Thursday, March 28, 2013

Traditional Eucharist Rite (and Understanding)

I know I said I wouldn't do this one but with the rise of people interested in the Jewish Passover meal, I figured I'd take some time and clarify exactly how we are to understand the Eucharist in light of the Passover, because that's where the Eucharist came from.
Yeah, that's right: The Catholic Church didn't come up with the Eucharist ritual by itself. It came from the Jewish Passover commemorating the Jews being "passed over" by the angel of death in Egypt.
Consider the parts of what God commands the Isralites to do:
1. Sacrifice a perfect lamb and shed its blood.
2. Commemorate the feast following certain guidelines.
3. Eat of the lamb.

 Let's take these in order:
1. Sacrifice a perfect lamb and shed its blood.
 I'm not going into get too much into this one because believe it or not, this is what most Christians agree on, but as a brief review, the Jews were ordered to find a lamb without blemish, none of its bones could be broken, and it must be slaughtered. Jesus is dubbed "the Lamb of God", found without blemish by Pilate and none of His bones were broken during His Passion. We can go further with the connection between manna from Heaven, or using a sacrificial animal to atone for the people's sins but again, most Christians are in agreement with these connections.
 2. Commemorate the feast following certain guidelines.
The Gospels speak of the Last Supper happening during the Seder. Now what happens during the Seder meal? For one thing, cups of wine are passed during the feast.  In fact, there are four cups of wine drunk during the Seder, each with its own blessings:
Kiddush- a blessing to God for the covenant. [Interesting note: the host of the Seder says the blessing "Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. (Amen)." This is similar to the blessing a priest says as he sanctifies the wine for the Eucharist.]
 Maggid- usually a rabbi skilled in the Torah and stories in the Talmud and other religious themed stories. Birkat Hamazon- a set of blessings following any meal involving bread made of wheat or with matzo. It includes four prayers for the food provided, the land given to the Jews, the holy city Jerusalem, and God's goodness respectively.
Hallel- reciting word for word Psalms 113-118; also called the Cup of Consummation.
Of these four, I am convinced the Birkat Hamazon must have been the cup Jesus used to create the Eucharist and here's how I know that:  the Birkat Hamazon is also called "the Cup of Blessing", the same name given to the cup Jesus used by Paul (see 1 Cor. 10:16). Jews reading or hearing about the Last Supper would have picked that up right away.
There are several theories as to why only four cups are used. Some say it's a reference to Exodus 6:6-7 where God says "I will bring out," "I will deliver," "I will redeem," and "I will take." According to Jewish thinker Vilna Gaon, the cups stand for this world, the Messianic age, the world at the revival of the dead, and the world to come. The four cups might also reflect the ancient Roman custom of drinking as many cups as there are letters in the name of the chief guest at a meal, which in the case of the Seder is God Himself whose Hebrew name has four letters. I believe these are all tied together, because notice it doesn't say the fourth cup was consumed at the meal, but it was consumed at Christ's Passion.
In doing research for this, I came across the custom of the Seder host wearing what's called a kittel, which has multiple uses:
-it's worn by the host of the Seder. I am convinced this is what Jesus put on before washing the Apostle's feet. (see John chapter 13)
 -it's used as a symbol of purity
 -it's worn by a Jewish groom on his wedding day.
 -it's used as a burial shroud.
Does any of this sound familiar to how the Church understands Christ's role in redemption and how the Church is viewed as the "Bride of Christ?"

 3. Eat of the Lamb. This is where the biggest disagreement about the Eucharist comes from. Protestants are fine with Jesus sacrificing Himself for our sins and they get the connections to the Passover, but they don't get the part of why it must be the literal flesh and blood of Christ that we must consume and try all sorts of heretical tricks.
 Let's get a few things straight here: -There are several words for something to symbolize something else, but none of those words are used by Jesus at the Last Supper. The only words He uses are, translated to Greek, "touto mou estin to soma," which means "This is really".
 -Jesus uses the phrase "blood of the covenant"; the only other time this phrase appears is Exodus 24:8. -Many Protestants claim the Eucharist is just a symbol, but if that's true, why does Paul say in 1 Cor. 11:27-29 that eating or drinking in an unworthy manner is the equivalent of profaning (literally, murdering) the body and blood of the Lord? If it's just a symbol, isn't Paul giving an unjust punishment under divine inspiration?
-Other times, they claim it's just a symbol because in the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus says in John 6:64:

"It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life."
This notion is contradicted by 68-70 where He questions the Apostles: Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? [69] And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. [70] And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.
-Some pseudo-Christians (mostly Mormons) twist the Eucharist by using white bread and water; the first doesn't match the Passover ritual and the second ignores the fact Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek, a priest-king who offered sacrifice of bread and wine.
-It is not right for a non-Catholic to eat of the Eucharist, following the Jewish tradition of the uncircumcised not being allowed to eat of the Passover.
- The Jews did not stop at just sacrificing the lamb. They also ate of it. You can't get more basic than that.

But what is the proper way to receive the Holy Body and Blood of the Lord?

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