Catholic News Service/Les Fetchko

Bread and wine play crucial roles today in the Christian mass, as the eucharist, and in the Jewish Friday night Sabbath meal. Both traditions are metaphoric remembrances of Temple offerings.

In a Christian mass, the wafer and wine are said to represent Jesus’ body and blood. This understanding of the eucharist came into popular use only after the end of the first century C.E. The inscription on the wafer explicitly links the bread with Jesus. It bears the Greek letters “IC XC NIKA,” an abbreviation of “IESUS XRISTOS NIKA,” meaning “Jesus Christ conquers.” At mass the bread is generally blessed and offered first and then the wine, while the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper—“This is my body, this is my blood”— are repeated. While today the wine is blessed before the bread at the Sabbath table, author Lang notes that, according to the Talmud (fifth century C.E.), Jewish meals began with a blessing over bread and concluded with a blessing over wine. The order of Jesus’ two prayers might reflect this custom as well.