The Most Holy Eucharist- Similarities in other world religions

By Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah

"On the day before he was to suffer, he took bread in his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks, he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you. In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took this precious chalice in his holy and venerable hands, and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying: Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me" (Eucharistic Prayer I).

There is dispute among Christian confessions as to the true meaning of Christ's words, "This is my body." and "This is my blood." Even till today, most Protestants who lack anointed priestly hands that could consecrate bread and wine into real body and blood of Christ still maintain that the Eucharist is nothing more than ordinary love feast.

In their limited estimation, there is no way God (the Son) can really assume bread and wine. Some of them maintain that Jesus is only symbolically present. Catholic biblical scholars have impressive arguments sustaining Christ's (divine) real, literal presence in the bread and wine. The truth to be noted is that the term "Eucharist" refers to more than the body and blood of Christ.

The Greek meaning of the word "Eucharist" is "to give thanks". In the early Church, beyond bread and wine, it also designated ritual of worship. The history of the Eucharist is both the history of sacramental objects and sacramental action. When Christ instituted the most Holy Eucharist, he did not import any foreign material from heaven (if there is anything material in heaven) as matter for transformation.

He rather employed mere bread and wine, which was available and familiar to the people in their daily life experiences. In a similar vein, the perception of divine presence in material object is not foreign to other world religions. Thus, Joseph Martos quickly identified glaring similarities between the most Holy Eucharist and the beliefs and confessions of some world religions.

Those similarities indicate parallel possibility of divine presence in some aspects of our religious beliefs and rituals. This is manifest in the way people of many religions claim to experience the presence of gods or spiritual beings. (J. Martos Doors to the Sacred, New York: Image Book, 1982, pp.233-234).

At Ede-Oballa where I hail from, the traditional people have festivities during which they celebrate some deities which they believe (according to their level of understanding) play some vital role in their lives. Some of those deities include: Nd'ushi, Fiajioku, Ede, Al'Ede, Egwu, Omukwa, Duhu, Nti'yi, Akwarama, Welewe'zenshi, Ezejaokwunye, Ogbueriom', Ezikenshi, Arejiamoke, and so on.

Each of these deities is marked with some objects which begin to wear a sacramental garb as soon as they are consecrated. They are celebrated from time to time, not in the air but at some particular places where they are localized and at some sacred times. Such shrines are seriously treated as sacred because it is believed that the spirits inhabit them.

Sacred meals different from those eaten at homes are eaten there after sacrifices. Sacrifices and Petitions of the people are presented to the gods there. Worshippers also make pledges there should the gods answer their prayers. Oaths are also taken there by parties in misunderstanding. Ancestors are also reverenced and worshipped at some shrines.

The point we are making here is that the fact of Christ assuming ordinary bread and wine is not strange or impossible. What is strange however, is people (unfortunately some Christians) disputing this fact whereas they are quick to accept the superstition that deities inhabit and possess some objects and as such treat them as sacramentals.

What is more serious is that such people (Christians inclusive) would like their accused persons to swear before such dreaded idols like "Adoro" Ero and "Ube" Uhun'owere than on the Holy Bible. That is also why some people deliberately dare to partake of the Body and Blood unworthily.

Some members of secret cults also desecrate the Body and Blood of Christ for the same reason of disbelief in Christ's literal presence in the Eucharist. This is a call for in-depth proper catechesis. If you lack sufficient doctrinal information on Catholicism, find out whether you attend Sunday evening instructions held by your parish priest.

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