Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders at the Last Supper with His Apostles
By Dr Okoth Josue
I would like to discuss and interest Christians in reading about the mystery of the Eucharist as the New and Everlasting Covenant. The first Christians designated it, breaking of bread, thanks giving which is what the Eucharist means.
The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer (Acts 2:42-47). Jesus, the bread that came down from Heaven, calls us together to receive Him and share Him with one another. He said in Jn 6:57 “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever”.
The Eucharist is for many who form one body. It is a Sacrament of unity. Jesus said it is the memorial of His love (Lk 22:19). St. Paul said, “Because there is one bread we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1Cor 10: 16-17). We call it Holy Communion because we unite ourselves to Christ who makes us sharers in his body and blood to form a single body. “Communion of Saints” in the Apostles’’ Creed means the same thing. The bread and wine consecrated by a priest is not symbolic of the body and blood of Jesus. St. Paul quoting Jesus said, “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’ (1Cor 11: 25-26).
Many of us have difficulties in accepting the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. One day a child making his First Communion asked Pope Benedict XVI, “My catechist, preparing me for the day of my First Communion told me that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. I do not see him”.
The Pope replied: “Yes, we do not see, but there are many things we do not see that exist and are essential. For example, we do not see our reason. We do not see our intelligence and we have it. We do not see our Soul and yet it exists and we see its effects because we can speak, think, decide…Nor do we see for example, electricity and yet we see its effects. Things that sustain life and the world we do not see, but we feel their effects. And even the risen Lord we do not see with our eyes, but we see that wherever Jesus is, people change, improve…We do not see the Lord himself but we see the effects and in this way we can understand that Jesus is present. Let us go to meet this invisible but strong God that helps us to live well….What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders at the Last Supper with His Apostles. He celebrated the dinner as a Passover feast to show His role as the Christian victim of the New Passover. The new law confers on a man the power of consecration and offering the body and blood of Christ.
Earlier, Jesus had talked a lot about his body which will be sacrificed so that mankind can have eternal life. At some stage Jesus had become very popular among the Jews who were following him because of miracles and food. But when he began telling them that “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35) they began to grumble (Jn 6:41) and asking “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph….? Jesus told them to stop grumbling among themselves and emphasized, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life” (Jn 10:47). “Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ He answered them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink (Jn 10: 53;56). Even when the followers deserted him, he never softened on his statement. However, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31-32).
Jesus knows we are weak and so in Jn 4:48, he said, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will not believe”. Many Eucharistic miraculous have taken place over the years and many are not recorded. Individual Christians have given testimonies of what happened to them during Eucharistic Adoration or when they receive Eucharist. At every Catholic Mass following the command of Jesus, a priest raises the host and repeats Jesus’ words, “Take this, all of you, and eat it: This is my body, which will be given up for you”. Then he lifts the cup and says, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant….” Upon these words, Jesus comes on the bread and wine. Throughout the history of the Church, Jesus has proved beyond doubt that he is truly present in the Consecrated bread and wine by a priest.
In A.D. 700 a Basilian monk who had doubt about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was saying Mass in St. Legontia Church in Lanciano, Italy. When he raised up the host and said those words of Jesus, the host miraculously changed into physical flesh and wine into physical blood. The flesh and blood from the host was kept until November 1970 when the Church decided to examine them scientifically. The study was carried out by Dr. Edoardo Linoli , a professor of anatomy and pathological histology assisted by Dr. Ruggero Bertelli, a retired professor of human anatomy at the University of Siena. The scientists found the “flesh was unequivocally cardiac tissue and the blood was type AB”. They published the findings in a
scientific journal. In 1973, the World Health Organization (WHO) appointed a Scientific Commission to verify Dr. Linoli’s findings. The WHO Commission confirmed what was published in Italy and also published its findings in New York and Geneva in 1976.
In June 2000, on the feast of Pentecost, Bishop Claudo Gatti was celebrating Holy Mass when Eucharistic miracle happened. The Bishop said, “As soon as I finished to say the wording of the Consecration of the bread, blood began to come out from my host….” In India, at Vilakkannoor Church, Kannur, Kerala in November 15, 2013, Fr. Thomas Pathickal was saying Mass. When he said words of consecration, this time it was the face of Jesus that appeared on the host.
In 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass in Argentina at Buenos Aires when Eucharistic miracle took place. He placed a discarded host in a container of water and put it in the tabernacle. The following day he found the host had turned into a bloody substance. This host was kept for over three years in water before subjecting it to scientific examination by scientists from New York. The investigators were not told the source of the specimen.
Dr. Frederic Zugiba who led the investigation testified that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. It was a fragment of the heart muscle containing a large number of white blood cells … indicating that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken since white blood cells die outside a living organism.
The scientists were shocked when they were later told that the analyzed sample came from a consecrated host (white, unleavened bread) that had mysteriously turned into bloody human flesh. The scientists said, “How and why a consecrated host would change its character and become a living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science…”
Because of the great significance of the Eucharist in our lives, St. Paul warns those who receive it. “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…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1Cor 11:27-29).
Writer is a concerned Christian