I have heard some non-catholics say the New Covenant did not actually begin until after Christ’s Ascension during the Pentecost with the descent of the Holy Spirit. Along with this belief, the same group says that is why we must discount “some” of the things the Lord taught in the Gospels. Jesus’ teaching was still under the Law and before the beginning of the New Covenant. Does the Catholic Church have any opinion on the beginning of the New Covenant? I always thought it began on Christ’s death on the cross. Others I ask say it began during the Last Supper with the Institution of the Eucharist, “this is the blood of the covenant…” Is their an opinion of the Church which you can share, or direct me to a place for more info?
After I answered this once, I’m giving it another try. Actually, your non-Catholic friends are coming from a stance that is called Dispensationalism whereby salvation history is divided into several dispensations or periods. Such divisions are the product of those who devised them and are not found as such in Scripture.
Certainly, there is no doubt that Jesus spoke of the new covenant as He instituted the Eucharist. This is the first time in Scripture that He speaks clearly of it. He was born into the old law and lived according to it. During His public life he refined and clarified many teachings of the old law. The movement from the old covenant to the New was a gradual one as He continued to clarify His teaching up until He actually fulfilled the old law by His passion and death. The institution of the Eucharist was the foretaste of that passion and death and the sacramental expression of that new convenant. The reality of His passion and death cannot be separated from the Eucharist. So one can truly say that it began at the Last Supper.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.