Is the Eucharist really the body and blood of Christ or does it merely represent the body and blood?
It’s only representational. If you’re thinking of the Catholic Eucharist, they have a tradition called “transubstantiation” wherein they claim that the wafer placed on the communicant’s tongue by the priest is transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ at the moment it’s administered. This is non -Biblical as well as being physiologically impossible.
When Jesus first instituted communion, He held up a piece of unleavened bread and said, “This is my body given for you.” Later, He did the same thing with a cup of wine saying “This cup is the New Covenant of my blood shed for many for the remission of sin.” Then He said, “Whenever you eat this bread or drink this cup you do so in remembrance of me.” He didn’t say, “Eat this body” or “Drink this blood.” This proves He was speaking metaphorically in His earlier reference to His body and blood.
This issue is part of the major difference between Catholic and Protestant doctrine. Catholics worship a crucified Lord, as represented by the prominence of the crucifix in their churches and homes. For them, the sacrifice is continual, with every communion bringing His death into the present with the giving of His body and the shedding of His blood all over again.
Protestants worship a risen Lord, signified by the empty cross in ours. For us the sacrifice is over, having been done once for all times. Our communion is the memorial of a completed act, with the bread and wine keeping alive the memory of something that happened long ago.