EUCHARIST

Flag of Louisiana and Stone carving of a pelican in the Upper Room of Jerusalem

 In the Gospel of John, just after the event of Jesus walking on the water, John writes about “The Bread of Life Discourse” (Jn6:22-71).  Jesus sets His criteria to receive Him as the New Lamb of God. It is a preview to the Last Supper’s miracle and to the new covenant that will be established for all men.

I am the bread of life. Your ancestor ate the manna in the desert, but they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven and whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. The Jews quarreled among themselves saying how can this man give us his flesh to eat? Jesus says to them: Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink his blood you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and me in him. Just as the living father sent me and I have life because of the father so, also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestor who ate and died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” [1]

 Knowing that this discourse was mind blowing to all those around Him who heard, Jesus says; “does this shock you”?[2] Wow! Really? After all the miracles witnessed, He now wants us to do what? Eat his flesh? Many Jews including many of His followers were thoroughly confused after hearing Jesus proclaim this. One can easily surmise that they must have believed Jesus to be crazy – eat His flesh?  “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him. [3]  The apostles were then given the option to believe or doubt; to stay or go as the others had. “Jesus said to the twelve, do you also want to go? Simon Peter answered him, ‘master, to who we shall go? You have the words of external life”. [4] 

The apostles were thoroughly perplexed and confused at the “Bread of Life Discourse” but they… walked in faith with Jesus. Jesus waits until the very end, at His last supper with His twelve chosen successors, to teach and demonstrate His final instructions. It was at this time that Jesus altered the old ritual of Passover, a covenant established by God with Moses that was just for the Jews, and He established a new covenant that all men could receive.  At this supper, Jesus gave the responsibilities and power to the “new elders” of His “new church”. The power to change ordinarily bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Himself. By offering his flesh, blood, soul and divinity in this manner, Jesus established His unconditional fidelity and communion with mankind until the end of time. Three of the four gospel writers have narratives of Jesus demonstrating and providing the Apostles with instructions to carry on the celebration of the “New Passover”:  Mathew 26:26- 30, Mark 14: 22-25 and Luke 22:14-20. I will quote from Luke :

“When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. 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 then 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”.[5]

“If you really want to know who Jesus was and what He was saying and doing, then you need to interpret his words and deeds in their historical content. And that means becoming familiar with not just ancient Christianity but also with ancient Judaism. Over the centuries, most Christians have taken Jesus at his words, believing that the bread and the wine of the Eucharist really do become the body and blood of Christ. Others, however, especially since the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, think that Jesus was speaking only symbolically.  Still others, such as certain modern historians, deny that Jesus could have said such a thing, even though they are recorded in all four Gospels and in the writings of St. Paul. The reasons for disagreement are several. First of all there is the shocking nature of Jesus’ words. How could even the Messiah, command his followers to eat his flesh and drink His blood? When Jesus’ disciples first heard his teachings, they said, ‘this is a hard saying, who can listen to it”?  Jesus’ words were so offensive to their ears that they could barely listen to Him. And indeed, many of them left him and no longer walked with Him. Was he talking about cannibalism-eating the flesh of a human corpse?  As any ancient Jew would have known, the bible absolutely forbids a Jewish person to drink the blood of an animal. Although it was perfectly acceptable part of pagan worship, the Law of Moses prohibited it.” So where is the connection that Christians must eat the flesh and drink of the blood? To answer this we must go back in time to first century AD.

Biblical image – the Israelites on the first march of the exodus

            “When we look at the mystery of the Last Supper through ancient Jewish eyes, in the light of Jewish worships, beliefs and hopes for the future we discover that there is much more in common between ancient Judaism and early Christianity. In the first exodus, God had made a covenant- a sacred family bond-between Himself and the people of Israel. The covenant was sealed with the blood of sacrifice and concluded by a heavenly banquet. “They beheld God, and ate and drank” (Exodus 24:11). The making of the covenant does not end with the death of the sacrificed animal, but with a banquet-a heavenly meal”. Fast forward, “the new covenant will be greater than the covenant made when God brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. According to Jewish tradition, in the new world created by God, the righteous will no longer feast on earthly food and drink, but on the “presence “of God. In the world to come there is no eating or drinking …but the righteous sit with crowns on their heads feasting on the brightness of the divine presence, as it says, “And they beheld God, and did eat and drink (Exod 24:11) (Babylonian Talmud Berakoth 17A).  Again, “any ancient Jew would have known, if there is going to be a new exodus, then it would seem that there would be a new Passover. As the centuries passed, the Jewish people celebrated the memorial of the Passover of Egypt as the foremost of all feasts. Millions of Jews-including Joseph, Mary, Jesus and all his disciples-would go up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover and celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. But at his final Passover, on the night of the Last Supper, Jesus did something strange. During that meal, instead of speaking about the past exodus from Egypt, Jesus talked about His future suffering and death. On that night, instead of explaining the meaning of the flesh of the Passover lamb, Jesus identified the bread and wine of the supper as His own body and commanded the disciple to eat and drink. Why? Jesus was inaugurating the new exodus, which the prophets had foretold and for which the Jewish people had been waiting for. The first –century Passover was first a sacrifice and then a meal.

When Jesus was celebrating the new Passover with Him as the sacrificial lamb, He “commanded for His actions to be repeated. Saying, “Do this in remembrance of me”; Jesus was echoing the command of God to keep the ancient Passover as a “remembrance” forever.  By means of these words, Jesus was commanding His disciples to perpetuate this New Passover sacrifice in the future. In both the Old Testament and the ancient Jewish tradition, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was not completed by its death. It was completed by a meal, by eating the flesh of the lamb that had been slain. Therefore, if Jesus saw Himself as the new lamb, then it makes sense that He would speak of his blood being poured out command the disciples to eat His flesh”[6].

The Eucharist (from the Greek word Eucharistic- meaning thanksgiving) is fully Jesus Christ in his body, blood, soul, and divinity. “This bread and wine becomes body and blood, which are given up for the forgiveness of sins (just as the blood of animal sacrifices was poured out at the foot of the altar to atone for sins in the Old Testament)”. [7]   This miracle occurs through what is called “Transubstantiation”- “the miracle of the Eucharist is that it has the taste, smell, and shape of the wafer but that during the mass, the substance actually becomes Christ’s glorified body which can only been seen through the eyes of faith”(catholic online encyclopedia). As faithful Christians we continue to celebrate the New Passover each and every time we receive the Holy Eucharist. No longer is the old Passover established just for the Jewish people to be a yearly celebration. Today, in His Church established that very night with his chosen Bishops and priests, Christian’s world- wide can participate in the ever-lasting presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. His New Passover is now an everyday event with invitations for “all men” to participate. The benefit of sharing in this Holy Communion is Jesus’ promise to those who participate in His majestic and divine nature by eating his flesh and drinking his blood will have everlasting life. “ The one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever”.[8]

Today, the manner in which we celebrate this new covenant is the same method that his chosen twelve apostles participated in. Instructed by Jesus Christ himself, the Apostles were given the power to change ordinarily bread and wine into the body and blood of the Son of God. 2,021 years later we continue this same mystical transformation. When the Catholic priest celebrates, that is consecrates the “bread and wine”, this is the same celebration that Jesus participated with His apostles at His last supper. Like the many Jews and disciples who heard “The Bread of Life Discourse” and walked away from Jesus as non-believers, there are many non-believers in the 21st century.  All Christians up until the Protestant Revolution in the fifteen century believed in the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ as flesh and blood in the form of bread and wine. Even Marin Luther believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Luther was furious and vexed when his followers rejected this belief. He was indignant that every farmer and milk maid believed they too could interpret the written words of holy scriptures. “Who but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? Or, that it is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoken so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoken as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, it is only bread and wine; or the body and blood of Christ is not present. Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once say, or let slip these words “it is bread only or the body of Christ is not there”, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present, but they are all of them unanimous”.[9]

The Lutheran doctrine of the real presence, known as the “sacramental union”, was formulated in the Augsburg Confession of 1530. Luther decidedly supported this doctrine, publishing The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ-Against the Fanatics in 1526. Saying that “bread and body are two distinct substances”, he declared that “out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a ‘sacramental union.”[10]

 Huldrych Zwingli, a leader of the Switzerland Reformation, who in “1519 became the Leutpriester (people’s priest), spearheaded a vicious attack on the Catholic Church. His writings included attacking “fasting during Lent, use of statues and other images placed in areas of worships. In 1525, he introduced a radical communion liturgy to replace the Mass”.[11]  In 1529 Zwingli openly denies the Real Presence in the Eucharist. He is widely regarded as the first person in Christian history to do so. “The question really becomes, who do you follow on the Real Presence in the Eucharist? Christ or Zwingli?”[12]  Zwingli is known for creating “memorialism”.  Today, many so call “Christians” churches did follow Zwingli’s doctrine while others did not. Present day, there are over 20 thousand Christian churches.  Many churches such as the General Baptists, Anabaptists, Plymouth Brethren, Jehovah Witness, Latter Day Saints, and non-denominations, are in support of Huldrych Zwingli’s proclamation: the breaking of bread and wine is only “symbolic”; it is meant to serve in “his memory” but not to be taken literally or actually. However, these same churches will literally and actually proclaim that everything in the Bible is factual and accurate, except that one small part-the TRANSUBSTRATRATION!

How ironic and sad that is! To combat for this holy sacraments, I have spoken to countless non-Catholics who fiercely argue that priests do not have the power to change bread and wine into the body of Jesus. To defend this query, let us take a look at a few Bible passages:

  • Mathew 10:1Then he summoned his twelve and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness[13].
  • In Matthew 10:8  “He authorize them to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons[14].
  • Luke 24:49I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

By these accounts, Jesus gave his Apostles powers to transform and improve lives. If they had the power to drive out demons and cure the sick, why would they not have the power to change bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Jesus?  Want more proof? Read the Acts of the Apostles.

The power of Transubstantiation that the Apostles had is the same power out current Catholic priests have. It is called Persona Christi: a Latin phrase meaning “in the person of Christ”. The power of God himself is acting through the ordained priest. The priest himself without God is powerless. Jesus is no longer physically on Earth. That is why he gave this power to His successors. Here is another simpler way to look at this. Jesus mission was only three years long and that was over 2021 years ago. After conquering man’s debt of sin, Jesus was reunited with His Father in Heaven. The apostles and the people Jesus encounter had the honor of physically being in his presence; they could hear his words, see him with their eyes and reach out and touch Him and have Jesus touch them back. If Jesus is in Heaven until the end of time, how is Jesus going to continue to be in communion with man for many generations to come?  There is only one way- The Bread of Life Discourse!  It is His gift to us. It is the way Jesus provides for our physical encounter with Him on Earth. Simplicity, Jesus’ powers continues today through His ministerial priesthood.

In 1 Corinthians 10:16 Saint Paul explains: “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?”[15]  So, this really means that as Christians when we receive the Holy Eucharist at Communion we actually and literally participate in the body and blood of Jesus Christ, not just partaking symbols of them. A little further in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, Paul writes: “Therefore whoever eats the bread and 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[16]. To clarify this just a little more I found this: “To answer for the body and blood” of someone meant to be guilty of a crime as serious as homicide. How could eating mere bread and wine “unworthily” be so serious? Paul’s comment makes sense only if the bread and wine became the real body and blood of Christ.”[17]  In the first –century, Saint Paul otherwise known as The Apostle Paul, was himself a Pharisee and an expert in Jewish Law. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says: “Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the feast![18]

            “ In 1916, as a year of preparation for Our Lady’s appearances at Fatima, the Angel of Peace appeared three times to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco. The most dramatic scene is the third visit, when the angel comes with the Eucharist. Suspending the Host and the chalice in the air, he throws himself prostrate on the ground and has the children repeat the following prayer three times:

            Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I offer the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of you the conversion of poor sinners”[19]

            While I am standing in line waiting my turn to receive this Blessed Sacrament, I often wonder what do all the other people standing in line really think about the Eucharist. From the moment of my first communion to right now, I passionately believe that the Host I am about to receive is actually the Body and Blood of Jesus. Do I really?  If so, when I should be reflecting on this powerful and profound mystery, many times my thoughts leave me and begins to wonder around. Then all of a sudden, it is my turn and I am standing in front of the priest who is in “Persona Christi” (Latin for in the person of Christ) hands me the Eucharist, and then I am off to my pew trying to recover my wondering thoughts. Instead of wondering what the Saint’s score is or what is for lunch, I should be reflecting on the Catechism of the Catholic Church that states the “consecrated species of bread and wine, is Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real and, substantial manner”.[20] 

             I know in my heart, that if I utterly understood the power of the Eucharist and who it is that I am receiving, I should be crawling on my knees, dressed in my finest clothes, with a heart of sorrow, asking for forgiveness and mercy. After all, if the Angel of Peace, who is pure in spirit, living in the presence of our Lord and Savior can prostrates himself before the Eucharists, then I should do the same! In her diary, Saint Faustina describes this very topic: “too often people just believe the Host is not a living thing; it’s just bread. “They go up and get something and then back to our seats-back to our daily routines without any real change taking place, without any deeper union with Christ, without any new awareness of His life with us.”[21] Jesus actually complained to Saint Faustina about the complicity towards the Eucharist. “Oh, how painful it is to me that souls so seldom unite themselves to me in Holy Communion. I wait for souls and they are indifferent towards me. I love them tenderly and sincerely and they distrust me. I want to lavish my graces on them and they do not want to accept them. They treat me as a dead object, whereas my heart is full of love and mercy.”[22] In his incredibly young and short life, the visionary Francisco understood the Eucharist. He spent the rest of his life in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, trying to comfort God, for the way people of his time, had indifferent beliefs to the Eucharist.

In February 2019, the Pew Research Center published a survey siting only 31% of Catholics believed in Transubstantiation, while the remaining 69% believe in just a remembrance. If this an accurate account of Catholics polled, it is indeed a sad and disappointing find. However, to be totally honest, the survey does not post the number of Catholics that were polled. In any manner, it is unsettling for the Catholic Church.  Regardless of this poll, I wonder what many of the saints and visionaries  had to say about the Eucharist? Let us take a look:

  • Saint Gertrude the Great: “each time one person receives Holy Communion, something good happens to every being in heaven, on earth and in purgatory”.[23]
  • Saint John Vianney: “A communion well received is worth more money given to the poor.”[24]
  • Saint Teresa of Avila: “ I cannot doubt at all your Real Presence in the Eucharist. You have given me such a lively faith that when I hear others say they wish they had been living when you were on earth, I laugh to myself, for I know that I possess you as truly in the Blessed Sacrament as people did then, and I wonder what more anyone could possibly want’.[25]
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas: “The Holy Eucharist is a Sacrament of love and a token of the greatest love that a God could give us’.[26]
  • Saint Francis of Assisi: “ Every fiber of his heart was kindled into love for the Sacrament of Christ’s Body. He declared that if confronted with an angel and an unworthy priest, he would kiss the hand that had touched the Body of Christ before saluting the angel’.[27]
  • Saint Francis de Sales: “In no action does our Savior show Himself more loving or more tender than in this one, in which, as it were, He annihilates Himself and reduces Himself to food in order to penetrate our souls and unite Himself to the hearts of His faithful ones”.[28]
  • Saint Mary Magdalen de Pazzi: “Oh Lord, You are truly present under the sacramental species as You are in heaven at the right hand of the Father. Because I have and possess this great wonder, I do not long for, want, or desire any other’.[29]
  • St. Padre Pio: “Always remain close to the Catholic Church, because it alone can give you true peace, since it alone possesses Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the true Prince of Peace.”[30]
  • Saint Mother Teresa: “Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration.[31]
  • Saint Ignatius of Antioch: “Regarding heretics, they have abstained from the Eucharist and prayers because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ”.[32]
  • Saint Anthony of Padua:  “We must firmly believe and declare openly that the same body of the Virgin, which was hung on the cross, lay in the tomb, rose on the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father, was given in food to the Apostles, and now, the Church truly consecrates and distributes it to the faithful”[33].
  • The visionary Marija is quoted in the book “Medjugorje-What’s Happening” by James, Mulligan, regarding her view about the Eucharist. Now remember, this is coming from a woman who has been praying, viewing, and conversing with the Blessed Mother of God since 1981: “If I had to choose between the Eucharist and the apparition, I would choose the Eucharist!”

Recently, I just finished reading “Eucharistic Miracles” by Joan Carroll Cruz. I highly recommend this book. As you should surmise, I used her book for this paper. Anyway, Joan Cruz describes true stories regarding miracles of the Eucharist going back as far as the year 258. Some miracles occurred because of non-believing priests while other miracles occurred because someone was disrespecting and/or desecrating the concentrated Eucharist. Saint Cyprian writes in the year 258, “ That one, striving to open the tabernacle in which the body of the Lord was preserved, sees flames issuing forth”. [34] “Other Eucharistic miracles have taken different forms. On many occasions Hosts have bled, or a Host has been transformed into flesh and the Eucharist “wine” into perceptible blood. On other occasions, Hosts have levitated, or preserved for long periods of time’.[35]  In this book, you can even read about several accounts of the Host turning into human heart muscle tissue.

As I finish this topic, I am suddenly reminded of visiting the Last Supper room during my 2019 Honeymoon to Jerusalem. Called the “Upper Room” by the guides,  I was flabbergasted by a small stone carving embedded into a wall way in the back of the Upper Room. Immediately, in my thoughts,  I was brought back to my home, 6872 miles away in Louisiana. What was it about this stone carving that is common to my home state?  The stone carving in the “Upper Room is the same symbol on the Louisiana State flag-a pelican, tearing its breast apart, with blood dripping, sacrificing itself to feed three chicks. Both the flag of Louisiana and the stone in the upper room are Catholic religious evidence in support of the Eucharist. The Body and Blood of Jesus is alive and real in the consecrated Holy Eucharist! No wonder the Angel of Peace prostrated himself before the chalice.

I can assure you, my friends, the next time I am standing in line to receive the Eucharist, I will be keeping my mind from wandering for I will be concentrating on the Real Living Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist!


[1]The New American Bible. Catholic Translation. Catholic Bible Press. Nashville, Tn. 1987.

 John 6: 22-40. pp 1146

[2] Ibid. 6:61 pp. 1147

[3] Ibid. 6:66 pp. 1147

[4] Ibid. 6:67-68 pp. 1147

[5] Luke 22:14-20 Ibid. pp. 1129

[6] Brant Pitre. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. Doubleday. NYNY. 2011Old

[7] Father John Bartunek, the Better Part (Circle Press. Hamden, Ct. 2007). Pp. 304

[8] John 6: 57-58. The New American Bible. Catholic Translation. Catholic Bible Press. Nashville, Tn. 1987.

  pp 1199

[9] Luther’s collection works, Wittenburg Edition, no.7 p.391

[10] Wikipedia 2021. Real Presence of the Eucharist

[11] Wikipedia 2021

[12] Christiancatholic media.com “presence of Christ in the Eucharist

[13] Matthew 10:1 Ibid. pp. 1023

[14] Ibid. 10:8. Pp 1023

[15] 1 Corinthians 10:16 Ibid. pp. 1241

[16] Ibid. 11:27-29. Pp. 1242-1243

[17] www. Catholicanswers.com/blood of christ

[18] I Corinthians 5: 7 National Conferences of Bishops, the New American Bible (Wichita, Kansas: Devore & Sons, 1981) pp.1235

[19] Vinny Flynn. 7 Secrets of the Eucharist. Mercysong. Stockbridge, Ma.2006.pp9-10

[20] Ibid. pp. 15

[21] Ibid. pp.9

[22] Ibid. pp. 15

[23] Pieta Prayer Book. Hickory Corners, MI. 2006. Pp26

[24] Ibid. pp 26

[25] Joan Carroll Cruz. Eucharistic Miracles. Tan Books. Charlotte, NC. 2010. Pp222

[26] Ibid. pp 223

[27] Ibid. pp 223

[28] Ibid pp. 223

[29] Ibid. pp222

[30] Wikipedia. Saints’ Quotes on the Eucharists. 2021

[31] Ibid

[32] Joan Carroll Cruz. Eucharistic Miracles. Tan Books. Charlotte, NC. 2010. Pp xiv

[33] Ibid. pp XV

[34] Ibid. ppxvi

[35] Ibid. pp. xvi

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