Read Matthew 26:17-37.
While there is a lot going on here, at the heart of it is the conversion of a tradition to something new - a Passover Seder becomes a Last Supper, which eventually becomes The Great Thanksgiving that is at the heart of our life in Christ: "Take, eat, this is my Body...drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
There is room for confusion here, to be sure. The early Christians were accused of cannibalism because of this language - and I had a parishioner once who, late in her life, stopped receiving the sacrament for this very reason. She said, "we keep saying these words and I don't think we mean them symbolically and I don't believe them literally." So she continued to feast on the Word, but did not come to receive the body and blood anymore, and received a blessing instead.
For my own part, the older I get the more I mean it- and need it. I love good preaching, but that is sometimes hard to find. The Sacrament, however, never disappoints.So I love this vignette from the great Catholic writer, Flannery O'Connor:
I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, A Charmed Life). She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn't opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.
And this, from St. Augustine:Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.
You, however, are the Body of Christ and His members. If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and and, His members, your mystery is presented at the table of the Lord, you receive your mystery. To that which you are, you answer, "Amen," and by answering, you subscribe to it. For you hear: 'The Body of Christ!' and you answer: 'Amen!' Be a member of Christ's Body, so that your 'Amen' may be the truth.Behold what you are. May we become what we receive. Taste and see...