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216 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated

Messiah and messianic times. Each family shared the lamb that had been

sacrificed and the bread over which a blessing had been proclaimed.

They also drank from a cup of wine over which a similar blessing had

been proclaimed.

When Jesus instituted the Eucharist he gave a final meaning to the

blessing of the bread and the wine and the sacrifice of the lamb. The

Gospels narrate events that anticipated the Eucharist. The miracle of

the loaves and fish, reported in all four Gospels, prefigured the unique

abundance of the Eucharist. The miracle of changing water into wine at

the wedding feast in Cana manifested the divine glory of Jesus and the

heavenly wedding feast in which we share at every Eucharist.

In his dialogue with the people at Capernaum, Christ used his

miracle of multiplying the loaves of bread as the occasion to describe

himself as the Bread of Life: “I am the living bread that came down from

heaven. . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his

blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:51, 53).


The account of the institution of the Eucharist may be found in the

Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well as in Paul’s First Letter

to the Corinthians (see Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; Lk 22:7-20; 1 Cor

11:23-26). Jesus chose the Passover feast as the time in which he would

institute the Eucharist and would undergo his dying and rising (cf. CCC,

nos. 1339-1340). With the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus gave the

Passover its new and definitive meaning. He showed himself to be the

High Priest of the New Covenant, offering himself as a perfect sacrifice

to the Father. Jesus changed the bread and wine into his Body and Blood,

given now as an offering for the salvation of all people.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that

the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, 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