When St. Paul reminds the Corinthians about the institution of the Eucharist, the Apostle to the Gentiles makes clear that this centerpiece of the Christian life is part of a tradition. He writes, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you” (I Corinthians 11:23). Also, St. Paul is writing as a reminder. If it had not been for the Corinthian abuses in the Eucharist (I Corinthians 11:17-22), St. Paul might not have seen the need to point out once again what happened at the Last Supper (cf. I Corinthians 11:23). The Eucharist was already part of Christian prayer and life before St. Paul wrote in admonition.
The Eucharist is a precious gift. Our Lord Himself gives this gift. “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:24). “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:25). What I receive is what the Corinthians received. What I receive is what the Apostles received.
I think back on my childhood. When did I first learn of the Eucharist? From my parents, from my religion teachers, from the priests who preached, from the Scriptures and the catechism. What they taught about the Eucharist, like St. Paul, they had received from the Lord and were handing on to me. There was never any doubt in my mind that each and every Eucharist was a continuance of what our Lord intended the night before He died (cf. I Corinthians 11:26), a solemn reliving of and participation in His Passion, Death and Resurrection, recounted in the Sacred Scriptures, handed down through the centuries, no different in substance and content from what my predecessors received in the earliest centuries of Christian history.
Let us recall what Pope St. Paul VI said about the Mass: “The Mass is and remains the memorial of Christ’s Last Supper in which the Lord, transforming the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, instituted the sacrifice of the new Testament and willed that that sacrifice — through the power of his Priesthood conferred on the Apostles — be renewed in its identity, but offered in an unbloody and sacramental way, in perennial memory of him, until his final coming.”