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Christian rite commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. On the night before his death, according to the Christian scriptures, Jesus consecrated bread and wine and gave them to his disciples, saying this is my body and this is my blood. He also commanded his followers to repeat this rite in his memory, and the Eucharist traditionally involves consecration of bread and wine by the clergy and their consumption by worshipers. Although celebrated spontaneously when the first Christians gathered to share a meal, the Eucharist quickly became a central part of the formal worship service and remained that way despite the many controversies over its nature and meaning. Intended as a means of fostering unity in the church, it has also been a source of division because of differing interpretations of its nature. In Roman Catholicism the Eucharist is a sacrament, and the bread and wine are thought to become the actual body and blood of Jesus through transubstantiation. Anglicans and Lutherans also emphasize the divine presence in the offering and recognize it as a sacrament, while others regard it as a memorial with largely symbolic meaning. Also controversial has been the belief in the Eucharist as a sacrifice, the renewed offering of Christ each time the rite is celebrated at the altar.
Variants of EUCHARIST
Eucharist or Holy Communion or Lord's Supper
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Eucharist, visit Britannica.com.