The Last Supper and Liturgical Worship 


And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. (Matthew 22:19-20)

Biblical scholar James Dunn connects the thoughts of St Paul to the Last Supper event:


And in the case of the Lord’s Supper he [Saint Paul] both ties it into the body of Christ language and imagery, and likens it to the sacrificial meals of the Jerusalem cult and of pagan temples (1 Corinthians 10:18-21). But the point of comparison all the way is the corporateness and the sharing (the thematic words are koinonia/koinonos = ‘participation/partner or sharing/sharer’, and metechein = ‘to share or participate in’); not the idea of sacrifice or of a cult meal, nor, it must be said, any implication of a meal requiring priestly administration. Hence too the ambiguity of what soma Christou (‘body of Christ’) refers to in 1 Corinthians 10-11: the bread (10:16; 11:24, 27), or the company of Christians (10:17; 11:29?). The oneness of the Christian group was constituted by the act of sharing the one loaf in the context of a shared meal (10:16; 11:23 – only the cup was ‘after supper’).  (THE PARTING OF THE WAYS, p 103)


For Dunn, St Paul’s vision of the Last Supper/Eucharist has more to do with the unity of Christian community than it has to do with liturgical sacrifice/priesthood. However, there is a way in which the Eucharistic meal is related to worship and sacrifice as we see in St Paul’s words in Romans 12:1- ‘present your bodies as a sacrifice, living, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (logiken latreian)‘. Dunn continues:

… Paul saw this commitment of daily life as the Christians’ equivalent to the priestly service of the Jerusalem cult. His exhortation is to the effect that each believer is to be engaged in the priestly act of sacrifice; but that is to be carried out on the altar of everyday relationships.  . . .


Paul was thereby attempting to redefine the cultic markers of the covenant people, which were no longer to be understood in terms of or focused in the sacrificial cult at Jerusalem. The Christian is also priest and also engaged in priestly ministry; the language and what it stands for is important and not to be set aside. But the priestly ministry Paul has in view is the priestly ministry of a disciplined social life in the world. The cult has been secularized: or, alternatively, the marketplace has been spiritualized. At all events, the boundary between cult and the world has been removed. The space where the priestly worship of God is carried out is no longer to be conceived as a tightly controlled sacred space, but as the world itself. (THE PARTING OF THE WAYS, p 105)


I think Dunn’s idea is related to what Fr Schmemann taught as well: the wall between the sacred and profane has come down in and because of the incarnation of God the Word. The sacredness of all of God’s creation has been revealed in Christ the God incarnate – creation is capable of being united to God. Thus, a dualistic separation between sacred and secular no longer makes sense. The God-given holiness and goodness of creation is revealed in and through the sacraments. Consequently, all of God’s people participate in the priesthood of all believers. God is experienced as revealing Himself through creation, reuniting the cosmos with the Creator. The incarnation of God and the deification of humans is the same event – it is in fact, or salvation.