Liturgical Year C

Holy Thursday; The Supper

Every Holy Thursday, no matter how busy I am with my everyday duties and preparations for the Sacred Triduum, when the moment during the Holy Mass comes for me to say This is my body..., this is my blood... I always think of the evening of my ordination to the priesthood.  Then, after all the ceremonies, greetings, gifts, guests and dinner were gone, I looked at my hands. These ordinary human hand, and I strongly believed that they were all new, will be taking bread and wine and I will be speaking the words Jesus spoke wishing to stay among us and in us forever.

Our hands and feet make the first contact with the ground we walk on, with people we are surrounded by, even with our body itself. Both hands and feet get dirty first and these are our body parts which we most frequently wash, but we approach people with our feet and we hug them with our hands, we feel and touch things and people surrounding us with them.

Reading the reports describing the Last Supper it is obvious how important hands and feet were to the Lord. Before the supper the Lord washed the disciples' feet and dried them gently with the towel showing them his love in a brother/fatherlike manner which is physically expressed with this gesture. This is the same thing Mary Magdalene did when she washed Jesus' feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. After that Jesus shared bread and wine, his Body and Blood, with his disciples asking them to do the same in remembrance of him.

Let us join him at this holy supper. As Christians together with Jews we celebrate the same, but still so different Passover. Jews celebrate the Passover we read about in the first reading today and Christians celebrate the new, Christ's Passover. In his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity) Pope Benedict XVI reminds us: “As the Church Fathers rightly say, figura transit in veritatem: the foreshadowing has given way to the truth itself”.

The old Passover was to announce the new Christ's Passover. The Passover lamb - the innocent Christ; the exodus from Egypt/the house of slavery – Christ rising from the dead, the Resurrection and the victory over sin and death. The psalm we've heard is closely connected with the Passover ceremony. Along with some other psalms it used to be sung during the Passover ceremony. Jesus also sang it with his disciples during the Last Supper. With this psalm the new Passover is announced when talking about the cup of salvation – the cup of Christ's blood.

The new Passover as the novelty of the Eucharist is described by Saint Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. This precious Paul's text is the oldest written text about the Eucharist. For two thousand years the Church has been doing what Paul said in the beginning: “Brothers! For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (see 1 Cor 11,23). Everything is summed up in this sacrifice. Many people have forgotten about it. The fact is that a small percentage of Catholics go to Sunday Mass, but the Eucharistic Sacrifice is and remains the centre of Christian life, of true physical and spiritual bond with the Lord!

What did Jesus do in this Eucharist? It was not an abundant feast; it was just a bite of bread and a sip of wine. On the other hand, since the Exodus from Egypt people longed for their stomach to be full, not for God. After all this time things have remained the same. Today we do not wish for the abundance of food, but for it to be delicious and healthy. We, as the generation of Zepter and Tupperware, tend to forget about fasting and this bite of bread and a sip of wine which save the world.

With the Mass of the Holy Thursday we enter the hour which has come for Jesus as John the Evangelist witnessed. With these first three sentences John says it all. Jesus knows exactly what is to come and he has control over the situation. He knows that his hour has come; he came from the Father and now he is leaving the world and going to the Father. He knows that he is to pass through the passion and the darkness of the grave. He knows exactly who will betray him, that one of his apostles will betray him. In spite of everything he knows about us, he still loves us – he loves us to the end, as John the Evangelist says. Jesus, being who he is, wouldn't just say that, he showed it to us. He is going to the Father and he is washing disciples' feet, which is a servant's job, but he as the Master does it with love.

And now, back to what we started from – our own hands and feet. We have our feet to go to meet the Lord and surrender to his hands which will wash and wipe us; we have our hands to touch him under the appearance of bread, to feel him in our hands as he gives himself to us in total trust in a childlike manner.

Bruxelles, 5 April 2007

26.03.2013.Author: p. Antun Volenik, SJ
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