Faithful to the Breaking of the Bread
When St Luke in his gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles speaks of “the breaking of the bread”, he means what we would call the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
He suggests that the first Christians were to be faithful to that breaking of the bread along with the teaching of the apostles, the fellowship of the Church and prayer. It was one of the four pillars that he saw as crucial to being a follower of Jesus.
The breaking of the bread is tied in with the fellowship or community of faith. The unity of believers was forged by their participation in the Eucharist. St Paul puts it this way “The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all share in the one loaf” (I Cor. 10:17). It is in the breaking of that one loaf, so that it may be shared by all, that all are drawn into communion with Christ and with each other.
A little later, Christian leaders and thinkers used the following phrase to say the same thing: the Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist. That is, it is in the celebration of the Eucharist that the Church becomes what it truly is – a communion of life in Christ. It is the Eucharist which makes us who we are.
As we receive communion in and with Christ in the Eucharist, we become a living communion with Christ. The first Christians were very aware of this and so the Sunday Eucharist was the very source and fulcrum of their Christian lives. They were very aware that if they did not gather, they would be scattered.
So there is a tight relationship between the Eucharist and the deepest identity of the Church which above all else is a communion of life through, with and in Christ with the Father. This communion comes about through the power and inner influence of the Holy Spirit. This is the reason for St Paul’s use of the image of the body of Christ to describe the Church. He sees the Church as the body of Christ.
Whatever difficulties we may feel with the Church; we cannot afford to forget this inner reality of the Church as a Eucharistic communion in and with Christ.
By Fr Frank O’Loughlin