The Last Supper

The Last Supper took place on Holy Thursday in a large furnished room in the upstairs of a house in the city. Jesus and the twelve disciples all took part.

The disciples were all Jews and on the day of the Last Supper they were, in fact, celebrating the Passover. The Passover was celebrated by all Jews each year to commemorate the escape of Jews from slavery in Egypt.

The meal the Jews ate the night they escaped was full of symbols. The unleavened bread is a sign they had to leave in a hurry. A mixture of nuts and honey was a symbol of the bricks and mortar they had to mix in Egypt. The egg was a symbol of new life. A piece of roast lamb was a reminder of the Passover lamb and the bitter herbs, a sign of suffering in Egypt.

On the day of the Passover Jesus sent two of his disciples into the city and told them to meet a man with a jar of water. Such water-carrying was a woman’s work in those days, so a man carrying a jar would have been very noticeable. The disciples were to follow him and enter the house he went into. They then were to say to the owner of the house,

“The teacher asks, ‘ Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” (Mk 14:14-15)

The disciples did as Jesus requested and the owner of the house showed them into a large room upstairs, furnished and ready for the Passover.

When it was evening the twelve disciples and Jesus took their places and were eating when Jesus said,

“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me” (Mk 14:18-19)

The disciples were distressed and asked

“Surely, not I?” (Mk 14:19-20)

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread and after blessing it, give it to them and said,

“Take; this is my body.” ( Mk 14:22-23)

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them and all of them drank from it. Jesus said

“This is my blood of the New Covenant which is poured out for many.” (Mk 14:24-25)

What Jesus is trying to say here is that he is going to die and his work is nearly done. The next time he will celebrate with the disciples will be at the Messianic Banquet at the end of time. The disciples did not understand this and were very frightened.

After the Last Supper the disciples felt confused. They did not understand the resurrection that was going to take place. They felt upset because one of them was going to betray Jesus. They were very frightened because Jesus was leaving them and they would be hunted down by the soldiers also. The apostles knew that something big was going to happen soon, but what?

The Christian churches disagree about the meaning of the ceremony. The different churches disagree on a number of things including the meaning of the words of Jesus. When Jesus says “The mass,” he refers to the words of dismissal at the end of the service. The Lords’ Supper was a phrase used by St. Paul and Holy Communion means the sharing as in a family of God.

Eucharist-This word means ‘Thanksgiving’ and is a good name for the celebration of the sacred meal. Christians give thanks for the bread and wine and so did Jesus. There is a spiritual thanksgiving which is brought out clearly in the Orthodox ‘Liturgy’.

Holy Communion-The sharing of the bread and wine shows the Christian fellowship of all those who believe in Jesus Christ as the saviour and lord. The Communion of sharing is holy as Jesus brings his followers together in unity.

The Lords Supper-The word ‘supper’ emphasises the meal of Christian fellowship.

The Breaking Of Bread-The original language of the new testament is translated…..’In the breaking of the loaf (or bread)’

The Mass-this is used by the Roman Catholic Church. It is taken from the Latin word ‘Missa’ which means ‘Ended’ or ‘Finished’. It was one of the last words in the mass in Latin.

Some Christians do not celebrate the Eucharist very often. Jehovah’s’ witnesses celebrate only once a year as a memorial of ‘The Last Supper’. Presbyterian churches used to hold the service about four times a year.

After the congregational church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian church in England joined into the one United Reformed Church, there had to be some adjustments to the frequency of the service.

The ‘Sunday Service’ of the Methodist church allows for a service with or without the Sacrament or Sacred meal. A ‘Communion Sunday’ in the Baptist church includes the ministry or service of the word and the ministry of the table.

The church of England celebrates Holy Communion frequently, at least once a week. The Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox churches celebrate daily.

There are various ways in which Christians celebrate the Eucharist. They depend on the way they understand the ‘sacred meal’.

Churches which have ‘Alter-Centred’ worship have a priest or minister to conduct the service. In Churches where there is an ordained Priesthood, only Priests have the authority to consecrate the bread and wine. In these Churches there is usually a three-part service:

1. Worship of the Word.

2. Worship of the Eucharist.

3. Communion Service.

At the Communion Service in an Anglican Church the people come before the altar and receive, first the bread and then the wine from a single Chalice. In the Roman Catholic Church it is the same, only the Chalice is not always used.

The Orthodox church gives communion on a spoon where the bread has been dipped into the consecrated wine.

Churches which have a pulpit or bible-centred worship have a slightly different way of giving communion. The service of communion may be the last part of the act of worship, and not the main point of the service.

In the Baptist church the people decide on the order of the service. Free churches have a more improvised pattern of worship and do not have set prayer-books like the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

Most Christians are agreed that it is important to bring about an end to this disunity as soon as possible. There is some agreement within the churches. They agree on the following points:

1.Jesus instituted the meal at the Last Supper.

2.When the church meets to celebrate the Eucharist Jesus is present.

3.The Eucharist calls to mind the death and resurrection of Jesus.

4. The celebrating of the Eucharist is a means of communication with Jesus and each other.

5. In the Eucharist, the church looks forward to the time when Jesus will come again and establish the Kingdom Of God on earth.

“This is my body which will be given up for you. This cup is the New Covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you. Do this in memory of me.” (Mk 14:22-26)

Through this sacrament, Jesus promised his friends that he would continue to meet them in his body and blood in the form of bread and wine.

Jesus spoke of himself as a sacrifice, like the lamb that was killed at the Passover. Just as the bread is broken, so will his body be broken. And as the wine is poured out so will his blood.

During the Eucharist we kneel and bow as a sign of respect as we welcome Jesus in the form of bread and wine.

In Primary schools there are a lot of preparations made in advance of Holy Communion. The children are taught about the Last Supper and The Passover. Holy Communion is a very special day in all children’s Holy Life as it entitles them to meet with Jesus for the first time in the form of bread and wine.

In my opinion, young people today are a lot less respectful to the Eucharist than their ancestors were. Young people today do not have the same faith as the people who came before them. Young people think Mass is a waste of time and will only go when they are forced to by their parents. It would appear that it is ‘uncool’ to be seen at Mass with their family.

Conclusion.

The church of England celebrates Holy Communion frequently, at least once a week. Jehovah’s witnesses celebrate only once a year as a memorial of the Last Supper. Celebrating less attaches more importance, although there is a sense of spiritual nourishment for the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches as they celebrate daily.

Rooted in Christ- with individual differences- Christians are encouraged to accept these differences and to love one another as I have loved you.

I am mindful and aware of other traditions and their practices. I respect these varied approaches to worship and can appreciate them for their differences. However, as a Christian but also a Catholic my faith is traditional, ancestral and encompassing.

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