What does it mean that “every time we eat His body and drink His blood we proclaim His death?”
I thought He was Alive
St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, from whence we get the saying, is teaching about the Eucharist and what the Eucharistic celebration (Mass) is all about. He is teaching the Christians in Corinth that the Eucharist is not only the “memory” of the past but is a memorial in the Jewish sense (Anamnesis is the Greek word) which is to remember and thus make it present. Think of the Passover descriptions from the Old Testament: “When your children ask you why do we do this?” It is not just that we are remembering something from the past but we are becoming a part of it. Christ, self-sacrificed and broken for us on the cross, is present in the Eucharist. When we come to the Eucharist we are proclaiming his death and resurrection. We hear, “The Body of Christ” (the one who suffered, died, and was buried and on the third day rose again) and we say, “Amen!”
Paul’s main point in this passage is to recognize that the Body of Christ is present both in the Eucharistic Species and in the Mystical Body of our brothers and sisters. If we don’t stand before Jesus Crucified (in both the Host and our Brethren) in a worthy manner, watch out. That’s not what we’re all about as Catholics (Christians).
The Mass is the re-presentation of the Lord’s death and resurrection. It is the one sacrifice, once and for all, made present. It is the bloody sacrifice of Jesus, poured out for all, presented now in an unbloody manner. Take and eat, this is my body given for you. Take and drink, this is the blood of the covenant — new and eternal.
I hope that is helpful. Now here’s a fun fact for you that was a new idea for me. Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday (Hosanna!) and the Eucharistic prayer starts with Hosanna! then moves to the Last Supper which takes us to Good Friday and on to Easter Vigil. We do this all because of the Resurrection, through the Spirit that was given by Jesus to us. It’s the whole Paschal Mystery! Hurray! Alleluia!
Fr. David for Theologika
Image: Eucharistic Bread
From the Early-Christian catacomb of San Callisto