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Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist by consecrating the bread with His words, “This is my body,” and the wine with His words, “This is my blood,” or “This is the cup of my blood.”
The three synoptic Gospels are absolutely consistent. The Body of Christ: Mt 26:26 “This is my body.” Mk 14:22 “This is my body.” Lk 22:19 “This is my body.” The Blood of Christ. Mt 26:27 “This is my blood…” Mk 14:24 “This is my blood…” Lk 22:20 “This … is the new covenant in my blood.”
Always THIS IS. The Gospels do not say, think of this as, or this is a symbol of, this is a symbol of, or imagine this as, or anything that would imply that it is only a symbol. Jesus said THIS IS MY BODY. THIS IS MY BLOOD.
Jesus’ next words instituted the Catholic priesthood: Lk 22:19 “Do this in remembrance of me.” The Vatican-approved Order of Mass for the Hebrew language is titled, Seder Seudat HaAdon. Seder (order) Seudat (meal of) HaAdon (the Lord). It tells us that Jesus’ actual Hebrew words of institution, as nearly as we know them, were, for the bread, k-khoo ve-ikhloo mimenu kulkhem ki zeh hu basari hanimsar lema-ankhem. “Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.” And for the wine, k-khoo ushetoo mimenah kulkhem ki zohi kos dami, dam haberit hakhadasha ve-hanitzkhit, asher yishafekh lema-ankhem ulma-an harabim leshem kipur hakha-taym. Zot asoo lezikhri. “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”
Zot asoo lezikhri is, Lk 22:19 “Do this in remembrance of me.” Lezikhri is a form of the Hebrew word zakhor. The root zkhr is often translated as “remember.” But in the Hebrew mind it does not bring us back to a time but rather brings that time forward to the present. Our Father said, Ex 3:15 “… thus I am to be remembered [zeh zikhri] throughout all generations.” Notice the striking similarity between our Father’s command, Ex 3:15 zeh zikhri, and Jesus’ command, Lk 22:19 zot asoo lezikhri. The Word is with us. The Word Made Flesh is with us. Jesus said, Mt 28:20 “I am with you always.” When we approach the priest to receive Holy Communion, in God’s sight, which means in the deepest and most truthful sense, we are literally standing before Christ on the Cross, receiving His body, blood, soul and divinity. He is with us always.
During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest, speaking in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, speaks these same words, instituting the sacrament in this particular parish church. We call these words the words of institution, since by them the bread and wine are transubstantiated into Christ’s body and blood.
Strictly speaking, the words of institution are, “This is my body.” Transubstantiation occurs at the moment the priest speaks those words. However, many devout Catholics also use the term words of institution for, “Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.” And similarly for the Blood of Christ, strictly speaking, the words of institution are, “This is the cup of my blood,” because transubstantiation occurs at the moment the priest speaks those words. However, devout Catholics also describe as the words of institution, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”
But we use the term institution narrative to describe this part of the Eucharistic Prayer (Roman Canon): “The day before he suffered he took break in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father, he gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you. When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”
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