Eucharist, also called Holy Communion is a ceremony in remembrance of Jesus and his disciples in the last Supper his , at which (according to tradition) he gave them bread with the words, “This is my body,” and wine with the words, “This is my blood.” (Matthew 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:17–20; and I Corinthians 11:23–25).
The earliest extant written account of a Christian eucharistia (Greek: thanksgiving) is that in the First Epistle to the Corinthians
(around AD 55), in which Paul the Apostlerelates “eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord” in the celebration of a “Supper of the Lord” to the Last Supper of Jesus some 25 years earlier. Paul considers that it’s mandatory to do so. The Acts of the Apostles presents the early Christians as meeting for “the breaking of bread” as some sort of ceremony.
The letters of the Apostle Paul and the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament demonstrate that early Christians believed that this institution included a mandate to continue the celebration as an anticipation in this life of the joys of the banquet that was to come in the Kingdom of God.
To showcase the importance of the Eucharist in the Christian faith through history, we have created a timeline that highlights some of the key moments that prepared the way for the Eucharist in the Old Testament, its institution in the New Testament, and its practice and deeper understanding in subsequent centuries.
This timeline contains key words that repeat throughout the Scriptures, such as, lamb, bread, wine, blood, sacrifice, offering, etc.These key words all unite in the Eucharist and bear witness to the fact that Jesus literally meant that the bread and wine would become his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
1. The Tree of Life
After eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve are denied the fruit of the Tree of Life. Many Church Fathers saw the Tree of Life as a prefiguration of the Cross, and the fruit of the Tree of Life as a prefiguration of the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, which hung from the Cross. Revelation says that God will grant people to eat from the Tree of Life (Rev 2:7). Pseudo-Hippolytus writes around the 4th century, “So in place of the old tree, [Christ] plants a new one… For me the cross is the tree of eternal salvation; from it I nourish myself, from it I feed myself” (On the Pasch, L-LI). Also, St. Augustine says, “We too are fed from the Lord’s Cross… when we eat his body” (On Psalm 100:9).
“Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of God the Most High. And he blessed [Abram]” (Gen 14:18-19). He is said to foreshadow Christ’s priesthood, who also offered bread and wine: “[Melchizedek] is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever” (Heb 7:3). St. Jerome wrote in the 5th century, “Just as Melchizedek had done, the priest of the Most high, when he offered bread and wine in the prefiguration of him, he [Christ] too would present it in the truth of his own body and blood (Commentary on Matthew IV).
God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his “only-begotten son Isaac” (Gen 22:2s). Isaac asks his father why there is a fire but no lamb for a burnt offering. Abraham responds: “God will provide himself the lambfor a burnt offering.” Jesus is the “Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29) offered in sacrifice for men, and a he’s also the “only-begotten Son” of God (Jn 1:18).
4. Passover Lamb
To deliver the Israelites from Egypt, God commands Moses to tell his people: “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male…they shall take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts…They shall eat the flesh that night” (Ex 12: 5-8). St. Paul writes: “For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7). Jesus is identified with the Passover lamb, and the eating of the lamb with the eating of Jesus’ body, as Jesus says: “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6:55).
5. Unleavened Bread
In preparation for the Passover, God also commands
his people to eat “unleavened bread” (Ex 12:15s), which was meant to symbolize the hurry with which they were fleeing Egypt — they did not have time to let it rise. According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus instituted the Eucharist on “the first day of Unleavened Bread” (Mt 26:17; Mk 14:12). In the Latin Rite, the Church still uses unleavened breadfor the Eucharist, and sees the origin of this tradition in the Passover.
After the Israelites left Egypt, God sent them the manna, or bread from heaven, in the desert: “I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Ex 16:4). Jesus is the fulfillment of the manna, as he himself states: “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died… I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (Jn 6: 49-51).
7. Sprinkling of Blood
After receiving the Law from God, “Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Ex 24:8). Jesus picks up this language and institutes a new covenant with his body and blood as the new sacrifice, during the Last Supper: “This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:20).
8. Bread of the Presence
God commands Moses to build a Tabernacle and place the Ark of the Covenant in it, so that he may “dwell in their midst” (Ex 25:8). He then commands him, “And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me always” (25:30). Later on, David ate this bread, which was given to him by the priest Abimelech: “So the priest gave [David] the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence” (1 Sam 21:6). Jesus alludes to this episode and says, “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry… how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence… I tell you, something greater than the temple is here” (Mt 12:1-8). He who is greater than the temple became the true bread of the Presence.
9. Todah Offering
Todah is Hebrew for “thanksgiving.” A todah sacrifice was a type of peace offering that was offered by someone who had received a great benefit from God. Its elements were meat, bread and wine (Lev 7:11-15; Num 15:8-10). Eucharist comes from the Greek eukharistia, which also means “thanksgiving.” In the Eucharistic sacrifice, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus. Many scholars have considered both the Todah and the Passover sacrifices as foreshadows of the Eucharist.
10. The Suffering Servant
Isaiah 53 is a strong prefiguration of Christ in the Old Testament. It tells of a man who was “afflicted”. “But he was wounded for our transgressions… like a lamb that is led to the slaughter… although he had done no violence… he [made] himself an offering for sin.” The servant is compared to a lamb and to a sacrificial offering, and by his righteousness “will make many righteous.” Jesus is, again, the “Lamb of God,” who, as John says, is the “righteous”, and “the expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 2:2).
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “House of Bread.”
2. “The Lamb of God”
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). John the Baptist refers to Jesus with these words, drawing on the importance of the lamb in the Old Testament. It is in Jesus’ death and resurrection that these references come to fulfillment, and ultimately in the way he chose to stay “until the end of time,” that is, in the Eucharist. For this reason, the priest uses John the Baptist’s very words during the Mass as he elevates the consecrated Host: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”
3. Miracle of the Loaves
Jesus himself foreshadowed the Eucharist before instituting it in order to prepare his disciples to receive it.
In the feeding of the five thousand, he performs the same four actions he will use during the Last Supper: “taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke, and gave the loves to the disciples,” and at the Last Supper, Matthew also writes, “Jesus took the bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body’” (26:26).
4. No Mere Symbolism
Jesus himself made it clear that he was not speaking metaphorically when he said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6: 51). When the Jews take this to be ridiculous in the literal sense — “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (6:52) — Jesus reiterates that he’s not speaking metaphorically: “Truly, 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… For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (6:53-55). And to extinguish any type of confusion, he adds a new word, “he who eats [Greek: trogon] me will live because of me” (6:57). In Greek, “trogon” means “chew” or “gnaw” and not just “eat.” Many of his disciples could not accept this clear teaching, “drew back and no longer walked with him” (6:60,66).
5. The Our Father
In the Gospel of Matthew, a unique word stands out during the Our Father prayer: “Give us this day our daily (Greek: epiousios) bread” (Mt 6:11). Epiousios is not used anywhere else in the Bible, except in Lk 11:3, in the same prayer. St. Jerome’s translation of Matthew into Latin is more literal and translates this word as “supersubstantial.” Supersubstantial means above all substance or superior to all things. Therefore, many Church Fathers understood the petition for “our supersubstantial bread” to refer to the Eucharist.
6. Institution of the Eucharist
At the Last Supper, which took part in the context of the Passover, Jesus draws many of the aforementioned symbolisms and unites them in the Institution of the Eucharist. Jesus takes the bread, breaks it, and says, “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19). He then takes the chalice and says, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (22:20). He then commands them, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Scholars have noted that although the supper was done in the context of the Passover, no Passover lamb is ever mentioned: Jesus, himself is the Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7).
7. Road to Emmaus
The last chapter of the Gospel of Luke (24:13-35) gives a brief description of the Mass that the disciples would partake in, highlighting the two parts of the liturgy: The Liturgy of the Word and then the Liturgy of the Eucharist. As two disciples were traveling to Emmaus from Jerusalem on the Sunday after the crucifixion of Jesus, Jesus himself draws near them, though they do not recognize him. First, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things pertaining to himself” (24:27). When he sat at the table with them, “he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” They went back to Jerusalem and in amazement told the disciples “what had happened in the road and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (24:35). The Resurrected Christ is found in the Eucharist.
8. First Christian Communities
In Acts of the Apostles, the apostles and disciples celebrated the Eucharist: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). As previously mentioned, the “breaking of the bread” referred to the Eucharist, as Christ instituted it at the Last Supper. There are many other examples: “On the first day of the week [Sunday], when we were gathered together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7).
9. St. Paul
St. Paul asserts that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ, and there are consequences for those who partake in it unworthily. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). He also writes to the Corinthians saying, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:23-29).
In the Book of Revelation, John shows that the Eucharistic worship corresponds with and finds its fulfillment in the heavenly worship, “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:19). John provides powerful images that correspond to the Mass, showing that Christians already partake in the heavenly worship. In Rev 4-5, John describes the Passover Lamb, the elders — presbyteros, which is the Greek word for priests — the proclamation of God’s revelation, incense, songs, angels, prayer, the “Holy, Holy, Holy,” prostration, etc. These elements show that the Mass is not an invention of the Church, but that it is a gift in which Christians already partake in the perfect heavenly worship.
Miracles of the Holy Eucharist
1) Argentina 1992, 1994, 1996
Where: The parish of Saint Mary in Buenos Aires
What happened: While both other miracles are definitely worth finding out about, the most interesting and comprehensive study was done with the 1996 Eucharist. It began bleeding when consecrated and part of it became human tissue. After several intense studies, it was found that the tissue was part of a heart, a muscle of the myocardium, the left ventricle, the muscle that gives life to the whole heart and body.
The tissue revealed further that it belonged to a person who had gone through intense pain, experiencing extended periods of time where he could barely breathe, had immense strain put on the heart (both common feature of crucifixion) and had been stabbed in the left side. What was most insane was that despite the fact this should have killed the person, the tissue showed signs of being ‘alive’.
This was evidenced by intact white blood cells being found in the tissue. This showed the heart sample was pulsating as elsewise the white blood cells would have disintegrated roughly 15 minutes outside of a living body.
Interesting fact: The Archbishop who commissioned the research was none other than the now Pope Francis!
2) Mexico 2006
Where: The Parish of Saint Martin of Tours in Tixtla
When: 21 October 2006
What Happened: During a Mass in a parish retreat, a host that was about to be distributed was effusing a reddish substance. The diocese decided to conduct extensive scientific study of the host to discern its cause, origin and ensure there was no hoax being played. The study took several years but its results were eventually published in 2013. The reddish substance analysed in the host was indeed blood in which there was DNA and haemoglobins of human origin.
Two studies conducted by eminent forensic experts using different methods both showed that blood came from inside the host; this showed that it wasn’t possible that the blood was placed on the host from an outside source. The blood type was AB positive, the same type as found in other Eucharistic miracles and the Holy Shroud of Turin. A microscopic analysis of the blood in 2010 showed that since 2006 much of the blood visible had coagulated (as expected) but that underlying internal layers contained the presence of fresh blood which showed that the Eucharist was still bleeding.
The human tissue found in the host was living, evidenced by intact white and red blood cells and active macrophages. The immunohistochemical studies revealed that the tissue found corresponds to the muscle of the heart mentioned in Buenos Aires, the Myocardium. All in all, the study proved beyond a doubt that the occurrence was not of natural origin and went further by linking this miracle to the others that happen around the world.
3) India 2001
Where: The parish church of Saint Mary in Chirattakonam
When: 5 May 2001
What Happened: On April 28 2001, the church began the Novena to St. Jude Thaddeus as they did every year. At 8:49am, the priest exposed the Most Holy Sacrament in the monstrance for public adoration. After a few moments they saw what appeared to be three dots in the Holy Eucharist. They prayed to the host for a while and then it was placed secure in the tabernacle.
The priest then went to the archbishop of the diocese to inform him of the change but when he returned to the parish and opened the tabernacle it had in fact developed further as now clearly in the Eucharist was not only the three red dots but a face crowned with a crown of thorns.
It is suggested that the three red dots refer to the three wounds St. Thomas asked to see of Jesus before he would believe he rose from the dead, a thought compounded by the fact that this was the reading of the day. The Eucharist remains there to this day and is often adored by the faithful.
4) Venezuela 1991
Where: The Marian Shrine of Finca Betania in Cúa
When: 8 December 1991
What Happened: The priest had just divided the big host into four parts and consumed one of those pieces, as is normal in the Mass. When he placed the remaining pieces back on the paten (the plate the host is kept on) he noticed that one of the pieces now had a red spot and from it a red substance was coming out, similar to the manner in which blood escapes from a wound, the numerous pilgrims who were there immediately verified the blood did not come from the priest. The host continues to produce fresh blood and the then-Bishop of Los Teques requested a series of studies to test the Eucharist’s miraculous appearance.
The host was analysed by 500 commissions of the World Health Organization and it was confirmed that the blood of the priest did not match that of the Eucharist. The studies, like before, showed that the blood came from inside the host and matched that of other Eucharistic miracles, it again being AB positive and from a living heart. It is possible to go and see the miraculous host all days of the year at any hour in the convent of the Augustianian Recollects Nuns of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Los Teques.