11:23. For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night he was delivered up, took bread.
11:24. And giving thanks he broke, and said: Take and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered up for you: do this in my commemoration.
11:25. Likewise also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: do this as often as you shall drink, in my commemoration.
11:26. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you will announce the death of the Lord until he comes.
I praised you for observing the commands I gave to you by word of mouth; but sine in regard to this you have failed to remember them, it is necessary for me to repeat them in writing. I received, by direct communication and revelation from Christ, not from any human teaching. It is to be observed that it was only by accident that the Apostle wrote this down. Had the Corinthians remembered what he said, he would in all probability not have written it. Not only the written words, but the oral traditions, of the Apostles, are to be observed.
Saint Peter, as a fourth Evangelist, records the words of God the Father, This is my beloved son, rehearsed in three Gospels, 2 Pet. 1:17. Here Saint Paul, as a fourth Evangelist, gives the words of Christ, which are also given by St Matthew, St Mark, and St Luke.
In the night he was delivered up to death, he took bread. Wheat bread, and unleavened, for the seven days of unleavened bread had begun that evening. By a misunderstanding of John 18:28, the Greeks consider that Christ suffered before the Pasch began, and they accordingly use leavened bread.
Giving thanks. To God the Father. From this action is derived the term Eucharist. The canon of the Mass adds: and lifting up his eyes to heave, which he frequently did on similar occasions, (Matt 19:19; John 11:41. Further, he blessed as in St Matthew and St Mark. Thanksgiving has regard to God, blessing to the creature on which his benediction is implored.
He broke, into twelve portions, and distributing said, by words instantly operative and effectual of what they expressed. The operative word of Christ is of two kinds. One is imperative: be cleansed, rise, look up, Lazarus, come forth. The other affirmative, and present: Thy son liveth; woman, thou art loosed from thy infirmity. Of this latter kind are the words here used, Hoc est corpus meum.
Take and eat. Take in the hands. It was the ancient custom to receive the holy Eucharist in the hands, not as now in the mouth from the hand of the priest.
This is my body. The Greek has τουτο μου εστιν το σωμα, in a somewhat different order of the words. The Syriac or Hebrew language (i.e., Aramaic), which Christ spoke, has no substantive verb, and there is no doubt the words he used were only this my body. See Cornelius a Lapide. Hoc is most probably the predicate: my body is this. Similarly, my blood is this chalice, or what is contained in this chalice.
Which shall be delivered up for you. The Greek and Syriac both read: Which is being broken for you. Broken, in the species of bread. The body of our Lord was not otherwise broken (John 19:36. See my note at the end of this paragraph). by the words do this, Christ conferred upon the Apostles the power of consecrating, or else he would have been enjoining upon them that which was impossible. for a memorial of me. Recalling the affection with which I delivered myself up to death for you.
Note: On the basis of manuscript evidence the word “broken” is considered by modern scholars as a scribal insertion (see Raymond F. Collins, FIRST CORINTHIANS, page 432). Even if original it need not necessarily be seen as a contradiction of John 19:36, for “broken” could be a metaphor for death, i.e., separated from life. See the image of the olive tree in Romans 11:17-24.
Likewise also the chalice, after he had supped. Our Lord had first of all, with the Apostles, eaten the paschal lamb, standing, girded, and with a staff in his hands, according to the ritual in Exodus 12:11. (See my note at end of paragraph). Then he sat down, or according to the custom of those times, lay down, on a couch, to the ordinary supper. Then rising, he washed the feet of this disciples; and afterwards lay down again, for the institution and distribution of the most holy Eucharist. After this he delivered the morsel he had dipped to Judas; so that the remains of the supper must have been at that time still on the table. Lastly, after speaking a long time, he rose, saying, Rise, let us go. The supper referred to in the text is the ordinary one.
Note: In light of Matthew 26:20, Mark 14:17, it seems unlikely that the Passover was celebrated according to the rubrics of Exodus 12:11. First century Jews had adopted the custom of reclining at the Passover, for in their day this was the mark of a free man; slave ate meals standing, and the Passover was a feast of liberation (see Protestant scholar Robert Gundry, MARK: A COMMENTARY ON HIS APOLOGY FOR THE CROSS, page 827).
The new testament in my blood. The authentic copy of the new covenant between God and man, sealed with my blood. The reference to the document is figurative, but the blood is real; for he does not say signed with that which represents my blood, but in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink. The command, here, as in the last verse, is addressed to the Apostles, and their successors in the priesthood, as explained by the Council of Trent, Session II, cahpter 1. Do what I have done.
In commemoration of me. this memory is in no way inconsistent with the real presence of Christ. Christ is in this Sacrament his own memorial, as in heaven, bearing the stigma of his wounds, he is himself the memorial of his own passion. The time, the circumstances of the speaker, the quality of the action, the nature of the action, the actor’s intention, power, the very words he used, all compel us to place a literal interpretation on those words, implying the real and true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The time: the night before he died. No one uses tropes and figures at such a moment.
The condition: a loving father, about to die, makes his last will. clearness and simplicity are always needed in such a case, and no wise man would use figures of speech, speaking of a precious jewel, when he meant the picture of one.
The quality of the act: the Mediator between God and man, making an everlasting covenant to subsist while the world stands, would not use language of metaphor and poetry.
The action itself: ambiguity and equivocation would have been most perilous in the institution of a sacrament and sacrifice of such august dignity, destined to last to the end of the world.
the will and intention: loving his children most ardently, and desirous to give the greatest good in his power. He loved them to the end.
The power: Knowing that he came out from God, and to God returns, that the Father had given all things into his hands, and he can do all he will.
the words used, are simple and clear, in accordance with these considerations. Simple, as the words of a loving father, addressing his children before he died: of a faithful mediator, contracting an eternal covenant, of a Supreme Pontiff, a fountain of truth, detesting all false dogma: of a true, zealous, most powerful savior of the race of man, conferring upon them the highest and greatest of all possible or imaginable goods.
My body, which shall be delivered up to death for you. the body was delivered up to death, not in figure, it was his body of which he spoke.
My blood, which shall be shed. In reality, not in figure, on the cross. The blood of the Old Testament was real: so that of the New. but this is no figure: in a few hours it was terribly fulfilled.
What man could dare to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and say he did not believe a statement so clear as this? What Christian, believing it, even if deceived, would not be able to say, if I am deceived, thou hast deceived me, who art truth itself?
26. You will announce the death of the Lord. The apostle has just called attention to Christ’s institution of the holy Eucharist on the might before his passion, and with direct reference to that event. The Corinthian Christians had perhaps not sufficiently considered it in that light, as a commemoration, and proclamation of Christ’s death. You will announce. The word used in Greek might be either in the present indicative, you announce, or the imperative, announce ye. The Eucharist represents the death of Christ by the mystical separation of his blood from his body, which is effected by the words of consecration; and which further takes place by the eating of the sacred body, as separated from the blood, and the drinking the precious blood as poured forth and separate from the body. In either species there is the representation of the death of the Lord, but most perfectly in both together. And this commemoration of the sacrifice and death of Christ is to continue till he come.
WORTHY IS THE LAMB: The Biblical Roots Of The Mass, by Thomas Nash. An outstanding, non-technical introduction to the subject.
THE HIDDEN MANNA: A Theology Of The Eucharist, by James T. O’Connor. A fine overview of the history and development of Eucharistic theology from the first to the twentieth century.
THE EUCHARIST: Message Of The Fathers Of The Church, Vol. 7, by Daniel J. Sheerin. “This volume is an endeavour, in keeping with the purpose of the series in which it appears, to place before the modern reader the message of the fathers of the church concerning the eucharist in the words of the fathers themselves. Thus, what is offered is a collection of readings of sufficient length to place eucharistic teachings in their context” (From the general introduction).
CORPUS CHRISTI: A Theological Encyclopedia Of The Eucharist, by Michael O’Carroll. One of several encyclopedias he has compiled.