THE LAST SUPPER AND THE MASS
The liturgy recalls the events that saved us and makes them present
Jesus and his disciples ate a Passover meal together before Jesus’ Passion and Death. Jesus’ final Passover meal with his friends is known as the Last Supper and is recounted in all four Synoptic Gospels.
In Luke’s Gospel, we hear Jesus’ words: ‘Do this in memory of me’. In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus says: ‘So, if I your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’ (John 13:14).
Church Tradition teaches how the Eucharist began at the Last Supper and how the early community obeyed Jesus' command to ‘break bread’ in his name (Acts 2:42). This memorial of the Last Supper became a central ritual for Christians when they gathered together. In the earliest times, the Eucharist was celebrated along with a shared meal in the homes of local Christians.
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes a Eucharist celebrated in connection with a common supper shared in the homes of the early Christians.
This supper included the blessing of the bread and wine, the breaking of the bread, and communion. As the numbers of Christians grew, the Eucharist as a sacred meal separated from the common meal.
Believers today still remember and celebrate the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. For Jews, this time is the beginning of the Jewish Passover Festival. The bread and wine are symbols of nourishment and food for the Christian journey. Believers take part in the Eucharist to give thanks to God, and share this meal as a community. In community believers gain strength from everyone who has gathered.
The Passover with the Disciples
12On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ 13So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 15He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ 16So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
17When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ 19They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ 20He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’
The Institution of the Last Supper
22While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ 23Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
The Preparation of the Passover
7Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ 9They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ 10‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters 11and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” 12He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ 13So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
14When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God’. 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’. 19Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’. 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ 23Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
The Passover with the Disciples
17On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ 18He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” ’ 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
20When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ 23He answered, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ 25Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so.’
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
26While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’
30When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
1Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” 19I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. 20Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’
Students record the words of Jesus in the Last Supper that are similar to the words said by the Priest during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
View, discuss and compare the different account of the Last Supper according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.