6th Sunday of Easter (B)
May 4, 2018
Working our way back to truth
May 4, 2018

Blessing God

At the end of this month, the Church will celebrate a most important feast – The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. Fr Gabriel Julien offers some thoughts on the Eucharist in a five-part series.

Eucharist comes from the Greek word which means ‘to give thanks’.  It is a translation from the Hebrew word for blessing. In the Old Testament, the praise of God was spontaneous especially when God performed some great and magnificent deed.

This action of praise and gratitude is reflected in Genesis 24:27.  The book of Exodus 18:9–11 further shows that blessing God could also be a form of public proclamation and an acknowledgement and confession of the power and glory of the Lord.

This initial blessing or praise of God was later followed by a remembrance of God’s action in nature and in the history of His people.  1 Chronicles 16: 12–14, Nehemiah 9:5–37, Ecclesiasticus 51:1–12 support this fact and Ecclesiasticus 50:22–24 further adds that sometimes a prayer of petition was included.

For the Jews, blessing God formed the foundation of their prayer. They usually offered prayers of blessing when they gathered together as a family for a meal.  The prayers of blessing took the form of a ritual.  The prayers were led by the father of the family while others responded.

If a rabbi was present, he presided in place of the father. It is interesting to note that the breaking of bread and remembrance of the abundant blessings of the Lord preceded the main part of the Passover Meal and other Jewish ceremonies or internal meals. A similar blessing was also said over the cup of wine, the cup of blessing, or the consecrated cup. It is along these rituals that the Lord instituted His Eucharist.

The book of Exodus 12:1–28 further shows that the Jewish Passover Meal commemorated the liberation from slavery which is the first great act of redemption by God for His people. Thus, the meal also expressed a great hope and deep longing for the definite coming of the Kingdom of God.

Because Jesus offered prayers of thanksgiving and blessings when He consecrated the bread and wine at the Last Supper, the word ‘thanksgiving’ has been associated with the Sacrament of the Last Supper.  Jesus spoke the words of the Eucharistic institution that gave new meaning to this ancient rite: “This is my body, this is my blood”.

While the Eucharist generally refers to the bread and wine consecrated during the Eucharistic liturgy there are many other names for this liturgical act.

1)   Thanksgiving. In Luke 24:35, Acts 2:46 we are given a vivid account of how Jesus blessed and distributed the bread. It is through this gesture of breaking bread, the disciples will recognise Him after the resurrection.  The first Christians also used the breaking of bread in their celebrations bearing in mind that all who partake in the one bread, Jesus, will become one with Him.

2)   The new paschal feast, 1 Corinthians 5:8

3)   Communion in the body and blood of Christ,1 Corinthians 10:16, because we unite ourselves to Christ.

4)   The Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:20 because it is closely connected with the supper that Jesus had with His disciples.  It also speaks about the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven.

5)   The Gospel according to Mark 14:25 presents the Eucharist as a farewell and messianic banquet in the Kingdom of God at the end of time. This idea of the future Kingdom during a meal is frequent in the Bible. See Isaiah 25:6; 55:1–5; 65:13; Psalm 23:5; Proverbs 9:1–6;  Mathew 8:11–12; 22:1–14; 25:10; Luke 14:15–25; Apocalypse 3:20; 19:9

Thus, by participating in the Eucharist, the faithful remember, celebrate and proclaim the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

NEXT WEEK: The Covenant