Saint Thomas Aquinas and last supper
Question from cliff on 05-04-2001:

Dear Fr. Echert, great job, I have noticed a couple of times you have commented on judas not recieving the lord at the last supper but I think Saint Thomas Aquinas believed that Judas did receive the Lord at the last supper,as written in the summna. Am i wrong and is this a personnal opinion that we are allowed to believe he did or he didn't? God bless, father

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 05-06-2001:

Combining texts from the Gospel of St. John and that of the Synoptic Gospels (Mt, Mk, Lk), there is reason to believe that Judas may not have been present at the time that our Lord blessed and broke the Bread which was His own Body, the Eucharist. We read in the Gospel of St. John:

13:21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." 13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 13:23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 13:24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks." 13:25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord, who is it?" 13:26 Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 13:27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." 13:28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 13:29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor. 13:30 So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.

In the Gospel of St. Mark we read:

26:20 When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; 26:21 and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." 26:22 And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" 26:23 He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. 26:24 The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." 26:25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so." 26:26 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."

The Gospel of St. John indicates that after having received the dipped morsel from the Lord, Satan entered Judas and he IMMEDIATELY left the company of our Lord and apostles. The Gospel of St. Mark makes it clear that only after the dipping episode did our Lord then offer the blessed Bread and Cup which is the Eucharist. So a comparison of the texts of these two Gospels (and that of St. Matthew as well) seems to suggest that Judas was not present for the sharing of the First Eucharist itself, and who can imagine a more unworthy vessel of reception for Holy Communion? And so we see a solid basis and case in point for the insistence of the Church--and St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians--that a Christian be properly disposed and worthy by the presence of grace in order to receive the Most Holy Eucharist.

On the other hand, following in the footsteps of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas takes the position that Judas did participate in the Eucharistic offering itself. As we read from the Summa Theologica (Question 81, Article 2):

OBJ 1: It seems that Christ did not give His body to Judas. Because, as we read (Matthew 26:29), our Lord, after giving His body and blood to the disciples, said to them: "I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of My Father." From this it appears that those to whom He had given His body and blood were to drink of it again with Him. But Judas did not drink of it afterwards with Him. Therefore he did not receive Christ's body and blood with the other disciples.

OBJ 2: Further, what the Lord commanded, He Himself fulfilled, as is said in Acts 1:1: "Jesus began to do and to teach." But He gave the command (Matthew 7:6): "Give not that which is holy to dogs." Therefore, knowing Judas to be a sinner, seemingly He did not give him His body and blood. OBJ 3: Further, it is distinctly related (John 13:26) that Christ gave dipped bread to Judas. Consequently, if He gave His body to him, it appears that He gave it him in the morsel, especially since we read (John 13:26) that "after the morsel, Satan entered into him." And on this passage Augustine says (Tractatus 62 in Joannis): "From this we learn how we should beware of receiving a good thing in an evil way . . . For if he be chastised who does not discern, i.e. distinguish, the body of the Lord from other meats, how must he be condemned who, feigning himself a friend, comes to His table a foe?" But (Judas) did not receive our Lord's body with the dipped morsel; thus Augustine commenting on John 13:26, "When He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon the Iscariot [Vulgate: to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon]," says (Tractatus 62 in Joannis): "Judas did not receive Christ's body then, as some think who read carelessly." Therefore it seems that Judas did not receive the body of Christ.

On the contrary, Chrysostom says (Hom. 82 in Matthaeum): "Judas was not converted while partaking of the sacred mysteries: hence on both sides his crime becomes the more heinous, both because imbued with such a purpose he approached the mysteries, and because he became none the better for approaching, neither from fear, nor from the benefit received, nor from the honor conferred on him."

I answer that, Hilary, in commenting on Matthew 26:17, held that Christ did not give His body and blood to Judas. And this would have been quite proper, if the malice of Judas be considered. But since Christ was to serve us as a pattern of justice, it was not in keeping with His teaching authority to sever Judas, a hidden sinner, from Communion with the others without an accuser and evident proof, lest the Church's prelates might have an example for doing the like, and lest Judas himself being exasperated might take occasion of sinning. Therefore, it remains to be said that Judas received our Lord's body and blood with the other disciples, as Dionysius says (De Ecclesiastica Hierarchia iii), and Augustine (Tractatus 62 in Joannis).

Reply OBJ 1: This is Hilary's argument, to show that Judas did not receive Christ's body. But it is not cogent; because Christ is speaking to the disciples, from whose company Judas separated himself: and it was not Christ that excluded him. Therefore Christ for His part drinks the wine even with Judas in the kingdom of God; but Judas himself repudiated this banquet.

Reply OBJ 2: The wickedness of Judas was known to Christ as God; but it was unknown to Him, after the manner in which men know it. Consequently, Christ did not repel Judas from Communion; so as to furnish an example that such secret sinners are not to be repelled by other priests.

Reply OBJ 3: Without any doubt Judas did not receive Christ's body in the dipped bread; he received mere bread. Yet as Augustine observes (Tractatus 62 in Joannis), "perchance the feigning of Judas is denoted by the dipping of the bread; just as some things are dipped to be dyed. If, however, the dipping signifies here anything good" (for instance, the sweetness of the Divine goodness, since bread is rendered more savory by being dipped), "then, not undeservedly, did condemnation follow his ingratitude for that same good." And owing to that ingratitude, "what is good became evil to him, as happens to them who receive Christ's body unworthily."

And as Augustine says (Tractatus 62 in Joannis), "it must be understood that our Lord had already distributed the sacrament of His body and blood to all His disciples, among whom was Judas also, as Luke narrates: and after that, we came to this, where, according to the relation of John, our Lord, by dipping and handing the morsel, does most openly declare His betrayer."

As St. Thomas notes by citing the opinion of Hilary, not all the early Fathers were in agreement on this point and so it does not manifest Tradition as such and there is room for disagreement on this point. However, I am such a fan and disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas that I defer to his analysis in this matter, noting that while the juxtaposition of the Synoptic tradition and that of St. John appears to preclude Judas from the Eucharist, the great St. Augustine and St. Thomas find them reconcilable. As such, we must say that Judas received the Holy Eucharist to his own detriment, as is true for anyone who receives the Eucharistic Lord in an unworthy manner or condition.

Thanks for making this known to me, Cliff

Father Echert