A: The Holy Eucharist is the center point of the Catholic Mass, and has always been a very important ritual for Catholics. As you likely know, it is that part of the Mass wherein the bread and wine are supposedly "transubstantiated" into the literal body and blood of Jesus, and then fed to the congregation.
The Eucharist as it is celebrated during Catholic Mass today is largely a ritual that has been developed over centuries by human beings who likely never knew the real story; the idea of the supper is the fact, but the meaning of the supper and its subsequent alterations have been evolved over time by church authorities.
In The Urantia Book—specifically in the Life and Teachings of Jesus , we are given an eyewitness description of the events of the Last Supper by the "secondary midwayer who was associated with the watchcare of the apostle Andrew;" most notably, this performance of Jesus wherein he shares the "bloodless Passover" with the apostles.
Here is the whole story, as revealed in The Urantia Book
ESTABLISHING THE REMEMBRANCE SUPPER
You will notice right away that Jesus' wording is different from the wording that we hear in the Mass. Let's read on...
(179:5.1) As they brought Jesus the third cup of wine, the “cup of blessing,” he arose from the couch and, taking the cup in his hands, blessed it, saying: “Take this cup, all of you, and drink of it. This shall be the cup of my remembrance. This is the cup of the blessing of a new dispensation of grace and truth. This shall be to you the emblem of the bestowal and ministry of the divine Spirit of Truth. And I will not again drink this cup with you until I drink in new form with you in the Father’s eternal kingdom.”
The apostles all sensed that something out of the ordinary was transpiring as they drank of this cup of blessing in profound reverence and perfect silence. The old Passover commemorated the emergence of their fathers from a state of racial slavery into individual freedom; now the Master was instituting a new remembrance supper as a symbol of the new dispensation wherein the enslaved individual emerges from the bondage of ceremonialism and selfishness into the spiritual joy of the brotherhood and fellowship of the liberated faith sons of the living God.
When they had finished drinking this new cup of remembrance, the Master took up the bread and, after giving thanks, broke it in pieces and, directing them to pass it around, said: “Take this bread of remembrance and eat it. I have told you that I am the bread of life. And this bread of life is the united life of the Father and the Son in one gift. The word of the Father, as revealed in the Son, is indeed the bread of life.” When they had partaken of the bread of remembrance, the symbol of the living word of truth incarnated in the likeness of mortal flesh, they all sat down.
(179:5.4) In instituting this remembrance supper, the Master, as was always his habit, resorted to parables and symbols. He employed symbols because he wanted to teach certain great spiritual truths in such a manner as to make it difficult for his successors to attach precise interpretations and definite meanings to his words. In this way he sought to prevent successive generations from crystallizing his teaching and binding down his spiritual meanings by the dead chains of tradition and dogma. In the establishment of the only ceremony or sacrament associated with his whole life mission, Jesus took great pains to suggest his meanings rather than to commit himself to precise definitions. He did not wish to destroy the individual’s concept of divine communion by establishing a precise form; neither did he desire to limit the believer’s spiritual imagination by formally cramping it. He rather sought to set man’s reborn soul free upon the joyous wings of a new and living spiritual liberty.
Notwithstanding the Master’s effort thus to establish this new sacrament of the remembrance, those who followed after him in the intervening centuries saw to it that his express desire was effectively thwarted in that his simple spiritual symbolism of that last night in the flesh has been reduced to precise interpretations and subjected to the almost mathematical precision of a set formula. Of all Jesus’ teachings none have become more tradition-standardized.
As you can see, this supper was meant to be a "remembrance" supper, wherein believers can gather to recall the Master's life and celebrate his presence. To my way of thinking, it would hardly have made sense for Jesus to "transubstantiate" the bread and wine while he was still alive; yet, this is the tradition that has come to be accepted as fact in the Catholic Church
(179:5.6) This supper of remembrance, when it is partaken of by those who are Son-believing and God-knowing, does not need to have associated with its symbolism any of man’s puerile misinterpretations regarding the meaning of the divine presence, for upon all such occasions the Master is really present. The remembrance supper is the believer’s symbolic rendezvous with Michael. When you become thus spirit-conscious, the Son is actually present, and his spirit fraternizes with the indwelling fragment of his Father.
After they had engaged in meditation for a few moments, Jesus continued speaking: “When you do these things, recall the life I have lived on earth among you and rejoice that I am to continue to live on earth with you and to serve through you. As individuals, contend not among yourselves as to who shall be greatest. Be you all as brethren. And when the kingdom grows to embrace large groups of believers, likewise should you refrain from contending for greatness or seeking preferment between such groups.”
And this mighty occasion took place in the upper chamber of a friend. There was nothing of sacred form or of ceremonial consecration about either the supper or the building. The remembrance supper was established without ecclesiastical sanction.
When Jesus had thus established the supper of the remembrance, he said to the apostles: “And as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me. And when you do remember me, first look back upon my life in the flesh, recall that I was once with you, and then, by faith, discern that you shall all sometime sup with me in the Father’s eternal kingdom. This is the new Passover which I leave with you, even the memory of my bestowal life, the word of eternal truth; and of my love for you, the outpouring of my Spirit of Truth upon all flesh.”
And they ended this celebration of the old but bloodless Passover in connection with the inauguration of the new supper of the remembrance, by singing, all together, the one hundred and eighteenth Psalm.
The Catholic Church's evolution of this ritual is a clear example of the passage above which states: "...his simple spiritual symbolism of that last night in the flesh has been reduced to precise interpretations and subjected to the almost mathematical precision of a set formula. Of all Jesus’ teachings none have become more tradition-standardized."
No ritual or formula need be employed to call upon his blessed presence. Jesus is not physically present in a material way, either in the host or in any other way, but his Spirit of Truth indwells our minds, and when the remembrance supper is celebrated by believers, he is certainly present.
This knowledge is a great revelation for believers, as we now know that we need not go to a certain place, do certain things, or rely on the ministrations of priests or intermediaries in order to enjoy the presence of the Master. This simple remembrance supper can be celebrated anywhere, at any time, and by all believers—and Jesus is literally present.
I was raised in the Catholic Church and spent many years as a student in Catholic schools—attending Mass on a daily basis for years and years. I admit that the ritual of the Eucharist always held a certain power for me, as I was taught that this was the literal body and blood of Jesus. When I got older, though, and really thought about it, it began to bother me that I was consuming these things into my physical body. Reducing the presence of Jesus to a wafer of bread somehow seemed to tarnish the spiritual connection I wanted with Jesus. It seemed overly complicated.
The Urantia Book is a revelation of God to mankind which is meant to upstep our old ideas of God, his creation, of divinity, of Jesus and his mission on earth, so that we can evolve our spiritual consciousness to a higher plane. What I have learned from my study of The Urantia Book has been very comforting to me. I now understand that this idea of eating Jesus' body and drinking his blood (combined in the host) is a holdover from the primitive idea of blood sacrifice, born out of a fear of God. In Jesus' day, also, the blood sacrifice was a very important part of Jewish religious life, and is possibly one of the reasons that, not only Jesus' death on the cross, but also the remembrance supper was turned into a sacrificial ritual which supports the atonement doctrine.
Jesus had quite a life, apart from his well-known death and resurrection—quite a rich life, full of grace and beauty. He showed us the Father and the Father's love throughout his life—not only through that terrible week before his death. While he did celebrate with the paschal lamb many times in his life, Jesus made a concerted effort to dispense with this sort of sacrificial thinking among his friends and family ( see HERE and HERE )—and now at the Last Supper, he "officially" inaugurates a beautiful and meaningful—and accessible—substitute with his apostles: the bloodless Remembrance Supper, which can be celebrated by any and all who love him.
The Holy Eucharist as celebrated in the Catholic Church is a ritual which only baptized Catholics can celebrate. Additionally, it cannot be celebrated without an intermediary—a priest. The remembrance supper as inaugurated by Jesus is a way for all believers to enjoy his presence by simply remembering him and desiring his presence. Anyone, anywhere, can celebrate a Remembrance Supper—true deliverance from "the bondage of ceremonialism." Jesus belongs to all mankind—not only to Catholics.
There is no magic formula about enjoying the presence of the Master. He left us the Comforter—the Spirit of Truth—who IS Jesus, but in spiritual form. And he left us this beautiful remembrance supper that can ensure that he is actually present when it is celebrated by believers. Yes, this is a very important and significant "ritual," but Urantia Book teachings reveal its true meaning and its true value to all of mankind.
I know that this reply is very long, and I appreciate your hanging in there this far. I hope that it was helpful to your understanding of the Last Supper, the Holy Eucharist, and the Remembrance Supper, as inaugurated by Jesus when he walked the earth. I have included several links that will add to your understanding as well. Please feel free to write back at any time...we are here to help you in your study, and in your spiritual walk with God. "