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Dietary Rules

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Description and comparative analysis of the dietary rules of different religions and confessions

Dietary Rules

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3.2. Bread and wine
Jesus Christ, at His last meal with His disciples, commanded His friends and followers to remember Him in a specific way. Although He had earlier warned them of His approaching death (John 12:32-33), they found that certainty hard to accept.

But less than 24 hours later Jesus would be dead, His body hastily entombed and His disciples shocked, confused and scattered.

At that last meal, Jesus Christ told His disciples to eat bread and drink wine as symbols of His body and blood.

“…When He had given thanks, He broke [the bread] and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup [of wine] after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

Bread and wine, for Catholics, are the symbol of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Wheat is grown and ground, transformed by human work to make bread. Grapes are grown and crushed, transformed by human work to make wine. It is traditionally the work of human hands.

Bread is life. Wine is joy. The sharing of food and drink is often linked with peace-making and the resolution of differences. From the earliest times, human beings have shared meals together. The very act of eating and drinking together is a symbol of fellowship, common life, common love.

In biblical times, people ate everything from the same plate. People ate using flat bread which served as a ‘spoon’ dipped into the communal dish. Sharing food in this way increased the sense of solidarity and fellowship among those eating it. They became, in a sense, one body.

The breaking of the bread was the ritual gesture that established communion among those at table in a Jewish ritual meal. The Last Supper was such a meal. Jesus identified the broken bread and poured wine with his own Body and Blood, broken and poured out in his suffering and Death. After his Resurrection, Jesus’ disciples spoke of recognizing him in the ‘breaking of the bread’. The ‘breaking of the bread’ eventually came to describe the whole action of the Eucharist after the time of Jesus.

SAFET ZEC, Hands for bread, 2016
Bread is the daily food par excellence, and normally it is shared in the family. It is no coincidence that Christians invoke -give us our daily bread today-. The bread is either -ours-, shared or ceases to be bread and God himself cannot be confessed as -Our Father-. In fact, without this sharing, an ancient truth will be perpetuated that current migrations tragically confirm: when bread does not go to the poor, it is the poor who go to the bread. The sense of time and history is narrated in the work Mani per il pane. An image that can belong to every war, to every famine of the past as of the present in which many arms tend to seek subsistence. These arms emerge from sheets of newspaper, from non-pictorial elements, but in a certain sense historical.

MICHELANGELO MERISI DA CARAVAGGIO, Supper at Emmaus, 1601-1602 National Gallery, London.
Christ is shown at the moment of blessing the bread and revealing his true identity to the two disciples. Caravaggio's innovative treatment of the subject makes this one of his most powerful works. The depiction of Christ is unusual in that he is beardless and great emphasis is given to the still life on the table. The intensity of the emotions of Christ's disciples is conveyed by their gestures and expression. The viewer too is made to feel a participant in the event.

LEONARDO DA VINCI, Last Supper, 1495-1498, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
The frescos depicts the dramatic scene in which Jesus declares that one of the Apostles will betray him and later institutes the Eucharist. According to Leonardo’s belief that posture, gesture, and expression should manifest the “notions of the mind,” each one of the twelve disciples reacts in a manner that Leonardo considered fit for that man’s personality. The result is a complex study of varied human emotion, rendered in a deceptively simple composition.

MARKO IVAN RUPNIK – CENTRO ALETTI, Wedding at Cana, 2003, Cappella della Pontificia facoltà di Scienze dell’educazione “Auxilium”, Rome.
The wedding of Cana teaches that wine is also shared, to affirm that in addition to subsistence, to the need represented by bread, there is also joy, the consolation that must distinguish every communion, up to the sober thrill of mutual love. In addition to the bread that says life there is the wine that celebrates love, which changes the meal into a banquet, which makes it -com-pagni- (those who eat the same bread) also friends who sing life.

The Eucharistic table
Jesus’ gesture of giving his Body and Blood to his disciples at the Last Supper, still continues today through the ministry of the priests and deacons


Eucharist- Bread and Wine- Father Johnny Burns illustrates the Eucharistic symbols of bread and wine.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.