Was the Eucharist at the Last Supper the Glorified Body of Jesus?

The most holy Eucharist is the full and real presence of Jesus Christ (body, blood, soul, Divinity) under the accidents of bread and wine. In this article, I discuss whether the Eucharist at the Last Supper was the glorified body of Jesus, or His body at the time of the Last Supper before He was glorified. Keep in mind that, despite the emphasis on the state of His body in the Eucharist, the most blessed Sacrament ALWAYS includes his whole human nature (body, blood, soul) united to His Divine Nature as the one person, Jesus Christ.

Jesus instituted the Mass and celebrated the first Eucharist at the Last Supper.

Pope Saint John Paul II: “Reading the account of the institution of the Eucharist in the Synoptic Gospels, we are struck by the simplicity and the solemnity with which Jesus, on the evening of the Last Supper, instituted this great sacrament.” [Ecclesia de Eucharistia 47]

Subsequently, Jesus died, rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven. Everyone agrees that, since His resurrection, the Eucharist is his glorified human nature united to His Divinity.

Pope Saint John Paul II: “A beautiful text of the Second Vatican Council reminds us of it: ‘Christ left to his followers a pledge of this hope and food for the journey in the sacrament of faith, in which natural elements, the fruits of man’s cultivation, are changed into his glorified Body and Blood, as a supper of brotherly fellowship and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet’ (Gaudium et spes, n. 38).” [Message to Spanish Episcopal Conference]

International Eucharistic Congress: “The bread and wine presented at this point of the Mass are signs that prepare us also for what is to come. The bread and wine will be transformed by God into the glorified body and blood of his Son.” [Pontifical Committee For International Eucharistic Congresses; The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another, June 2012].

But the question arises as to whether his body and blood in the Eucharist ever was or ever could be anything other than in the glorified state.

The most common theological opinion is that the body of Jesus in the Eucharist is in the same state as the body of Jesus in person. This opinion goes back to the time of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who held the following:

1. Jesus received His own body and blood in the Eucharist at the Last Supper.
2. The body of Jesus in the Eucharist at the Last Supper was His non-glorified body.
3. If the Eucharist had been consecrated at the time of the death of Jesus, the body of Jesus in the host would have died.
4. If the Eucharist were reserved somewhere (in a tabernacle or similar place) from the consecration at the Last Supper, Jesus’ body in those hosts would have died.
5. If the Eucharist were consecrated after His death, the consecrated wine would contain only his blood and Divinity, not his body or soul, and the consecrated bread would contain only his body and Divinity, not his blood or soul.
See Summa Theologica, III, Q. 81, A. 1-4.

I disagree with all of the above positions, for several strong theological reasons.

1. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich states, based on her visions from God, that Jesus did not receive the Eucharist at the Last Supper. [Dolorous Passion, Meditation VIII].

It makes sense that He would not receive, since in receiving Himself, he receives nothing that He does not already possess in full. Reception of Communion is a meeting with Christ, but being Christ is greater. So it does not make sense for Christ to meet himself in Communion. Devout reception of Communion confers grace from Christ, but if Christ receives himself, nothing occurs that would confer grace, since He always possesses himself fully.

Of the 7 Sacraments, I believe Christ received only the three that give an indelible character to the soul: baptism, confirmation, orders. He had no need of confession, since He never sinned. He did not need the anointing of the sick, since He himself is the healer of all who are healed. He did not marry, since He was perfect in virginity and had no need of a wife. He did not receive himself in Communion, because he already is himself.

2. There are several reasons why we should hold that the body of Jesus in the Eucharist was always His glorified body, no matter when the Eucharist is consecrated.

A. At the Last Supper, Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. But if his body in that Eucharist was substantially different from all subsequent Eucharists, then the Church would then be consecrating a different Eucharist than what Christ instituted.

Consider the other Sacraments. What if Christ baptized with wine, but the Church with water? What if Jesus chose only men to be priests, but the Church chose only women? What if Christ used wheat bread and grape wine for the Eucharist, but the Church decided to use rice crackers and beer? The Sacraments used by the Church must be substantially the same as the Sacraments instituted by Christ. Therefore, Christ must have instituted a Eucharist which was the same as the Eucharist ever celebrated by the Church: His glorified body and blood, united to His soul, and to His Divinity.

B. The Last Supper was the first Mass as well as the first Eucharist. The Mass and Eucharist celebrated by the Church is no mere symbol of the suffering of Christ on the Cross; it is the very same Sacrifice. Christ is God, and God is unlimited by time and place.

Catechism of the Catholic Church: “621 Jesus freely offered himself for our salvation. Beforehand, during the Last Supper, he both symbolized this offering and made it really present: ‘This is my body which is given for you’ ( Lk 22:19).”

The sacrifice of Christ is really and truly present at the Mass, in the Eucharist. This is true because Christ is unlimited by time and place:

“In the Eucharist, the faithful are nourished with the Body of the Risen Christ. In each Eucharistic celebration throughout the world, the Risen Lord, conqueror of sin and death, goes beyond the limits of time and space and is really present under the elements of bread and wine. Therefore, it is the Body of the Glorified Lord” [Instrumentum Laboris, 11th General Synod of Bishops]

If the body of Christ in the first Eucharist were His body prior to His Death and Resurrection, then that Eucharist would not be the very same sacrifice offered on the Cross — since He had not yet suffered, died, and rose from the dead. Christ “goes beyond the limits of time and space”. So Christ could be present in His Crucified and Risen body in the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

If we claim that the Eucharist at the Last Supper was His body prior to Crucifixion, then the Last Supper would be a Mass without a Sacrifice, and a Eucharist disconnected from the salvific act of Christ shedding His blood for us on the Cross. It would be a Mass without the Cross and then also a Mass with a Savior who had not yet saved.

C. Christ, as God, can perform miracles, and is unbounded by time and place. Therefore, He, as God, could choose either state for His presence in the Eucharist, His body at that time (prior to Crucifixion and Resurrection), or His resurrected gloried body.

Which is more fitting? It is more fitting for His body in the Eucharist at the Last Supper to be the same as it ever would be for the Church. And it is more fitting for His body in the Eucharist at the Last Supper to be His Crucified and Resurrected body, since, in this way, the Mass and Eucharist includes that Sacrifice on the Cross and His victory over sin and death.

Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1323 “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’ “

The Mass at the Last Supper could only truly and fully be “a memorial of his death and resurrection” if it was his crucified and resurrected body in the Eucharist.

D. Baptism is effective by the Sacrifice on the Cross, yet baptism began prior to the Crucifixion.

In baptism, we die with Christ. The Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross makes Baptism and all other Sacraments effective. Yet baptism was given prior to the Crucifixion. So we clearly see by this example that time and place are no obstacle to the Sacraments. Similarly, the Eucharist could be given, including Christ’s glorified body, even though the event of His crucifixion and resurrection occurred later. And this was most fitting so that every subsequent Mass and Eucharist could be sacramentally the same as the first Mass and Eucharist, an offering of the crucified, risen, and gloried Lord.

3. and 4. Saint Thomas’ position that, if the Eucharist had been consecrated at the time of the death of Jesus, the body of Jesus in the host would have died, and if the Eucharist were reserved somewhere, Jesus’ body in those hosts would have died, lends more support to my position than to his.

For the mortal body is able to suffer and die (in the case of Christ, only if God wills), but the resurrected glorified body is incorrupt. Christ conquered death and corruption. But if the consecrated Eucharist at the Last Supper was Jesus’ body as it was at that time, not glorified, and if it next died (or even merely could die), then the Eucharist would be corrupted by death. And death would then have dominion over a Sacrament, in contradiction to the Scriptures:
[Romans]
{6:9} For we know that Christ, in rising up from the dead, can no longer die: death no longer has dominion over him.

For though it was fitting for Christ to die for our sins and for our salvation, once for all, it would not have been fitting for that death to occur in a Sacrament which is Life:
[John]
{6:33} For the bread of God is he who descends from heaven and gives life to the world.”
{6:34} And so they said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
{6:35} Then Jesus said to them: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

The Bread of Life can in no way and at no time die. And this death of the Bread of Life is prevented, not by mere circumstance — such as the circumstance that no hosts were retained from the Last Supper and no Eucharist was consecrated from the time of His death to His Resurrection — but rather necessarily so. Therefore, the body of Jesus in the Eucharist must ALWAYS NECESSARILY be His crucified, resurrected, glorified body.

Saint Thomas also held that, if a Mass had been celebrated between His death and resurrection, the Eucharist would be His dead body united to His Divinity, but without His soul. But I say that Jesus would not establish a Sacrament in such a way that it could be corrupted (even by a sheer possibility that does not occur) by becoming a dead body. Indeed, it is fundamentally and thoroughly contrary to the very meaning and purpose of the Sacrament called the Bread of Life if, even by sheer possibility, it could contain only His dead body united to His Divinity.

5. Saint Thomas goes so far as to claim that, if the Eucharist were consecrated after His death, the consecrated wine would contain only his blood and Divinity, not his body or soul, and the consecrated bread would contain only his body and Divinity, not his blood or soul. This claim is refuted by many of the points above, especially that the Eucharist celebrated by the Church must ever be the same at that instituted by our Lord. So the Sacrament cannot be, at one point His body before crucifixion and resurrection, and at another point possibly even dead flesh or dead blood lacking a soul.

“CANON I. If any one denies, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but says that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.

CANON III. If any one denies that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let him be anathema.”

It is contrary to the infallible teaching of the Council of Trent (a Council held a long time after the death of Saint Thomas) defining the very nature of that Sacrament to say that the Eucharist could ever, at any time, under any circumstances, even as a mere possibility, lack the soul of Christ, or contain only His dead body, or that the blood of Christ in the consecrated wine would lack his body and soul, being only blood united to Divinity. The infallible teaching of the Church is that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and Divinity of Christ — and it never can be anything else — of necessity, by the very definition and nature of the Sacrament. For how would the Sacrament be truly the Most Blessed Sacrament if it were His dead body, lacking His soul?

Thus, if we hold that the body of Christ in the Eucharist is not always His crucified, resurrected, glorified body — but only his body in whatever state it may have been on earth at the time — then the infallible teaching of the Council of Trent would not be true. Therefore, we cannot hold the position of Saint Thomas, that the Eucharist could possibly have been a dead body without a soul, or similar claims, nor even that, at the Last Supper, it was the body of Christ prior to glorification.

So the Eucharist was always the glorified body of Jesus, and not His body in whatever state it happened to be at the time. For time and place are no obstacle to the miracles of God.

Previous Posts:
The Correct Understanding of Transubstantiation
Common Errors on Accidents, Substance, and the Eucharist
Understanding Accidents, Substance, and the Eucharist

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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