The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
In the Jewish tradition, a new day begins at the end of the previous day, or at sundown. The Catholic Church has always followed this ancient Jewish tradition. This is why we celebrate Sunday Masses also on Saturday evenings. It may be Saturday in the civil calendar of the United States. However, in the Universal Church, at the end of one day, the next day begins. For the sake of convention the Church uses 4pm as the beginning of a new liturgical day.
This is important to keep in mind, because the Last Supper was held on the same day as Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus gave us his Body and Blood at the Last Supper, after sundown, and was crucified the same day. The two events are forever linked together, Eucharist and Crucifixion. He gave us his Body and then gave himself over to be crucified. The first Mass was celebrated therefore, on the same day as his crucifixion.
On the evening of his resurrection, three days later, our Sunday, Jesus again celebrated the Mass with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, when he taught scripture to them on the road. The disciples did not recognize him until the blessing of the bread at supper in the inn.
St. Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians around the year 56, or a little more than 20 years after Jesus’ Resurrection. In that letter, Paul speaks of the Mass which he had taught them in his previous visits. Paul reminds them,
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
And, Paul explains,
… I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, (Referring to the Last Supper) took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
We still use the same words as Jesus. The Apostles handed down to us what they received from our Lord, Jesus. The Church has been faithful to this Apostolic teaching since the beginning. When you visit the Pope’s Cathedral in Rome, St. John Lateran Basilica, you see the main altar that is built around a table that St. Peter used for the altar of his first Mass. These facts help us trace the Holy Mass back to Peter and Paul as they received it from Jesus.
For 2,000 years, Mass has been celebrated in the Catholic Church every Sunday without interruption. We will continue that tradition here today. It is one of the oldest unbroken traditions known to man. And it came straight from Jesus Christ. Consequently, we try to celebrate Mass as close to the original form as possible, including the language, our vestments, the elements of real wine and unleavened bread. We only use approved translations. We have no authority to change the Mass. It’s not ours, but a gift from Jesus Christ to the Church, when he said,
I want to discuss Holy Eucharist. Only those who have been properly instructed in the Sacraments may receive Holy Communion. It is not a “party favor” to be shared with just anyone, or non-Catholics and those who do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament. We prepare well our children and converts. We must be in a “State of Grace”, meaning we are in good standing with the Church, properly married; we have not missed Mass and we have been to Confession. We pray to prepare ourselves before Mass to receive Holy Communion.
It is suggested that before receiving Holy Eucharist, some form of personal reverence be made. You may notice that the priest prays silently and genuflects prior to receiving Communion. A bow, or genuflection is suggested.
The “normal” way of taking Holy Communion is on the tongue. You may receive Holy Communion in the hand, but this is a privilege, not a personal right. Consume the Host at the Altar. You should not turn and walk away with the Host in your hand. You must consume the Host immediately at the Altar.
We honor the Body and Blood of Christ as Christ himself. We believe that when we receive Holy Communion we will have eternal life. Jesus said in the Gospel,
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.