Reflection for Holy Thursday
Although we can’t attend the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, it’s good for us to learn more about it and understand more fully what is being celebrated. Then, when we are able to attend the Mass in the future, we’ll appreciate it more fully.
Let’s learn together my friends!
Today’s Readings: Look Them Up!
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 - The 10th Plague – The Passover Of The Lord
Psalm 116 - Our Blessing Cup Is A Communion In The Blood of Christ
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 - St. Paul recounts how Jesus initiated the Eucharist at the Last Supper, A Passover Seder
Gospel: John 13:1-15 – Jesus, the Servant, washes the feet of his disciples
In the book of Exodus, after the 9 plagues failed to change the heart of Pharaoh, God told Moses that He would render a 10th plague. The unblemished lamb (ram) that had been tied up outside the Hebrew homes for 5 days, was to be slaughtered, and the blood sprinkled on their door posts using a Hyssop Branch. Because the ram was a sacred animal to the Egyptians, God was asking the Hebrew people to make a strong commitment to Him.
The lamb was to be roasted and eaten with unleavened bread. God came through Egypt that night, and killed the first-born of every Egyptian home. But God ‘passed over’ the homes of the Hebrews with the blood of the Lamb. The Hebrews were released from their bondage the following morning, and began their sojourn in the desert, with God using Moses to lead them.
God instructed the people to celebrate the Passover of the Lord every year …. to Remember. This “Remembering” doesn’t mean simply to recall. This Remembering makes the event a part of who you are. This Remembering re-presents the event to God and makes the event present.
As Passover was celebrated through the centuries, it became a liturgy, with specific prayers, hymns and the singing of certain Psalms. The Hebrew people included 4 promises that God had made to them, promises that became the basis of the Passover. Each promise was recalled with a cup of wine. The promises were:
1. 1st Cup - I will bring you out from under the yolk of bondage
2. 2nd Cup - I will set you free from your slave nature
3. 3rd Cup –I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and take away your sin – Called the Blessing Cup
4. 4th Cup Ends the Passover Liturgy - I will take you to myself to be my people, to protect you, and I will be your God.
Mass on Holy Thursday evening recalls the original Passover event in the Exodus, and then commemorates the Last Supper, which was a Passover Meal. At that supper, Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, shared the unleavened bread with his disciples. But when he shared it, he changed it into his body, which he gave for us. He then offered the 3rd cup; the Blessing Cup of Redemption, and turned that into his precious blood. Jesus initiated the Holy Eucharist at that Passover meal. The first Passover of the Lord was initiated 1000 years prior to Jesus’ birth. But God arranged history for Jesus to enter into the Passover, and to give us the Eucharist. All of Salvation History led up to that event.
The New Covenant in His Blood tied together everything that happened in Salvation History: it tied together Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, David, Moses and the Hebrew People. It tied together all of the prophets and the prophecies uttered through the centuries, all of the prophecies set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. It tied together all of the Covenants God made with the Hebrew people. The New Covenant made by Jesus made everything new!
Jesus said, “Do This In Remembrance of Me.” Just as the Jewish Passover celebration makes the event part of the person who celebrates it, the Last Supper gave us the Eucharist, which also becomes part of who we are.
At the Last Supper Jesus instituted the Eucharist, the New Passover. Each time we go to Mass, we enter into the New Passover with Jesus. At Mass, the sacrifice of Christ is re-presented to God. Jesus is not sacrificed again. His sacrifice once for all is made present and offered to God. And we are present when that happens, whether we’re in a little chapel or a great cathedral.
An important note * You may recall that The Mass of The Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday does not end. There is no final blessing, no closing hymn. Instead we process to a separate place (the Little Church) where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and we are invited to Watch And Pray. At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus did not finish the liturgy. There was supposed to be one more cup of wine, the 4th Cup, the Cup of God’s Protection that was shared, and finalized the liturgy. Jesus said, “For I tell you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until I drink it new with you in the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 26:29). Then Jesus left the Passover meal unfinished, and went to the garden with his men to Watch and Pray. Watching and Praying is what the Hebrew people did on the night of the first Passover. They Watched and Prayed that God would keep his promise, and the Angel of Death would Pass Over them. Jesus did not drink the cup of protection, and in the garden he was fully aware that he would not be protected. Jesus knew what he would suffer for us, and in that garden, he fully accepted his Father’s will and gave his will over to the Father.
As we examine the parallels between the first Passover and the Passover meal celebrated by Jesus when he gave us the Eucharist, we see more fully how deliberately God gave us our Catholic faith and the Eucharist. And today, Holy Thursday, is the day when we celebrate this great Truth found in the pages of scripture.
We’ll examine more about these events as the Triduum continues. I hope these ‘bible study sound bites’ add to your celebration of the Triduum, and the culmination of our Lenten Season.
May your Holy Thursday be prayerful; a time of thanks for the gift of Jesus Christ who saved us from the bondage of our sin.
In Christ’s Peace….
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