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Chapter 17. The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Christian Life • 215


The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. . . .

The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause

of that communion in the divine life and that unity of

the People of God by which the Church is kept in being.

—CCC, nos. 1322 and 1325, citing Sacred Congregation of Rites,

Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery


Eucharisticum Mysterium

), no. 6

The origins of the Eucharist are found in the Last Supper that Jesus

shared with his Apostles. “In order to leave them a pledge of this love,

in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his

Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and

Resurrection and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return;

‘thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament’” (CCC, no.

1337, citing Council of Trent: DS 1740).

So rich is this mystery that we have a number of terms to illu-

mine its saving grace: the Breaking of the Bread; the Lord’s Supper;

the Eucharistic Assembly; the Memorial of Christ’s Passion, Death,

and Resurrection; the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Holy and Divine

Liturgy; the Eucharistic Liturgy; Holy Communion; and Holy Mass (cf.

CCC, nos. 1328-1332).

The use of bread and wine in worship is already found in the early

history of God’s people. In the Old Testament, bread and wine are seen

as gifts from God, to whom praise and thanks are given in return for

these blessings and for other manifestations of his care and grace. The

story of the priest Melchizedek’s offering a sacrifice of bread and wine

for Abraham’s victory is an example of this (cf. Gn 14:18). The harvest

of new lambs was also a time for the sacrifice of a lamb to show grati-

tude to God for the new flock and its contribution to the well-being of

the family and tribe.

These ancient rituals were given historical meaning at the Exodus

of God’s people. They were united into the Passover Meal as a sign

of God’s delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, a pledge of

his fidelity to his promises and eventually a sign of the coming of the