This weekend is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, June 7. It is an occasion in which we highlight in a special way, God’s presence among us in the form of the Eucharist. In preparation for this awesome Solemnity, I have composed a series of three blogs about the Eucharist. My hope is to transmit more than anything else a single and simple thought: The Eucharist is Jesus. If the Eucharist is in fact Jesus, what does that mean for our twenty-first century lives? This, the first article, will focus on the history of the Eucharist as it is found in Sacred Scripture.
It is not insignificant that the Lord instituted the Eucharist (the Last Supper) during the Passover. In fact, this is rich with meaning. To dive into it, we’ll turn to the twelfth chapter of the book of Exodus. In this passage God reaches out to Moses and Aaron to warn and prepare them for the final plague on Egypt. To help the Israelites escape the fate of losing their firstborn children, God gives them (through Moses and Aaron) a set of instructions. These instructions were straightforward and repeated several times:
1) They were to sacrifice a lamb without blemish;
2) Put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts and lintels;
3) Eat the flesh of the slaughtered lamb and with it, unleavened bread.
Furthermore, God says: “This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever.” If this is ringing some bells for you, it is with good reason.
When comparing the Old and New Testaments, it’s easy to find yourself noticing parallel or connected stories. This is because God is always at work. God always has a plan. In this case, God’s institution of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread seemed at the time to simply be about his saving the Israelites from the final plague when in reality it was part of something much bigger. He knew that one day He Himself would be the Lamb for sacrifice. He knew that He would one day be sitting in an upper room with eleven trusted friends, the first bishops, and a traitor. He knew that He would invite them to eat of His own flesh and to drink of His own blood. He knew that He would command those men to share His Body and Blood with all believers… doing so as a remembrance, a memorial of that moment forever.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Later this summer we will read the entire Bread of Life Discourse from John: 6 beginning the last Sunday of July, throughout the month of August at Sunday Mass.
Thank You Jesus, for wanting to win our hearts, to save and sanctify us such that You would enter the world You created by taking on flesh, and offering Yourself to us so intimately in the Eucharist. Help us to never take You for granted and to never approach Your altar or tabernacle ignorant of Your presence.
Your brother on the journey,
Nick De La Torre