Thursday, June 4, 2015

How Did the Early Christians Celebrate the Last Supper?

Early Christian painting of Eucharist
I recently got into an online discussion about the Catholic faith with fellow Christians who are concerned that Catholics ask saints to pray for them.  This discussion led to a further discussion about the Last Supper and the Eucharist.  These discussions arose following my most recent posting of the eye-witness account of Justin Martyr's witness to the Christian faith and his subsequent martyrdom that occurred around 155 AD. 

It is amazing that we have access to what the early Church believed and what they witnessed to in historical documents that have preserved for us to this day.  I share these writings with all Christians in hope that the apologetics they provide will be of benefit to all those who seek to understand how the early Church first worshipped and believed. 

But first, regarding our prayers to early Christians martyrs, I asked:  

Do you ask your friends to pray for you? 

If we die with Christ, we will never die, but live forever.  This is our Christian faith. 
When we ask a holy man who died for our faith to pray for us, we do so because he is alive in heaven and he is our friend.  
"The prayer of a righteous person availeth much."  
Yes, Jesus is the only Way to the Father, as He is the Way, the Truth and the Life,  but He does not begrudge us from asking each other to pray for us.  He wants us to pray for one another. And yes, I prayed to Jesus when I prayed Lord, have mercy on us!  May He still find faith when He returns!

I wonder did you have a chance to read Justin's words of witness to Christ? They are bold and powerful and they proclaim the faith of the early Church. This is why I posted what I did. I'm sorry that it is concerning for you for me to ask Justin to pray for us. Would you ask a fellow Christian who was persecuted for their faith to pray for you and help you to withstand the world's persecution? 
I fear you mistake our request for prayers as something that it is not.  


Regarding your other comments: 

If we read the martyr Justin's writings we also read what the earliest Christians believed about the Last Supper and Jesus' words in the Gospel of John, where Jesus proclaims: 

"Let me solemnly tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink.  The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  Just as the Father who has life sent me and I have life because of the Father, so the man who feeds on me will have life because of me"  John 6: 53-57. 

Justin writes in his First Apology (written some time before 150 AD) about how Jesus' Words at the Last Supper were understood and celebrated in the early Church. Jesus said as He was celebrating the Passover on the night before He died: 

"Take and eat it... this is my body.... All of you must drink this ... for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant,  to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins." Mt. 26:26-28, see also Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22: 14-20; 1 Cor. 11: 23-29.  

Reflecting upon these words, and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and the earliest Church believed this (I quote Justin): 

"We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.
The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.
On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.
On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen”. The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.
The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.
We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration."(end quote).


I write this because I long for all Christians to understand each other and be united, remembering that on the night before Jesus died, He prayed fervently that WE BE ONE AS HE AND THE FATHER ARE ONE! 

He prayed: 
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-16)
This is my prayer as well!

That is why I pray for Christian unity and for all Catholics to be ever ready to give an account for the hope they have in Christ Jesus -- remembering the words of St. Catherine of Siena,

"If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire!"

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the love of the Father and the Son, let us pray:
Come, Blessed Trinity! Set the world on fire with Your Love and Truth! May all Christians know and believe in the Eucharist, God's love, ALIVE among us!

"This (Blessed) Sacrament above all inflames the soul with divine love. "God is love" (1 Jn 3:8). And He is the fire which consumes in our hearts all earthly affections: "The Lord thy God is a consuming fire" (Dt 3:24). Now the Son of God came precisely to kindle this fire of love: "I am come to cast fire in the earth"; and He added that He did not desire other that to see ignited this holy fire in our hearts: "and what will I, but that it be kindled?"(Lk 12:49). And oh what flames of divine love Jesus Christ ignites in each one who devoutly receives Him in this Sacrament!"(Saint Alphonsus Liguori)

There are literally millions of quotes, testimonies and inspiring stories to share regarding our faith in the Eucharist.  

Can you give a testimony of your faith in the Eucharist?

If you have a reason for your hope that has inspired you and others to grow in your faith and in the Eucharist, can you take a moment to share one below?  Whatever you share will be a gift of love for those reading them!

God love you and may you and your family greatly celebrate Corpus Christi not only on one day, but every day and at every Mass!

© Janet Moore 2015. All Rights Reserved. 
Photo Credit: Public Domain

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