Posted by: Fr Chris | March 28, 2018

HOLY THURSDAY

Holy Thursday

We commemorate two events at the Last Supper: the institution of the Priesthood and of the Holy Eucharist.  In the communist countries people will go to extraordinary lengths to attend a Catholic celebration, to be in the presence of a priest for the Mass or Sacraments, risking arrest or even torture.Parishes in the Amazon basin see a priest once a year.

Image result for catholic house church china

Palm Sunday, Youtong village, Shijiazhuang, China, for Catholics not registered with the regime

 Yet 75% of American Catholics can’t be bothered to get out of bed on Sunday to go to church weekly – though they will go to run in a marathon, attend a sports event, go to a farmers market, join friends for brunch. But church? Seriously – today? For old people and fools.

This is one of the great tragedies of our age – due to poor catechism classes in the last 50 years, and watering down of dogma –  sometimes in the name of a false ecumenism whereas authentic ecumenism requires an honest presentation of one’s faith-  Catholics have lost their belief in the Church and what the Church offers, and left the Church in droves.

Related image

Coptic Orthodox icon of the Last Supper 

This is My Body – This is My Blood.  Verses which all fundamentalists should take literally but which they suddenly decide are figurative words only.  Jesus makes it very clear what He means in chapter six of the Gospel of St John, another passage where Christians who proclaim Sola Scriptura, or only Scripture, suddenly decide that Jesus did not mean what He said: unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood YOU HAVE NO LIFE IN YOU – Jesus is very blunt and clear. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 

But only the apostles and immediate disciples remain: John says everyone else abandons Jesus as the words He says, Eat My flesh, Drink My blood, are too harsh.  Only the disciples remain with Him, because, they say, He has the words of everlasting life. Where else would we go?, says Peter.

Who else has the words of everlasting life? Churches like Sagebrush, or Calvary, or is it trendy atheists with snarky comments about believers? The second largest group of believers in this country is composed of ex-Catholics who go to a variety of churches or none at all. I thank God for the grounding in faith that I received from my parents, my grandparents, the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur at St John the Baptist in Kenmore, New York – I was presented with teachings in both university and seminary that were false, but without that grounding I might have lost my way.  Parents: what grounding is being given to your children? Look at all the children in our parish – but the odds are very high that unless they are steadily and constantly strengthened in faith, half or more will lose their way. We all have the obligation to prevent that, by our teaching and by our example – in our moral lives, in what we say and do, and how we approach the holy mysteries of the Church, the sacraments.

Related image

Infant Communion in Byzantine Catholic church: adults must fortify children while being child-like in love of God 

Jesus is very clear in the Scriptures as to what He is doing in the Last Supper.  He does what Jews still do: first he does Berakah – blessed are You, O Lord.  Then he invokes Zikaron – which is the sense of “making present,” as if past and present coalesce into a single intensive experience of “now.”

It is as if we are able to inhabit two separate points in time simultaneously. For the Jew, this sacred time is most clear on Passover: they are present at the original event, while sitting around a table in a modern home. For the Greek converts, Saint Paul uses the word anamnesis, which is even more powerful – not only does it involve a memory but also something from the world of ideas becoming physically present.

Thus when Jesus says Do This in Memory of Me, it is extremely powerful. The mistake so many Reformed and other Protestants make when reading this phrase is approaching it in English – Jesus did not speak English nor were the Gospels written in English. It is not a remembrance – it is making something from the world of ideas and word physically present. It is here, alive, among us, exactly what will happen on this altar in a few minutes when the priests repeat Christ’s words and invoke the Holy Spirit upon the gifts. Christ is alive, in the tabernacle, NOW – waiting for us to be with Him, visit Him, pray to Him. Christ will be coming to us in the consecrated gifts – He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Image result for eat my flesh drink my blood

Just as every generation of Jews would experience the original Passover, we are privileged to experience at every Eucharist the fullness of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, complete and whole. The matter or form remain: bread with wine and water, but the essence is changed to Christ.

Image result for holy communion catholic church

Roman Rite Holy Communion, Palestine, Ash Wednesday

Christ speaks literally –  Eat My flesh, Drink My blood – at every Divine Liturgy, Mass, Qurbana – whatever the word, that is what happens to the bread and wine: Christ is present in them, Body and Blood, Soul, Divinity – the fullness of Jesus the Son of God and Son of Mary, God and Man. Because He loves us so much, He comes to us in the most intimate way possible – food inside of us. Why? Because He WANTS to be with us, inside us, close to us. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. Abide here is according to the dictionary definition of the verb: to continue in a place, to live there, to continue in a place. Jesus desires to continue on inside us, to live there, to be with us. For how long? As long as it takes for the human system to consume these forms of bread and wine – thus the liturgies always end quickly after Communion  -the idea is that we will go out into the world, with Christ Jesus abiding inside us, and therefore inspiring us, changing us, guiding us as we encounter the world.

Image result for holy communion orthodox church

Byzantine Rite Holy Communion: preparing the Chalice 

Only this way will the world be healed, brought to fullness in God, only this way can Christians cooperate with God’s grace most fully in converting the fallen world into the Kingdom of God, to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ in the best way possible.

Tonight after the Last Supper Jesus is betrayed with a kiss – Judas has to kiss Him so that the soldiers know Who Jesus is because the hillside and gardens were packed with sleeping Jewish pilgrims who had come for Passover. Do not betray the Lord with the kiss of coolness, or laziness, or embracing false teachings. May we instead come for the kiss of love from Christ in the Holy Eucharist and draw ever closer to His heart, the Heart that will be pierced with the soldier’s spear tomorrow, and let our hearts be wounded by His great love and let them be united to He Who will lift up all humanity with Him on Easter Sunday, to restore us to our destiny: to be lovers of God and beloved by Him, working with God and His grace throughout our lives on earth.

Image result for anamnesis eucharist

Tonight the Jewish leadership breaks their own laws – there could not be trials at night, witnesses had to be honest and not paid for, and no physical abuse of a prisoner was allowed. All those rules and more are broken, and then Jesus is led out – starved, thirsty, beaten – and turned over to the Roman occupying forces, where a mob is brought into the courtyard to call for Jesus’ punishment and the release of a terrorist. But as Jesus says in the gospel, all this must be done so that what was written about Him in the prophets is fulfilled.

The Last Supper and the Cross are intimately connected – it is one united sacrifice. In the Passover ritual of Jesus’ day, there were 4 cups of wine that had 4 separate prayers. Saint Paul tells us that after supper Jesus takes a cup of wine – this was the third cup. But instead of the normal blessing, Jesus consecrates it into His Precious Blood. Then Jesus says He will not drink wine again until He drinks it in the Kingdom of God. The gospels say that they got up and left and headed out to Gethsemane – they did not finish the meal. In the Garden Jesus prays three times about the cup of suffering, and then comes the betrayal, arrest, and the beginning of His Passion. Wine is offered to Him on Mount Calvary by the soldiers mixed with myrrh, in order to relieve His suffering, but He rejects those. But on the Cross, as He is dying, He finally accepts wine. When? John 19:23-30: Jesus says I thirst, and the soldiers pass up a sponge soaked in sour wine, the wine that they carried with them all the time. That Jesus drinks, then He says, It is finished, and dies. Thus the Last Supper, the First Eucharist, is extended to unite with the suffering and dying on the Cross. This is My Body given for you – Luke and Matthew – as a ransom for many – Mark – and so the Cross and Supper are one offering, one gift. The Blood we drink is that Blood which soaked into the wood of the Cross, the Body we eat is the Body broken on the Cross, and every Eucharistic liturgy makes present both the Last Supper and the Cross on Calvary.

Let us never betray the Lord with the kiss of coolness, or laziness, or embracing false teachings. May we instead come for the kiss of love from Christ in the Holy Eucharist and draw ever closer to His heart, the Heart that will be pierced with the soldier’s spear tomorrow, and let our hearts be wounded by His great love  and let them be united to He Who will lift up all humanity with Him on Easter Sunday, to restore us to our destiny: to be lovers of God and beloved by Him, working with God and His grace throughout our lives on earth.

 Image result for icon jesus death


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: