Reflections on the Readings
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 6, 2010 - Year C
By Dennis Hankins
The Memorial of our Redemption
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. - St. Paul
Today's Gospel foreshadows the Passover Jesus will celebrate with his disciples. The action is the same here as in the institution of the Eucharist. Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives in the multiplication of the loaves and fish to feed the multitude. On the night Jesus is betrayed, the disciples will witness this taking, blessing, breaking and giving again, but in a deeper meaning; Jesus explaining in the giving of the bread, 'This is my body,' and in the giving of the cup, 'This is my blood.'
From that upper room, the disciples carried this understanding of the Last Supper every where they preached. St. Paul, from the first century explains the same tradition of faith to the Corinthians:
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you." In the same way also the cup, after supper saying, "This is the new covenant in my blood."
Some things should never change. The meaning Jesus ascribes to the bread and wine at the Last Supper falls into this category. St. Cyril led the Church of Jerusalem during the early part of the fourth century. He also affirms the tradition of faith concerning the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist stating: "When the Master himself has explicitly said of the bread, 'This is my body,' will anyone still dare to doubt? When he is himself our warranty saying, 'This is my blood,' who will ever waver and say it is not his blood?" St Cyril continues, "With perfect confidence, then, we partake as of the body and blood of Christ." (On the Mysteries, 4th Lecture)
The Church approaches the Eucharist as the source and summit of her life in Christ. Cyril of Alexandria of the early fifth century states, "We celebrate the unbloody sacrifice in the churches, and we thus approach the spiritual blessings and are made holy, becoming partakers of the holy flesh and of the precious blood of Christ, the Savior of us all."
From the earliest days of the Church, the Supper of the Lord is celebrated as the memorial of her redemption; as a proclamation of the Lord's death until he comes. Now twenty-one centuries later the Church still receives by faith the body and blood of Jesus; not by sight, not by taste nor by smell, but by faith. If we can believe, the bread is the body of Jesus. If we can believe, the wine is the blood of Christ. As we in faith receive this Sacrament, we are united with Jesus. As we together in faith partake of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, we who are many, are one in Christ.
Great is the mystery of our faith; great is the memorial of our redemption.