JESUS IS ALIVE
JESUS IS PHYSICALLY ALIVE IN THE EUCHARIST
CONSUBSTANTIAL WITH THE ELEMENTS
OF BREAD AND WINE
INTRODUCTION TO ARTICLE
WHAT ST. BENEDICT CALLED THE OPUS DEI WHICH
IS LATIN FOR THE WORK OF GOD
The doctrine of the Eucharist has been held from the very earliest days of the Church. For the first 800 years of Christianity, there was no doubt regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Here is a sample of writings from the fathers of the early Church illustrating this.
Paul writing in 1 Cor 10:15-16
"I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?"
Paul writing in 1 Cor 11:23-30
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself."
Ignatius of Antioch, 110 AD
"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again... Let that be considered a valid Eucharist, which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church." (Epistle to the Smyreans)
"Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God." (Epistle to the Philadelphians)
Justin Martyr, 150 AD
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus." (First Apology of Justin)
Irenaeus of Lyons, 190 AD
"Christ has declared the cup... to be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own Body, from which he gives increase to our bodies. If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?" (Against Heresies Book V)
"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
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 Orthodox worship. A priest is one who offers sacrifice. The Orthodox 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. In our Liturgy the priest says, "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours 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 Orthodox 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. Orthodox Priests and Bishops 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. The Celtic Orthodox Church continues 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."
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.
John, chapter 6: Sermon of the Bread of Life:
"Let me solemnly assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and
drink his blood, you have no life in you.
54- Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
55-For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink..." (John 6:53-55)
Chapter 6 of St. John has the sixth treasure of the Gospel, the Sermon of the Bread of Life, where Jesus promises us our daily bread, to live on earth this beautiful life in Christ as a wedding feast, to have eternal life, and to help others to do so.
This Sermon was the announcement of the Eucharist, we have to eat his flesh and drink his own blood, the most substantial Sermon of Jesus... but it was the greatest scandal in the life of Jesus, the multitudes and the 72 disciples left him thinking he was crazy, to eat his flesh and drink his blood?!... and not only that, here Jesus signed his death sentence, because "after this Jesus went about in Galilee; he did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him" (7:1)... and the next time he went to Judea they killed him!... on a Cross!.. they were not bluffing.
The chapter starts with two of the seven miracles of the Gospel: The multiplication of the seven barley loaves and two fish, to feed 5,000 people (6:1-14), and Jesus walking on water (6:18:21)... both of them show us the power of Jesus on nature, preparing us for the announcement of the greatest miracle on nature, the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.
The multitudes were so impressed with the multiplication of the bread and fishes that they wanted to make him a king!, but Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself (6:15).
The next day, when they found him, they asked him: "What must we do to perform the the works of God? Jesus answered to them: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (6:28)... and he will repeat it four times in this chapter, "This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day" (6:40, 28, 35, 47)... four times repeats it, to prepare us for the great announcement we have to believe and do, to eat his flesh and drink his blood!... as hard as it sounds!... just as Jesus will repeat it 8 times!.
Now they ask Jesus for a "sign", as the "manna" was a sign for their ancestors, for 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus tells them that it is the Father who gives the bread from heaven, or the bread of life. So they said to Jesus: "Sir, give us this Bread of Heaven always" (6:30-34).
And here it comes, the Sermon of the Bread of Life, or the Bread of Heaven, in John 6:35-69:
"Jesus said to them: I am the bread of of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (6:35). Then the Jews murmured about him because he said "I am the bread of life", and they said, ""Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph?... and then the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (6:35-2)... it is for real!... we have to eat his flesh!... he is crazy!... and the multitudes of 5000 men went away taking Jesus for a mad-man...
... And when the multitudes were disputing this and going away, Jesus did not take a word out of it, rather, he repeats 6 times to them: "Very truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them...", read it by yourself in full in 6:52-58, repeats it 6 times in different ways!... it is real... really real!...
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