The Fifth Luminous Mystery
The Institution of the Holy Eucharist
In John 6:51, while Jesus was teaching the Jews at the synagogue in Capharnaum, He gave us the first Eucharistic Doctrine. He called Himself “The Bread of Life”.
“I Myself am the Living Bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever; the bread I will give is My Flesh, for the life of the world.’
At this the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can he give us his flesh to eat?’ Thereupon Jesus said to them:
‘Let Me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you.’”
After saying this, He lost most of His followers. They couldn’t live with this statement. Jesus, God-Man, had to have known what would happen. In His humanness, He knew what He should do. But He knew what He had to do. It would have been so much easier for Him to call them all back, and say “Wait a minute. I wasn’t serious. I was just testing you.” But He was serious. He couldn’t compromise the truth. He knew the tremendous task He had to accomplish, and the short time available to get it done. If this controversial statement were not true, as so many would have us believe, why did He risk all that He had accomplished? Why was He not willing to back down from it? Even after they questioned Him on it, saying, “This sort of talk is hard to endure. How can anyone take it seriously?”, His comment was “Does it shake your faith?”
Jesus was so firm on this point that He was even willing to lose the Apostles. This was the moment of decision for them. He asked the twelve apostles, “Will you leave Me also?” Peter said, “Where are we to go ? You have the words of everlasting life?”
From Capharnaum to the Cenacle, the cycle is completed. On Holy Thursday evening, in the Upper Room at the Last Supper, we were given the gift, the everlasting gift of the Flesh and Blood of Jesus. We can go to any of the Synoptic Gospel writers. We will quote from St. Luke. In Luke 22:19, we read:
“Then taking bread and giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying: ‘This is My Body to be given for you. Do this as a remembrance of Me.’ He did the same with the cup after eating, saying as He did so: ‘This cup is the New Covenant in My Blood, which will be shed for you.” It was after this that Judas left the room to complete his plan for betrayal.
This Eucharistic Doctrine was repeated innumerable times by the three Synoptic Gospel writers, as well as St. John, and St. Paul. It was stressed more than any teaching in Christ’s ministry.
The Servant of God, our Pope John Paul II the great, gave us a series of special gifts as he was preparing to leave us physically, and enter into the Kingdom. He gave us the Year of the Rosary, and the Year of the Eucharist. In giving us the Year of the Rosary, he gave us these new mysteries to meditate on, and the last of these was the Institution of the Eucharist. We really believe our Pope had a special line with Heaven. He knew things that we don’t know. Everything he did in his last few years was to help us and protect us in these most difficult years. The events of the two years prior to his death reminds us of St. Don Bosco’s Vision of May 30, 1862, in which he saw a large ship (the ship of the Church) with our Pope at the helm. He was trying to anchor the ship in between two large pillars, the largest being the Eucharist, and the smaller, Our Lady, Help of Christians. In his own words, Don Bosco tells us:
“....Try to picture yourselves with me on the seashore, or better still, on an outlying cliff with no other land in sight. The vast expanse of water is covered with a formidable array of ships in battle formation, prows fitted with sharp, spear-like beaks capable of breaking through any defense. All are heavily armed with cannons, incendiary bombs and firearms of all sorts - even books - and are heading toward one stately ship, mightier than them all. As they close in, they try to ram it, set it afire and cripple it as much as possible.
“This stately vessel is shielded by a flotilla escort. Winds and waves are with the enemy. In the midst of this endless sea, two solid columns, a short distance apart, soar high into the sky: one surmounted by a statue of the Immaculate Virgin at whose feet a large inscription reads: Help of Christians; the other, far loftier and sturdier, supports a Host of proportionate size and bears beneath it the inscription Salvation of believers.
“The flagship commander - the Roman Pontiff - seeing the enemy’s fury and his auxiliary ships’ very grave predicament, summons his captains to a conference. However, as they discuss their strategy, a furious storm breaks out and they must return to their ships.
“When the storm abates, the Pope again summons his captains as the flagship keeps on its course. But the storm rages again. Standing at the helm, the Pope strains every muscle to steer his ship between the two columns from whose summits hang many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.
“The entire enemy fleet closes in to intercept and sink the flagship at all costs. They bombard it with everything they have: books and pamphlets, incendiary bombs, firearms, cannons. The battle rages ever more furious. Beaked prows ram the flagship again and again, but to no avail, as unscathed and undaunted, it keeps on its course. At times a formidable ram splinters a gaping hole into its hull, but immediately, a breeze from the two columns instantly seals the gash.
“Meanwhile, enemy cannons blow up, firearms and beaks fall to pieces, ships crack up and sink to the bottom. In blind fury the enemy takes to hand-to-hand combat, cursing and blaspheming. Suddenly the Pope falls, seriously wounded, He is instantly helped up, but, struck down a second time, dies. A shout of victory rises from the enemy and wild rejoicing sweeps their ships. But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The captains of the auxiliary ships elected him so quickly that the news of the Pope’s death coincides with that of his successor’s election. The enemy’s self-assurance waned.
“Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers the ship safely between the two columns and moors it to the two columns; first, to the one surmounted by the Host and then to the other, topped by the statue of the Virgin. At this point, something unexpected happens. The enemy ships panic and disperse, colliding with and scuttling each other.
“Some auxiliary ships which had gallantly fought alongside their flagship are the first to tie up at the two columns. Many others, which had fearfully kept far away from the fight, stand still, cautiously waiting until the wrecked enemy ships vanish under the waves. Then, they too head for the two columns, tie up at the swinging hooks and ride safe and tranquil beside their flagship. A great calm now covers the sea.”(Dreams, Visions & Prophecies of Don Bosco)
We truly believe our Pope John Paul II, knowing that he was departing this world, was trying to do the same thing the Pope in the vision of Don Bosco was doing, leave us with that strength that only the Eucharist and Mother Mary can give us.
We believe the Eucharist has been the underlying thread which has kept the Catholic Church going since the days of Our Lord Jesus. This is what has held us together through the most difficult periods in our history. We were told by a Church historian that the newly formed Church would not have survived two hundred years if it had not been for Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist - Source and Summit
We know the Catholic Catechism calls the Eucharist the “Source and Summit of Ecclesial Life.” All other Sacraments and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward It. For in the Blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself, our Pasch.”#1324
The Eucharist has been defined in many ways:
Because it is an action of thanksgiving to God.
The Lord’s Supper
Because of its connection with the Last Supper, and also the nourishing qualities inherent in the reception of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus.
Breaking of the Bread
Because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal, when as master of the table He blessed and distributed the bread, above all at the Last Supper. It is by this action that His disciples will recognize Him after His Resurrection. #1329
We want to take a moment here to refer to Pope John Paul II’s letter to the bishops on the occasion of the opening of the Year of the Eucharist, Mane Nobiscum Domini, “Stay with us, Lord.” In this letter, our Pope used the words of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, when Jesus filled their hearts as He explained through the Scriptures how everything He did had to be done to fulfill Scripture. But they recognized Him “in the breaking of the bread.” Our Pope made a beautiful observation at this point. He said “Soon afterwards, Jesus’ face would disappear, yet the Master would ‘stay` with them, hidden in the ‘breaking of the bread.”’
In the Catholic Catechism, the Eucharist is given other titles:
The Memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection
The Holy Sacrifice #1330
because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering. Other terms, including Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Sacrifice of Praise, Spiritual Sacrifice, pure and Holy Sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.
Holy Communion # 1331
because by this Sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, Who makes us sharers in His Body and Blood to form a single body.
From the early days of the Apostles, after the Resurrection of Our Lord, they were faithful to the Lord’s Command. It is written:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.”
Family, this gift was for you, is for you. Our Lord Jesus gave it to us the night before He died. His thoughts should have been in so many different places, with so many different priorities, but they were with us. He took time on the last day of His life to give Himself to us in this way.
Not only that, but one of the first things He did upon rising from the dead was to affirm the Eucharist with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. “They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.”
What is Our Lord Jesus, and our Saintly Pope John Paul trying to tell us? What gift have they given us to bring us through this pilgrimage of life? Jesus gave us His very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. John Paul gave us a roadmap to Heaven. Take advantage of both gifts. We love you, but more importantly, Jesus loves you more.
About the Authors:
Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors of many best selling books about the Catholic Faith. They are hosts on EWTN Global Television and have written over 25 books. They are best known as the authors of “Miracles of the Eucharist books.” They have been dubbed, “Experts on the Saints.”