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Chapter 17. The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Christian Life • 217

of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you

proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. (1 Cor 11:23-26)

By the words “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus commanded the Apostles

and their successors to repeat his actions and words “until he comes

again.” From earliest times, the Church has remained faithful to this

command. Particularly on Sunday, the day of Christ’s Resurrection, the

faithful has gathered for the Breaking of the Bread. This practice has

continued unbroken for two thousand years right up to the present day.

In the Gospel of John, instead of an account of the institution of

the Eucharist, there is the narrative of the foot washing (Jn 13:1-20)

at the beginning of the Last Supper, which sets the tone of humble ser-

vice, exemplified by Christ and fulfilled in his death on the Cross. The

Church has selected this Gospel for the Holy Thursday liturgy, high-

lighting Christ’s teaching: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have

washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you

a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do”

(Jn 13:14-15).

Christ’s Last Supper Discourse (Jn 14:1–17:26) reflects Eucharistic

themes of divine love, a union with Christ as intimate as a branch is to a

vine, and a priestly prayer for the Apostles and those who would believe

through them.


Since the second century, the Mass (or the Eucharistic Liturgy) has had

a structure that is common to all Catholics. While there can be dif-

ferent emphases during the celebration of Mass in Eastern Churches,

they maintain the fundamental twofold structure with which members

of the Latin Church are familiar. Thus, the Mass unfolds in two major

parts that form a single act of worship. First, there is the Liturgy of the

Word, with Scripture readings, homily, Profession of Faith, and General

Intercessions. Second, there is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, with the pre-

sentation of the bread and wine, the Eucharistic Prayer, and the recep-

tion of Holy Communion. The essential elements of Eucharistic celebra-

tions may be summarized in the following four points.