Eucharist is the central rite of the Christian religion, in which bread and wine are consecrated by an ordained minister and consumed by the minister and members of the congregation in obedience to Jesus' command at the Last Supper, "Do this in remembrance of me." In the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, and in the Anglican, Lutheran, and many other Protestant churches, it is regarded as a sacrament, which both symbolizes and effects the union of Christ with the faithful. Baptists and others refer to Holy Communion as an "institution," rather than a sacrament, emphasizing obedience to a commandment. Traditionally, Jesus' command to his disciples at the Last Supper to eat the bread and drink the wine "in remembrance of me" constitutes the institution of the Eucharist. This specific command occurs in two New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, Luke 22:17-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Older theology asserts that Jesus gave this command on this occasion to ensure that Christians would break bread and drink wine in his memory as long as the church endured. A critical approach to the Gospel texts, however, has made this conclusion less certain. The command "Do this in remembrance of me" does not appear in either Matthew's or Mark's account of the Last Supper. Consequently, a number of scholars have supposed that the undoubted experience of communion with the risen Christ at meals in the days after Easter inspired in some later traditions the understanding that such communion had been foreseen and commanded by Jesus at the Last Supper. The matter can probably never be resolved with complete satisfaction. In any case, the practice of eating meals in remembrance of the Lord and the belief in the presence of Christ in the "breaking of the bread" clearly were universal in the early church. The Didache, an early Christian document, refers to the Eucharist twice at some length. The Didache and the New Testament together indicate considerable diversity in both the...
Bibliography: Underwood, Karen. The Eucharistic Prayer. New York: Dodd, Mead, &
"Eucharist," World Book Encyclopedia (1999 edition), IV, 290-92.
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