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The alliance: the ring of the bride

To get the message that the evangelist wants to convey, we must go beyond what seems a simple stenographic transcript. It is the disciples who want to remember the Passover, not Jesus. They think of celebrating their liberation from Egypt and the Sinai covenant. They become, instead, witnesses of the new covenant foretold by the prophets and they receive the true Lamb as food.

 The second part of the gospel we find the liturgical text used in the early Christian communities for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is the text composed in the early years of the Church and conserved for us by Mark, author of the first gospel.

 The Twelve who prepared the lamb see the Jewish Passover meal transformed into the dinner of Jesus in the Eucharistic banquet. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them” (v. 22). So far nothing new compared to the traditional rite. As head of the table, Jesus prayed before the distribution of bread, “Be praised, O Lord, our God, king of the world, for you let bread spring from the earth.” Then, an unusual invitation is given to his disciples: “Take this and eat” and, above all, the value attributed to the bread, “This is my body,” that is, “It’s me.”

 The disciples are able to understand the meaning of the gesture and words. The master’s whole life is a gift. He has become bread broken for people, now he wants his disciples to share his choice. They enter into communion, they become one person with him, so they will share in his own life. So approaching the Eucharist is not a devotional meeting with Jesus, but a decision to be like him at all times, broken bread at the disposal of the brethren.

 At the end of the meal, Jesus drinks the cup of wine. The cup is that of his blood. The blood of the new covenant is poured out for all. 

The Eucharist is not instituted for the individuals, so that everyone can personally meet Christ, to encourage individual fervour or some form of spiritual isolationism, but it is the food of the community, bread broken and shared among brothers and sisters (at least two), because the community is a sign of the new humanity, born of the resurrection of Christ.

 The bread is Christ and the cup of his blood creates a community of “blood relations” with Christ and with one another, so as to form the new people whose only law is the service to the brothers and sisters to the point of giving one’s life as “nourishment” to satisfy all forms of human hunger.

λ Father Fernando Armellini
Claretian Publications