Holy Hour Reflection: Eucharist - The Action of Our Sunday Worship
by Diocese of Des Moines | March 22, 2021
Many of us can recall immediately the story of the Last Supper. Each of the Gospels of the New Testament includes it. But the Gospel stories are not the oldest Tradition of the Eucharist. The oldest text we have on the Eucharist comes to us through St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. "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 memory 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. (1 Cor. 11:23-26)" I want to highlight St. Paul’s hope-filled vision for the Eucharist. It is the last line - every time you eat his body and drink his blood, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
The Eucharist we participate in is an action. It is something we do - eat and drink the body and blood of the Lord. The Eucharist is first an action of Jesus himself - the shedding of his blood in order to redeem us from our sins. It is his sacrifice that restored our relationship with God the Father.
By the command of Christ the Eucharist is also an action of the Church. In the “Do this in memory of me”, the priest celebrant leads us in this sacred meal. The priest stands as the person of Christ (St. Thomas Aquinas used the phrase in persona Christi capitis) who is the head of the Church. Through Christ, his sacrifice is offered once again to God. We join ourselves to that Sacrifice in prayer and worship.
The Last Supper was a celebration of the Jewish Passover. The Passover supper was an annual celebration of our ancestors in which they not only remembered but participated in the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The meal was eaten in the context of telling of the story of how God saved his people and made a covenant with them. The covenant was sealed with the blood of the Lamb which our ancestors painted on their doors, and then the flesh of the lamb was eaten as part of the meal.
At the Last Supper, Jesus established the new covenant sealed in his blood. He told his disciples to take and eat - take and drink. The eating and the drinking meant that they entered into this covenant with God.
From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have gathered to hear the Word of God and to share in the body and blood of the Lord in imitation of our ancestors and in response to Jesus’ command. Therefore, the eating and drinking of the Eucharist is a response to the telling of the saving acts of God in the history of his people and in our lives today. For the stories told of our ancestors are our stories as well. Again, it is not just a remembering but a reenactment of God’s salvation.
There is another story from the Gospel of Luke which is an example of what I mean. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, two disciples were walking to the town of Emmaus. Their journey was filled with disappointment and anxiety. They were joined by another man, who, seeing their anxiety, proceeded to tell them how Jesus’ death was God fulfilling his promise of salvation. Upon arriving at an inn in the evening, they invited their new companion to join them. When he broke bread with them, they recognized him as Jesus. They immediately returned to Jerusalem and shared their faith in the resurrection with the disciples (Cf. Luke 24:13-35).
- When have I experienced “the saving acts of God” in my own life, personally and intimately?
- Do I recognize the Eucharist as something dynamic and not static, an action of Jesus and the Church, through which the Pascal Mystery is made present to me at each Mass?
- For our Church, that we may faithfully offer our prayers and worship to God, who makes present again his saving action in the Holy Mass, we pray…
- That we may always recall and proclaim God’s saving actions, throughout history and in our own lives, we pray…
- That like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we too might meet Jesus in the Eucharist, and immediately go out and share the good news with others, we pray…
This reflection is a portion of “Do This in Memory of Me”, a pastoral letter written by Bishop Emeritus Joseph Charron, C.PP.S., of the Diocese of Des Moines, in celebration of the Year of the Eucharist, 2004.