The Bread and the Cup
In the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus calls (not simply invites) those at the table to take and eat the bread, and take and drink the cup. These same words are part of all the Eucharistic prayers at every Mass.
The laity took Communion under both forms in the Western Church for about the first 12 centuries. The Eastern Catholic Church continued this tradition without interruption, but in the Western Church, the cup was gradually withdrawn from the laity so that by the 16th century only the priest received the consecrated wine.
Various concerns contributed to this change of practice. For one thing, there was fear of spilling the precious blood once wine. More importantly, some heretical teachings claimed that the whole Christ was not fully present in the bread and the wine separately, but only if taken together. To counteract this heresy, the laity was given only the consecrated bread, and Eucharistic piety came to center on the host which alone was kept in the tabernacle after Mass.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) restored the earlier tradition of Communion under both forms, and the Church now recognizes it as the ideal: Holy Communion has a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, Take and eat; this is my body. Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father. (Mt 26:26-29)
Jesus came to take away our sins. Matthew emphasizes this in the words of Jesus over the cup. While Mark and Luke have Jesus speak of his blood: shed on behalf of many, Matthew adds: for the forgiveness of sins."
At the beginning of Matthews Gospel the angel says to Joseph: You are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Now, toward the end of the Gospel, Jesus holds the cup and talks about the forgiveness of sins.
We are all sinners. There are times when weve sinned and we need the sacrament of penance. Most of the time, even though we havent broken our relationship with the Lord, weve still failed here and there. Weve sinned.
But the forgiveness of sins is one of the main purposes of Mass, as well. That is a comforting thought, and it needs more emphasis.
If I get credit for things I dont deserve, I must take heed. The Lord knows the truth.
Spend some quiet time with the Lord.