred Scripture."
  Spirituality of Sacred Scripture - Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The expression, "Spirituality of Sacred Scripture," can have many meanings. It will be useful in this article to examine some of these meanings, and then concentrate on the one meaning in which we use this term in the present volume.
  The New Testament: In Medio Ecclesiae - Thomas Storck (Catholic Faith)
In this article I intend to show from the text of the New Testament, especially from the Acts of the Apostles, that invaluable history of the Church in the early Apostolic era, that the text of the New Testament must always be viewed in medio ecclesiae, in the midst of the Church, something of, by and for the Church, a book that cannot be understood apart from the Church and which can never rightly be separated from the Church, let alone made into a judge of the Church.
   
  Eucharistic Apologetics
          Catholic Answers Tracts: Christ in the Eucharist - answers fundamentalist's attacks on the Eucharist that it is merely figurative
   




The painting of "The Eucharist" is by Luca d'Egido di Ventura de' Signorelli





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