Eating With Sinners

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying,
This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 
Likewise also the cup after supper, saying,
This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

—Luke 22:19-20

These familiar sentences from Luke’s description of the Last Supper (which occur in parallel passages of Matthew and Mark) are quoted within the central act of Christian worship, when the mystery of He who was both God and Man is revealed in the bread and wine that is also the Body and Blood of our Lord.  The Incarnation of God experienced by the faithful in the Sacrament is, at least from our human standpoint, the greatest of mysteries.  

There is also, however, a more everyday dimension to the sacred scene.  Jesus is dining with His friends, and it is a very special meal: the Passover.  Like other observant Jews, they eat the paschal lamb and the unleavened bread; they drink the wine, and, although it is not mentioned, they doubtless consumed the bitter herbs to remind them of their anguish as slaves in Egypt.  

Pagan cults also included sacred meals that united the worshipers and brought them closer to the divine beings.  Walter Burkert describes “the sacred act” of the Greeks as


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