The Structure of the Eucharist

At the centre of each Eucharistic Prayer, we have the account of Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper. This is a solemn part of the Mass which embodies the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist.

What we often do not realise is that the actions of Jesus recounted there shape the whole of the Liturgy of the Eucharist from the Procession with the Gifts through to Holy Communion.

We do what Jesus did very concretely. If we look at the account of the Last Supper, we will see that Jesus does four actions. He takes the bread and at the end he takes the cup of wine; when he takes he bread he gives thanks over it and when he takes the cup of wine he again gives thanks over it. He breaks the bread into pieces so that all can share it and then he gives it to his disciples; he likewise gives the cup of wine to his disciples to drink from.

So there are four basic actions which Jesus does: he takes bread and wine, he gives thanks over them, he breaks he bread and he gives the bread and then the wine to his disciples. So we have the actions described by the verbs: take, bless, break and give.

These actions of Jesus shape our liturgy still so that we do now, what he did then.

At the Procession with the Gifts, the priest takes the bread and wine, in the Eucharistic Prayer God is blessed and thanked, at the Fraction (the Breaking of the Bread) the bread is broken and at communion, the bread and wine of the Eucharist are given to us all.

And in fact these four actions determine what is the core of the Liturgy of the Eucharist; other elements have been added over time the most important of which draw out the meaning of those central actions which we do in memory of the Lord.

By Fr Frank O’Loughlin


Easter Season Faith Reflections Sacramental Life


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