As we lovingly give our attention to the Last Supper it might be of use to us to look at the original Greek account of it written by St. Luke. I say this because no translation is exact, and our English text leaves out some of what St. Luke was telling us. Let me mention one instance in which our English translation alters the meaning.
This instance comes in Luke 22:19. There, our English says, “Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it.” Luke’s Greek is translated in a different way in Eucharistic Prayer II. There it says, “He took the bread and giving thanks broke it.”
Luke’s Greek word which we translate either as “said the blessing,” or “Giving thanks” was eucharistesas. I hope this is not confusing, but let me say two things about that word eucharistesas.
The first thing we need to know about eucharistesas is that it was the last of three parts of the formal blessing offered at Jewish meals. In the first part the host called to mind God’s favors. In the second part of the blessing the host called down God’s Spirit. Eucharistesas was the name of the third part of the formal blessing. When Luke says Jesus took bread after the eucharistesas he was telling us that Jesus had completed offering up that traditional blessing.
When Jesus then said, “Do this in memory of me” he meant we should say the complete table blessing that concluded with the Eucharistesas. And in fact, when the Apostles re-enacted the Last Supper they were repeated that formal table blessing. The Eucharistic prayers of the Mass grew out of it.
The second thing we need to know about the word eucharistesas is how we should translate it into English. Should it be “said the blessing,” or should it be “giving thanks?”
Actually, it should be neither. It is a compound word that we should take apart. The first part eu means “Pleasing.” The second part charis is “a gift." So, the word Eucharist really means “a pleasing gift.”
Jesus concluded the formal table blessing by offering himself as a pleasing gift to the Father. What is more, as the host, he was imploring the other diners to join him as part of the pleasing gift, as part of the Eucharist.
The most important thing for us to do at Mass is to join Jesus in making ourselves part of his pleasing gift to God.