And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said,
Take, eat; this is my body.
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Cornelius a Lapide
Whilst they were at supper, &c. This is My Body. Thus the Syriac, Arabic, and Persian. But the Ethiopic more significantly renders, This is My very Flesh. The Egyptian adds for: For this is My Body. The rest, indeed, understand for. For that the word must here be supplied is sufficiently plain from the account of the consecration of the wine in ver28 , For this is My Blood. The word for gives the reason why they must eat and drink, namely, because it is the Body and Blood of Christ which are offered to them by Him to be eaten and drunken. For who would not most eagerly receive such Divine and precious meat and drink?
At supper, i.e, after the supper, as Luke and Paul have, it, of the paschal lamb, but whilst they were still reclining at the table as it was spread for the feast. Therefore Matthew says, whilst they were at supper. Here take notice that this supper of Christ was threefold. First, that of the paschal lamb, which Christ and His Apostles celebrated standing, according to the law in Exod. xii. Secondly, a common supper of other food after the lamb, which they ate reclining upon couches. For all the members of a family, especially if it were a numerous one, would not have sufficient food in the lamb alone. Thirdly, Christ added a most sacred, yea, a Divine Supper, that is to say, the institution of the Eucharist. For Christ before the Eucharist partook of the lamb and the ordinary supper, since it was fitting that the type of the lamb should precede the Eucharistic Verity; and that the Eucharist should be the final memorial of Him who was about to die, as it were the highest pledge of love. So Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. Suarez, however, in speaking of this passage, thinks that the Eucharist was instituted between the paschal and the ordinary supper. At present, indeed, for the sake of reverence of so great a Sacrament, it Isaiah , says S. Augustine (Epist128), an Apostolic tradition that the Eucharist should only be taken by those who are fasting. Wherefore the heretics falsely and deceitfully call the Eucharist "the Supper," although it be true the first Christians for some time celebrated the Eucharist at supper, after the example of Christ, as we gather from 1 Corinthians 11:25. Moreover, in the place of the second and ordinary supper, which Paul calls the Lord"s Supper, there succeeded in ancient times, among Christians, the Agape, that Isaiah , a feast common to all, as a sign and incentive of charity, but taken after the reception of the Eucharist. Lastly, Christ, after the supper upon the lamb and the ordinary supper, but before the institution of the Eucharist washed the disciples" feet. He did this to signify with what purity we ought to approach so great Mysteries. This is plain from John xiii4. After the washing, He took and consecrated bread and wine, which were still upon the table, and converted them into the Eucharist, that Isaiah , into His own Body and Blood.
From all this it is gathered that Christ instituted the Eucharist about the first or second hour of the night. For after taking the Eucharist, Judas went out to summon the servants of the rulers, that they might seize Christ. Christ in the meanwhile delivered His prolonged discourse, of which John gives an account, chaps. xiv-xvii. When this was ended, He went out to the Mount of Olives, and there continued a long time in prayer. Then He was taken by the Jews and dragged back from Gethsemane to Jerusalem. Then He was taken to Annas, and after that to Caiaphas. Still there was a great part of the night left, during which He was beaten by the hands of the servants of the priests, was spat upon and mocked by them, whilst they were waiting for the day, that they might take Him to Pilate to be condemned. From all this it appears that Christ instituted the Eucharist about the beginning of Thursday night.
Lastly, listen to the Council of Trent (Sess22 , c1): "After Christ had celebrated the ancient Passover, which the multitude of the sons of Israel sacrificed in memory of their going out of Egypt, He instituted a new Passover, that He Himself should be immolated by the Church (ab ecclesia), by means of (per) the priests, under (sub) visible signs, in memory of His passage from this world to the Father, when He redeemed us by the shedding of His Blood, and delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us to His Kingdom."
Jesus took bread. Observe here five actions of Christ1st He took bread2d He gave thanks to the Father3d He blessed bread4th He brake bread5th He extended it, and as He was extending it to them He said, Take and eat; this is My.Body. For these are the words by which He offered it to them as well as by which He consecrated it. This annihilates Calvin"s argument, who says, all these words, namely, took, blessed, brake, gave, have respect only unto bread. Therefore the Apostles received and ate bread, not the Body of Christ. I reply to the major premiss: These words refer to bread, not as it remained bread, but as it was in the act of being bestowed (inter dandum), changed by virtue of the words and consecration of Christ into the Body of Christ. For thus might Christ have said at Cana of Galilee, "Take and drink, for this is wine," if He had wished by these words to turn water into wine. For so we say in ordinary speech, "Herod shut up S. John in prison, killed and buried him, or permitted him to be buried." And yet it was not the same that he shut up in prison whom he buried. For he imprisoned a Prayer of Manasseh , he buried a corpse. After a similar and common way of speaking is what the Evangelists and S. Paul say of the Eucharist.
Observe, secondly, from what Christ said, Take ye, for this Isaiah , &c, it would seem that Christ took one loaf, and during the act of consecration broke it inter twelve parts, and gave one of these parts to each of the Apostles, which they appear to have received in their hands. Wherefore also, for a long time in the Church, the Eucharist was given to the faithful in their hands, as is plain from Tertullian (lib. de Spectac.), and from S. Cyril of Jerusalem (Cateches1Mystagog5), and from S. Austin (Serm244). Afterwards, however, from fear of desecration, and through reverence, it was given in the mouth.
Lastly, the Apostles were not troubled at this unaccustomed action of Christ, and this new and wonderful Sacrament, for two reasons. First, because they had been already instructed and premonished (John vi.), as S. Chrysostom teaches (Hom83 , in Matth.). The other, because the same Christ who delivered the Mysteries, illuminated their minds by faith, that they might simply believe. For they had heard and believed many other more marvellous things without being troubled; as, chiefly that that Prayer of Manasseh , whom they saw eat, drink, sleep, be weary, was true God. Yea, that He was in Heaven at the very same time that He was speaking with them on earth, when He said ( John 3:13), "And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Prayer of Manasseh , which is in Heaven."
Blessed. Observe, Christ before consecration, 1st gave thanks to God the Father, as Luke and Paul say; and that, after His manner, with His eyes lifted up to Heaven, as it is in the Canon of the Mass and the Liturgy of S. James. Whence this Sacrament is called the Eucharist, i.e, Giving of Thanks, because it is itself the greatest and chief Thanksgiving.
2d Christ blessed, not the Father, as the heretics choose to say, but the bread and wine, as S. Paul says expressly, the cup of blessing which we bless, &c ( 1 Corinthians 10:16). Now Christ blessed the bread and the chalice, that is to say, He invoked the blessing and almighty power of God upon the bread and wine, that it might be then at that time, and in all future consecrations, converted, the bread into the Body, and the wine of the chalice into the Blood of Christ, whensoever the, words of consecration are rightly and duly (legitime) pronounced. Similar was the blessing of the loaves ( Luke 9:16). Not, therefore, was this benediction the same as consecration, though S. Thomas thinks otherwise (see Council of Trent, Sess13 , cap1). Whence in the Liturgies of S. James and S. Basil, and in our Canon, we pray, after Christ"s example, that God would bless these gifts, that the Divine power may descend upon the bread and the chalice, to perfect the consecration. Hence it is called the chalice of benediction, i.e, blessed by Christ. Whence also S. Paul says ( 1 Corinthians 10:16), "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communication of the Blood of Christ?"
Lastly, it seems that Christ blessed the bread by making over it the sign of the cross, and in blessing, invoked the power of God, that it might become consecrated and transubstantiated. For, according to the practice of the Church, priests in consecration bless the bread and the wine with the sign of the cross. This they do after the example of Christ.
This is My Body. From hence it is plain that the Eucharist is not the figure of the Body of Christ, as the Innovators perversely say, but the true and proper Body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, and crucified on Calvary, as the Church has believed in all ages, and defined in many Councils. This I have shown on 1 Corinthians 11:24. There Paul, in the same words, repeats and relates the institution of the Eucharist. We must add, that some have been torn away from this faith, because they are not able to comprehend how the Body of Christ, so lofty and so great, can be contained whole in (sub) a very little host. But these persons ought to remember that God is Almighty; and that as He constituted nature, so also He often works, as He wills, contrary to nature, in a supernatural manner, that He may show Himself to be the Lord and God of nature and of all things. Wherefore, whatsoever there is peculiar in nature may be inverted and altogether changed (everti). Consequently, God is able to effect that a great quantity may be contained in a little space, yea, in a point. This is the theological reason. But in order to give full satisfaction to some weak minds, I will subjoin two evidential arguments for this mystery to show that it is possible—arguments which derive their force from analog