|A marvellous invention for humanity
Numerous inventions have left a mark on the history of humanity,
witnessing to the quality and ability of the human spirit. Their inventors
have rendered important services to society, contributing to the progress
of science and technology, to the improvement of living conditions and to
the fight against the evils that oppress peoples.
There are also inventions in the field of religion. These inventions
are conceived by divine intelligence with the intention of transforming
relations between God and humans. One of them is brought into the
limelight on Holy Thursday and appears to be truly marvellous to us: the
Who would ever have imagined that, after becoming man, the Son of God
would give his own human Flesh to his disciples as food in order to
communicate divine life to them, and his own Blood as a drink of eternal
By presenting himself as the divine Bridegroom, Jesus made people
understand the love that inspired the whole of his mission, but he had yet
to reveal that this love would impel him to go even to the point of giving
himself as food and drink.
In view of this meal, it was necessary that the redeeming sacrifice,
offered on the Cross once and for all for humanity's salvation, be
frequently presented anew during the development of the Church, in the
form of a sacrament and in commemoration of the Last Supper.
The continuous re-presentation of the sacrifice was not only to enable
the believers who took part to be personally united with the one offering
of Christ, but also to partake of his divine life in the Communion meal.
Thus, what had occurred only once in the course of history would never
cease to take place again and again in our time. The full force of the
sublime generosity of Christ, who gave himself in sacrifice, could
reappear and penetrate the hearts of all the faithful through Communion.
The mystery is especially astonishing since, according to the desire
the Saviour expressed, the words that the priest speaks at the moment of
the consecration suffice to bring about the transformation of the bread
and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This power to summon the Real
Presence of Christ with words is part of the miracle of the Eucharist.
Communion: not luxury but need
It is a marvellous invention, destined to become part of our daily
lives. By declaring that his Body is real food and his Blood real drink,
Jesus makes us understand that Christians need this food and drink if they
are to preserve and develop their spiritual life.
Although the Communion meal is often called a "banquet", it is not a
luxury but a necessity, to the point that Jesus said: "Let me solemnly
assure you; if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his
blood, you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53).
The first disciples accepted this recommendation. Since the beginning
of the Church, his disciples have celebrated the Eucharist every day.
The primitive community had two different kinds of prayer gathering: on
the one hand, the first Christians would go every day to pray in the
temple area, in accordance with the custom they had acquired from the
Judaic tradition; on the other it was "in their homes [that] they broke
bread, with exultant and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46).
Unlike the usual Judaic prayers, the breaking of bread or "Eucharist"
was celebrated in peoples homes, associated with ordinary meals. This was
the new religion founded by Christ. One of its features was a joyful
atmosphere and a fundamental disposition of simplicity of heart.
Celebrating daily the breaking of the bread testified to the importance
of the Eucharist in Christian life: it procured the necessary stamina for
every day needs. The invention of the Last Supper has lost none of its
marvellous character, but in essence it demands a steadfast faith.
The presence in the Eucharist of the Body and Blood of Christ requires
faith if it is to transform the Christian's life. This is the faith that
we are called to renew on Holy Thursday with wonder and thanksgiving.