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Institution of the Eucharist: Abiding access to the graces of Calvary

Luminous Mysteries
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In this month of the Rosary, take a moment to reflect on the Fifth Luminous Mystery.

O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ becomes our food, the memory of his passion is celebrated, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given to us. – Magnificat Antiphon, Feast of Corpus Christi

On the night before he was to die, Jesus took bread in his sacred hands, gave thanks to his heavenly Father, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples, teaching them that this bread was his true flesh. Jesus had explained this mystery before to his disciples. Likening himself to the manna that was given their fathers in the wilderness, our Lord said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” And yet, he was giving them something so much more than manna. Those who ate the manna died. Now Jesus, the Incarnate Word, was offering bread that gave life.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Matthew 26:26-28)

The bread given over to the disciples was not mere bread. The flesh of Christ, a sharing in his own inner life, is what he gave. It was not a mere sign. It was not a mere symbol. It was the gift of his enduring presence. St. Bonaventure declares, “There is no difficulty over Christ’s being present in the sacrament as in a sign; the great difficulty is in the fact that He is really in the sacrament, as He is in heaven. And so believing this is especially meritorious.” The presence of Christ is seen by the eyes of faith. 

In the Eucharist, Jesus gives the Church abiding access to the graces of Calvary. Like the ascent of Mt. Tabor, in the mystery of the Transfiguration, Jesus makes known his glory. Unlike Tabor, however, when only a few disciples saw him, he now reveals himself to the world.

The Fathers of Vatican II explain the institution of the Eucharist saying, “He did this in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again …” We did not stand at the foot of the cross, but the Lord’s sacrifice redeems us. We can, in the eyes of faith, gazing upon the Eucharist, see Christ truly there, and receive in our hearts the graces of his holy cross.

The Institution of the Eucharist, then, is a tremendous consolation. The greatest consolation Jesus offers in our suffering is the gift of himself. The Lord gives to us his own life, a share of his flesh and blood. The Eucharist is the promise that Christ would always be there. Whatever loneliness and pain we feel, whatever brokenness and suffering we see in the Church, Christ is there. He is truly present.

Read more: They died for the Eucharist. Would you?


During the month of October, Aleteia is offering a short reflection on each of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary. Follow it here.

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