"And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."
After reading these words outloud, he prayed, "Lord, help us to remember that this bread and 'wine' [does Welch's make wine?] are symbols of your body and blood." I cannot tell if he was correcting the Lord, having just read what he had said on that night. No matter how you translate the original Greek New Testament, it does not come out "Take, eat: this represents my body symbolically..." On the other hand, we have other words the Lord must have forgotten to say, such as "Take, eat: I am present under these signs." Or, to others it is obvious that he really meant to say, "Take, eat: the whole substance of the bread will be converted into the whole substance of my body, being no longer bread..." He just did not know how to say it properly.
The problem for many people is not what Jesus said, but the mysterious manner in which he spoke. Various parties have attempted to define and describe what happens, as if there should be no mystery (μυστήριον) to the sacrament, at least none we cannot solve by cold, hard, human logic, using the correct philosophical paradigm--Aristotelian no doubt (wasn't Jesus an Aristotelian? No?). Each party believes its point of view to be self-evident, each certain that it is obvious what Christ meant by his very few words. No, rather I am brought back to my senses by Richard Hooker's famous indulgence granted to all, that it is acceptable to admit our ignorance.
After decades of theological acrobatics, flying through the academic air with the greatest of ease, and wrestling with the theoretical alligators of scholarship, it dawned on me to limit my explanations to what has been given by revelation. In doing so, I discovered how much my earlier and youthful, howbeit impressive, feats of academic heroism had distracted me from some of the most important elements of the revelation itself. Putting it another way, professing myself to be wise, I had become a real twit.
About this sacrament, I had been distracted from the obvious covenantal meaning that was abundantly clear to the Disciples who were present at the Last Supper. Those who partake of this meal are bound to the same covenant by which God binds Himself to fufill His promise. If we eat and drink this sacrament, we are bound to be faithful to the Lord; in turn God binds himself to forgive our sins and to give us all the benefits of the New Covenant that Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34) had foretold, and that the Lord Jesus was about to ratify by His death. But, by trying to define exactly what Jesus meant in his mysterious words, I was missing the clear meaning of other words, also spoken at that moment, that were not so mysterious to those who were present with him that night.
It is clear, from the same eleventh chapter of I Corinthians, that St. Paul did not see this sacrament as merely symbolic. To him it was a reality, a reality in which the bread was still bread, but much more than bread: "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." (I Cor. 11:27) Truly, he saw Christ as present in the sacrament, and he rebuked the Corinthian Christians for failing to approach the holy presence of Christ with godly fear. This failure caused them to profane the New Covenant, and made them guilty of violating the most holy Presence of Christ himself.
Furthermore, St. Paul began his Institution narrative in such a manner as to speak about their attitude to the mystery rather than their intellectual understanding of it. "The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread..." He began by reminding them that Christ had been betrayed before. He placed the whole Institution Narrative in light of that betrayal. He was telling them, by this, that their treatment of His Body was a new betrayal committed all over again, and that they were guilty. He told them that by mistreating members of His Body, the Church, they were guilty of handling profanely the holy reality of his mysterious Presence in the covenant meal.
I do not really understand that mysterious sacramental Presence myself, and neither do you. Neither did St. Thomas Aquinas, the Council of Trent nor the English Reformers (though the latter had the humility to know it). Frankly, St. Paul takes no effort to explain that mysterious Presence of Christ, by which the Bread is His Body. Rather, he speaks to the attitude of the heart about approaching God, so directly through that sacramental Presence, while not caring for the members of the same Body as it is also manifested in another mystery; that is, His Body manifested as the Church.
And, until we come to grips with the things that have been revealed very clearly, we waste our time trying to describe, to define and to explain fully, the things that remain deeply mysterious even in the same words by which they have been revealed. "This is My Body...This is My Blood...": At once, both a revelation and an unsolvable mystery.
Perhaps, then, He said exactly what He meant to say, no more and no less.