Christianity / Cult and Festivals
Also called: Divine Liturgy; the Mass; Lord's Supper; Holy Communion; Breaking of Bread
Eucharist direcly commemorates the Last Supper. During the Eucharist, the priest, representing Jesus Christ shares bread and wine with his congregation. The Eucharist also takes into memory what Jesus said and did. There is not one single explanation to the Eucharist, and there exists many understandings of the ritual.
The ritual is considered a symbol of unity in the church, and aids also to keep this unity. Most churches teach that Jesus Christ is present in some way or the other during the celebration of Eucharist. Two ideas dominate the understanding of the Eucharist: presence and sacrifice.
The word comes from the Greek noun Eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving.
The Last Supper is reported in 5 books of the New Testament: Matthew 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:17–20; John 13-19 and 1 Corinthians 11:23–25.
The concept to share wine and bread in remembrance of Jesus Christ is commanded directly in two texts in the New Testament, in Luke 22:19 1 Corinthians 11:24: "Do this in remembrance of me". Jesus gave his disciples bread, saying "This is my body", and the cup, saying "This is my blood".
What is not found in New Testament, is any explanation to whether and how Jesus Christ could be present in the reenactment during the Eucharist. Yet, the simple expressions of Jesus were understood by early theologians as a sufficient explanation of a miraculous transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
The Eucharist is celebrated by all churches. Most churches consider the Eucharist as the fulfillment of God's plan for the salvation of humanity from sin. It is also considered a sacrament. Most Christian traditions teach that Jesus Christ is present during the celebration of the Eucharist. Exactly how, varies somewhat, but not decisively. All churches in the Middle East and North Africa agree that Christ is really, fully and uniquely present in the Eucharistic elements as well as that the ceremony makes the sacrifice of Christ present. How bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ is simply said to be a mystery.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Eucharist is one of the 7 sacraments, but it has an elevated place, considered the "the source and summit of the Christian life". Eucharist can only be performed by a validly ordained priest, as he acts in the person of Christ. In the ceremony only unleavened wheaten bread and grape wine can be used, no substitute is accepted. The Roman Catholic Church defines that when bread and wine are consecrated in the Eucharist, they change their reality, and truly become the body and blood of Christ. This is, called transubstantiation and was formulated by the 13th-century Italian theologian St. Thomas Aquinas.
There are few differences between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches. What is different is linked to the concepts of piety and liturgy, but not doctrine. One difference is that they use leavened bread.
The actual ceremony is called the Divine Liturgy in Eastern Orthodoxy; the Mass among Roman Catholics; and the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion in most Protestant churches;
The standard ceremony has two parts. In the first involves readings from scriptures, a sermon and prayers. The second is the central part involving the offering of bread and wine, sometimes monetary gifts are given by the congregation. This is followed by a prayer and final blessing and dismissal.
The organization of the ceremony has its roots in ancient Jewish traditions, but it has been much reworked.